Use Your Credit Card Responsibly On Hobbies

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.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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