One big problem that many people have when they adopt a frugal lifestyle is the perceived reduction in enjoyment they’re going to have in their hobbies. Entertainment spending is one of the obvious places to cut in a budget because it’s not a base need, but it is a very painful cut. If done recklessly, it can certainly reduce one’s enjoyment of day to day life.
This is certainly something that has challenged me over the past few years. I’ve got several hobbies that could seemingly be very expensive on their own but, with some footwork and forethought, I’ve found ways to trim their costs down to almost nothing while still retaining what I enjoy about each one.
Over the last week, I’ve also talked to several people I know who simultaneously have seemingly expensive hobbies yet enjoy them with minimal cost. I made a list of many of these hobbies and the methods used to reduce their costs. If you don’t see your hobby listed below but have a great idea for how to reduce the cost of it, mention the hobby and the cost-cutting method in the comments.
Antiquing Focus on really mastering how to value particular types of items – vintage toys, etc. Save your buying impulses until you’re absolutely sure you spy an underpriced item that you can turn over.
Board games Hit thrift stores regularly as you’ll often find great, complete games for almost nothing. Before you buy new games, attend sessions at your local game store where you can demo such games and try them out. Build friendships with other people who enjoy board games and play their games as often as they play yours.
Camping Buy equipment that will last and will work in lots of environments (so you don’t have to buy multiples). Don’t get too much equipment, as you can make a lot of things with what you find on hand – a tent, a sleeping bag, and a utility tool will work for many people. Don’t buy stuff because you think you might use it or need it.
Coin collecting Know your hobby. Know what rare coins have value, particularly ones that look similar to coins made today. Sift through change you get and find ways to accumulate more change without spending (like getting rolls of pennies or dimes at the bank). Understand what you really enjoy about coin collecting and focus on that.
Comics Check your local library if you enjoy reading comics – they often stock annuals and other collections. Start a “comic circle” where you each buy certain comics then swap them around the circle. For collectors, know the market cold and look in unusual places for bargains, like yard sales.
Cooking Minimize your equipment – you don’t need dozens pots and pans. Cook for yourself, not just to impress others (this improves your skill and saves money on meals). Master the use of ingredients you can easily grow (like our chive patch and our asparagus patch, which require no maintenance at all and just produce free food for us).
Gardening Compost as much as you can as it will reduce your fertilizing costs. Build friendships with other gardeners and share equipment. Harvest seeds and save them for spring.
Golfing Try golfing at the community courses near you instead of at the country club, as municipal courses are often far less expensive and yet still a lot of fun. Once you have a set of clubs, stick with it and only “upgrade” when there are liquidation sales or something else that’s completely exceptional. Don’t be afraid to use “lost” balls – balls hit out in the middle of nowhere and considered “lost” by other golfers – pick them up and toss them in your bag. Get a golf bag with wheels or a pull cart and get some exercise instead of renting a golf cart.
Hunting Handle the meat packing and processing yourself. Don’t buy “special clothes” for hunting beyond what’s required to keep you safe – just add layers in the winter. Focus on specific types of hunting instead of buying a weapon for everything.
Magic: the Gathering Instead of playing in the expensive competitive Standard environment, play Limited instead. Build a “draft cube” (basically, a big, diverse pile of cards) and play using that, particularly when you attend events. Ask to borrow full decks from players that have lots of cards.
Movies Eat a snack and drink a big glass of water before hitting the theater. Don’t buy a DVD unless you’ve already watched a movie multiple times in a theater or as a rental. Swap DVDs (temporarily) with friends. Go to discount theaters instead of “first-run” theaters and you’ll save most of the cost of a ticket.
Pets Volunteer your time at a pet shelter, as it will allow you to bond with lots of pets, help to make sure those most in need are cared for, and also help you to find the perfect match. Learn what an animal’s true dietary needs are and focus on meeting that instead of just buying a big bag of Ol’ Roy – not only is it better for them, it’s often cheaper.
Reading Join your local library – or even volunteer there. Swap books with your friends. Join a service like PaperBackSwap and swap online.
Scrapbooking Keep in mind why you’re scrapbooking – it’s to preserve memories. Don’t spend your money on expensive decorating elements that don’t really mean anything at all. Use highly inexpensive or throwaway items for your decorative elements instead – let that be another channel for your creativity.
Video games Trade games with friends. Play through games all the way before picking up a new one. Buy used games – and trade in any games you have that you won’t likely play again. Never buy new releases – wait until the price starts to drop and you save money while still enjoying the same game.
There are a few themes that run through many of these tips that bear repeating, because they help save money with any hobby.
Build friendships with people who have the same hobby. You can share ideas and equipment with them.
Minimize your equipment. Don’t buy stuff just because you think it might have a use. Go minimal, then expand if you have a true need.
Avoid the “cult of the new.” Never buy a new release. If you wait a little while, you can usually get the same item for less.
Understand what aspects of the hobby you truly enjoy. Maybe it’s just the collecting nature. Maybe it’s just the act of what you’re doing. Whatever it is, spend some time figuring it out, as it will often lead you to savings.