ThreeJars Daily: How much for that loose tooth?

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How much for that loose tooth?

What’s the going rate these days for the Tooth Fairy, birthday presents, and more? We did some investigating to find out.

By Amanda May Dundas

When my 5 year-old lost her first tooth I posted a question on Facebook asking how much the tooth fairy delivers these days. The answers of $20 to $30 were shocking – and completely out of the question for me. (Although in good company: Heidi Klum confessed to Jay Leno that when her daughter Leni lost her first tooth, she slipped $20 under her pillow.)

So when playing tooth fairy, doling out allowance, or buying the seemingly never-ending stream of kids’ birthday presents, how much is appropriate? And what do you do when your kids’ friends receive more? “You have to do what’s in your budget and what you feel comfortable with,” says Neale S. Godfrey, author of Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Financially Responsible Children. “And it’s easier to start that when your kids are three than when they’re 13.” Here are some guidelines:

The Tooth Fairy
Going along with the $20 per tooth rule that supermodels and some of my friends are following, by the time a child loses all 20 of his baby teeth, the tooth fairy will be out $400. Thankfully, $20 doesn’t seem to be the norm: According to a recent study by Visa, 94 percent of children receive an average of $3 per lost tooth. “Don’t give more than $2 or $3,” says Godfrey. “The tooth fairy is supposed to be a little surprise treat, it’s not a huge reward.” If your kids gripe that they get too little, direct them to the inflation calculator on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site to show them what they’d get if you go by the same rate you received as a child. The 50 cents I received from the Tooth Fairy in 1980 would be worth a paltry $1.32 today. Suddenly, the $3 I wound up giving my daughter didn’t seem so bad.

Birthday Presents
Recently, a birthday party invitation for my daughter also came with a request: In lieu of presents, the mother of the soon-to-be 5-year-old asked for $30 towards an American Girl gift card. With 30 kids invited, I thought, That’s quite a gift! “Birthday presents can quickly spiral out of control,” says Godfrey, who prefers setting a limit of $10 per gift. “Ask the class parents to request that everyone abide by the same limited amount,” she advises. “Trust me, other parents will thank you.”

Feel like you’re giving too little? Consider first daughters Malia and Sasha Obama, who get a reported $1 a week – and that’s only if their chores are done. Godfrey recommends going a little higher. “If it’s in your budget, I generally advise giving kids the same amount as their age, or half their age,” she says. (So a six year old would receive either $6 or $3). You can also use the Allowance Calculator on to see what the allowance you got as a child would be in today’s dollars, and use that amount for your child. But whatever you decide, don’t be overly concerned with what other parents are giving. “Remember you’re instilling your values, and that’s a lesson your kids will carry with them forever,” says Godfrey.

When not playing the Tooth Fairy, Amanda May Dundas is a freelance writer living in the lower Hudson Valley in New York.


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