Is the McDonald's Adult Happy Meal Worth Your Money?

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  • Happy Meals are a kid favorite at McDonald's.
  • The fast food giant now makes an adult version.
  • People will pay for nostalgia, and if you're one of them, the Adult Happy Meal is there for you (and will cost extra).

The quick answer? It depends on how much you value nostalgia.

As a frazzled working mom who spends many afternoon and evening hours each week at the soccer field or my kids' martial arts studio, I've come to rely on fast food quite a bit during those times when eating dinner at home just isn't feasible. And whenever we go to McDonald's, it never fails -- my children inevitably ask for a Happy Meal.

Usually I'll oblige, even though I can, in some cases, get away with a lower credit card tab by ordering items off of the McDonald's menu individually. But for a few extra dollars, I'm usually happy to indulge my kids in a Happy Meal and the bonus toy that comes with it.

But now, it's not just kids who can enjoy a McDonald's Happy Meal. The fast food giant recently introduced an adult version of the Happy Meal, and it's comparable to the kids' version in that it does, in fact, come with a toy.

But is the adult Happy Meal worth your money? That's debatable.

Paying up for nostalgia

The cost of a Happy Meal at McDonald's -- whether it's an adult one or a child one -- hinges on where you're located. But for the most part, you can expect to pay around $2 to $3 extra for an adult Happy Meal compared to the cost of buying the items it contains as a regular combo meal.

Case in point: In New Jersey, a Big Mac combo with fries and a drink costs just under $10. The Happy Meal containing the same food, plus a toy, is almost $13. The added cost, therefore, comes down to the toy you get in your grown-up meal. And so you'll need to decide if that's important enough to you to spend extra.

In my case, it's easy to justify the higher cost of the adult Happy Meal -- I have kids who might enjoy sharing the toy. But if you're not so interested in reliving the experience of getting a toy with your dinner, then you may want to skip the adult Happy Meal and order up a regular combo instead.

Another option? Get the adult Happy Meal as a one-time thing, but then revert back to your standard McDonald's order once you've had that experience.

Some people might say that McDonald's Happy Meal toys will one day become collector's items. I'm not enough of an expert in that field to determine whether that's a spot-on projection or not. But given the quality of McDonald's Happy Meal toys, it's fair to say that even if they do become collector's items one day, many won't hold up well enough to be worth much down the line.

How should you spend your money?

Many people these days are finding that money is tight. We can thank our friend inflation for that.

If hitting McDonald's on the way home from work is something you don't do often, and you want to try the adult Happy Meal once, go for it. But don't expect it to be a repeat purchase.

And if you're really strapped for cash and are tempted by McDonald's, either because you're short on time or are craving a Big Mac, do yourself a favor and don't spend an extra few dollars you don't have for a little toy that may not make you relive your childhood so much as regret your purchase.

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