Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Food Allergies: An Indecent Proposal

When the stresses of dealing with food allergies were particularly bad, usually right after (or sometimes during) a hospital trip, my husband and I used to play a warped little game called "What Would You Pay?".

The rules are simple: name a figure you would be willing to pay to make food allergies go away with the snap of a finger. You can't just say "a million dollars" because you don't have a million dollars. (If you really do have a million dollars at your fingertips, perhaps this blog would be more to your liking?) You have to really think about what not having food allergies in your life would be worth to you.

The first five minutes of the game usually involved us calculating all the things we already pay for because of the allergies. $1000 a year (easily!) for special groceries, chocolate, treats. Say $500 for medications. Another $1000 for doctors and hospital bills in a bad year. $500 a year to provide treats for as many of the class parties, soccer games and birthdays I could weasel my way in to so he wasn't left out.

Then we think about the money we didn't earn because of food allergies. When our son was little, we managed a job share -- 55 hours between the two of us at one company. But, this didn't last and eventually he stayed home while I worked. Let's say $400,000 (10 years at $40k).

Then there are the things we bought to make life easier. The kitchen appliances and camping gear for travel. The van to haul all the crazy stuff around with us. Kitchen-Aide for making bread. Food dehydrator. Popsicle molds. I would guestimate a $20,000 premium over the last 10 years just for this kind of stuff.

So now the game has shifted to what DID we pay and the answer is ~$471,000 over the last 17 years. Only half a million.

Then there's the cost of NOT saving the money from my husband's nonexistent job. We're now looking at funding our son's college education with loans because the choices we made to have a stay-at-home parent resulted in no college fund. Even if you discount the principle, let's figure $60k in interest that he/we are likely to pay over the next 20 years that we wouldn't be paying if the money were already saved.

When we start taking into account what we would be willing to give up in order for our child to be just like the other kids, things start to really get fun. Eating out. All Starbucks coffee forever. Magazines. Gifts. Hosting parties. New clothes - can buy used. Phones. Of course, many of these things have essentially already gone by the wayside, but would we give them up forever? In a heartbeat. Could we come up with $28k a year in savings or second jobs? Not easily, but we could if we really had the promise of a cure. $28k x 17 years = $476,000. Plus the college loan interest - $536,000.

Guess what? We really would pay a million dollars.

Wouldn't you?