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What’s the going rate for the tooth fairy?

My husband and I were at a restaurant celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary when his phone lit up with a call from home. I was relieved when it wasn’t my mom’s frantic voice on the other end, but our excited 6-year-old informing us that he had just lost his first tooth.

What's the going rate for the tooth fairy?

He had discovered it was loose a week ago, and was excited about the Tooth Fairy visiting our house. I was beginning to ponder what the Tooth Fairy would mean in our household when it struck me; I didn’t need to ask around, I didn’t need to Google it.

The Tooth Fairy is a figment of the imagination, and what she means in our family is completely up to us.

Begin as you mean to go on

The amount we spend isn’t always within our control; if we want to hire a babysitter, a contractor, or anyone else outside our own family, going rates apply. Inflation and other factors influence the price we pay for goods and services. But when it comes to traditions within the confines of our own homes, we are in the enviable position of being able to call the shots.

It’s easy to get carried away with excitement when celebrating “firsts”, but if we set the bar too high, we might end up disappointed when we can’t live up to the same expectations later.

Faced with our baby’s first Christmas 5 months after I left my job and half of our income, I sat down and set a a reasonable (and by some standards rather modest) per-person budget for gifts. At the time it was difficult to imagine our overall budget being any tighter, but I knew that things could get worse. So, I set an amount that I felt was doable even if our income decreased further.

I wanted Christmas to be consistent no matter what our circumstances were. I wanted all of our future children to have a similar experience, even if our means had improved greatly by the time we welcomed another child. Almost six years later our financial situation has significantly improved, but we still maintain the same spending limits for holidays and birthdays, with no plans for an increase. It works for us.

Our Tooth Fairy

“What’s the going rate for the tooth fairy these days? I have $3 in my wallet,” my husband told me after we had finished talking with our son.

“No way! That’s too much for a tooth!” I replied. Little did I know that the average Tooth Fairy gift amount was $3.50 in 2013.

We recalled when we were kids. We were both visited by the Tooth Fairy, my husband receiving a few pence, and I a few cents. The Tooth Fairy’s cover was blown early for my husband thanks to his friends at school, but I persisted in my belief for years, working my way up to $1 or more in exchange for molars. In any case, it wasn’t the money that mattered, it was the magic (for as long as it lasted).

“I was thinking more like 50 cents. Maybe even 25,” I said.

We both laughed as we admitted that our boy, who doesn’t fully understand coins yet, would probably be perfectly happy with a penny.

Later that night I snuck up to my son’s bedroom to kiss him goodnight, slipping my hand under his pillow to retrieve the envelope in which he had deposited his little tooth. His sweet printing, in crayon, made my heart melt.

How much does the tooth fairy pay?

Grandma shared her knowledge from working in a dentist’s office.

I traded his tooth for a tiny envelope I had made from a piece of printer paper. Inside was a note and two quarters. My son opted to save the quarters, and was more taken with the little envelope, marveling at the fact that the tooth fairy knew his address. “How do you think she knows my name?” he asked.

Letter from the tooth fairy

As is often the case with kids, the most memorable experiences can cost little or nothing.

What’s the going rate for the tooth fairy?

So, what’s the going rate for the tooth fairy? What’s the ideal number of gifts under the Christmas tree? What should the Easter Bunny bring? How much allowance should you pay your kids?

Whatever you decide.

Will kids compare notes at school? Probably. Is that a reason to spend money you’d rather not or cannot spend? No!

Kids will pick up on differences of all kinds, not all of which can be solved with money. I want my boys to learn that they do not need to change anything about themselves in order to impress someone else.

Whether you do a little or a lot, or even nothing at all, try your best to begin as you mean to go on. Don’t let peer pressure or someone else’s ideal dictate the culture in your household.

Faced with another first, I was happy to keep it small and simple.

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