Speaking of hobbies…


In my last post, I talked about picking hobbies strategically. There, I suggested that it might be a good idea to choose hobbies that fall into three main categories. Those three categories were:

  1. Hobby as side gig.

  2. Hobby as “something you have to do anyway so you might as well be good at it.” (I'm nothing if not pithy.)

  3. Free or super cheap hobbies.

I'd like to take that discussion one step further, because there's a hobby I'm considering that doesn't fall into any of these three categories. This makes it the fourth category of hobby, which I didn't name in my original article, but which I think we can call “splurge hobbies.”

Is it okay to have a splurge hobby? Of course! Can every hobby be a splurge hobby? If you're like most of us and have a job and only 24 hours in your day, probably not. As a result, I believe it's important to choose your splurge hobbies strategically also. In my opinion, the big questions that need to be asked when considering a splurge hobby are:

  1. Can I afford this?

  2. Will I get my money's worth out of this?

  3. What do I/will I enjoy about this, and can I get that some other way?

The hobby I am considering is a soon-to-be released massive-multi-player-online-role-playing game (MMORPG) called The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO). Yes, I am totally dorktastic. Yes, I am counting down the days until my regional ComiCon. Yes, I even do cosplay. (Last year I was River Song!)

Okay, let's move on from the Big Question of how many people even understood that last paragraph. Instead, let's see how my proposed hobby of TESO stacks up against my splurge hobby Big Questions, shall we?

1. Can I afford this?

In other words, can I participate in this hobby while still meeting my needs and making progress on my financial goals? The game is being released in April, so I have time to save up. Playing the game does require a computer with certain processing capabilities blah, blah, blah and an internet connection. However, I already have both of those things anyway, so they're not added costs.

The game itself costs $59.99 for the standard edition and $79.99 for the special edition, which comes with a variety of bonuses that I will not outline here because I don't want to gush like a fangirl. At first, then, it would seem that I can easily afford this expense. However, there is also an ongoing cost in the form of a monthly subscription fee of $14.99. And this is a big part of why I'm honestly torn. It also brings us smoothly to the second question…

2. Will I get my money's worth out of this?

When you play an MMORPG, you are playing with other people in real time. This makes the experience interactive because you can chat with other players and form teams to battle other alliances. A game of this type that you are more likely to have heard of is World of Warcraft (WoW). The question is, will I play TESO enough to justify spending $15 a month? And do I want to add a monthly subscription to my life?

The cost of the monthly subscription is about the same as the cost of one dinner out. And while a dinner out might take an hour and a half, I'd certainly play more than that. In fact, that's what worries me! There are all kinds of stories about people who get so into these games that they spend every free minute playing. I've heard stories about people losing their jobs or getting divorced because they're so obsessed. Some people have even died after marathon gaming sessions because they don't eat or drink for days!

Now, do I think that it's likely I'll game my way into an early grave? Not really. But do I see the potential the game has to suck up more of my free time than I'd like under the guise of getting my money's worth? Yes, I do. Who knew it could cut both ways and a deal could be too good?

3. What do I/will I enjoy about this, and can I get that some other way?

The Elder Scrolls is a franchise that's been around since the '90s and I've played literally hundreds of hours in the last two titles, Oblivion and Skyrim. However, both of those titles were single-player RPG. That means that you buy the game once and can play on your console of choice (in my case, PS3) with no ongoing costs.

Additionally, single-player games can be played on your own schedule. When you start forming teams and playing in real time with other people, suddenly it's not so simple. If you can't make yourself available when your friends want to play, you're missing out on a lot of the fun. And one of my friends who has indicated an interest in this is three time zones away and has three children. Realistically, when are we going to be online at the same time?

I have also never played an MMORPG before, and am not sure how much I will enjoy that aspect of it. There tend to be a lot more battles and violence in these games, since you're fighting against other players to conquer and defend territory. But while there is another single-player title in the franchise under development, I would say that's three to four years out. If I want to play a new Elder Scrolls game, this is my only option for the foreseeable future.

What would you do?

There are two aspects of this decision that make me hesitate. The first is the sunk-cost fallacy. What if I spend sixty bucks on the game (the first month of play is free) and then don't think it's worth the subscription? This is something, I think, that I need to just get over. While sixty dollars isn't insignificant, it's not going to have an irreparable negative impact on my finances.

The second issue I'm struggling with is the value of my time. What if I like the game too much? Will I have the strength to pull the plug if the game starts to infringe on other aspects of my life? And shouldn't I be living up to my potential anyway?

Do you have any hobbies that are purely for entertainment, with little or no edifying qualities? How do you regulate them?

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lmoot
lmoot

I only ever ask myself one question in situations like this. “Will I be more happy to do/have this thing than I will be sad to part with the money?” Since I reeaally hate parting with my hard-earned money when it comes to spoiling myself, then I rationalize that I must reeaally want this thing in my life. You do bring up a good point about the value of time. Personally I’m not into video games/ aimless tv-watching for this reason. I already find myself wishing they could round the days up to 30 hours! Shoo, I’ll take 25 even.… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

@lmoot, good on you for dancing! I used my whole yoga package and now I am searching for someplace nearer my house for my workout hobby.

$15/month is a splurge, but this could actually even come out of my bagel budget. They changed the recipe for both the bagel and the cream cheese about six months ago, and now it’s just not the indulgence it used to be :-/

Jon @ Money Smart Guides
Jon @ Money Smart Guides

I love to play golf, but it can be an expensive hobby. I modify my budget for the spring/summer months so that I can afford to play while still making progress on my goals. The tricks I use to help me get by are asking for some gift cards to the courses I play for Christmas. This usually allows me to play a few rounds for free. On top of that, I search for the lowest cost courses around me. Many times this means playing on a Wednesday night after work, but I enjoy it and it saves me money… Read more »

adult student
adult student

I think you’ve made a good case that cost-wise, the tradeoffs are worth it, by comparing it to something you might otherwise spend it on (food). Time seems like the bigger question! If you spend a couple hours playing a few days a week, what will you do less of that you do now? And how does your husband feel about that/how will it affect him? I know that’s a ridiculous sounding question, but it’s specific to the context of gaming because sometimes the time tradeoffs people make DO affect their romantic partners. And usually it goes the opposite way,… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

My friend who plays MMORPGs said the same thing about how it can impact relationships! Jake’s and my sleep and work schedules are different enough that I could easily slot this in during a time when he’s not around anyway, though that would mean cutting back on one of my other solo hobbies (like reading).

Andrew
Andrew

The nice thing about the current generation of MMOs is that they’re tuned to reward casual game play as much as hardcore. So you can pop in, play for 15-30min, and get out again, feeling like you’ve still done something in-game. Disclaimer: I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case with TESO, I’m speaking generally.

Jon
Jon

MMORPGs are (or can be) a HUGE time sink. That’s why I’ve given up on them. I played Shadowbane for a year or so, and it was too addictive. I got frustrated, however, with the large amount of wasted time sitting around town trying to gather a party consisting of people from different time zones, as they dropped in and out. Hours and hours grinding levels got old, too. I decided I was better off spending my time in the real world with my wife and family than killing virtual monsters all afternoon and evening.

Andrew
Andrew

If it’s the Elder Scrolls aspect of TESO that attracts you, then you have to go TESO. But if it’s the MMO side of things, a cheaper alternative is Guild Wars 2. It’s a beautifully designed game with a well voice acted story line to take you through levelling up. It’s even got Felicia Day in it. There’s a one-time cost, and then you only have to pay money for account upgrades, which you don’t need (although inventory is a little tight without them). I’d encourage you to check out Gamers With Jobs (http://www.gamerswithjobs.com). It’s a really great community, and… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

I do love Felicia Day, but it’s the Elder Scrolls aspect that is finally luring me into MMO 😉

I’ll definitely bookmark that forum! It’s one I haven’t seen before. Thanks!

Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

I have found that MMORPG’s wind up costing much more than the game itself. Time becomes kind of a black hole to the point where the reality around you can start to crumble. I saw this happen first hand with my ex. He went from being a star in a Broadway show to now being unemployed for three years- he just lost himself in WoW.

Valerie
Valerie

Hoo boy, do I have things to say! First, have you participated in any of the ESO Beta weekends? That would help you answer the question of “Would I enjoy this?” Sign up here: https://www.elderscrollsonline.com/en/beta Your worry about MMOs and more violence is really unfounded. Player vs. Player (PvP) is generally a small portion of game play, and one that I’ve been able to avoid almost completely in my years of playing MMOs. The overriding theme of ESO is “Play Skyrim, but with friends!” It should feel much more like a single player game. MMOs are addictive, but no more… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

I have done 3 of the closed Beta test weekends now (they just finished one, actually). You have to reach level 10 to enter the PvP area and I think I just got to level 8, so it’s strictly been PvE for me so far. But I really like it, and did finally get up the guts to participate in a group PvE battle with a boss I couldn’t have handled on my own. It was rockin’!

Daniel Donohue
Daniel Donohue

Like anything in life, moderation if always the key. Especially when it comes to MMORPGs. However, specifically speaking in terms of WoW, there are a lot of unseen benefits you get from hobbies like this. Teamwork, online social skills (i.e. communicating important things to people through an online source), scheduling, finances, the list literally can go on forever. Over my four years at Boston College, I actually gave at least three presentations on different business studies I related to the World of Warcraft. Then I actually received a high level internship my junior year summer by referring to some of… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

I never thought of it this way, but I think you make some great points. I appreciate a new perspective as I countdown to launch 😉

Ewok
Ewok

Since you describe yourself as “totally dorktastic” I would assume you already set aside a decent amount of time for gaming already. Will TESO be replacing the time you are currently spending playing other games? Say you currently purchase 4 new games a year (a pretty modest estimate for someone really into games). New games will almost always cost about $60 each, putting your yearly gaming expense at $240. If TESO replaces all your other gaming for the year (and since its an MMO with endless replayability, is likely), then your yearly gaming expense will be $60 for the initial… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

Another good way to think about it! You’re right that if you consider gaming an annual instead of monthly category the numbers come out about the same.

Russell
Russell

Another great hobby is one that keeps you in shape, I love to rock climb and it’s only $45 a month.

Wesley T.
Wesley T.

I think the key is to find a hobby that can also make you money…if you’ve chosen a career path that you also love to do in your free time (a.k.a you’re hobby is your work), then you’ve won at the game of life!

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

Yes, that was one of the points I made in my previous article on hobbies. However, I think there’s room for different types of hobbies, and there are certainly some hobbies that will never make money, and are done purely for enjoyment!

Kim
Kim

Oh, Honey… I feel you, so much.

I have the exact same problem and am NOT getting ESO. Someone above said you can pop in and out for 15-30 minutes. Yes… yes, you can. And then think about it all day. (I’ve been beta testing it.) I can afford to spend $15/month and $60 down. But what I can’t afford is the amount of time I would actually spend playing it. I guarantee I don’t have the self-control to play for a half hour and stop. 🙁

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

Glad I am not the only one feeling this much angst over a video game!

Scondor
Scondor

I got caught up in RPG’s back when I was single with no kids – Age of Empires II. There were times when entire weekends would slip by before I even noticed. My iguana’s death *may* have been related to neglect, but I’ll never really know. I eventually got so good at the game that I realized even when you win, you really lose.

David S.
David S.

AoE II is a RTS (Real Time strategy) not a RPG (Role Playing Game). RPGs center around a single player where you have the ability to choose the characteristics and abilities of said player and develop them throughout the game. But either way. A game can be so stimulating that you can lose yourself in it. Especially if it involves interacting with other people. Same thing can happen with work too, you get so involved that you lose track of time. For games I usually set a strict policy in that I only will do one quest or level at… Read more »

Bonnie
Bonnie

My personal opinion is that it is a drain on your money and time. Is the entertainment worth it? Time is precious.

Tina
Tina

Life is so serious that having a hobby is a must for everyone.
My husband has an airbrushing hobby which happens to make money. He sells his airbrushed goods on Ebay and does well. It makes enough profit for him to upgrade his equipment and buy dvd and books to improve his skills. In addition, the extra money comes in handy around the holidays and he even bought me concert tickets with the profit.

If your hobby makes you happy, then go for it!

Thomas @ i need money ASAP
Thomas @ i need money ASAP

You could put blogging into the splurge category for me! So far it’s only costing me money. Although I am learning quite a bit, so I am getting some benefit out of it. But mostly it’s just for fun.

Personal & Financial Development
Personal & Financial Development

I guess i would ask myself whether or not, this new hobby or any hobby would contribute to my personal development, professional or financial development. Could I use that time in an alternative enjoyable way, that would add value and enjoyment to my life or the life of others? Would the video game make you more resilient financially? Spiritually? Emotionally? How does it bring value and meaning to your life and the life of others? Will it give you a skill set that will improve your income or diversify your income pool? Interesting conundrum you have there. What are the… Read more »

Kat
Kat

Get the box set of the Elder Scrolls games. It will tide you over until ES 6 and won’t have the recurring monthly charges.

John
John

I was an avid beekeeper back in the day. I had a couple of beehives that I kept at the back of my family’s 1.5-acre property. Fortunately for me I had a scholarship from the local beekeeping association that paid for most of my training and equipment. During peak years we would harvest 3-4 gallons of honey per hive. I would love to get back into this hobby someday, and possibly turn it into a money-making side gig. It would be a large time investment though.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

I had a roommate in college who was a beekeeper. We had gallons of free honey, it was amazing!

Ely
Ely

River Song FTW! I infer from previous posts of yours that you totally have the hair… 😀 Being a Doctor Who fan is DEFINITELY a splurge hobby for me. I have never before gone to conventions, never spent so much on books, toys, and dvds, never – well, I was going to say I never had so many costumes before, but since I used to bellydance I most certainly did! But I never added a day of travel to another country just to see something nerdy, as I did when we added a day in Cardiff to our Dublin trip… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

I enjoy fan culture quite a bit. I went to a taping of The Colbert Report (which is free, although you have to request tickets 2-3 months in advance). I was giddy that the taping I went to, they panned across the audience and I was TOTALLY on TV 😉 At last year’s Comicon I met Brandon Sanderson, and he’s just wonderful. Jake and I are going to one of his Words of Radiance book tour stops next week. At this year’s Comicon I hope to talk to Patrick Rothfuss. In unrequited funny nerd stories, I kept a MacGyver scrapbook… Read more »

Waverly
Waverly

My husband plays World of Warcraft. The only time I ever, ever, considered breaking up with him (before we were married) was when he first started playing that game. It can absolutly CONSUME your life. Anyway, his subscription is $17 per month and he still loves it. And we’re still married, so he’s figured out how to balance WoW with our relationship. Whew! My hobbies are learning a foreign language and running. The language tutor costs $160 per month (four hours of instruction), plus I drive to work on those days, which adds $70 per month for parking and bridge… Read more »

Another Beth
Another Beth

FORMER WoW player, here, and yes it can take up so much of your time. While yes, you can play in 20 or 30 minute bits if you want, it’s very very very very very VERY easy to lose track of time and to think “Oh, just one more quest!” And then it’s suddenly four hours later and you’re still sitting there. I liked the game and I had some great times playing. While the subscription fee was fairly cheap, even after buying extensions, it was the cost of time that made me decide to pull the plug. At this… Read more »

Khadijah
Khadijah

Like Imoot, I have dance training at a local studio once a week. Dancing keeps me in shape and sharpens my mind. I share a personal trainer session with a dancer friend every other week and we split the cost of $75/hr. Classes and dance socials can run $15-20 a pop. Shoes and gear extra. I spend up to $150 per month but it goes under my fitness and socializing budget as well since I don’t go to the bars or spend money on alcohol. I don’t belong to any fitness gym. I enjoy it immensely and don’t mind allocating… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski

I am seriously contemplating buying a $600 quadcopter so that I can stick a camera on it and take videos of things FROM THE SKY. Because WE LIVE IN THE FUTURE.

It’s kinda expensive but you can do this with it.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

Tyler, have you seen this video of a camera on an eagle’s back? It’s amazing also, though I think it’s harder to get ahold of a cooperative eagle.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski

That one is pretty great, have you seen this new one of a rehabilitated pelican?

I want to use the quadcopter to follow sailing races, and it would be awesome to train an eagle (or maybe an albatross) to follow sailboats around, it’s probably more practical to use a helicopter.

oumiller
oumiller

Been reading GRS for awhile now but never commenting, the video game (specifically Rpg) discussion has drawn me out though! I’ve never been able to bring myself to pay monthly gaming subscriptions, but I agree that in the big scheme of things $15/mo is not too expensive especially when looked at as an annual cost. Personally I’m a sucker for the older games (which also happen to be cheaper!) Currently replaying Final Fantasy 7, and looking forward to the release of FFX HD later this month. Anyway, happy to see other gamers on personal finance blogs 😉

Becky
Becky

From a financial perspective your analysis is rock solid as expected. I would caution on the whole multiplayer thing. I had a couple of games I would play casually on my ipad but then one of them became less individual and more “team” related and it soured quickly for me. I try to balance my game time with work, other hobbies, domestic duties and my beloved. With the team adventures I became out of balance and the other hobbies, domestic duties and beloved suffered and I still wasn’t on enough to make my “team” happy. Approach with caution and if… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

I love strategy games, specially OLD turned-based ones (all pre-V Civs including Alpha Centauri and the colony games, the various Total Wars, Age of Wonders, etc). The amount of mental relaxation they offer my ADHD tremendous, but I have to keep them on a schedule (e.g., lunch break, end of work, etc– and the occasional lazy sunday). Old games can be bought super cheap these day, and often the only improvement you’ll find in newer games is graphics, so they are not even worth the upgrade (e.g., Civ II > Civ V). I keep a WinXP partition just for them.… Read more »

No Nonsense Landlord
No Nonsense Landlord

Finding things you do for a hobby, and marketing that, is a great thing. Finding things you do around the house or work, for work, can also become a profit center.

Mowing grass is one thing. Mow a neighbor or two’s grass and make a few hundred a month. Playing games, while it might be fun, doesn’t help your health or financial well being.

Save a bit of money, and buy a rental.

Anna
Anna

I agree…and I don’t really think that playing computer games counts as a hobby (in my mind a hobby is more productive, like knitting or scrapbooking – something that you create)! Why not go out into the world and EXPERIENCE it in person and not in front of your computer in an imaginary world??!

Andrew
Andrew

I absolutely disagree that hobbies need to make money or be productive. Gaming is one of my hobbies. Ukulele is another. I’m never going to be playing a paying gig, but that certainly doesn’t erase the value of it. And Anna, you might not like gaming, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a hobby. Secondly, your suggestion that gamers don’t go have experiences is a really outdated and kind of offensive stereotype. Finally, imaginary world can apply to theatre, great works of literature, good movies … anything fictional? Do those not have value either? Along those lines, I don’t think… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

Agreed that many video games are the modern-day equivalent of literature, except immersive in a way books or TV can never be, which really adds something to the experience. The Elder Scrolls title that really cemented my love for the franchise, Skyrim, was described this way by one reviewer: “Skyrim makes the Mona Lisa look like a smiley face drawn on the side of a garbage can using dog poop.” While I’m not sure I’d go *quite* that far (though I’ll admit I didn’t find the Mona Lisa mindblowing when I went to the Louvre), I think there’s really something… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

Edifying means “To instruct especially so as to encourage intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement.”

I obviously think there’s room in people’s lives for something that has no other purpose than pleasure, but I think there are VERY FEW video games that could be described as edifying, and I don’t think ESO is among them. Most “edifying” video games are probably Baby Einstein and played by little ones 😉

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

In defense of the Mona Lisa, it’s hard to find her mind-blowing with the throng of sweaty tourists jostling to jam their cameras in front of the armored glass that surrounds her. It’s the Black Friday of the art world–not really the best environment for quiet enjoyment of the senses. When I saw the mess I simply turned around and studied the Jean-Louis David painting on the wall across instead (I think it was the coronation of Napoleon– it’s really impressive at that scale). But… good games are great! They are definitely an art form that will keep evolving. And… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

El Nerdo, I played some Dragon Age also (I can’t remember which one at the moment), and also very fun! Though I remember being frustrated because I accidentally chose the hardest questline first and was stuck for a very long time…

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

(If you’re still reading this) Dragon Age Origins was *amazing*, though the sequel not so much (and there’s another one coming but I’m in no rush). Since the original game was released in 2009 you can probably buy it cheap now ($12 on Amazon right now). I’m not much of an RPGer, but this was something else for me. I have yet to play Mass Effect (also a BioWare game)– maybe one of these days.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM

If you tend towards addiction, I would strongly advise against it. If you do go with your plan, make a pact with your husband about limitations, and if he points out that you are breaking your pact, you will cancel the whole thing.

Martin Tindall
Martin Tindall

I liked the post a lot. People these days have become very confused on what should they spend their money and avoid when. Someone has said that Hobby is something that takes out money from your pocket whereas skill is something which brings money into your pocket. Its okay to spend on a hobby but you should know when you should stop. Whereas investing on a skill can be a life changing experience.

getagrip
getagrip

The whole point of living frugally IMHO is to allow you to fund things that give your life fun and joy. I took up sport recently. I have no intention of becoming a teacher or turning a profit from it. It isn’t cheap, but something I’d been putting off for a long time for just that reason. I’m enjoying it so far. So I’ll sink some more costs into it to buy equipment and up my membership costs to allow me more practice time. If I find ultimately I don’t like, was it a waste? I think sometimes it’s a… Read more »

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