On Saturday afternoons, the cobblestones of Stockholm’s Liljeholmen Square are packed with families going in and out of the local shopping center.
If you look closely you will see that the children are clinging to an accessory that is present every week: a bag of loose candies.
Swedes are so used to buying and eating sweets on Saturdays that they even have a special word for them: lördagsgodis, which literally translates to “saturday sweets“.
“Lördagsgodis has always been important,” says Robert Lundin, who grew up in the 1980s and just bought marshmallows with his five-year-old daughter.
“You wait until Saturday to get your sweets. And it’s like a small but important event with your parents. And now I also do it with my daughter.”
The concept of Saturday candy dates back to the 1950s.
Swedish medical authorities began recommending sweets as a once-a-week treatment, to try to limit the rise in dental caries cases as the country grew richer, says Sofi Tegsveden Deveaux, author and lecturer on culture and values. Swedes.
Swedes’ tendency to “put a lot of trust in the state” encouraged them to follow and stick to advice to restrict sweets to Saturdays, he argues, and this has evolved into the beloved family activity that exists today.
“Children like it, and children need some good things for themselves,” says Hui Jiang, 34, who moved to Sweden from China a decade ago and has adopted the tradition with his children, who are beginning to jump. of joy the moment lördagsgodis is mentioned.
This candy shopping is a treat for anyone looking to unwind on the weekend.
But both cultural commentators and economists argue that there is much more to learn from the lördagsgodis tradition; in particular, children are encouraged to start thinking about the weekly budget and nurture a culture that advocates for independence from an early age.
“My children got their bank cards when they were six years old, and every week I deposit 20 crowns (US $ 2.30) on them,” says Tegsveden Deveaux, who has seven-year-old twins.
“Then they go to the store every Saturday and count the sweets in a bag. They have to make a budget for the sweets on Saturday, if they want to buy toys or something else that they don’t ‘need’,” he explains.
At your local store, 20 crowns can buy up to 40 loose candies.
Your daughter tends to come home with a bulky bag, while your son chooses to buy less candy to have more money in his account.
While cola, red jelly lips, or salty licorice may initially seem unlikely symbols of financial freedom, Tegsveden Deveaux says his family is not alone when it comes to using these lördagsgodis staples like an early lesson in money management.
Penny sweets are often among the first items kids regularly spend money on if given weekly pocket money, he says, which has been a common sight in Sweden since the 1960s.
Around seven in 10 Swedish children currently receive a weekly or monthly allowance, according to 2020 data shared by Swedbank, one of the country’s leading banks.
Six out of 10 parents surveyed said they and their children had some kind of agreement about where their money should be used.
Americo Fernández, a home economist and personal finance commentator for SEB, another major Nordic banking chain, agrees that the lördagsgodis tradition is “definitely” a useful tool to help Swedish children. to understand the value of money.
“It’s difficult to talk to a little eight-year-old and try to explain the importance of saving,” he argues.
On the contrary, giving children money to reserve weekly sweets or other little luxuries can teach them about basic financial planning.
“It is [más fácil] understand that if I give you 20 crowns and you spend them now, you won’t have more for the rest of the month, for example, or the week. “
Swedbank research suggests that the average weekly pocket money of a seven-year-old in Sweden is 20 crowns (US $ 2.30).
This can amount to 500 kronor a month by age 15, when it is more common for children to wear this for clothes or activities with friends, such as eating out or going to the movies.
There is strong evidence that fostering financial responsibility from an early age is linked to healthy saving habits: More than seven in 10 parents surveyed by Swedbank said their children were sometimes or always able to save part of their allowance.
“Most Swedish parents gradually increase the weekly or monthly allowance, but with each increase, the children are responsible for one more thing that they must buy themselves,” explains Tegsveden Deveaux.
The role of the state
Americo Fernández believes that parents in other countries could learn a lot from the tendency of Swedes to talk about budgets and personal finances with children from an early age, at a time when household debt is skyrocketing around the world. .
But he says it is important to locate the spending habits of Swedes in the context of the long history of social welfare and a culture of the country that promotes individualism and independence at all ages.
Education is free and health care is subsidized by the state in Sweden, helping to reduce financial pressures on families.
In addition, all parents, regardless of their income, are entitled to a monthly child benefit of 1,250 kronor (US $ 144) per month, until their child reaches the age of 16.
This, explains Fernández, “gives practically everyone the possibility to save for their children or give them a weekly or monthly allowance” in a way that it is simply not possible in many other societies.
When Swedish children turn 16, the state stops paying the benefit to their parents and starts giving them the same amount directly as a form of scholarship, as long as they continue to study.
“So the idea with the weekly or monthly allowance is that it is slowly building up to that amount. [del estudio]”, agrega Tegsveden Deveaux.
“It’s a pretty subtle transition from getting money from your parents to getting money from the state.”
At the Liljeholmen shopping complex, 35-year-old Fanny Hökby vividly remembers that she was “not very good” at saving her first pocket money, which she spent mainly on lördagsgodis and toys.
But at the age of 16 he had discovered how to use your scholarship to budget for clothes, gifts and outings with friends, and agrees that a monthly allowance can be an educational tool for children and youth.
Tegsveden Deveaux says that many Swedish parents believe that giving children pocket money from an early age also helps them budget with scholarships and loans for higher education students if they continue studying or spend their first salaries after high school.
Swedes usually leave the family home at the age of 18 or 19, before most Europeans.
“Young Swedes … have to take care of themselves quite early, even though they receive a lot of state subsidies and student loans,” Fernández agrees.
“That is a big difference [para algunos países]. For example, I studied abroad in Spain, if I compare it with that, I saw that many of my classmates still lived at home, they were still supported by their parents, and after university, they still lived at home. “
El futuro de lördagsgodis
Whether children are taught to budget with coins and bills or bank transfers and apps, there is little debate in Sweden as to whether or not the lördagsgodis trend will continue, even as Sweden moves increasingly towards a society without cash and digital wallets. .
“I think the tradition of children spending their first allowances on candy will continue … I don’t see that changing,” argues Fernández.
However, he notes that it is also becoming more common to enjoy fizzy candies in the shape of snakes or bananas. during weeknights, and national data suggest that chocolate and confectionery consumption has increased steadily in recent years.
“People may be starting to eat more [dulces] during the week, but they still won’t let go of the traditional lördagsgodis, “agrees Deveaux.” Really is deeply ingrained“.
On the cobblestones of Liljeholmen, 38-year-old Hanna Sjöberg runs back from the shops to catch the tram with her partner and eight-year-old daughter.
She responds in an instant when asked if her family performs the lördagsgodis weekly. “Yes, otherwise there would be a lot of tears!”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.