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With all the other economic questions being asked about the wizarding world that Harry Potter lives in, it's gotten me to wonder about this.

While Harry is wealthy, and the Weasleys are apparently not wealthy at all, I can't help but to wonder just how important money is in the wizarding world. If someone can cast as spell and create a structure, or have a tent that's easily moved around, but still has spacious living quarters in it (no tardis jokes, please), how much does a wizard or witch need money?

I know they need it for items that can't be created without skill, like wands, and for some magical ingredients, but it seems like one could easily create food and other necessities of life through transformation spells.

And, related to that, what would be the cost of living in the wizarding world?
I would think the ease of travel from one place to another would keep the cost of living close to the same throughout the wizarding world. But has anyone actually compared the cost of living for wizards and witches with the cost of living for muggles?

I know that's two questions (how important is money and what's the cost of living), but the two seem intertwined. Has JKR said anything about this or has anyone written anything about either one?

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    Food is one of the five principal exceptions to the LAWS OF ELEMENTAL TRANSFIGURATION!!!! EVERYONE knows that! Jan 17, 2012 at 20:42
  • I don't know it! Ya got links for proof?
    – Tango
    Jan 17, 2012 at 20:44
  • Well, yeah, now that there's an answer!
    – Tango
    Jan 17, 2012 at 20:52

4 Answers 4

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You said "but it seems like one cold easily create food and other necessities of life through transformation spells". In case of food, that is definitely NOT true:

"Your mother can't produce food out of thin air," said Hermione. "no one can. Food is the first of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfigura --" "Oh, speak English, can't you?" Ron said. (DH pg. 292/240)

Later, in Chapter 29, Neville explains how they discovered the passage from the Room of Requirement to The Hogs Head, and Ron remembers the earlier scene:

... Aberforth. He's been providing us with food, because for some reason, that's the one thing the room doesn't really do." "Yeah, well, food's one of the five exceptions to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration," said Ron to general astonishment.(DH pg. 578/465)


Also, from Gamp's_Law_of_Elemental_Transfiguration Wikia, the following are deduced (but not directly referenced in canon as exemptions)

  • Clothing: Even wizards of great skill — Remus Lupin and Molly Weasley included— cannot seem to conjure up new robes and are instead stuck with old, patched ones, ones that are too short, or ones that are hopelessly out of style. If clothing were not one of the exceptions, Lupin would have long ago conjured a new wardrobe, and Ron would have avoided his dress-robe embarrassment at the Yule Ball.

As far as shelter - I don't see any useful reason for it to not be magically creatable in canon. I think this is more of a case of Rowling being completely woefully ignorant of basic Economics (as evidenced by her non-HP writings) than anything else.

Although, it's possible that you can't transfigure something as big/complicated as a house without some MAJOR transfiguration talent.

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    And that just shows you how hard it is to check on anything in the HP world when your sister who owns a bookstore has borrowed your HP book and you haven't seen it in over a year!
    – Tango
    Jan 17, 2012 at 20:48
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    So this stomps on the food point (and the unspoken Clothing one), but doesn't really answer the question(s).
    – Xantec
    Jan 17, 2012 at 20:52
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    @Xantec - I refuse to addle my brain by doing financial calculations based on written word by someone who doesn't do numbers OR economics :) Seriously, the only answers to most of Tango's concerns seem to be "plot hole" and "JKR didn't think of it". Jan 17, 2012 at 20:54
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    If you're going with the "plot hole" and "X didn't think of it" criteria we might need to scrub a good number of the questions on the site
    – Xantec
    Jan 17, 2012 at 20:59
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    @Xantec - I didn't say it's a bad question. I said there's no full good answer I'm aware of :) I'll leave it to She Who Must Not Be Named to see if I missed some obvious (or hidden) canon info. Jan 17, 2012 at 21:00
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How Important is Money in the Wizarding World?

Not as important as in the non-wizarding world. The Weasley's get by with ~7 kids (I lose count of who is still at home), and don't have oodles of cash. Whilst their clothes are slightly ragged they can be altered and so on, the house should fall down, but some patchy magic holds it up. They get by. I get the impression that for a similar non-wizarding family would struggle. In essence, your only expense is Food and Clothing (and you can make do on the later case), also there is, to my knowledge no such thing as a mortgage in the wizarding world....

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  • I always kind of thought of the Weasleys as the Waltons of the magical world.
    – Tango
    Jan 24, 2012 at 8:51
  • The who? I'm missing that (american?) reference...
    – AncientSwordRage
    Jan 24, 2012 at 8:52
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Waltons This show was based on the memories of Earl Hamner (the producer) when he was growing up less than 100 miles from where I live and during the Great Depression. With 7 kids, they got along okay for not having money. (In real life, there were 10 kids and the actual house is significantly smaller.)
    – Tango
    Jan 24, 2012 at 8:57
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    That's interesting, I immediately thought of the Waltons as in the owners of WalMart who are all billionaires and I was incredibly confused.
    – Probst
    Apr 29, 2015 at 21:55
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The answers provided are very helpful in respect to general living; I should leave it at that, but I would like to add that money has other uses than just essential living needs:

Power

The Malfoy's are an extremely wealthy family, and Lucius did not seem to shy away from using his wealth to his advantage:

“What private business have they got together anyway?”

“Gold, I expect,” said Mr. Weasley angrily. “Malfoy’s been giving generously to all sorts of things for years. . . . Gets him in with the right people . . . then he can ask favors . . . delay laws he doesn’t want passed . . . Oh, he’s very well connected, Lucius Malfoy. . . .”

-Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (the Woes of Mrs. Weasley)

Business

The Weasley twins were able to start their own Wizarding Joke shop (Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes) after they were given a lump sum of money from Harry, as well as selling a lot of their supplies to students and other mail-order clients.

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    Except that both of these only works if there is a value to money in the first place.
    – Taemyr
    Jul 9, 2014 at 11:38
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The question, and the answers so far, seem to be assuming that a spell can be cast by anyone who has learned it properly, and the result will be the same no matter the caster.

I don't think this is a sound assumption.

We see throughout the books that some students are "better" at casting spells than others—this may be quickness of learning but also quickness of effect (especially with Transfiguration), power and/or extent of effect (Charms), and so on. And there is Herbology, which requires careful planning and much hands-on work to ensure the things you want to grow actually grow properly—to say nothing of the dangers of re-potting mandrakes.

Now it is true that, for the most part, we see these discrepancies in ability in students. Graduates of Hogwarts are generally shown to be proficient in a multitude of spells. But there are still specialties! Flitwick, of course, is a master Charmer. Ollivander is skilled in wandlore. Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Voldemort are all described as being powerful and inventive in the art of Transfiguration. And various characters are "more powerful" than other characters; see Peter Pettigrew.

So while someone may, in theory, be able to to brew their own potion, it might be much easier—and safer—for them to acquire one made by a master. Just because you know how to harvest and pickle eyes-of-newt doesn't mean you want to spend four days doing it each year. It doesn't do much good to know that there exists a spell to cause the inside of a tent to be larger than the outside, if the execution of that spell is beyond your abilities.

To put it in other words, the mere existence of spells that can magically perform tasks, mundane or otherwise, is not a guarantee that every witch or wizard has the capability to perform them. And if there are differences in abilities, an economy can arise to allow for the exchange of labor.


I've been reading Kim Harrison's "The Hollows" series, which uses this mechanic. A witch may choose to keep their own garden and mix their own charms, or they may decide that their time is better spent purchasing them pre-made—with the trade-off being that charms made available for purchase by the general public are very expensive, on account of the regulatory process which guarantees efficacy and safety.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. I'm not sure I see how this addresses the question; even if your argument is correct, and there are certain spells a particular witch/wizard would choose not to do, it doesn't mean they wouldn't barter for them, or trade favours... How important is money for witches and wizards?
    – DavidW
    Nov 11, 2021 at 2:49
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    @DavidW, what stops you from bartering for your eggs, or trading favors for them? How important is money to you? And why would your answer not apply to wizarding society? The question of "importance of money" is not really relevant; that's how OP phrased their question, but what they really meant is "Why is there a wizarding economy at all," and that's the question I answered.
    – randomhead
    Nov 11, 2021 at 2:57
  • Also, hi and welcome to this part of SF&F. Nothing stops me from bartering for eggs (other than that I'm on a plant based diet and don't eat them), but I know a lot of cases where I can and have bartered for good or services. There are also more times I just "pay the man" for what I want. It varies. As for the original intent of the question, the OP phrased it, "How important is money in the wizarding world?" because they really meant, "How important is money in the wizarding world?" If you have bartering, that's still an economy. As long as there are exchange going on, there is an economy.
    – Tango
    Nov 12, 2021 at 4:37
  • If that's truly all you want to ask, @Tango, then the answer is: money is important in the wizarding world because it allows one party to obtain a good or service even when they do not have any good or service the other party desires in exchange. But none of the other answers (even the one you accepted) mentioned that, because it is blindingly obvious; they all understood, quite correctly, that the true meat of your question is "Why would a witch or wizard have to trade/barter/buy a good or service, when they could just use a spell instead?" and they answered that question, as did I.
    – randomhead
    Nov 12, 2021 at 15:05
  • Why write that as a comment instead of revising your answer? However, while you may not feel like DVK's answer actually answers the question, I feel it does.
    – Tango
    Nov 12, 2021 at 18:14

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