How to Save Money on an Expensive Hobby
With the new year coming just a few weeks away, you might be doing a year-end review of your finances and resolutions. My goals for next year are to make more money with my side hustles and to save more money for life’s expected and unexpected expenses. My goals probably sound a lot like those of a good majority of people out there.
When it comes to saving money, a common piece of advice I hear is to cut out your unnecessary expenses. But what if you have an expensive hobby that you love?
You may enjoy dining out at new restaurants or going sailing. You might have an affinity for the latest tech gadgets or playing golf. Whatever it is, it requires spending money to engage in it. You know it's making a hole in your budget, yet you don't want to give it up.
Many people have expensive hobbies. My husband took up rock climbing for a few months while some older relatives play golf regularly. An acquaintance of mine goes snowboarding throughout the winter each year. There’s nothing wrong with these hobbies. In fact, they’re probably beneficial in many ways, most importantly giving these people a good amount of joy and higher quality of life. The problem is if they present a financial challenge to do them.
How can you enjoy your favorite hobbies and indulgences while still saving money?
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My expensive hobby
I want to share my hobby because I’m not immune to this dilemma either. I enjoy dance, specifically ballet, which can be an expensive form of exercise. I prioritize it because it’s beneficial to my mental and physical health. This is an estimate of the cost of taking ballet for a year:
Class: $10-$15 per class + workshops = $2000
Shoes: $20 to $100+
Costs vary widely depending on class location, type of classes, frequency of attendance, type of clothes worn, and number of shoes needed. Nonetheless, a person can easily spend over $2000 a year or about $200 per month on dance instruction. You might be thinking, “Why not just do it on your own using DVDs and online videos?” Ballet is not one of those things you can easily learn on your own. You can injure yourself without realizing it. If you want to learn it correctly, you need proper instruction.
Reevaluating my finances and goals now at year’s end has made ponder how people can make expensive hobbies more affordable. If you find yourself with an expensive pursuit, ask yourself these questions to see what you can do.
Can you do it less often?
Many hobbies can be priced by session or event. My uncle who golfs pays for each visit to the course. I pay for each dance class that I take. Sure, there are special packages and deals, but overall, you pay every time you engage in the activity.
If you can cut back on the frequency you do your hobby, you may be able to save money without sacrificing much enjoyment. For example, doing yoga 2 times a week instead of 3 or eating at a fancy restaurant once a month instead of twice a month might still leave you satisfied. You may be able to spend your extra time doing other things and not notice the change.
Can you find a substitute?
Substitute activities can go a long way towards your satisfaction and enjoyment with the benefit of being cheaper. Some examples:
Do a yoga session independently at home instead of visiting the yoga studio.
Join a free conversation group to practice Spanish instead of paying for additional private tutoring.
Start taking dance classes instead of more pricey circus arts classes.
Join a monthly wine club instead of attending weekly wine tastings.
These are based on the activities I see people engage in in my life. You may have different hobbies and can think of substitutes that would work for you.
Can you find a new hobby?
You may be willing to take saving a step further and find an entirely new hobby. What other activities do you like to do that you would be willing to explore? The key here is to find other hobbies that are more budget-friendly than your current ones.
Many years ago, I started taking circus arts classes like aerial arts and tumbling. I loved them but they were really expensive on my limited salary. After taking the classes for a few months, I turned to taking up dance because I enjoyed it almost as much and it was much cheaper to do. I’ve continued dance since then and haven’t regretted my decision once. It was worth it for me financially, emotionally, and physically to find a new hobby.
Can you save elsewhere?
When it comes to expensive hobbies, there’s no upper limit to how much you can spend on them. The golf enthusiast can pay for private instruction or buy a membership to a club. He can choose to play at nicer golf courses and purchase higher end equipment. It’s not all necessary and you end up spending more than you want or have without realizing it.
Recognize that you don’t need everything associated with a hobby to have a good time doing it. You don’t need the latest and trendiest workout wear. You don’t need the latest golf equipment. You don’t need to attend every technique workshop out there. Where can you save and still feel satisfied? Here are a few examples:
Buy used, rent, or borrow equipment. My nephew loves baseball. Hand-me-downs do just fine for him since he’s young and just playing for fun. If he decides to quit playing next year, his parents won’t feel bad having unnecessarily invested a lot of money into the sport.
Get a frequent user pass. Most boutique workout and dance studios have you pay per class. You can save money by paying for a package deal or an unlimited use pass rather than paying for classes individually. Some studios host sales on their packages during the holidays and around the new year.
Exchange your services for classes. Ask if your gym or studio allows you to work or teach in exchange for classes. You have to pay with your time rather than money, but that might work for you. An exchange could be something like working the front desk for a few hours a week in return for a free or discounted class.
Look for deals online. Check online forums and coupon sites for deals on your favorite hobby spots and equipment. Shop during hot sales times like Black Friday or the Christmas season for extra savings. Check out resale sites to buy gift cards below face value, so you can buy equipment and other items for less.
Try an alternative schedule. Some activities cost less during non-peak hours. A dance studio or gym may have discounts for late morning and early afternoon attendance.
Shop at thrift stores. Many hobbies involve special clothing or workout clothes. You don’t have to buy them new though. One of the reasons my clothing cost is low for dance is that I find workout clothes second-hand at thrift stores. A pair of yoga pants and workout shirt can be $10 instead of $100 or more. If second-hand clothes and thrift stores don’t appeal to you, check out discount stores like Kohl’s or Marshalls where clothes are inexpensive and new.
Can you make money off of it?
Ask yourself if there’s a way to make money off your hobby. My hobby for many years was shopping. When I wanted to relax after work or on the weekend, I would go downtown and shop my favorite stores. Shopping is an expensive hobby! I learned my lesson soon enough when I saw my closet filling with unworn clothes and my savings dwindling.
Nowadays, I shop for things to resell for profit. When I get the urge to shop, I go to the thrift store and buy items that are worth more than their sale price. Then I put them up for sale online and make a profit when they sell. I’ve turned my money-sinking hobby into a money-making venture.
If you can’t find a way to make money from your hobby, can you fund it in some other way? You could try selling your unused items around the house or equipment from past hobbies (e.g., musical instruments, brewing equipment, ski gear). You could pick up a side hustle that pays you money and then use those earnings towards your hobby.
Can you afford it?
Lastly, are you able to afford your hobby? The real trouble with any hobby, expensive or not, comes when you’re not able to afford it. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to adjust your numbers somewhere in your budget. That might mean spending less on other expenses such as groceries and putting that extra money towards your hobby instead.
Let’s say you have your finances under control. You’re paying your bills on time and are out of debt. You’re feeling good about your savings each month and are safely on your way to meeting your financial goals. Spending on hobbies might be the right move for you because it improves the quality of your life.
In my case, I’ve evaluated how I feel about dance many times over the years. I enjoy it more than almost any other activity I’ve tried. I don’t care for cheaper alternatives like the gym or running outdoors. I find that dance builds technique and skill too. Every time I evaluate whether or not to dance, I always choose to continue doing it.
I’m fortunate that my hobby doesn’t put me the red. My other hobbies of reselling second-hand clothing and blogging make me money, so it’s worked out financially for me. I’ve found a balance between spending, saving, and earning on all my hobbies.
How about you? What are your hobbies? How do you or would you afford an expensive hobby?
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