the cost of a Calvin
October 11, 2014 4:30 PM   Subscribe

How much damage can a 6 year-old possibly do? An analysis of the cost of raising a child like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes

As summarized by Entertainment Weekly:
It’s no secret that kids have a tendency to drain their parents’ bank accounts. And a particularly mischievous youngster like Calvin from Calvin And Hobbes—the syndicated daily comic strip by Bill Watterson that ran from 1985 to 1995—can rack up quite the bill. Just how much? Matt J. Michel, editor of the part-serious, part-satirical science journal Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science (PNIS), conducted some pretty legit research to estimate how much monetary damage Calvin and his partner in crime/tiger friend Hobbes did throughout the comic strip’s lifetime. His expert conclusion: $15,955.50, which works out to $1,850 per year.

Michel was as serious and meticulous in his not-so-groundbreaking work as a NASA scientist. His fastidious methodology included documenting each instance of property damage, and then calculating the expenses using the regional labor and material costs of Watterson’s hometown, Chagrin Falls, Ohio. (Exhibit A: Calvin caused five house-flooding incidents at expense of $4,798.83 each.) As for the value of the items Calvin destroyed over the years, Michel sourced his pricing from Amazon, save for Calvin’s mother’s sweater—which he deemed high quality enough to use J. Crew as his benchmark. In the spirit of academic legitimacy, Michel did not include incidents that were merely mentioned in the comics, but not explained, in his data set. (Remember that mysterious “noodle incident”?)

Michel concludes with a half-horrifying, half-heartwarming note:

“If your little bundle of joy grows up to be a Tasmanian devil of terror, you can expect to pay almost two grand extra per year just in replacing or repairing items… In parenting, you have to take the bad with the good. With a kid like Calvin, it’s probably mostly bad. But even raising a Calvin has its good moments (like here), which are well worth the extra $1,850 a year.”
posted by flex (31 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's about 120 movie tickets a year. Given some of the dross I've seen this summer, it might just be worth it.
posted by arcticseal at 4:36 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


The nerds at the Proceedings of the Natural Science Institute need to fund a study of urls. http://pnis.co/hard1.html would get you fired from most any job that checks web traffic.

EDIT: Oh . . . well, everyone, look at the dummy <-
posted by yerfatma at 4:39 PM on October 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


This study is seriously flawed, as it does not even attempt to estimate the costs of the noodle incident.
posted by oneironaut at 4:47 PM on October 11, 2014 [25 favorites]


They left out a large chunk of cost incurred when his parents were sued by the babysitters.

And didnt Calvin once bite the mailman or something when pretending to be a werewolf?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 4:51 PM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]




There had to be an explicit depiction or mention of physical damage in order for the event to be recorded. Thus, any damage possibly resulting from episodes like “the noodle incident” (or its predecessor, “the salamander incident”) were not counted.

Pretty limiting parameters, since if we tallied the amount of damage caused by these sorts of events, as well as Calvin's getting blitzed by Hobbes after getting home from school each day, and cetera, the total would easily be in the zillions of dollars where it belongs.
posted by Chutzler at 5:32 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I nonchalantly sing "I just need a bucket to hold some... stuff..." whenever I find myself faced with an unexpected water-based calamity.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:33 PM on October 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


It's round, it's square, IT'S BOTH!
Calvin the fantastic.
posted by Mblue at 5:38 PM on October 11, 2014


This study is seriously flawed, as it does not even attempt to estimate the costs of the noodle incident.

THERE'S NO EVIDENCE, NOTHING CAN BE STUDIED
posted by curious nu at 5:43 PM on October 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


His expert conclusion: $15,955.50, which works out to $1,850 per year.

Exhibit A: Calvin caused five house-flooding incidents at expense of $4,798.83 each.

So presumably, everything else that Calvin did over the course of his childhood profited his parents to the tune of $8038.65?
posted by Hatashran at 6:03 PM on October 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Remember our car?"
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:45 PM on October 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


Don't kids cost like 60 bazillion dollars to raise anyway, what with daycare and dentists and schooling food and lost opportunity cost and all that? I think in the overall context an extra few thousand a year would be hardly noticeable.
posted by lollusc at 6:59 PM on October 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


In total, Calvin caused an estimated $15,955.50 worth of damage over the duration of the comic strip (Figure 1).

My estimate would have been an order of magnitude more.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:08 PM on October 11, 2014


it does not even attempt to estimate the costs of the noodle incident.

NO ONE CAN PROVE HE DID THAT!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:11 PM on October 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


Does this factor in the fact that the household's TV options consisted of only over-the-air and a VCR?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 7:20 PM on October 11, 2014


This is in 1980s dollars--so to translate to contemporary units it's roughly 65billion euro.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:23 PM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Holy crow, my kid is reading this over my shoulder. He considers "Calvin and Hobbes" more of an instruction manual than anything else...
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:25 PM on October 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I just love the fact that somebody has created a parody journal and called it "Proceedings of the National Institute of Science". For those who don't read a lot of journal articles, one of the biggest journals out there (arguably third place after Science and Nature) is the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science", aka PNAS. This is, as you would expect, a source of never-ending mirth in the research community. (We are basically six-year-olds, except with more practice.)
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:25 PM on October 11, 2014 [18 favorites]


Now that I think about it, they didn't even have a VCR did they? I feel like Calvin kept bugging his dad for one, and even in the late 80s they were pretty universal.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 7:41 PM on October 11, 2014


Considering the fact that Calvin doesn't age, I'm guessing costs would go on forever!
posted by TDavis at 9:38 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]




Not mentioned are the long term recovery costs for anyone who's met one of his snowmen in real life...
posted by Namlit at 10:51 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


He's cost me a fortune in dinosaurs.
posted by arcticseal at 11:45 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


The destruction is noticeable because there's a good chance you're just making ends meet at all sorts of possible income scales. Human nature. So when your first ever new laptop and your best digital camera ever that you've been saving for years and nurturing get ruined along with the replacement in the same year for example, it does hurt. Now if you're not affluent enough to afford such gadgets but your kid causes water damage or a grease fire or whatever, yes it hurts like hell. Of course you feel it
posted by aydeejones at 11:58 PM on October 11, 2014


Another way to look at it is, if a kid for example costs around $250k to raise to 18 which is just some random figure that gets tossed around, there's a major down payment every few years or so from birth to each stage of development but most costs are amortized. Now imagine having a loan for a house maybe and this amortized kid and anything that goes wrong with the house puts you in a tough spot, obviously not ruining you completely because you didn't get some oversized loan or lose a job or anything and so you're scraping by on a mortgage or renting hoping nothing unexpected happens this year so you can eat out, eat at all, take a vacation, etc depending on where you are. Basically kids take all but the most exceedingly privileged people (who can afford to basically let others do most of the house keeping and child rearing, nothing wrong with that) and put them right on the bleeding edge of financial ruin more often than not. Before they break shit.
posted by aydeejones at 12:04 AM on October 12, 2014


For most families I think it is the bleeding edge of ruin, for some it's just the bleeding edge of falling down a level in status which is so unconscionable that people basically optimize exactly how to stay on that edge and survive barely adjusting for inflation rather than learning how to step back a bit. And I don't fault them because every day you scrape by is also a day closer to the grave. Enjoy that shit while you and your family are alive and together.
posted by aydeejones at 12:06 AM on October 12, 2014


Hah, I have two Calvins... our philosphy has become that when they're 18, we'll throw out all the furniture and quite possibly tear down the house, and just start over. There's just no point trying to fix the non-critical damage along the way -- it'll just get damaged again next week.
posted by Emanuel at 5:00 AM on October 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


kudos for getting PNAS to sound even more like its anatomical limit.
posted by pjenks at 8:29 AM on October 12, 2014


Next do "Curious George".
posted by jclarkin at 8:52 AM on October 12, 2014


Now that I think about it, they didn't even have a VCR did they? I feel like Calvin kept bugging his dad for one, and even in the late 80s they were pretty universal.

Yeah, he wanted his mom to take him to rent a vcr and some inappropriate sounding tape, hah.
posted by history_denier at 11:18 AM on October 12, 2014


huh, so, I don't suppose there's a web syndication that posts one C&H strip per day that I can read along with my other funnies?
posted by rebent at 7:43 AM on October 13, 2014


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