I'm a beginner skater. But I'm a serious beginner skater. I have a private lesson every week, plus I take group so I get mid-week ice time. And since I'm 'mature', I figured I'd never advance unless my lesson was an hour a week, so that's more than most people (also, I've found the hour lesson really built up my old lady stamina).
Does it run into money? Yeah. Serious money? Well, to me it's a costly sport, but not an expensive sport. If I was a teenage girl working part time, yeah, it would be serious money. But I've had more expensive hobbies. I flew single engine and aerobatic aircraft back in the 80s, and rode horses in the 90s. Skating is a lot less expensive than those. To me skating is like 'golf expensive' without the country club membership but not 'skiing expensive' or 'cruise ship vacation expensive'. If in my twilight years I want to have some good times, I hope you won't go all "Occupy Skating Rink" on me.
Let's break it down with some rough numbers:
$2100 a year for privates or $1050 if I took half hour lessons
$400 for group
$600 for gas to/from the rink
$100 for boot care and sharpening
$240 for test fees (6 tests)
$220 for coach fees for tests
So roughly a little over $3500. or say $2600 if I took half hour lessons. Maybe $2200 if I dropped group too. Note I don't count ice time. Publics are covered by my group tickets, and my freestyle sessions are just a few times a year. Not enough to count. If I had to add ice time, since I can only get to skate on publics that's bout $1400 a year, if I have to pay it for myself. If I skated on freestyles, It would cost me $450 a year per hour a week I skated. Two hours a week--$900. Four hours a week--$1800. 10 hours a week--$4500. Even then it's cheaper than many other sports.
In comparison, Spin Guy from my rink and I got into a discussion about what he paid for his daughter's synchro.
$1800 for the team fees
$2200 for travel, costumes, and hotels, but not including coach fees, boot care, etc.
~$1250 for private lesson fees (my estimate)
He's a dad. As he says, "I just write the checks." He started skating when his daughter did. He's taught himself some wicked spins, but as he says, "My money goes to synchro".
How does this compare to hockey? Youth hockey can be inexpensive, but once you get on a travel team, I read it goes up to $10,000 a year. And that's for 10 year olds. How much it costs for an adult league, I have no idea.
So for a beginner skater, who skates almost every week it's something between $2500-$4500 a year including ice time. You could make it less by not taking privates, and restricting the number of Freestyles. I suspect it could get really expensive with custom costumes, competition travel and fees, but I'm a rec skater, those fees are not in my budget.
As an adult you won't have the deadlines that kids have if they want to go to the elite level. You can shape your budget to meet your needs and income. You can skate on publics rather than Freestyles to keep ice fees down. If you can sew you can make your own costumes or skating outfits. This is an affordable sport for those interested in skating for exercise and maybe some testing. Those wanting to compete can go as high as they want!