Which Family Financial Sacrifices Are Worth It?

What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?” Robert Hayden

Robert Hayden’s famous poem, “Those Winter Sundays,” considers the sacrifices a father makes for his son. If you are a parent, it’s likely that situations have arisen where you had to make critical choices about spending money on your child. What types of “sacrificial spending” tend to yield the greatest benefit (or most effectively prevent catastrophes) for families?

Encouraging a Special Gift

Most parents fork over money for sports, dance, robotics, music or other lessons for their kids. The hope from these lessons is not only that your child will enjoy them, but that they might also lead to some form of greatness. Most of our kids will benefit from their extra-curriculars, topping out perhaps with a college sports or music scholarship. If paying for lessons doesn’t ruin your budget, go ahead and buy them. If lessons are too expensive, steel yourself to say no and stick to it.

What if your child really does have a special gift for a particular activity, but the cost of the training will be tough financially? Should you commit the funds? That’s a personal decision only you can make. Like a Las Vegas gambling loss, the ramifications can be unpleasant financially as well as psychologically if the child’s gift doesn’t pan out. When you are standing with aching feet at your second job while your daughter struggles through gymnastics practice 800 miles away, you might wonder if it’s worth it. If she turns out to be an Olympic gold medalist, the answer is obviously yes, but you want to also be able to say “yes” even if it’s a bronze...or no medal at all.

One way to feel more confident about your decision is to look for outside financial help. If others are willing to “back your horse,” it’s likely your hunch about your child’s gift is right.

Shared Family Passions

If you’re lucky enough to have a family that is unified in its passions, investing in them can bring an extremely positive return. In some families, everyone is crazy about traveling or skiing or video games or Disney. Is it a good idea to earmark what others would likely consider an unreasonable amount to your family hobby? Does it ever make sense to chuck it all and move to Costa Rica so you can surf every day? In some cases, it certainly can. Life is short, and few people are really passionate about anything. As long as you can manage to have a place to live, enough to eat and medical attention if you need it, you and your family will live a fuller life than most of us because you indulge in the thing that makes you happiest all the time.