The Tooth Fairy Is Getting a Whole Lot Stingier Which Can Teach Your Kids a Lesson About Money

The tooth fairy is a scorching-hot topic in my house thanks to my 6-year-old son. He lost his first tooth in the spring, but even before that, he'd been keeping track of his classmates who had lost teeth and what they'd received in return. He's not alone in his interest in the value of baby teeth, but the trend won't delight him; a recent survey shows that U.S. kids are getting less from the tooth fairy for the 3rd year in a row. 


The results of Visa's Sixth Annual tooth fairy survey shows a downward trend on the enamel-covered chiclets -- with payouts dropping by an astounding 24 percent since last year! The average tooth now nets a child $3.19, which puts my son's pillows on the verge of poverty.  

My son's classroom reports gave me a lot to consider as to what he might be expecting. "Isla got a five-dollar bill!" "Ray got $20 bucks!" "Ellie got a Beanie Boo," (retail price, $5.99). Most of them weren't wild, but I didn't get it. Does the tooth fairy really need to keep up with inflation? Are kids working harder to grow and lose their baby teeth? What's so special about these kids that warrants such a pay increase? I'm pretty sure I got 25 cents per tooth and my son's teeth didn't look exponentially more impressive than I remembered mine. 

Ultimately I decided I wanted to do something special, but I wasn't going for a big payout. I settled on a shiny gold $1 coin and went to the bank for a reserve to hide in my nightstand drawer. But this decision was theoretical until he actually lost that first tooth. He was so excited and amazed -- and was that a glimmer of pride in his eye? Had I undervalued this rite of passage? Indeed, I believe I had.

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However, my solution was not to add more cash to the experience (which is truly something he should earn), but more responsibility. In addition to my shiny gold coin, I wrote a long note to my son from the tooth fairy. I explained that this was an important turning point in his life, just as he'd sensed. This was his first opportunity to learn about money.

Borrowing from Ron Lieber's The Opposite of Spoiled, I created three jars for my son to keep his money. One was designated for saving, one for spending on immediate purchases, the last for donating. My son was absolutely thrilled. He felt like such a big boy, not only for having his "own" money but for getting to make decisions about what to do with it (his first $1 went to savings, btw). It felt like the perfect celebration of what I wanted the tooth fairy to be in our house -- his very first banker.


Image via Mega Pixel/shutterstock

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