Consumption When children's hobbies become expensive

Great that your children care passionately about their hobbies. But how much should these hobbies cost?

Is it fair if your son's riding lessons cost 2,300 Swiss francs a year, but your daughter's football training only 300 francs? Of course, it's a pleasure when your children pursue their hobbies with passion. But is money really no object? And what do you do if one hobby costs much less than the other? Your children may even ask you about the cost themselves. As parents, it would naturally be easier to avoid the question entirely or gloss over any differences. But that’s not the best idea. After all, as they grow older, children should learn to appreciate how much things cost.

Sibling rivalry

Certain sibling rivalries are to be expected. All children vie for the affection and recognition of their parents. When a child notices their parents are spending more money on one sibling, they may well protest, insisting it isn't fair. But what is fair in this case? Does fairness demand that all hobbies cost the same? Or is fairness when each child is free to pursue their chosen hobby? Presumably parents agree to support a particular hobby because the hobby genuinely reflects the child's interest and can be practiced somewhere nearby. You absolutely can discuss these ideas about fairness around the family dinner table.

You can't measure love with money

Financial inequities between siblings are inevitable. Maybe one child will attend high school and requires financial support, while the other might take up an apprenticeship and must contribute to the family's monthly housing expenses. We can't predict the future, and treating your children the same financially at all times is unrealistic. That's why it’s all the more important for parents to clarify that different expenditures have nothing to do with affection or proof of love. Naturally, there should be a cap as to how much you spend on a hobby, defined by the family budget. If the family budget can't be stretched any further, it’s the parents’ job to say “No.”

For example, if a child dreams of sailing or a motor sport, their parents mustn't only think about safety or access to a lake or racetrack. Can the family afford such expensive activities without completely sacrificing vacations and other nice treats? If all members of the family would have to tighten their belts so that one child can follow their dream, the decision should be discussed with everyone and agreed by the whole family. It might also make sense to look for a similar, less expensive activity. Or the teenager could take on a portion of the financial burden by working vacation jobs to defray the extra costs. What’s important is that children know that you love them. How much leisure activities cost plays no role in that.

The key points in a nutshell

  • Be transparent about how much a hobby costs. As they grow older, children should develop an understanding of the cost of living.
  • Rivalry between siblings is normal and part of their development. But don't leave your children alone to argue over costs. Discuss the topic together as a family.
  • When choosing a hobby, consider whether it even fits into the family budget over the medium term. If not, look for alternatives together.
  • Talk to your children about their sense of fairness. What is fairness? Is it when all the family's hobbies cost the same? Or when each member can pursue their particular interest?
  • Set limits. If the riding lessons also involve a riding camp, that could be a good birthday or Christmas present.

UBS’s educational principles

This article was written in collaboration with educator Marianne Heller, who has years of experience in teaching financial education and debt prevention programs for children and young people.

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