2010 Resolution #4: Reduce My Entertainment and Hobby Spending by 50%

In an effort to talk about the power of goal-setting along with some methods of setting and achieving goals, I’m going to discuss my four resolutions for 2010 this week.

In 2009, I really overspent on my hobbies. My board game collection expanded significantly. I picked up several new video games and computer games. I picked up several new items for the kitchen that were fairly pricey (Le Creuset isn’t inexpensive). Perhaps worst of all, I purchased quite a few books that I probably could have easily checked out at the library.

These purchases weren’t impulsive and they weren’t things that I could not afford. We still spent far less than we earned for the year. My concern is that I don’t really need this much stuff and, more importantly, that I’m subscribing to lifestyle inflation, something that’s dangerous to our long term financial health.

Just before Christmas, I used some statements and totaled up my entertainment and hobby spending in 2009 – and the total was shocking to me. I need to make some changes, and 2010 is the right time to do it.

Making the Goal Specific
My total entertainment and hobby budget for 2010 is going to be exactly half of what I spent in 2009 on such expenses. That’s going to be a fairly dramatic change, especially given that I’ve already committed about 30% of my 2010 total to a year’s worth of piano lessons.

For this, weekly and monthly budgets and spending limits won’t work all that well. Even in 2009, I usually would go for weeks without buying a thing, then buy one or two fairly expensive items. The real trick for me is to spread out the gap between buying those expensive items and find other ways to pick up items I’m interested in for my hobbies.

Breaking It Down Into Microgoals
So, how can I reinforce this big goal with microgoals? Mostly, it’s just a matter of channeling the things I might spend money on into less expensive channels.

For example, I intend to visit the library with my kids every other weekend. In the past, our visits would be monthly – or even less frequently. These longer gaps between library visits meant that I would run out of borrowed reading material much more frequently and would then turn to other sources for books – some of them expensive. By going to the library more often, I head this desire off at the pass. Similarly, my first stop for book shopping will be PaperBackSwap, not Amazon.

I also intend to get more involved with board gaming groups in Ames and Des Moines, which will give me an outlet to trade some board games I don’t play for others I might play instead of just buying them on occasion. I’ll also focus more on video game swapping instead of just picking up new, interesting titles.

Just giving up hobbies and activities I enjoy is a route to failure. Instead, I just need to find less expensive outlets for those hobbies and activities.

Feedback and Adjustment
Each month, I’ll total up my entertainment and hobby spending and compare it to where I should be at that point in the year. This will give me a very good idea as to whether I’m spending more than I should or if I’ve really got my spending in check.

If I find that I’m spending too much, that’s a good time to try a “thirty day plan” and completely go on a hobby spending diet. This will encourage me to enjoy the things I already have instead of striving for new things.

If I’m spending well below my target (and I’m happy about it)… isn’t that a good thing?

Good luck with your 2010 goals!

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