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What Happens When the Tooth Fairy is in Debt?

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My little boy is growing up so fast. I noticed him playing with his teeth and I asked him what he was doing.

“My tooth is loose. That means the tooth fairy is going to give me money for my tooth.”

You’d think I’d be prepared for this milestone in my son’s life. Although I noticed some of the kids in his school with missing teeth, it never connected in my mind was it was soon my baby’s time to lose his teeth. Scratch that…he’s not a baby anymore. But sometimes I regress and can’t help but remember when those precious teeth peeked through his gums and the joy that came with it.

Here’s the dilemma. His tooth fairy is in debt and is trying to dig out of it. So how much money should she leave under his pillow?

The majority of people who responded to a poll at BabyCenter.com give their child $1.00 per tooth. Since a child has a total of 20 baby teeth, $1.00 a piece would cost the tooth fairy $20 over 4-6 years. I think for now, that is what the debt-ridden tooth fairy will leave. However, she has something else up her sleeve.

She is going to leave something extra special for that very first tooth. She’s thinking of leaving a savings bond for $25. Since she’s in debt, she thinks it would be a great learning lesson for the little lad to learn about how money can grow. He’ll have the option of redeeming the bond when he loses his last tooth (at around age 10-12).

The tooth fairy could keep that money and put it towards her debt, but she knows the value in helping children to have healthy financial habits when they are older. That $25 will be an investment in that child’s life that will hopefully bring a great return. That thought alone brings a large smile to the tooth fairy’s face.


31 Comments

  • Reply Brip Blap |

    I like the savings bond idea, but I think $1 per tooth is a bit much. Surely it’s more the excitement of finding the “magic money” than it is the money itself, isn’t it? I think the $25 savings bond followed by a quarter per tooth would be enough, wouldn’t it?

    In any case, I got a lot more enjoyment trying to figure out how the envelope I so carefully put my tooth in reappeared magically the next morning with no tooth and a quarter, but still sealed. The money was an afterthought! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Nine Circles |

    I think there is going to be major disappointment in your household when the second tooth only brings a dollar compared to the $25 the first tooth brought. After teaching your son about the wonders of compound interest, you may have to follow it up with a lesson on fluctuating values, supply and demand, etc. I think I’d just stick to the buck a tooth plan from the very beginning!

  • Reply Renee |

    Hm the thought of the tooth fairy leaving a savings bond seems a little… less magical. Also, I agree with Nine Circles above that it might be a let-down later on.

    Maybe you could say that you will match in a savings bond the same amount that the tooth fairy pays, so if the tooth fairy gives him 50 cents, you will also put 50 cents into an “account” jar that gains interest over the years (you can deposit the “earned interest” change into the jar along with the new “deposit” each time a tooth is lost and tape a little tracking chart onto the jar for calculation purposes).

    Then, at age 10, he can see how the “savings account” amount differs from the amount he received from the tooth fairy and at that point after losing the last tooth he can choose whether to “cash out” the account, or use the funds to buy a long-term savings bond that will be worth even more in the future.

    I dunno. I’m really just making this all up as I go along (and I don’t have kids, so I can’t really talk). I was just trying to figure out a way that you can give him the lesson you’re trying to teach while still allowing him to get the change under the pillow from the tooth fairy each time and not give the impression that the tooth fairy is holding his money in the bank!

    P.S. I remember making a detailed little drawing when I was young of the tooth fairy world and how the teeth were like money to them so they’d happily trade the tooth for our world’s currency and they’d take the teeth and deposit them into their tooth bank (which was in a tree)! I guess my mom had been teaching me about saving, too!

  • Reply Jaye |

    My husband and I have left “golden” (Sacagawea) dollar coins for our children. They are worth the same as the paper ones, but have a lot more cachet!

    Interestingly, my oldest son has never given the tooth fairy even one of his teeth. He’s 12. I’m guessing that, one day, we’ll find a really big stash under his pillow! Yikes.

  • Reply Stacie S |

    I have to agree about the magic of cold cash for the first tooth. I know my neice would rather run around with a cool coin vs a piece of paper… It’s a good thought, and I totally get the lesson that’s behind it, but I remember that when we lost our first tooth as kids we got a silver dollar, after that it was up to whatever change was in my dad’s pocket on the night you lost your tooth.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Just for clarification, he will still get $1.00 with his first tooth. The savings bond would be a bonus. He will not understand it much now, but by the time he is 10-12 (when he loses the last tooth), he may understand it more.

    What I’m hoping is that at that time, he’ll redeem that savings bond and see how much more money he got from it and get a taste of what happens when your money is allowed to grow.

    I like the “golden” dollar coin idea!

  • Reply Debtfretter |

    Sounds like a great idea, Tricia. I don’t think the other teeth will be a let-down. Good on you for still being creative while paying down debt!

  • Reply Lynnae @ Being Frugal |

    I like that idea. I don’t think it will be a let down, especially if the tooth fairy writes a note that this is something extra special for the first tooth. The tooth fairy writes notes all the time at our house. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Dedicated |

    I love this idea Trica!

    I think I would squeeze in one for birthday’s and holidays as well – if I could do it over again. I would also decrease the gifts by this amount.

    Then I would download the Savings Wizzard off the bond site (which I already have) and monthly I would begin, when he is ready, reviewing and showing his growth for … a car, college, etc.

    Awesome money teaching idea! Love it!

  • Reply Dedicated |

    OOPs – also, I would buy an I bond not the E’s. This will show income monthly and I think the payoffs are better. Yet, they don’t give you the tax savings, for paying for college … I think.

  • Reply Drew |

    I think the savings bond is pure genius!. It’s unclear whether you intend to still give him money for the rest of his teeth, or whether this is for all the teeth. Either way, I think it’s a great opportunity to teach savings: Once his teeth are all replaced, he’ll have spent all those $1 bills and have nothing. But with the bond, he’ll be able to clearly see what he’s gained by saving.

  • Reply Chris |

    I like the gold dollar coin idea.

    I disagree with the others about him being disappointed next year. You can mention the $25 savings, but he’ll probably focus more on the tangible reward at that age – the dollar coin. Odds are he won’t remember the $25, but even if he does you can just tell him how much his first $25 earned and make that sound like a reward. It wasn’t something tangible in the first place, so it probably won’t matter. He’ll still get his gold coin.

  • Reply Jen |

    Talk of teaching him the value of saving reminded me of something:

    A couple I know bought a special piggy bank for their daughter. There are 4 buckets – one for saving, one for fun, one for charity, and I forgot what the other one was for… Maybe short-term savings?

    You could do something similar for your son. Have him divded the money into 2 or 3 buckets. Some he saves for a rainy day, some he saves for a special item, like a toy or comic book, and some he can spend now if he wants, and some he gives to charity. It teaches him about money, about doing good for others, and helps get him in the habit of saving.

  • Reply anothertoothfairy |

    I was a bit lax with my tooth collection, and my boys accidentally came across a couple of their teeth along with the notes they had written to the tooth fairy. One of the boys questioned why I would have the toothfairy’s stuff, but before I had to come up with a logical response, the brothers decided got the bright idea to resubmit the teeth for more money.
    I also gave a few of the gold presidential dollar coins, and they were a big hit. But my kids tended to regard the dollar bills as real money and put them in their wallets, while the gold coins were carried around and played with, and as expected, frequently lost

  • Reply wealthy_1 |

    Tricia,

    What a great idea to leave a savings bond. You’re smart to include a lesson with the first lost tooth to help your son become educated in financial matters. I sure wish I would have been that insightful.

    My son lost his first four teeth by age seven and did not lose another until he was 12. By that time he knew the identity of the tooth fairy. Maybe you’ll be that lucky.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Dedicated – thanks for the input about which one to purchase. I was on the fence when writing this post as to which one to go for. I’m still learning more about each, and I still have some time because his tooth isn’t wiggling too much quite yet πŸ˜‰

    anothertoothfairy – thanks for sharing the story about your boys. My son would do the same thing and try to get more money! I better hide those teeth under lock and key LOL.

    And to add a little more clarification, my son will receive $1.00 for every tooth that he loses. For the very first tooth, he will receive the $1.00 plus the extra bonus of the savings bond.

  • Reply Morgan |

    The first tooth is worth more than the rest.

    $5 for the first one and $2 for all others has been the norm in our house.

  • Reply Leigh |

    I got more enjoyment from the notes the tooth fairy left for me than from the money. My mother had a stash of colored pencils and special notepaper (that I didn’t know about at the time). She would change her handwriting and use the special stuff……….I was absolutely convinced that the tooth fairy was real!

  • Reply FreeFromBroke |

    Not long ago our daughter started losing her teeth. We started out with $5 for the first and $2 for each following (maybe NYC inflation since I see a lot of $1/tooth). Thing is we have other family that would give her money for the teeth as well if she stayed over their house (I know, I know). We took this money in addition to other money received from holidays and such and with our daughter’s permission opened up a sub-account in our ING account for our daughter. Now she can see how compounding works and she has a place to keep her money without it getting lost or spent. She gets excited and asks us what the account is up to. Even though it only moves pennies it’s enough to make her happy.

  • Reply MoneyChangesThings |

    Personally I think giving kids savings bonds is a bad idea – it’s not reasonable to expect a kid to be excited about something that is only worth 1/2 the face value and takes 3 or 4 times their present lifespan to accrue the face value.
    But! I have read that kids often opt for more coins even if they are worth less, because they like quantity.
    So here’s an idea. Collect state quarters. Polish them up and help him make a state quarter collection. If he gets two quarters rather than a dollar, he may be perfectly thrilled, especially if they’re shiny.

So, what do you think ?