May 21, 2010

Saving money and figure skating -- an oxymoron?

  • Skating class: around $120 to $180 for 10 lessons, (higher or lower depending on locality)
  • Private lessons: $25 to $120 per half hour, depending on coach's credentials and chutzpah
  • Skates: $70 to $120 for beginner skates, $400 for serious recreational skates, skies the limit for professional/competitive skates ($800+ for boots and blades)
  • Ice time: $6 to $25 per hour
  • Group class with specialty coach: $15 to $30 plus ice time
Shall I go on? Tights? Bunga pads? Extra tutoring to help with missed school? Camp? Sleep away camp? Extra lessons with famous guest coach? Synchro fees (and matching skate bags, guards, scarves, pins...)?


You spend what you can afford to spend. Yes, people take out second mortgages to cover skating expenses, but they don't do this until the kid has won Junior Nationals, giving him or her an actual shot at an international competitive career. Suzy who just placed 4th in PreJuv at Regionals, even though she's got a double axel just a little bit cheated and coach says she's the best thing since Tara, should not be creating financial hardship for her family, or depriving her siblings of their needs.

The best way to look at the cost of figure skating, is to look at it in comparison to what else the child might be doing. If you are a middle class family, you might have a reasonably talented violin player, for instance, who enjoys it but isn't planning on going to Juilliard. She is going to cost you for lessons ($30 per week, probably 40 to 45 weeks per year), purchase and upkeep of an instrument ($500 to $2,500), plus orchestra dues, recital costs, and touring fees. Probably starting at age 5 to the end of highschool $30,000, at an average of less than $100 per week, including the prorated cost of the instrument. Think about it.

This is very close to what a serious recreational figure skater will run you.

The point is not to start worrying about costs adding up, but to know in advance what you are willing to spend out of discretionary income, and what you are willing to give up to be able to increase the skating budget.

Be aware of what the costs are, and don't forget that there are blade guards, and that coaches raise their rates periodically, and that the ice is a separate fee, etc. If this is important to you, your family, and your child, figure it out ahead of time and work out a budget (assume that the budget you've worked out is 20% low, by the way). Then please stop complaining. No one is twisting your arm to make your child skate, and kids can be remarkably understanding about the consequences of any expensive hobby or dream. Stop buying lattes every day; just make your own coffee at home. I'm serious. That will pay for a skating lesson.

A really common complaint I hear is about the cost of the ice show. When parents rail at me about this fee, I just tell them, "she doesn't have to skate in the show." Mouths drop. While I am 100% on the parents' side in just about everything figure skating, this is not one of those places. Make choices, folks. Can't afford the show? Don't skate in the show. Can't afford the designer dress? Go to eBay and buy one used.

I absolutely see red when some parent tells me they just can't afford the $2 increase in my fee, and that they'll let me know what they decide to do when they get back from Europe, or Vail. Again, not kidding, I have heard this more than once. And half the time, they leave me, and turn up a couple of weeks later with a coach who charges even more. Yes, families give up vacation to fund their kids' dreams. I had an aspiring, now professional musician, and a competitive figure skater. In the last 20 years, we have taken exactly 3 out of town vacations. While the musician was in college and the skater was competing, we both worked 80 hours a week so we could make it happen for them. They both started teaching at the age of 12 to help pay for it. I don't begrudge them a minute, or a dime.

If you start getting into the more competitive levels, or join a Synchro team, you'll have to make some decisions, usually involving the cost of things like family vacations, additions to the house, private or public school, expensive camps, etc. Again, kids really really understand the idea of trade-offs and sacrifices. I am not one of those people who believe that it somehow damages a child's self esteem to tell them to stop wasting your money when they don't take skating seriously. Families sacrifice for these dreams, and kids should be part of that conversation.

While I think the children, and his siblings, should be involved in this, I do NOT think the coach needs to be involved in this. It is not the coach's fault if you are spending more than you can afford, or depriving other family members of things they need or want, with or without their collusion. The coach charges what he charges; we're all adults. If you need to say no, say no. But don't blame me for your inability to balance a budget.

That said, if it's your 6 year old who is costing you more for skating than you can afford, you don't need a calculator, or a second job, what you need is therapy.


  1. Amen to that! I was stunned to find out how expensive skates are (although mine are roller, not ice skates) when I started doing derby. I was fortunate to find an amazing pair at a garage sale, but I can't believe I have $700 worth of skates on my feet.

    Another thought that may or may not occur to some parents. As a teenager, I participated in a fairly expensive sport: ballroom dancing. And I had a part time job during the school year and multiple jobs each summer. Almost 100% of the money I earned went to funding my dancing. At some point, kids need to learn about the financial costs of the activities they enjoy. Then they can decide how much it is worth it to them to continue.

  2. Nice article makes a lot of sense - this kind of clarity is rare.

  3. I just found out today that transportation to my far-far-away rink is more expensive than the actual skating expenses! But, just to be fair, skating is rare around here, so they are trying to attract as many people as they can.

  4. Sage advice. Sometimes I am viewed as evil by Club parents when I point out the cost and the context of this sport vs others.

    Ignorance is no execue. Do the math. Think of the trade-offs. Then decided. The folks in the field are not the enemy.