48

As we know the Weasley family are quite poor. Not poor enough that they don't have anything to eat but still so poor that they have to buy second-hand clothes and books for their children.

Yet, when they win 700 galleons from the lottery they burn most of them on a trip to Egypt. While it must have been fun it seemed extremely unwise. Afterwards they are poor again - Ron has to wear a second hand and extremely old-fashioned robe on the Yule Ball.

So why did they spend so much money on a single trip?

  • 56
    As a parent myself, I would gladly blow a huge chunk of money on a fun trip that I would never otherwise afford than save it for normal use. Memories are among the greatest gifts one can give their kids. – Kyle Kanos Oct 12 '15 at 15:12
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    yep, a family trip for maybe the first time ever, or put it in the bank, the family trip wins for most families imo, as seem by most lottery winners use of the winnings (blow it all in a year or 2 – Himarm Oct 12 '15 at 15:13
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    because everyone always spends financial windfalls in the most logical and financially sound manners. it's why lottery winners always remain rich for the rest of their lives – phantom42 Oct 12 '15 at 15:50
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    Ron's parents are frugal, not poor. That's how you can afford to take 7 people on a vacation with $3k. – Mazura Oct 12 '15 at 23:50
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    They're playing the lottery. That's not exactly a sound investment to begin with. – user42419 Oct 13 '15 at 11:41
106

I haven't pulled citations for this from the books themselves, but per the wiki article on Bill Weasley:

After graduating from Hogwarts, Bill went to work for Gringotts Wizarding Bank as a Curse Breaker in Egypt. During the summer of 1993, the whole Weasley family went to Egypt on holiday after his father won seven-hundred galleons in the annual Daily Prophet Grand Prize Galleon Draw. Bill took his family on a tour of the Egyptian tombs while they were there.

It wasn't merely a vacation - they were visiting a member of the family. Given that he was working far from home, and he probably didn't see his parents and siblings very often, the family's choice of vacation in Egypt makes sense. After that time, we see Bill return to England on several occasions, but prior to his family's vacation he may not have come back as often. Even if he did visit home a few times a year, traveling to a foreign country where a friend or family member lives is a fine opportunity. Besides the benefit of Bill showing them around, he's got a prestigious job in an exotic location. The family would presumably feel pride and excitement at observing this firsthand.

  • 9
    Remind me to bounty you if this doesn't get accepted. – Mazura Oct 12 '15 at 23:54
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    Excellent answer, the Weasley family are shown as strong and cohesive - even allowing for Percy's behaviour. Visiting Bill makes perfect sense. – Ian Lewis Oct 13 '15 at 13:28
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    +1 for providing a believable in-universe explanation as to why they would spend money on a vacation, and why they would choose Egypt specifically. The Weasleys are all about family. – YonkeyDonk64 Oct 13 '15 at 18:43
  • The explanation that they were visiting Bill + that maybe the cost went out of hand (my assumption) sounds plausible to me. – vap78 Oct 14 '15 at 14:40
75

Actually, Weasleys did the most wise/rational thing, according to modern scientific understanding: they purchased a unique, wonderful experience instead of things.

Over the past decade, an abundance of psychology research has shown that experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions (src, including links to research)

Tip 1: Buy experiences instead of things ... In one recent study, Cornell University researchers found that purchasing an experience tended to improve well-being more than buying a possession, in part because people are more prone to comparisons and buyer’s remorse with material goods (src).

  • 10
    There's plenty more references where this came from, but this is SFF, not Skeptics.SE – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 12 '15 at 17:12
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    @DavidGrinberg - Fair point. However, not everything has (or sometimes needs) in-universe explanation. Why doesn't Ron fly up randomly? Because Gravity. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 12 '15 at 18:03
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    @DavidGrinberg: it’s a normal enough thing that it doesn’t need a reason. The research is a modern justification, but “memorable experiences can be worth some cost ” has been thought and practiced since the dawn of humanity. It’s just something some people do (at the same time as other people would choose to do other things with the money). – PLL Oct 12 '15 at 18:16
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    @KonradRudolph - they seem to be financially stable. Not rich, or even overly "dentist class" comfortable, but stable. They eat VERY well, they have a stable housing situation, they managed to pay to put 7 kids through school. They don't have money for luxuries, but that isn't a sign of lack of stability. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 12 '15 at 21:54
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    Many of the people arguing against this answer also seem to assume that investing (or at least collecting interest on a savings account) is a given; are we certain these things exist in the Wizarding economy? Given Mr. Weasley's trouble with Muggle money, we certainly can't assume he could use Muggle means... – gatherer818 Oct 13 '15 at 19:05
24

To answer your question, let's first convert 700 Galleons into real money so we can get our heads around it a little better. Using this currency converter it seems that 700 galleons is about $3300. Figuring that you have at minimum 7 people going, it isn't hard to imagine that $3300 would be just enough to cover a somewhat lengthy vacation.

So then comes the question "why go on a vacation?" --

Look at it from what could be their perspective: what's more important, making the next couple years little more comfortable around the time that schoolbooks need to be purchased (at least in CoS, it appears that this was the yearly event they needed to save for, as it seemed to clear them out) or giving your kids an experience they'll remember for a lifetime? (Basically the same point Kyle made in the comments)

But all that being said, we aren't told exactly what else the money might have been spent on (the exception being Ron's new wand). Since I believe it was Ron who told Harry that most of the money was spent on the trip (not 100% sure, but I don't have my copy of PoA on me), it may be the case that there was still a bit of money left over, but it went into things Ron was either unaware of or couldn't appreciate at 13. As you pointed out, we just know that by the next year, Ron's dress robes had to be purchased second-hand, though as a counterpoint, I'd point you to OotP, where Ron was bought a new broom because he became a prefect (at least suggesting the Weasleys were able to save up something during the school year).

Out of universe, this is probably an example of the (warning: TV tropes link) Truth in Fiction trope where many people who, winning the lottery or coming into some sort of windfall (such as an inheritance) spend it all on trips or short term events (rather than saving it for the future). Just take a look at personal finance blogs or stack exchange site for examples of people asking for advice/telling of their experiences (or the news pieces that follow up on what happened to lottery winners).

  • 2
    what is beyond hogwarts basing their currency conversion rate on? – phantom42 Oct 12 '15 at 17:04
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    Maybe it is just me, but $3300 sounds like way too little for seven people to go away on any kind of lengthy vacation. Granted, considering how wizards get around the entire family could have stayed in their own beds each night and brought food from home each day, significantly reducing expenses. – Xantec Oct 12 '15 at 17:15
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    @Ethan It feels more correct to equate 14 Sickles 3 Knuts to be about 100 dollars because that is closer to the real price of a textbook. – Captain Man Oct 12 '15 at 20:11
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    I would think access to magical tents (small on the outside, huge on the inside) and portal keys could could cut significantly down the cost of the vacation. – Lenne Oct 13 '15 at 9:32
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    I don't think that the money comparison is relevant. For example the travel cost would be much lower compared to muggle transportation. – vap78 Oct 13 '15 at 10:53

protected by Community Oct 14 '15 at 22:39

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