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by Susan Flynn and Sara Solovitch
The new babysitter shows up at the house for the first time – and eventually the question turns to money. “How much would you like to be paid?” can be a tough question for a tween or teen to field from an adult. Eyes look downward. There is shuffling of feet. Straight answers are hard to come by.
“Whatever you think” is not helpful. You don’t want to be the cheapskate in the neighborhood. You also don’t want the cost of a night out and a movie to rival a monthly car payment.
Bay Area Parent to the rescue! We’ve asked local moms and dads what some of you may be too polite to ask: How much do you spend on things like babysitting, coaches’ gifts, birthday parties, sneakers and – last, but not least – the Tooth Fairy. Some answers may surprise you. But, as with most questions about parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
According to a Visa survey of parents, the average American child receives $3 per lost tooth from the Tooth Fairy. In a nod to inflation or overindulgence, 11 percent of the respondents reported paying $6 or more per tooth. It seems that the loss of the first tooth usually nets larger payments. The survey also found that the Tooth Fairy is more generous in the East ($3.40 a tooth) and South ($3.30), compared with the Midwest ($2.90) and West ($2.70). Locally, the consensus seems to be that it’s okay to offer a bonus if there’s a lot of blood, an injury, or a trip to the dentist required.
“For the very first tooth our girls lost, we gave them an Eisenhower silver dollar. After that, it was always a Sacajawea or Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. They also always insisted on writing the Tooth Fairy a letter with a lot of questions and we always left the answer tucked under the pillow with their coin. This was a tradition we regretted more than once, as we’re early to bed people and we’d have to stay up late in order to make sure our girls were completely asleep before sneaking into their rooms to sneak the missive under their pillows.
“The first time we went to Turkey, where my husband’s family comes from, I learned that when a child sprouts a new tooth, the first person to spot it owes the child a present! My daughter, Elise, had just gotten her first two teeth, and my first Turkish sentence was Ikki yeni dis (which means two new teeth). So her Turkish cousins gave her a small gift.”
– Sharon Levin, Redwood City
“The Tooth Fairy pays $5 for the first tooth, $2 for the other teeth. But if the tooth fairy is ‘busy’ and misses a night, she feels badly and leaves an extra $1. Needless to say, my kids love it when the tooth fairy comes a day late!”
– Judy Speicher
We all want to thank the devoted classroom teachers and volunteers who give up weekends to coach our kids. If your child plays three sports and has multiple teachers, these tokens of gratitude can add up.
According to Tina Syer, associate director of the Positive Coaching Alliance, an organization that supports coaches, the “going rate” for end-of-the-season gifts for coaches is about $50 to $75, or $5 to $10 from each player. It’s usually given in the form of a gift certificate to a local restaurant or other local business.
As for the gifts coaches value most, Syer suggests photo books full of pictures from the season or calendars featuring photos of the team each month. Another idea is a T-shirt signed by all of the players.
“We have two children in school, ages 8 and 5, and we buy gifts for their teachers that range from $15 to $25 per teacher per year. We usually get them a gift card to Barnes and Noble or Target or Michaels. Teachers deserve as much as we can give.”
– Nate Thomas, Brentwood
“I give of my time each week in class and try to spend about $10 and give something homemade (jam/pie, etc) for Christmas.”
– Christine Riley Maxwell, Gilroy
“For the holiday season, I bake something special, like biscotti or personal-sized sour-cream coffee cakes with a note. For the end of the year, I make a half dozen thank-you notes and package them in a handmade stationary box. With almost 10 teachers (middle school), I have had to come up with things that aren’t costly.”
– Brenda Crawshaw
According to a Nickelodeon/Yankelovich Youth Monitor Survey, the average allowance is $4.80 per week for 6- to 8-year-olds; $7 per week for 9- to 11-year-olds; and $16.60 per week for 12- to 17-year-olds. Parents tend to sit in two camps on allowance. Some pay based on the completion of a set list of chores. Other parents do not believe they should tie the money to chores, which they feel children should complete as members of the family.
“My daughter, who turns 8 in February, earns an allowance based on the work she does around the house. She puts away the dishes, collects the garbage on Wednesday and gives my mom a massage: 5 minutes of her little fingers on her back gets her $2. If she cleans her room, she gets $5 – that’s because she has a big room.
“It’s all about not having to be told; it averages $5 to $10 a week. I’m teaching her to earn money and be responsible. It’s an incentive to help Mommy out – but it’s not like giving her candy.”
– Jillian Jacinto, Vallejo
“I pay my 15-year-old $80 a month for doing her chores.”
– Delmy Molina, Dublin
“The allowance in our house is half the child’s age, so for my 6-year-old, it’s $3 per week.”
– Sarah Girotti
Here’s a national average that’s harder to come by. We hear of parents spending $50 on a simple birthday bash with piñata and cupcakes, and parents spending thousands of dollars to truck in fake snow for sledding parties in the back yard. One party store owner confirms: “The curve is so large. I have customers spending $300 to $400 just for the cake itself.” A few parents confided that they feel like expenses have gone overboard, but it’s hard to cut back once a precedent has been set.
“I personally feel that birthday parties have gotten completely out of hand. I do not invite the whole class. My sons’ birthdays are five days apart, so each of them gets to invite three or four friends. I try not to spend more than $100.”
– Andrea Cardarelli
“About $400 for my 10-year-old’s party, including food, goody bags, cake and 90 minutes at a local indoor sports complex.”
– Andy Pool
“Annika’s first birthday was a sit-down lunch for 160 people at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. I know it seems a little frivolous and we spent quite a pretty penny, but we thought it was fitting considering that she’d had a very rough year with two surgeries, multiple ER visits and dealing with her bleeding disorder. She was born with a rare form of hemophilia (factor VII deficiency) and we were very afraid she was going to die. But, she beat all odds, which is why we did it.
“A year earlier, for our son, Ethan, we didn’t have a birthday party. We had a memorial celebration and a blood drive. He died when he was only a week old – from the same disorder that Annika has. So, these parties are the one time I feel some normalcy in our lives. Looking back on it, I think we spent a little bit too much on Niki’s party. But at the same time, I don’t regret it.”
– Tiffany Intal, Daly City
As with any job out there, pay for babysitting is commensurate with experience. The middle-schooler does not command the same hourly rate as the high-schooler, and the college student trumps them all. A few parents say they tend to pay more per hour if the children are still in diapers, or will throw in a tip should they stay out later than usual on date night.
“Our babysitter is paid $12 an hour, but some charge about $20. Ours is 23 and a recent college grad.”
– Melanie Norall, Palo Alto
“I pay $10 an hour when I hire a babysitter. She’s a neighborhood kid and lives a couple blocks away.”
– Jillian Jacinto, Vallejo
Based on a study done by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, the average price paid for a pair of athletic footwear is in the area of $35. Some of the parents we interviewed say they don’t mind paying more for sneakers that will be worn almost every day. We asked readers about the most expensive pair they ever purchased for their son or daughter:
“$120 for Jordans, now that Tre, who’s 12, is wearing men’s size 8.5. My daughter’s cost about $35 on sale, and Javi, who is 6, got shoes that were $70 – also Jordans.”
– Angelique Presidente, South San Francisco
“$50. My baby girl is just 2 years old. And the bigger the foot, the more money it’s going to cost!”
– Ariana J. Grimes, Oakland
“$40 for Stride Rite. I have bought all types, from Sketchers to Reebok, to Target brands, and found they all wear out within 6 weeks, except for Rockports. They have lasted the longest and were $35 at Marshall’s.”
– Kathleen Higginbotham, Albany
“$40 for a pair of Sketchers for my 23-month-old. Seemed like a bad investment with how much she grows, but she loves them. I just had another baby girl, so we can reuse them!”
– Stephanie Smith, Fremont
“$50 for Sketchers. They did hold up much better than many of the cheaper shoes I have purchased.”
– Elena Moulton Nelson, San Jose
“For sneakers, I pay no more than $20, usually around $10. I have found eBay is a great resource. There are plenty of ‘new with tags’ on there if you need it new instead of used.”
– Kim Stirling
Susan Flynn is an associate editor with Dominion Parenting Publications and Sara Solovitch is an associate editor with Bay Area Parent.
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