This article is by staff writer Honey Smith.
For the most part, we think of hobbies as activities that we naturally gravitate toward. The idea of being strategic in our selection of hobbies may seem contradictory to their very nature! However, I think that being strategic in the selection and pursuit of hobbies isn't mutually exclusive with enjoying yourself. What's more, you have options in how to strategize.
The hobby-as-side-gig option
One obvious method of making your hobbies work for you is by getting others to pay you to do them! Maybe you enjoy making quilts but hate the outlay of money and Stuff. Plus, how many quilts do you (and the friends and family you make gifts for) really need? By selling what you make on sites like Ebay or Etsy, you can keep your house uncluttered and come out ahead financially.
This method may work best for hobbies that produce an end result that takes up space, especially if the process of making the item appeals to you as much or more than the item itself. You can always take a picture of the item you made before selling it. That way, you can look back and admire your handiwork without having to store and dust it.
Another twist on the hobby-as-side-gig option is providing a service instead of a product. Perhaps you enjoy something like writing, event planning, or tinkering with cars or electronics. Many people hate those tasks (or don't have time for them). Offering up your services for a fee can lead to a tidy profit for something you enjoy.
There are a couple of caveats with service hobbies, however. Many times, you will have to work around another person's schedule rather than your own. Having a deadline can take a lot of the enjoyment out of an activity. Additionally, charging for some services requires obtaining a professional license. That process can be more expensive or time-consuming than it's worth, especially for an activity that's intended for your spare time.
The hobby-as-something-you-have-to-do-anyway option
A number of studies have poked holes in Malcolm Gladwell's claim in Outliers that 10,000 hours of practice will “automatically” make you an expert in any domain. Some skills take longer to learn than others, and innate ability may make some skills easier to learn for some individuals. However, two conclusions seem to be generally supported by the literature:
- First, the more you do something, the better you are likely to get at it.
- Second, the better you are at something, the more likely you are to enjoy it.
So use that to your advantage. Come up with a skill-based task that you have to do no matter what and make a conscious effort to improve in that area.
As I've mentioned on several occasions, one of my hobbies is cooking. I came to that hobby after becoming vegetarian (a transition I made for a couple of reasons, mainly health-related). However, I quickly discovered that if you want delicious food as a vegetarian, you pretty much have to make it yourself.
Tip: In fact, if you are looking for strategies to cut back on restaurant spending, try going veggie! The dearth of options will do a lot to kill your desire to grab a quick bite.
From there the line of thinking went, Well, if I have to eat, and cooking myself is the best option, I might as well be really good at it. I started simple. As I've gotten better I've used techniques like the Pinterest strategy to branch out and expand my comfort zone. At this point I've won my office's holiday appetizer competition two years in a row!
Maybe you've got a flair for fashion, so you develop your thrift-store skills. You've got to wear clothes, after all, at least in public! These hobbies may not earn you any money. However, they might enable you to increase your enjoyment of activities you used to think of as a chore. Plus, you might find time- and cost-saving strategies that will make your life even easier.
The free-or-super-cheap hobby
These are hobbies where you either don't have to spend any money or can make a dollar stretch a long way. My library card, for example, lets me check out books for free. While I sometimes have to wait for a new release, the selection's good enough that I can always find something off of my to-read list. If fiction's not your bag, you can even check out personal finance books from your public library!
My love of fiction also goes beyond books. A well-crafted TV show is a source of endless joy for me. I don't like movies because two hours later you're right back where you started. Most of my favorite TV shows, however, have 100 episodes or more. At one or two episodes a night, that's something I can sink my teeth into! The selection of movies on Netflix streaming leaves, shall we say, something to be desired. But for $8 per month, I have access to more TV shows than I'll ever be able to watch.
Some “free” hobbies can be deceptive. I recently started jogging with a friend from work because the community trails are free and easy to access. Once we started going longer distances, I discovered my shoes are woefully inadequate. And I'm not willing to just go with the cheapest replacement option when doing so could lead to discomfort or injury. But at least I waited until I determined that I enjoyed jogging before spending money on shoes! Here's a list of other tips for saving money on hobbies.
You don't have to cut every expensive hobby
This isn't to say that every single hobby has to make you money or be low-cost or free. I really enjoy hot yoga, which is fairly expensive. However, by saving some dough on the majority of my hobbies, I can budget in something that is on the pricier side.
Even then I am strategic. I can't afford the unlimited monthly pass (and I don't fool myself that I will go that often anyway). So I buy the 25-pack that expires in a year. That way I can feed my yoga addiction once every couple of weeks without breaking the bank.
Do you strategically choose your hobbies? Share your experiences on cutting costs or even making money below!