Hobbies are the creative things we do that make life enjoyable. My hobbies are simple: reading, cross stitch and crafts. My husband, however, has more complex hobbies. He is a great photographer, enjoys road cycling, and he likes to brew beer. He was actually home brewing almost 20 years ago - before it became cool.
In some cases, these hobbies can become really expensive. At its core, financial independence is about optimizing the relationship between your income and expenses. Balancing wants and needs. So sometimes, your expensive hobby may be at odds with the family budget.
Tyler Landes, CFP® founder of Tandem Financial Guidance and fellow member of the XY Planning Network, also enjoys homebrewing. With some help from him, we worked together to come up with these ideas to help you keep your expensive hobby manageable for everyone.
Is It a Hobby? Or a Passion?
If you’re a parent, you’ve seen how your kids can be over-the-moon excited about something one minute, only to completely lose interest very shortly after.
This often happens to our adult hobbies, as well. One minute you have the best intentions of starting the next great craft brewery, only to have life happen, leaving you stuck with a bunch of expensive equipment collecting dust in a corner of your garage.
That’s the thing about hobbies. You might have an interest for a while, but it eventually tapers off and you move on to something else. Hobbies come and go, but passion, on the other hand, is something that you do because you love it. As a result, eventually it becomes part of your lifestyle.
Simply stated, passions are consuming, while hobbies are not.
My husband has a passion for photography. He describes it as an extension of himself. Now, this is not to say that he was born with this passion, in fact quite the opposite is true. He started with an interest, began practicing and doing research, and then over time his interest developed into a passion.
From a financial perspective, this is a great way to go about affording what may turn into an expensive hobby down the road. That’s why before deciding to allocate a large part of your discretionary spending toward an exciting new interest, it’s important to take the necessary time to be sure it’s truly a passion and not just a passing fad.
Find Your ‘Tribe’
No matter what hobby you choose, chances are, there are a lot of people that share the same interest. This is good news, as it makes your hobby more social, giving you the opportunity to participate in it with others and potentially lower the associated costs.
Tyler found this out as he plugged into the homebrewing community and joined a local homebrew club. Becoming involved with a group of likeminded enthusiasts provided an opportunity to determine his level of commitment without incurring significant costs. In addition, the group also provided the ability to share ideas (and equipment), as well as learn from people who had many years of experience in the craft.
Grow Into Your Hobby
When you think about it, there really are no shortage of expensive hobbies. If you can identify something that you enjoy doing in your spare time, there are ways to make it expensive. That said, hobbies are only as expensive as you make them.
Let’s take Tyler’s homebrewing, for example.
He actually landed on the idea of homebrewing after becoming somewhat of a beer-tasting connoisseur.
Fun Fact: He was inducted in the Flying Saucer restaurant ‘Ring of Honor’ for trying over 200 different beers.
This feat eventually led to the purchase of a Groupon homebrewers kit that allowed him to expand on his interest and try crafting beer on his own.
In his case, the initial expense was low (approx: $50) and gave him the opportunity to gauge his interest with a minimal investment. Over time that interest grew into a passion, and so did the cost of equipment. To put this into context, here are some homebrewing cost estimates just to get the equipment you need for your first batch:
Carboys (2) - $70
Bottle bucket - $20
Funnel - $10
Tubing - $20
Brew Pot - $30
Thermometer - $25
Hydrometer - $20
Bottles (50) - ask your friends to help
Caps and Bottle Capper - $20
Air locks (2) - $8
Sanitizer - $10
That’s almost $240, not including the ingredients to actually make the beer, which runs about $60. So two cases of homebrew could run you about $6 per bottle. And then, there are the other peripheral expenses:
Clean up when beer explodes in bathroom - time and effort to clean!
Dinner date with your wife to make up for all the mess - priceless!
The same rules apply even if your expensive hobby is something other than homebrewing. Take, for example -- photography. Your priority should be to start with reasonably priced equipment that can get the job done and help you begin to understand your craft. Next, you may invest in classes to learn the concepts necessary to become a better photographer. Once you’ve reached a certain level of competency, you can justify the expense of increasing the variety of lenses that you own or upgrading your camera.
The key is understanding that you don’t have to do it all at once. It’s okay to start small and allow your expenses to grow in proportion to your experience.
How Do I Make it Work?
Ideally, your hobby budget should come from discretionary spending. As it becomes your passion, you can incorporate it more into your lifestyle.
To keep costs low while building your equipment inventory, buy used equipment instead of new, and look for opportunities to trade-in one piece of equipment for another. This is where being part of a community of other enthusiasts can really be beneficial.
Often, waiting and being strategic can yield results. Consider some of these ways to build your trappings:
- If you normally receive a bonus, you could plan to purchase one key piece of top equipment each year.
- Add specific items, or request gift cards, for Christmas and Birthdays.
- Look for sales during the holidays and other pivotal times of the year.
- Consider buying 'last year's model' when the new one comes out.
- Comparison shop. Always check Craig's List, Ebay and Amazon for deals.
It really comes down to prioritizing what is important and being prudent in your decision making. Expensive hobbies don’t have to break the bank or cause you to detour from the path toward financial independence. In fact, by utilizing the approaches outlined above, you could turn a hobby that is ‘expensive’ in the traditional sense, into one that is incredibly fulfilling without depleting every spare cent.
Pamela J. Horack, CFP® of Pathfinder Planning LLC provides personal financial planning advice and asset management for a simple fee to young adults and working families in North and South Carolina through group classes, one-on-one planning, and ongoing advice.