Having a hobby (or several) can be a great thing. Hobbies give us a creative outlet or a way to meet new people. We learn new skills through hobbies and some of them can even earn us extra money. Several articles have appeared here at Saving Advice about how to save money on hobby expenses and how to turn your hobbies into money making ventures. But I have discovered another benefit to hobbies: They can actually save you money.
Before I explain how a hobby can save you money, I have one caveat. You have to avoid getting carried away with supplies. Many hobbies can quickly get expensive, although they don’t have to be. If you can control your impulse to buy the latest and greatest of everything and avoid stockpiling tons of supplies (or choose hobbies, like writing, that are not supply intensive to begin with) your hobbies can save you money.
“Well, duh,” you say, “Of course a hobby can save you money because you can use the hobby to replace services and items that you would otherwise have to pay for.” This is true, but also obvious. If you garden, make greeting cards, bake, or knit, those types of hobbies can definitely save you money. You get to eat, wear, or use the items you make, saving you from having to purchase the items at a retailer. Obvious savings.
The money saving aspect I’m speaking of is one that many people don’t consider. If you have a hobby that you love, you save money through what I call the “time suck method.” As I write this, the ultimate writer’s challenge is going on: NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write 50,000 words (a small novel) during the month of November. Since writing is one of my hobbies, I participate every year. It’s a lot of fun and I know going into the month that November will be one of my least expensive months.
Why is this? It’s because my hobby sucks up all of my free time. There is no time to go shopping or to browse websites for deals. Black Friday? Forget it. Usually by then I’m 15,000 words behind and trying like mad to catch up. I don’t have time to eat out and I don’t have time to go to the movies. And that’s okay with me because I’m having fun and I’m totally engrossed in my hobby. Time passes without a dime being spent and I hardly notice. Since writing is a cheap hobby to start with (only requiring the laptop that I need for work anyway), I don’t even have to spend to restock my supplies. This is the time suck money saving method in action.
During other times of the year I have other hobbies that prevent spending. I train for marathons through the late winter and spring. Working in all of the training and spending up to four hours on the road a time doesn’t leave a lot of free time for shopping and spending. Gardening is another one. Between preparing the garden, planting, weeding and harvesting, much of my spring and summer disappears in a blur. I can get lost for weeks in a series of books that keep me too enthralled to go shopping. Give me a good needlecraft project and I won’t lift my head until it’s finished. All of these are hobbies that are great at sucking up my free time so that I can’t (and don’t want to) spend money on other things.
I know that I tend to get the impulse to spend if I’m bored. I think a lot of other people do, too. When I’m bored, I start looking at DVD’s, video games, electronic gadgets, or other toys. Suddenly everything at Best Buy looks like it would be perfect for me. I used to give into those urges and, as a result, I bought a lot of crap. I now know that what I was looking for was something to lift the boredom. Over the years I’ve learned that it’s best for my wallet if I keep busy with good hobbies. Even the hobbies that require an outlay of cash, such as buying gardening supplies or running shoes, still end up saving me money over the long term because they keep me so busy that I end up saving far more than I spent on the hobby. By engaging in “time suck” hobbies I eliminate the impulse boredom buster purchases. (And many other purchases, as well. It’s tough to remember even to grocery shop when you’ve got so much going on.)
And yes, in addition to preventing me from spending on other things my hobbies do save me money in other ways. I don’t have to buy as much food when I garden and I can make needlecraft gifts for friends. The running keeps me healthy and keeps health costs down. But even if I add all of those savings up, I doubt they come close to what I save by allowing my hobbies to suck up my time, prevent boredom, and keep me out of the stores. If you have a spending problem, try taking up some hobbies that keep you engrossed for hours and days at a time and see if you find yourself spending less.