The Going Rate
By: Tara Weng
Having a family can seem like a financial free-for-all, even the little things like what to pay a babysitter and how much is a tooth really worth can become a challenge. So what is the going rate these days for certain family extras? Stay-at-home dad and blogger Glen Craig says he shoots for the $20 rule for things like birthday party gifts. “I think birthday gifts tend to be around $20 by me. If you want to get technical, you give about what it costs for the child to be at the party (for example, if it costs about $17/kid at a roller skating rink you give a gift for about that amount). That’s not always easy to figure out so the $20 rule tends to work well. Of course how you know the child plays into the equation too (I’ll give more to my niece than to a friend of my son’s from his activity class,”) he explains.
The infamous Tooth Fairy seems like a competition of sorts for me. If my kids come home and say “so and so got $5 for their tooth,” I think, “Wow, that’s a generous Tooth Fairy.” Parenting and family finance writer Sarah Lorge Butler surveyed other parents on the subject and found the amount varies. Based on her findings, she lists some tips on how to avoid Tooth Fairy fee blunders including: “It’s OK to offer a bonus if there’s a lot of blood, an injury, or a trip to the dentist required. Or if your older child knocks the younger sibling’s tooth out with the Wii remote,” says Butler. The parents I spoke with said the Tooth Fairy bounty ranges from $1-$5 depending on whether it’s a first tooth or not and depending on what they have in their wallet.
As far as entertainment, the dollars can fly when it comes to movies and vacations. It seems like you can’t leave a movie theater these days without spending at the least $50-unless you resort to the “bring your own snacks” tact- which in my case never flies well. There are cheaper movie theaters and movies that aren’t tagged with the infamous “In 3D” dollarpalooza, but tickets for kids under 12 still will run you close to $10 a piece. Family vacations can be done on the cheap (relatively speaking.) I’m opting to head to our nation’s capital for vacation and will enjoy the free admissions. Budgeting for family expenses is something Glen Craig strongly suggests. “Set up a sub-account in your savings account (this is easy in an online bank like ING Direct) and put away a little bit every month,” he suggests.
On the rare chance that you might actually get out for a night of adult peace and quiet, you must also consider the cost of the babysitter. This can be a tricky mathematical equation for any parent and Lorge Butler says you must consider the age of the kids who are being watched, the age of the babysitter and even the time of year. She notes that in the summer the rates seem to go up ranging from $8-$12/hour. College-aged sitters will usually expect more since they can get other jobs based on their age and experience. It’s usually a good rule of thumb to tap into the younger babysitter and groom him/her with a reasonable expectation of pay through their formative years.
Any way you slice it, the going rate of most things will be dependent on where you live, what activities you choose and what the Jones’ are doing. Alas, you can hold onto the knowledge that after the babysitters, birthday parties and Tooth Fairy fees are paid in full you can look forward to college tuitions and weddings—oh wait, that’s not encouraging.
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