It's hard to say no to a pint-sized cookie peddler, sweetly asking: "Would you like to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies?" But in an age where you're watching every penny, it can be equally hard to cough up between $3.50 and $4 for a box of 15 cookies -- even if those Samoas are perhaps the best thing that will ever cross your lips.

Despite their undeniable tastiness, there's no denying that, at $3.50 to $4 per box, Girl Scout cookies can be costly. But it might soften the blow to know where your cookie money really goes.Donna Ceravolo, CEO of Girl Scouts of Nassau County, New York, says a majority of the sales price of each box stays in the community. Using the Nassau County price of $3.50 per box as our example, here's a breakdown of how she says the money is spent.

For each box sold, 85 cents per box goes to the baker to cover production, packaging, shipping of the cookies to the troop, and other incidental costs. Out of the remaining $2.65, 50 to 57 cents goes to the selling troop, which will use the funds to cover the cost of programming, community service projects and scholarships, and to offset the cost of participating in Girl Scouts.

Of course, then there are the prizes that some troops dole out to their top-selling scouts. Prizes can cost anywhere from 5 to 7 cents per box, says Ceravolo. So if a troop opts to award prizes, they'll get about 50 to 52 cents per box. "But if a troop votes to eliminate prizes, they get about 57 cents per box," she says.

Of the remaining funds, about 1 penny per box goes to the neighborhood "service unit" -- another level of scouting -- and stays within the community. The rest goes to the regional council, which is usually comprised of numerous troops that are located near each other, Ceravolo explains. The regional council of Nassau County, for instance, focuses solely on the troops in Nassau County, New York. "The remaining $2.14 to $2.07 is used to fund local programming, support summer camps, train adult volunteers, and so on," says Ceravolo.

Contrary to urban legends, the proceeds from Girl Scout cookie sales are not funneled to the national scouting organization. "Girl Scouts of the USA has a deal in place in which they receive royalties directly from the two national bakers of the cookies," Ceravolo says. "The regional councils do not send cookie money to the national organization."

The scoop on troops
Ceravolo says troops are allowed to individually decide how they want to allocate the money they receive from the sale of the cookies. "Most use it to fund community service and action projects," she says. "The girls decide what they want to do, then set cookie sales goals in order to pay for those projects."

But perhaps the biggest payoff from the annual cookie program isn't the money that changes hands, but what the girls learn about finances. "The cookie program is one of the most effective financial literacy programs in the country," Ceravolo says.

"I learned how to balance a checkbook, set budget goals, pay bills and even practice fiscal restraint as a Girl Scout," says Juanita Vasquez, 27, of Chicago. "I didn't have the opportunity to learn those lessons at home, so I'm grateful I was able to learn them as a scout."

Ceravolo says education is one of the cookie program's main objectives. "All the girls who participate learn goal setting and decision-making skills while they're learning about giving to their community," she says.

One might argue the girls also learn just how much power a box of cookies can wield in neighborhoods all across the U.S.

Gina Roberts-Grey is freelance journalist and frequent contributor to WalletPop.

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david_banner7

lets not forget those girls get 1 penny per box of those 400 per box cookies. The million dollar a year salary at the top of the pyramid needs their lions share too you know.

April 13 2014 at 8:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wooddrdavis

Exactly how do the girls learn anything about finances, most cookies are sold by their parents at their places of employment, it should be required that the girls sell the cookies, but that will never happen because they have become accustomed to the thousands and thousands of box's sold by adults. do not get me wrong we buy the cookies but we buy them from a couple of girl scouts that actually go out and sell them them selves, sure their is a parent there with them but at least the kids are the ones who are in charge of selling the cookies.

March 04 2014 at 9:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jen Felix

As a former girl scout I am very disappointed in what Girl Scouts has become.

January 23 2014 at 6:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
laagado

I complete agree, Tanya. I had two Brownie's who's mother had stage 4 cancer, another girl who's family was out of work for over a year. I asked or financial assistance for them. Although I did receive assistance, I also received a letter that was the only year they would assist them, and it was up to the troop to support the girls (having their parent's volunteer with cookie sales). The mother with cancer did her best was did not have the strength to give more. Plus they took away the try-its and now are encouraging 9 year olds to "find themselves." The leadership has 'progressed' the GSUSA right into a self-serving organization that uses the girls to make money. I now have my girls in American Heritage Girls. We love it.

July 31 2013 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tanya

The troops get .35 cents for every box they sell. I think that is a shame. I would consider that slave labor disguised as a learning experience for children. Bottom line without the cookie sales the adults would actually be doing what they are preaching ; service respect and honor . My daughter and me are doing the footwork so girl scouts can over charge me for the uniform , pins, patches, and other required material? Seriously, the primary purpose of girl scouts has become secondary and the new goal is legalism and pensions.
What a bummer . This is our first yr in selling the cookies and I won't do it again .

January 19 2012 at 9:27 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply