One of the great things about being debt free is the freedom it gives me to pursue the hobbies I love without compromising my participation because I’m tapped out. I recently got back into photography, something I’d done in high school but pushed aside over the years as other things took priority. To get started, I wanted a digital SLR camera and I was able to simply decide on the model, find the best deal, and go buy one. I didn’t have to finance it or juggle accounts around to get the money, I simply took some money from the “fun” fund and used it to buy the camera. Because I have no debt, I’m able to save up “fun” money for things like hobbies, even while saving for emergencies and retirement. Having no debt means that I have a lot more disposable income to spend on the hobbies that bring me joy.
As I progress with my photography hobby, I don’t really have to worry about the cost of printing pictures, frames, photo books, ink, instruction, or anything else related to photography. If I so choose, that hobby can become one of my spending priorities in my life. Obviously I can’t go nuts and spend, spend, spend, but I have a lot more freedom with my hobby than I would if I had debt.
If I had a lot of debt, my hobby would always have to take a backseat to bills and payments. I’d have to curb my hobby participation to make certain that other things were taken care of. I wouldn’t be able to spontaneously take advantage of a birding trip or a photography seminar hosted by a famous photographer. As it is, I can pretty much pursue my hobby to the fullest, without worrying about how I’m going to pay all the other bills in my life.
One debt free friend is a perfect example. He’s into cars. Big time. He loves classic cars and likes to buy them, fix them up, and then sell them. Because he has no debt (and a job that pays ridiculously well), he’s got a lot of spare cash that he can use to buy cars. He recently bought three cars at once, paid all cash to repair them and spruce them up, and then sold two of them for a tidy profit. The third he decided he couldn’t part with, so he kept it. Because he has no debt, he has almost no limit on how he can pursue his hobby. He has the spare cash to buy cars and to fix them up. Since he doesn’t have to sell them in order to recoup his money and pay down his debt (hobby or otherwise), he can keep the cars he loves and tinker with them until his heart’s content.
If he had a lot of debt, he probably wouldn’t be able to purchase even one car without taking on another loan. The money for repairs would probably come from credit cards or an already stressed savings account. When he finished the car, he’d almost have no choice but to sell it so that he could get the money back to pay off the loan and the credit cards. Even if it was the best car ever, it would still have to be sold to cover the debt. This is a pretty stressful way to pursue a hobby, which is supposed to be fun. It’s stressful to not be able to do what you love to the fullest extent, and it’s stressful to always wonder how you’re going to pay for it.
The life of a debt free hobbyist is, by contrast, a lot less stressful. Sure, we can’t have everything we want. There are limits that can’t be crossed without racking up debt and we always have to make sure there’s money left over so that our partners and spouses can pursue their interests, too. But it is much easier and more fun to pursue a hobby when you’re debt free and there is extra money available. You can get as involved in your hobby as you want to without always wondering where the money is going to come from or if you’re going to be able to make this month’s car payment. A hobby becomes something to enjoy, not just another entry on an already stretched budget sheet.