Choosing a Hobby Without Spending a Fortune

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By Jennifer Derrick, SavingAdvice.com

I’ve heard plenty of people bemoan the fact that they don’t have a hobby. Some even post to some of the message boards I frequent, asking for help choosing a hobby. This isn’t a position to which I can personally relate. I’m the opposite. I don’t need another hobby, I need more hours in the day to enjoy the ones I have. Between reading, board gaming, needlework, photography, marathoning, writing, and a few others in minor roles, I’m never at a loss for something to do. But evidently, plenty of people are looking for something to do with their free time besides plop on the couch in front of the TV after work.

I applaud their desire to find something more enjoyable and productive to do with their time. The problem is, I see too many of these people rush out and spend a ton of money trying many different hobbies. The dive headfirst into several different things, buying advanced or too much equipment, investing in large packages of lessons or committing to long term contracts, or getting “taken” by salespeople who see a sucker walking through the door. So how can you find a hobby that interests you without busting your budget? Here are some ideas.

Take Inventory

There are two steps to this tip. First, before you go blindly charging into any hobby, stop and really think about what you might like to do. Make a list of things that interest you, your skills, and things you’ve enjoyed in the past. Thinking about activities that you enjoyed as a kid may help. Simply taking a basic inventory of your likes and dislikes will greatly reduce the potential hobby pool. That’s not to say you can’t take up something that you had no prior interest in, just that you need to give some thought to the things you might like to do.

The second part of this tip is to take an inventory around your house. Look for hobbies you started but abandoned. If you find piles of fabric left over from a sewing venture, journals that never got used for your poetry, or cameras and other equipment left over from an interest in photography, for example, these might be good places to start. Did you abandon these hobbies due to lack of time, or because you hated them. If it’s the former, it might be time to take another look. You’ve already got some equipment, so this could be the least expensive way to start your new hobby.

Research

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, do some research to see which activities will really interest you. You can visit many hobby-related websites and message boards on the Internet. There you’ll get a good sense for what the hobby really entails and you can ask some questions of those who’ve been at it awhile. You can also glean some cost information from these sites and you might save yourself from getting into a super expensive hobby that you can’t afford right now. You can also go to the library and check out books related to your choices, giving you further information for free.

Create Limits

Limit yourself to things you know you can afford. There’s not much point in looking into antique car restoration or flying if you don’t have the money. If you already have a good budget in place, you’ll know how much you can dedicate per month or year to your new hobby. As you’re researching various hobbies, stick with ones that fit into your budget. There are tons of hobbies that are free to pursue or which cost very little.

Try It For Free

If you look around, chances are you can find a way to at least try your hobby ideas for free. Craft stores offer free classes. Gaming stores offer free board game nights. Public libraries often have gatherings of all sorts of clubs and interest groups that are free for all to attend. Maybe you can go to a model train show that’s passing through town or go to the local store and watch some layouts being set up. Some places like dance studios and music stores offer complimentary lessons designed to attract people to the hobby. Maybe a friend who’s active in the hobby can get you into some events for free. You can try a lot of different things without spending a dime.

Start Small

Before you invest a lot of time and money into something you aren’t sure you’re going to like, start small. If you want to try gardening, start with a small kitchen herb garden before you dig up half your backyard. Buy enough materials to complete one craft project instead of buying enough to open your own store. Buy one game and play the heck out of it before investing in more. It can be hard to resist getting carried away when the enthusiasm for something new is coursing through you, but hold back. Don’t sink a lot of money into anything until you know it’s something you’ll stick with.

Rent, For A While

For hobbies that require large investments like skiing, playing a musical instrument, or photography, you’re better off renting equipment when you first start. That way you don’t spend money on something that you aren’t sure you’re going to like. If you stick with it, at some point you’ll want to own your own equipment so use the time when you’re renting to stash away money for your own gear.

Don’t Over-Commit

It can be tempting to sign up for a year’s worth of music or dance lessons, or pay for a long-term contract at the gym. You may even get a discount for committing to the long term. But until you’re certain the hobby is something you’re going to stick with, you’re better off paying as you go, or at least just one month at a time. That way, if you end up disliking the activity you aren’t out a lot of money. Plus, the less you spend, the more things you can try since all your cash won’t be tied up in one activity. Once you’ve decided to stick with something, then you can look at the money-saving aspects of signing up for the big contract.

Once you’ve chosen your new hobby, there are plenty of ways to save money as you progress. The rewards of having a fun hobby are many. It makes you a more interesting and well-rounded person and introduces you to new people. In addition to the personal satisfaction you get from learning and developing, you can use a hobby to both make money and save money. Choosing a hobby doesn’t have to be expensive and sometimes the choosing is just as much fun as the hobby you finally settle on.

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