What’s the Going Rate?

What Parents Pay for Sitters, Birthday Parties and the Tooth Fairy

By Susan Flynn

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.

Here’s where comes to the rescue. We’ve asked several moms what some of you may be too polite to ask: How much do they spend on things like babysitting, coaches’ gifts, birthday parties and the Tooth Fairy. Some answers may surprise you. But, as with most questions about parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

The Tooth Fairy

tooth fairyAccording 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 OK to offer a bonus if there’s a lot of blood, an injury, or a trip to the dentist required.

“At our house, the Tooth Fairy gave our daughter $2 for the first tooth and $1 for every tooth after that. Then she had to have one pulled so she received $5. It was the only way I could relax her at the dentist, using the promise of, ‘I think the Tooth Fairy gives you more money when you have to get your tooth pulled.’” – Deb Kumar

“Our Tooth Fairy gives Sacajawea gold coins. One coin per tooth.” – Kim Comatas

“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

“The Tooth Fairy gives $5 for the very first tooth, then one gold coin per tooth. If it’s pulled by a dentist, $3 to $5 depending on how [the child] reacted or suffered.” – Lisa Damigella

Your Turn: What does the tooth fairy leave at your house?

Gift for the Coach/Teacher

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 their team each month. Another idea is a T-shirt signed by all of the players.

“We spend $25 to $50 per gift. Of note, in Lexington, Massacusetts there is a policy that dictates that teachers cannot accept gifts over $50. [This is a state law for all public employees.] The $50 amount means that if the class pools a gift, the amount is still $50. Many parents get around this by not doing pooled gifts but rather encouraging parents to gift independently.” – Stephanie Mitzenmacher

“For the holiday season, I bake something special like panettone, 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

“We spend $30 per teacher, $15 for aides and bus drivers.” – Jennifer Velis

Your Turn: How do you handle gifts for teachers, coaches and volunteers?

Lemonade Stand

Bridget MacConnell, a spokeswoman at Country Time Lemonade, says the cost of a cup of lemonade from a stand is somewhere in the range of a nickel to 25 cents in the United States, though this is strictly anecdotal. On its website, Sunkist suggests five cents for a little cup, 10 cents for a “little bit bigger cup” and 20 cents for a real big cup. It seems, like real estate, that prices vary by neighborhood.

“Fifty cents a cup, although I always give whatever I have to the kids working the stand.” – Andrea Ludlam

“We charge a buck.” – Kim Comatas

“One dollar per cup.” – Jennifer Velis


AllowanceAccording 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.

“We pay 10 cents per activity completed – e.g., made bed, cleared own dishes, etc. That’s a weekly possibility of $3 per week for our 6- and 8-year-old.” – Stacey Coombs

“We have no set amount for allowance. They are required to help out with basic things around the house because they are a part of the family. I will usually provide extra spending money as needed, and all their clothes, shoes, etc. is provided by the parents.” – Lisa Damigella

“The allowance in our house is half the child’s age, so for my 6-year-old, it’s $3 per week.” – Sarah Girotti

“For the past year, our 11-year-old twins have received $7.50 a week for allowance. Of that, $2.50 goes directly into their savings account for forced savings. They are required to do certain chores during the week in order to earn their allowance. They are also allowed to earn extra money by doing extra chores.” – Celine Herrmann

“For allowance? We pay $1 per week. Our little boy is almost 3. He has weekly chores including putting his stuffed animals away, helping mommy Swiffer/sweep and setting the dinner table (placemats and napkins only). At the end of each week, we put his allowance – all coins – into a change purse that he carries to the ice cream store to buy a cone.” – Summer Walker

“The pay is $3 a week for a 9-year-old. We don’t link allowance to chores because I want my daughter to learn that doing chores (helping maintain the family/home) is part of life. Occasionally, I have allowed my daughter to do special non-routine jobs, like clean the car, to earn extra money.” – Valerie Overton

Your Turn: Do you give your kids an allowance? How much?


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.

“For middle-schoolers, I pay $8 an hour, high school age is $10 to $12, and college age is $12 to $15. I have three kids all beyond diapers, which in my opinion makes a difference.” – Judy Speicher

“For a mother’s helper, $5 an hour, but I am home, so I don’t expect them to change diapers, prepare meals, etc. Regular sitters would earn $10 an hour. – Andrea Cardarelli

“I pay $15 to $20 per hour for two kids (7 and 10), depending on the time of the day.”
– Reiko Miyagawa

“We pay high school kids $7 to $8 per hour and a professional nanny, $12 to $15.”
– Sarah Girotti

“I pay the babysitter $8 an hour and the nanny $12 per hour.” – Andrea Ludlam

“I pay $12.50 an hour, plus tip or money for takeout if it’s a long night.” -Summer Walker

Your Turn: What do you pay your sitters?


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.

“Sneakers? Here’s a good one with teenage boys! Usually $80 to $100 per pair.” – Lisa Damigella

“For sneakers, 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

“About $60 a pair. My kids are 6 and 5. Their most recent sneakers were Geox, on the pricey side, but well made.
Lisa Ellrott

“My son is 13 and wears a men’s size 9 1/2 so I try very hard to shop for them on sale. We typically spend about $30 to $45 a pair and buy two pairs at a time.” - Brenda Crawshaw

Your Turn: What do you consider an appropriate amount to pay for kids' sneakers?

Birthday Parties

birthday partyHere’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. At Party Favors in Brookline, owner John Pergantis 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 son’s 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. I have three kids under the age of 5.” - Deborah Vinick

“The average is about $200. We don’t do massive parties with entertainment or at expensive places. I tend to alternate a LaserZone/Whimsy party with an at-home party. In actuality both my son and his friends ask for home parties since I always plan something unique, like scavenger hunts, haunted dungeons, etc.” - Brenda Crawshaw

“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

“When all is said and done, maybe $300 to $400. I am still trying to figure this out.” - Anne Lafleur

Your Turn: How much do you typically spend on a birthday party?

Susan Flynn is associate editor of the Boston Parents Paper, a Dominion Parentiong Media publication.