Whether you pursue one hobby or one hundred, equipment and supplies can get expensive. Thankfully, there are ways to have money to spare while enjoying your spare time. These ten tips can apply to a variety of hobbies, although each tip works better for some hobbies than others.
Try renting first: If you’re starting a new hobby and aren’t sure you’ll enjoy it, invest as little as possible in supplies or equipment. Before you buy a kayak, for example, see if the closest park with a lake rents them. Musical instruments can often be rented through schools or music stores. Other expensive equipment is available to rent from a variety of sources.
Once you know you love the new hobby and will continue it, it may become less expensive to buy the equipment than to rent it. Figure out how many times you would need to rent something before the rent has cost more than a purchase; once you know you will use the equipment more often, it’s time to buy. Apply the same theory to one-time entrance fees versus annual membership. Spring for the golf club or gym membership only when you are certain you’ll visit often enough that the membership is less expensive than multiple one-time entrance fees.
Look for sources of free supplies: Woodworkers may find that foremen are willing to give away the leftover wood from construction sites. Artists may find free materials in nature or even on the curb on trash day. Readers will find nearly every book they want at the library. (If a book is not at your local library, ask about an inter-library loan.) Be creative and don’t be afraid to ask, “If you’re planning to throw it away, anyway, would you give it to me instead?”
Adapt less expensive items to suit your needs: Women used to sew their own clothes to save money, but now the fabric often costs as much as a completed item! If you like to sew or quilt, consider finding fabric away from the fabric store — buy inexpensive flat sheets; reuse the good parts of stained or torn clothing. Historically, quilts were often made from “scrap” materials. Why not follow tradition?
Check other stores before going to a hobby-specific store: If you’re a scrapbooker, look for colored paper and card stock in an office supply store; it will most likely cost less than at a craft store. Toy stores sell collectible trains and computer games. Discount and overstock stores (like Big Lots) often carry tools, sporting goods, gardening supplies, books, and craft supplies. In general, the narrower the use or audience an item is marketed for, the higher its price is. However, if you need very specific supplies, you might not find them anywhere but at a specialty store.
Share your supplies: Find someone else who enjoys your hobby and offer to trade supplies or equipment (temporarily or permanently). If you have a close friend who shares your hobby, consider splitting the costs of new equipment with that person.
Buy from others who share your hobby: Find someone who upgrades equipment frequently and see if he or she is willing to sell you the old equipment. Check the yellow pages for a store that sells second-hand sporting equipment or computer games. Search online auctions for collectible items.
Focus on the necessities: Skiers don’t really need expensive, matching snowsuits in the latest style. Rock climbing shoes are nice to have, but your old sneakers also work. A 20-piece mess kit might be tempting to buy for that camping trip, but the pots, pans, and silverware you already own will do the job, too. Particularly if you only participate in a hobby occasionally, make do with renting or buying the bare necessities and skip the frills and gadgets.
Shop at yard sales or local auctions: People have a tendency to purchase hobby items and, when they lose interest in the hobby, resell them at a fraction of the original price. Yard sales and auctions often have collectible items, unopened craft kits, golf clubs, musical instruments, and more.
Get money back from your hobby: Teach piano lessons; sell your crafts at a craft show; take your produce to a local farmer’s market; auction off Hello Kitty collectibles. In most cases, you won’t make enough to quit your job, but you might at least cover the expenses of participating in the hobby.
Make a hobby of saving money: Finding new ways to get the most for your money can be a challenging and fun pursuit. At times, it even feels like a competitive sport. Read the blogs of people participating in the $20 Challenge, finding new ways to save as much as possible from an initial $20. Consider taking on the challenge yourself.
By pfadvice special contributor Shannon Christman