Ever Looked At Your Credit Card Statement, Whistled, And Said “I Need To Find A Cheaper Hobby?” Here’s How.

As I mentioned recently, earlier this week I found an old credit card statement and spent some time evaluating what sorts of stupid things I spent my money on just a year ago. I decided to circle everything on the list that was directly related to a hobby and total each hobby up to see where it led.

Basically, my interests at the time broke down into four main hobbies:

Magic: the Gathering For about two years, I played a game called Magic: the Gathering, in which people bought and collected their own cards and used them to play a game against each other. I was quite good, to the point that I didn’t have to buy a single card for better than a year (I won many, many tournaments), but I did travel around a substantial amount to nearby large tournaments. I spent $108.22 for the month on this hobby, mostly on traveling to tournaments.

Books I can go through books like a freight train. This is aided by the fact that I often am still awake at two in the morning reading, but I’m still able to function normally the next morning, even now. I spent $222.41 for the month on this hobby.

Video and computer games This hobby was seriously on the wane when my son was born, but I still bought two video games during that month and rented several others. I remember distinctly sitting on the floor with my son once as I played Katamari Damacy … anyway, I spent $84.11 for the month on this hobby.

Collecting political buttons I rarely spend more than a few dollars on this, and that’s usually in cash directly to individuals that have buttons. I especially love buttons from primaries and also the losers in general elections in the 1960s and 1970s. Does anyone out there have a Shirley Chisholm 1972 button they’d be willing to part with? Anyway, I spent nothing on this hobby for the month.

In other words, on the items I could definitely tie to hobbies, I spent $414.74 in a single month, an amount that had to drastically drop. Yet, at the same time, I didn’t really want to let go of any of my hobbies. So here’s what I did to fix this problem.

First, I listed every hobby I had now and every potential hobby I had an interest in. This turned out to be quite a long list of potential interests, including learning a foreign language, starting a blog (hmmm…), learning to knit, and so on. I included

Once I had this list, I ranked everything on each list by cost and by my interest in it. This took a while, as I had to make some educated guesses in both areas.

After that, I immediately axed the most expensive third of the hobbies and also the bottom two thirds of the interest list, then I combined what remained. This eliminated roughly half of the hobbies, leaving me with only the most interesting and the most cheap. Anything that showed up twice (as the political buttons did) was a hobby I kept.

I then spent some time thinking about each hobby and how I could minimize the cost. By cost, I primarily refer to financial cost, but I also included the cost of time and the flexibility of it. For example, Magic was fairly inflexible because I had to go to tournaments at certain times, but reading was very flexible because I could pick up a book anywhere at any time.

In the end, looking at things from a completely different perspective led me to make some serious changes. I dropped Magic and video games as hobbies and added a blog as a hobby, keeping the political buttons and the book reading. Blogging is very inexpensive in terms of cost and is actually turning a profit right now, while button collecting is nearly free as well.

But what about the books? Reading is and was my top hobby, so I was loath to drop it. Instead, I discovered my local library all over again and found out clever ways to cut down on the cost of books.

In short, the key is to simply consider your interests and try to choose ones that cost less. Even if your passion is expensive, there are always ways to reduce the costs.

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  1. argus says:

    hey there!

    interesting that you played MtG and quite well since you travelled to bigger events. i’m still hooked on the cardboard crack but i’m actually making money by organizing tournaments and through the secondary market. keep up the good work!

  2. Dave says:

    MtG – Oh what a monkey that was on my back. And it sounds like you were alot luckier than me. I was an average player and not that good at planning the strategy.

    What was worse is for me it triggered both my packrat tendencies as well as gambling hopes. In my worse days I would buy 2 booster packs a day, every day and 4 on Saturday since the store was closed on Sunday. That lasted for about 9 months, at which point I reached the end of my “fun” cash. What was left was earmarked for college, and made me realize how I was acting. Kinda harsh reality.

  3. jake says:

    I have one problem with Libraries. The book I want is always checked out.

    For instance Jim Cramer’s Real Money book. I checked my local library and they had a copy. when i went to check it out someone already did. First I thought no problem I’ll wait since the librarian told me the due date. Came back three weeks later, guess what? The guy renewed it. I went to my local university college library and it was also checked out. Went to the library of the next city over, all checked out. I just bought the book. Saved me the hassle.

    This seems to always happened to me. All the books you reviewed are at my local library but they seem to be always checked out.

    I guess I can wait until it eventually becomes available. But I am the type that can wait but not long.

  4. Quang says:

    My God man! you read alot of books. SHOOT. lol What kind of books do you read? Is it all Self-Help Financial Books or do you read others as well? Wow, how did you learn to read fast? No wonder your blog is amazing… got a lot of info in there. I don’t think you should quit your “Reading hobby”… it’s more of a life decision to grow, etc. Plus I bet the benefits out weight the rewards. $200 a month on Books? That might be a lil excessive.

    I found that you get to a point well you read all you needed to read, to start. And it’s all about execution. Maybe you should find a new hobby… like saving the world or something =]

  5. Andrew says:

    First off – your site is fantastic. It’s one of my favourites! Second – libraries are a treasure that everyone should enjoy. I too, once made endless trips to the local bookstore for all my reading needs. Eventually, I started to see how much this was costing me (both in terms of money and physical space in my apartment). I started going to second hand book shops for my purchases. I was able find plenty of interesting books to keep me going, as well, I was able to unload a ton of books collecting dust on my bookshelves at home. It wasn’t until I moved to a new and much bigger city that my eyes were finally opened to how great a resource that is the public library system. I was able search the entire library system catalog and place a hold on anything I wanted to borrow. The library would send me an email when my book was ready to picked-up and even send me a reminder notice two days before the book was due. In the 3.5 years since I’ve moved, I can think of only one occasion when my library didn’t have a copy of a book I wanted. Reading is such a great hobby. It allows me to escape to somewhere else for a little while each day. It allows me to grow and expand my mind. Whether I’m reading to latest release by Micheal Connelly, something historically based by Bernard Cornwell or one of the classics. Currently I’m reading ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand. My copy’s over 1150 pages long and it might take me two months to read. But that’s okay. I don’t have the time to read for hours on end, nor do I wish to plow through a book and end up not fully appreciating what I’m reading. I’m fully converted to the library being my primary source of reading material and will forever recommend to that others do the same.

  6. Mark says:

    Hi there. Oddly, I do believe I have a Shirley Chisolm button. And BTW, do you not have a good public library nearby? They are great. Also, if you have a university nearby, you can often get a “supporting patron” or some other designation for $50-100/year. For access to a good library, this is worth it.

  7. Kevin Neely says:

    @Jake: Get to know your library’s online catalog system. If there are specific books you want, check online beforehand to see if they are even there. If they are, great. If not, put your name on the list and your library will let you know when the book is available and hold it for you.

    @Trent: As regards MTG. If you were getting all your cards for free, and only spending ~$100 on gas and what-not, I’d say you were still making money. You should certainly be able to sell those cards for some good money on eBay or what not.

  8. reulte says:

    Jake — also, by putting a hold on a book, it usually prevents the book from being renewed.

  9. JFR says:

    Magic: The Gathering… I used to play that game around 1995-1997. How much fun I had to play that game back then but it’s really a cash sink!

  10. Mary says:

    I am an old skool/Nintendo video gamer at heart, and had taken a hiatus from it for a few years during college due to studies, and after I graduated I had nothing to do due to bills and unemployment. Walking, surfing the internet, cleaning and baking were my activities outside of work. This year my boyfriend bought us a Wii for Xmas, and I am estatic, even though I am back in school, haha. I realized in the past few years that having time for a hobby isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact it’s key to having sanity in my brain. =)

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