I was chatting briefly with a colleague yesterday about married life. (He was going to be best man in a friend's wedding in a couple of weeks.) In the course of the conversation, I admitted that saving money was a heck of a lot easier before I was married, but that I wouldn't go back to being single by choice for anything. Everything has pros and cons.
He saw the picture of my daughter that I have in my cube, and pointed to that as one of the pros. I certainly agreed.
Our daughter is our one and only. Being an only child has pros and cons, too, of course. One of the pros is that whatever part of our income that would go to her enrichment is hers alone. No one else is competing for that slice of our income in that way.
Most bigger families have more restrictions on what they can do for their kids
Likewise, being part of a larger family has its pros and cons. The opposite side of the pro above is that larger families are more likely to need to make tough choices about what their kids participate in. If the money needs to enrich the lives of three or four children, the pot of money either needs to be bigger, or the children cannot do as much as would otherwise fit into their schedules.
The restrictions might be matters of practicality, as in running the children to different practices just isn't possible because of schedule and time. Or, rather than participating in, say, three activities, they may only be able to participate in one or two each — on the reasonable assumption that favoritism is inappropriate, of course.
The sliding fee scale
Activity clubs don't ignore the fact that participation gets expensive when you have several kids, and many charge a smaller fee for additional children. Large families, in effect, get an activity discount.
Though I could perhaps get bitter about this, and observe that the people in charge of setting the fees stand to be subsidized by smaller families like mine — due to the fact that they themselves have large families — that's not really a productive way of thinking. It does more harm than good to start judging a large family for being large. (Who's to say that the large size of a family is due to abundant blessing from God, or due to reproductive irresponsibility? Certainly not I!)
Besides, there's more to it than that. Economically, it makes sense to encourage families to sign up more, or all, of their kids.
Let's say that there was no discount, so a family with one child would pay $800/year, and a family of five children would pay $4,000/year.
Is it a fair charge? Yes. It is an onerous charge? Yes, it is. Might the parents stare down the barrel of that $4,000 expense and opt out? Possibly.
Now, let's say that the club charges $800 for the first child, $700 for the second, $600 for the third, and $500 for the fourth and beyond. This is still expensive for the five-child family — $3,100 — but the family can see the nearly 25% discount they've been given, and are more willing to pay it.
The silver lining
Yes, they're paying $620/child, and we're paying $800/child. At the same time, though, a larger club activity can take advantage of their scale, and the experience will likely be better with more participants.
Regardless, though, our total payout is $800, while theirs is $3,100. We'll still pay less, total. That will always be the case. I guess we'll take that!