Is Your Hobby Holding You Back Financially?

by Derek

What are your hobbies? What is it that you enjoy doing when you’re not at work? Perhaps you love to restore cars, or maybe you’re an avid golfer (I can relate to you on this one for sure!), or maybe you love the serenity of the morning sunrise on the pond while you have a pole in your hand (I’m referring to fishing for all of you that don’t understand). Others of you might enjoy more athletic recreation such as softball, soccer, bowling, ice hockey, and the list goes on.

Boy fishing

Have you ever thought about why you partake in these hobbies? Is it because you’ve always had a passion for them, or maybe it’s because you enjoy the social time with your friends. Whatever the case might be, you may want to carefully consider the opportunity costs of these hobbies.

Expensive Hobbies

The first expensive hobby that comes to mind is boating. If you are an avid boater, I’m just guessing that you didn’t pay cash for your big boy toy. And, in addition to this, every time you head out on the water, you might blow $200 or more in gas! If you are young, please carefully consider the initial, as well as the on-going, costs of boat ownership.

Another expensive hobby is golf (I hate to admit it, because I really love this game). If you only play a few times a month and you don’t continually update your clubs, I don’t really have a problem with it. But, if you are a young professional and you believe that you deserve a private membership for $3,000 a year, you are severely setting yourself back financially.

Cheaper, Recreational Hobbies

Many recreational hobbies are not overly expensive. They might cost you less than $200 per year. If you truly enjoy this hobby and you’re completely out of debt, then I say go for it. But, what do I advise for those of you who are not out of debt? And, why would I suggest that you not have fun? Read on…

The Opportunity Costs of those Hobbies

Even after our nation’s financial turmoil lately, I don’t think there are enough people that understand the potential seriousness of debt. Let me use home ownership as an example. My wife and I will be borrowing money from the bank soon to purchase our very first house. Let’s say I paid off over 50% of the house and only have a few years left of payments, but then something terrible happens; I lost my job. All of the sudden, we can’t afford to make the payments on our house. Even though I paid the bank thousands of dollars, they still have the right to take my house away from me because I did not pay off my loan in full.

Rather than recreate, I would much rather work to pay off those debts! If I spent 5 hours recreating per week, think of what I could earn in those extra 260 hours per year if I worked instead (maybe you could start a side-gig). If you earned a regular wage of $20 per hour, you could easily have an extra $5,000 to put toward that mortgage every year.

Do Not Wait, Pay Off Those Debts!

Do you know how freeing it is to live debt free? It would make a season of softball 10 times more enjoyable because I would not have to think about that cloud of debt that’s been looming over my head. When my wife and I take out that loan, we’re going to focus on paying it off within 4 years. “How can you possibly do that?” you might ask. My wife and both have regular jobs, she also has a photography and design business on the side, and I make extra money through my financial blog as well. Since I chose not to recreate, but rather, both my wife and I started businesses, we now have the chance to live debt free (with a completely paid for house) by the time we are 30.

Give Up Mediocre Fun Now for Crazy Fun Later!

What if you loved to play golf and someone told you that you had two options:

  1. Play golf at mediocre courses once a week for the rest of your life
  2. Not play any golf for 5 years, but after that, play at PGA courses all over the world every week

Which would you choose? If it were me, I’d most definitely take option 2. It would be tough to give up golfing for 5 years, but since I knew the amazing courses that were in store for me in the future, I bet I could handle it.

Now, this example is a bit extreme. You don’t have to give up your hobbies entirely, but realize that there could be something much better in your future if you take financial responsibility for your debts now.

I would love for you to join us and take a similar journey. It’s going to be completely worth it!

Photo: Some rights reserved by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Harri @ TotallyMoney August 3, 2011 at 7:35 am

I agree that some hobbies cost more than others.

I disagree with your argument that your time would be better spent working rather than doing recreational activities. Exercise and productivity are inextricably linked- it’s proven that you are more effective at work if you take time to switch off and stimulate the mind and body outside of it. Working every hour of the week is not an effective or productive use of your time.

For me it’s not about ruling out hobbies altogether. It’s about economising on your leisure time and opting for cheaper alternatives (e.g. jogging, swimming, walking).

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Derek August 3, 2011 at 9:50 am

For starters, I don’t think people should be financing their recreation. If you have a boat and still owe the bank for it, I say give it up and grow up. But, you’re right about exercise. We should always take time out for that.

Definitely don’t rule out your hobbies, but if they are costing you buko bucks and you never have money in your pocket, it’s time to review your priorities.

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Beth August 3, 2011 at 8:03 am

I totally agree with Harri! Making time for hobbies is an important part of my work/life balance. There are a lot of things I could give up to make time to earn more money: hobbies, exercise, spending time with friends and family, going to church — heck, I could even give up dating!

Okay, that may sound ridiculous to some, but I think there’s more to life than the pursuit of personal wealth and we all have to find some balance in our lives. Some people can work extra hours without sacrificing their health or relationships — plus they have hobbies/interests they can turn into cash (not everyone does). Some of us need to focus on investments of a different kind — relationships, creativity, personal development, etc. Those are debts of a different kind.

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Derek August 3, 2011 at 9:52 am

Very true Beth. There is more to life than obtaining personal wealth. But, if all you’re doing is recreating and aren’t able to put anything away for the future, then pretty soon, your recreating days will be over for life, and you’ll be working until you’re 90!

I bet you’re not like this. You can probably balance some hobbies and still have extra income, and I’m ok with that. I just wanted people to start thinking about the future and how their current lifestyle will affect it.

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Beth August 3, 2011 at 12:40 pm

lol! You’re right, I’m not like that — but I’ve given up a lot to be financially stable. I’m at a point where it would be nice to earn extra cash, but it would also be nice to spend time focusing on my health and relationships. I think they will be more important to my future lifestyle than more money. I applaud what you and your wife are doing, but as I am single my world looks rather different!

Like I said, we all have to find our own balance.

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Derek August 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders and you will be just fine. Thanks for reading! 🙂

krantcents August 3, 2011 at 8:32 am

I don’t play golf or have a boat! Not much interest in either one, however I made sure my son learned how to play golf. He plays on city courses occasionally. For me, my hobbies enhance my well being and stimulates other interests. Even in a work environment you need something else to talk about beside the news, sports or the flavor of the moment. In my case, I was invited on century and half century bicycle rides because I cycled. This and writing make me more effective at work.

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Derek August 3, 2011 at 9:53 am

If your hobbies allow you to focus more at work, then by all means, go for it! But, if you are working and constantly thinking about upgrading your sports equipment, then I think there’s a problem. Sounds like you’re on the right track Krantcents. 🙂

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Eric J. Nisall August 3, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I’m not so sure that putting off something you enjoy just to be able to do it to the extreme is such a wise way to live. What’s the point of living if you”re not going to actually live? Like Derek said, there is more to life than simply accumulating wealth, and what’s the point of accumulating that wealth if you are never going to take the time to enjoy it? There needs to be a balance between work and fun since each can augment the other (work making the fun bigger and better, while the fun refreshing and allowing you to reboot and refocus). I like the idea of planning for the future while living for today–it is possible to enjoy life as you live it while still saving and accumulating for later. I mean, what happens if something catastrophic occurs and you can’t take advantage of all that hard work and savings?

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Derek August 4, 2011 at 3:38 am

There does need to be a balance. You’re right. Life is short and we much enjoy the moments in the present, not just the future.

Just make sure that you’re not enjoying life too much, and all the fun is putting you into debt.

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Eric J. Nisall August 4, 2011 at 6:27 am

Absolutely. Responsible living has to be factored into the equation as well.

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Brave New Life August 3, 2011 at 2:05 pm

There are so many cheap hobbies (or hobbies that can make or save money) I don’t understand why people would choose golfing.

Then again I run ultramarathons, so there are plenty of people that don’t understand my choices in hobbies either. 😉

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lifeAndMyFinances August 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm

An ultramarathon sounds pretty sweet, and those won’t deplete your savings like a boat will. Great choice, and it sounds pretty cool too!! 🙂

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101 Centavos August 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Not necessarily a hobby, but my passion for playing indoor soccer eventually got the best of me. I went from once to twice a week, and then on to playing in competitive indoor leagues. Playing times were at odd hours, depending on the brackets, with some games being scheduled at 1 a.m. (!). The intensity level of the games and lack of opportunity to properly stretch before and after eventually led to muscle injuries that stopped my playing days. Still, it was fun while it lasted…. and I may yet make a comeback.

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Derek August 4, 2011 at 3:39 am

Indoor soccer sounds like fun, and I don’t believe that it’s overly expensive. Good choice! Better than lugging that boat around…. 😉

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101 Centavos August 4, 2011 at 7:03 pm

[ hit reply to the wrong comment, I think…sorry ]

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mbhunter August 3, 2011 at 8:26 pm

BOAT is actually an acronym: Bring On Another Thousand.

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Derek August 4, 2011 at 3:40 am

I’ve heard of that! Yep, there’s always repairs which cost money. So, if someone is already financing their boat, they’re losing money on interest AND repairs. Sounds expensive.

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Eric J. Nisall August 4, 2011 at 6:25 am

I’ve always heard people say that it is so much cheaper and more enjoyable to just charter a boat when you want to go out. There is no responsibility involved, just call, pay and enjoy. Here in South Florida, so many people have boats and almost all of the owners I know complain about all of the maintenance costs and work involved.

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Derek August 4, 2011 at 7:30 am

South Florida huh? I actually just moved from there, and you’re right! Everyone has a boat! I’ve never owned one, but I bet when something goes wrong, the bill can be hefty!

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Eric J. Nisall August 4, 2011 at 7:36 am

Yes sir, moved to Sunrise from NY in ’98 and settled in Coral Springs in ’06. The funny thing is with all of the storms that come during the summer months, I would imagine it’s not worth all of the hassles of securing or moving them to storage and then undoing it again once everything is clear. To me it just seems like a lot of work and money.

101 Centavos August 4, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Not too bad, about 8 to 10 bucks a game. Play 3 games a week though, and it adds up quick.

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Squirrelers August 3, 2011 at 9:57 pm

We all need hobbies, they’re good for us. It’s healthy to have an outlet, and escape from real life pressures that many people could have.

That being said, sometimes people go too far with hobbies and let them impact their lives to a great extent. It’s smart to have hobbies, but they don’t have to bust your bank account. Since I do get physical excercise anyway, I’ll vote for blogging as a good hobby because you don’t spend a lot money directly and might get some coming your way!

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Derek August 4, 2011 at 3:41 am

Well said Squirrelers! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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cashflowmantra August 4, 2011 at 3:24 am

I never understood the allure of golf until I actually started playing at the age of 29. It was always so boring to watch on TV growing up. But my wife’s brother was a golfer so I got started and did so as cheaply as possible. He gave me an old set of his clubs, and I would golf once a month or so. I would walk to avoid the cart fee and play during discounted times.

Now, it may not be for everyone but it taught me to not knock something until you try it. I view the game as an incredible challenge both mentally and physically. It is beautiful on the golf courses and peaceful as well. It is very easy to forget all my worries and concerns. I don’t know if Mark Twain ever played but my walk is enhanced.

Currently, I am so busy that I am lucky to play more than about 10 times per year although I take an annual golf trip with my brother-in-law each January. The cost is $400 for 6 rounds, 5 nights of lodging, and breakfast each morning. I still have debt and a mortgage and spend a fair amount of my free time working on side stuff. I am not going to go at it every spare minute.

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101 Centavos August 4, 2011 at 4:06 am

I recently played golf again after a fifteen year hiatus. I think that golf is a gateway drug to….. more golf.

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Derek August 4, 2011 at 6:12 am

You’ve got that right! There’s always one good shot that gives you a little hope that your game is improving. Next thing you know, you’re headed back to the golf course! 🙂

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Derek August 4, 2011 at 3:44 am

Sounds like you’re still keeping your golfing under control, CFM. You’re still heading out to the inexpensive courses and finding yourself a deal. I enjoy golf as well, and now that I got a new App on my phone with golf course GPS, I can’t wait to get out there again! But, some things in life are more important. I’m sure I’ll be out there in the near future (with a coupon of course).

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anotherhousewife August 6, 2011 at 11:09 am

I am a runner. I need running shoes every 3 months or so and money for entrance fees and a few nutritional supplements. Running for me clears my mind and gives me something to call my own, aside from raising the three kids in my house and being a wife to my amazing husband. My husband pays $90 for a softball league twice a year for the same reason that I run. He loves to play golf and we love to snowboard but have put both on the back burner until our debt is paid off because of the expense. We also spend an average of $500 twice a year on sporting fees and equipment for our children to play sports (currently football and softball). While that money could be used to pay down debt faster, there comes a time when you have to prioritize for your family. In the long run we save money by having our family active in these activities. Instead of going to the movies or buying the latest gadget, we are supporting each other. During my marathon my family showed up along the course to cheer me on, we sit in the stands and cheer for husband during his games, we spend time teaching our children the fundamentals of whatever sport they choose to play and sit and watch as they practice and play. We have not acquired new debt in almost two years. We plan, save and pay cash for all of these activities. We make our purchases as wise and w/ every coupon available 🙂 Is our hobby holding us back financially? Yes (technically), but we are gaining a family legacy in return.

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Derek August 7, 2011 at 6:14 am

Running is definitely not a bad hobby! Shoes might run you (no pun intended) $100 every 3 months. With the fabulous exercise you’re getting and the relatively low cost, I think that’s quite alright.

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Super Frugalette August 7, 2011 at 12:11 am

I started learning how to knit, but discovered that I am a yarn snob and organic cotton yarn is so pricey. Thus, I just blog now…I have more “sunk” costs than ongoing costs.

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Derek August 7, 2011 at 6:15 am

I definitely did not think of knitting as a hobby, but that’s definitely an example. When organic yarn is used, I’m sure your projects could get very pricey. I like the hobby of blogging. It costs very little and can actually yield quite a large income!

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World of Finance August 7, 2011 at 7:08 am

Great article. Some hobbies really are TOO expensive! It’s still important to work hard and throw some play time in there as well…. but consider the amount being spent on these activities is really important.

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