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Tooth Fairy inflation: Price of a tooth nears $4

The days of finding a quarter under your pillow are long gone. The Tooth Fairy no longer leaves loose change.

Kids this year are getting an average of $3.70 per lost tooth, a 23 percent jump over last year’s rate of $3. And that’s a 42 percent spike from the $2.60 per tooth the Tooth Fairy gave in 2011, according to a new survey by payment processor Visa Inc., released yesterday.

Part of the reason for the sharp rise: Parents don’t want their kids to be the ones at the playground who received the lowest amount.

“A kid who got a quarter would wonder why their tooth was worth less than the kid who got $5,” said Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and professor at Golden Gate University.

To avoid that, Brian and Brittany Klems asked friends and co-workers what they were giving their kids. The Klems, who have three daughters and live in Cincinnati, settled on giving their 6-year-old daughter, Ella, $5 for the first tooth that fell out, and $1 for any others. They said that $5 was enough without going overboard. They didn’t want other families to think they were giving too much.

Then Ella found out that one of her friends received $20 for a tooth.

“I told her that the Tooth Fairy has only so much money for every night, and that’s how she decides to split up the money,” said Brian Klems, 34, a parenting blogger and author of Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Confused about what to give?

Ask other parents what they’re giving, said Jason Alderman, a senior director of financial education at Visa. That can at least get you in the ballpark of what your kids’ friends are getting, he said. Alderman gave his two kids $1 a tooth.

“I think we were on the cheap side,” he said. Other families gave about $5 a tooth. One family gave their kid an antique typewriter. “I have no idea how they got that to fit under the pillow,” he laughed.

As part of the company’s personal finance education program, Visa offers a downloadable Tooth Fairy Calculator app that will give you an idea of how much parents in your age group, income bracket and education level are giving their kids, said Alderman. The newly updated app is available for iPhones and iPads on iTunes, and the calculator is available on the Facebook apps page.

“While more money is exciting news for children, parents should take this opportunity to talk (about) saving and smart money habits with their kids and have the same talk with a perhaps overgenerous Tooth Fairy,” said Nat Sillin, who runs Visa’s financial education program in the United States.

How much kids are getting from the Tooth Fairy depends on where they live. Kids in the Northeast are getting the most, according to the Visa study, at $4.10 per tooth. In the West and South, kids received $3.70 and $3.60 per tooth, respectively. Midwestern kids received the least, at $3.30 a tooth. About a third of all parents surveyed say the Tooth Fairy left a dollar or less.

Then there are the heavy hitters.

After losing her first tooth, 5-year-old Caroline Ries found a $100 bill under her pillow, along with a brand new My Little Pony toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste.

But there was a catch.

Her mother, Nina Ries, also left a note saying that the $100 had to go straight to Caroline’s college fund. The Tooth Fairy would give her another $20 to spend any way she likes if she brushes her teeth every day after lunch for a month. She did, and 30 days later Caroline found $20 under her pillow.

Ries, a 39-year-old lawyer and owner of Ries Law Group in Santa Monica, Calif., said that $120 is a lot to give, but she believes she is teaching her daughter that education and taking care of your teeth is important. Ries said her friends give their kids about $20 a tooth.

That’s way more than the $1 Ries used to get for losing her teeth as a child.

“It’s incredible inflation,” she said.

Visa randomly sampled 3,000 households by phone in July. The survey results are based on the 1,000 of those households that included a child under 13.

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