Making Pricey Hobbies More Economical

Before my financial turnaround, I subscribed to several expensive hobbies. I loved to golf on the weekends, I played Magic: the Gathering somewhat competitively, I collected DVDs (of certain directors, actors, etc.), and I thought it great to eat out as many meals as possible at high-end restaurants, among others. Each of these hobbies was a massive drain on my bank account, constantly consuming money in huge bites like a cash-starved elephant.

Since then, I’ve given up most of my hobbies and channeled the remainder into paths that are much more financially stable. In order to channel my hobbies into more financially sensible paths, I had to adopt a handful of useful tactics. If you have a hobby that’s a constant money drain, try some of these to see if you can make it more financially sensible.

4 Ways to Make Your Hobbies More Financially Manageable

1. Tone down your competitiveness

I played Magic: the Gathering in a very competitive environment, constantly attempting to qualify for $25K tournaments and the like. In order to keep up with the other players attempting to do the same, I had to throw quite a bit of money into the hobby at the start, then as I grew sufficiently skilled, I didn’t spend as much on the hobby as I spent on long car trips going to tournaments, hotel rooms, and the like. My competitiveness was in full swing, even if I didn’t have nearly the time to devote to it as others did. I still spent far too many weekends burning money on more cards, tournaments, and so on.

The solution for me was simply toning down my competitiveness. I still play on occasion, but it’s usually just to meet up with friends. I tend to just borrow whatever cards they have extra and play with those, and I don’t travel to tournaments – I just play locally on occasion. This enables me to still get much of the joy and social connection I had during the days when I played heavily, but it doesn’t require me to constantly dump cash down a sinkhole.

2. Focus on low-end equipment

When I was avidly golfing, there was always a push to have the latest and greatest equipment – massive drivers, well-crafted irons, and balls that flew a mile. It was almost like an arm’s race – who would pull the most impressive weapon out of their bag?

Fortunately, I saw the light here as well. Golfing can be just as much fun with a dirt cheap four iron and a used golf ball as it is with the latest Titleist equipment. Sure, your shot might not fly as far through the air, but that just means you yank out the three iron instead of the four iron. Problem solved – and golf becomes much cheaper to enjoy.

If you have equipment that does the job, stick with that equipment. Don’t worry about blowing money on a barely-better piece of equipment if the old one does the job just fine.

3. Learn the craftsmanship

Whenever I’d go out to eat at restaurants, I’d simply marvel at the amazing foods put out before me. The amazing breads, the delicious cheeses, the fine beers and wines, the tender entrees – I was always impressed by the amazing quality and craftsmanship.

What I found, though, is that I had much the same joy in my own kitchen preparing my own foods. I got to enjoy the craftsmanship of making foods for myself – the joy of homebrewing, the pleasure of baking my own bread and making my own pasta, and so on. I moved from spending $30 on a restaurant meal to spending $10 in ingredients and a passionate hour in the kitchen creating something amazing for myself. I found that spending an hour making homemade fettuccine was well worth the time invested, as I began to intimately understand the elements of good food that made me love it.

You can apply this to almost anything you’re passionate about, from soaps to clothes. Instead of spending tons of money in the stores or shops on this stuff, channel that passion into learning about the craftsmanship behind the item. You can make almost anything (aside from some electronics) at home with some basic equipment, some time, and some passion. Instead of just enjoying buying what others make, channel that interest into making it yourself.

4. Understand what you’re actually collecting

I used to collect reams of DVDs – they nearly overwhelmed our old apartment. I’d buy huge piles of DVDs so that I could have all of Johnny Depp’s films on hand, or every one directed by Akira Kurosawa. Thankfully, I got that desire under control, because I realized that I was spending $20 a pop collecting something that I rarely actually looked at after the first experience. It turned out that what I was actually collecting was the experience of a great film with great actors, great scripts, great directors, and great cinematography.

Instead, I made it a point just to watch every Kurosawa film and every film with Depp in it. I’d check them out at the library and enjoy them. Some I’d check out time and time again, and if that happened, I’d usually put them on my Amazon wish list. I also made a concerted effort to purge all of the unwatched stuff from my DVD collection, narrowing it down to stuff I wanted to watch again and again or stuff that I intended to share with my children later on.

Now, I use a number of tools to enjoy movies – the library, trading with friends, and SwapADVD chief among them. I still get that rush of the experience of watching a great movie, and I’m still collecting Johnny Depp films – but now I just collect the experience of watching them.

Hopefully, some of these tactics will help you get some of your own expensive hobbies in line.

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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