Raise your hand if you’ve purchased expensive equipment for a hobby and only used it a handful of times. Yeah, me too. Like that time my husband, Jer, and I purchased an expensive roof rack system to haul our mountain bikes. A couple years later I switched vehicles and needed to spend a couple hundred dollars more to make the system fit the new car. Expensive lesson learned.
Since then we’ve taken on additional hobbies that could potentially be quite expensive. Yet we’ve managed to do so without incurring debt or draining our savings. Continue reading to learn our best tips. I’ll also tell you why hobbies are important to a life well-lived.
WHY WE NEED HOBBIES
I might be the sunrise’s biggest fan. The fact that the day begins with an orange ball of fire popping up over the horizon, turning everything it touches a rainbow of hues from pink to purple, reminds me that we were not dropped on this planet to merely survive. I mean, look at the everyday beauty around us. I believe without a
When we surround ourselves with people and activities we enjoy, we become happier people. And happier people create a ripple effect of joy and positivity within their families, workplaces, and communities at large. All of this orchestrates to make the world a better place to live each day.
You may have also heard that early retirement is correlated to an increased chance of premature death. While researchers are unclear about why this happens, I believe that it’s tied to some specific things our work lives provide. For many of us, having a job gives us a reason to get up in the morning. Our work can provide a sense of purpose, as well as much needed socialization. I’ve had a number of friends confess that they felt depressed after quitting or losing a job.
Hobbies can help fill these roles. They create hope by giving us something to look forward to. They keep us involved with positive and uplifting people. Choosing physical hobbies can help us maintain and improve our health. There are more good reasons to try a new hobby than not.
DON’T BREAK THE BANK
Jer and I are always looking to challenge ourselves and learn something new. So we decided to take our love of camping to the next level with backpacking and canoe camping. We have a few pieces of expensive equipment to buy and began exploring our options this past summer. I love to ask everyone who enjoys the same activities for advice and equipment. It helps me narrow down which of the many choices are right for us.
On one trip to an outdoor store, I asked a salesperson if she backpacks. She went on to tell us how much she loves it and is “still paying it off, but it was worth it.” If you’re not familiar with our financial values, it’s probably important to mention that Jer and I do not borrow money. You can learn why in this article. Because we’ve lived this way for so long, I’m always floored when someone tells me that they’re paying interest on a credit card. It’s just not something we consider.
Here’s a quick example why. If I were a newbie, heading to REI to get completely outfitted for a three-night backpacking trip, I would spend at least $1800. If I were to put that on a credit card and pay off $200 per month at an interest rate of 17 percent, it would take me 10 months and cost $140 in interest. I could buy a REALLY nice sleeping bag for $140. There’s got to be a better way, right?
START A NEW HOBBY ON A BUDGET
Contrary to what our culture and marketers tell us, you CAN start a new hobby with little to no money. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll stick with camping here. But you could apply these lessons to anything: cycling, skiing, and even golf.
If you wanted to try car camping, what would you absolutely need? Somewhere to sleep and a means to cook are the only essentials I can come up with. You could sleep in your car, or borrow a tent from a friend. Or you could pick up a tent for $30 from a thrift store or Craigslist. If you’re camping in the summer, you don’t necessarily need a sleeping bag or pad. You could get by with bedding you already have.
When dinner time rolls around, embrace the challenge of cooking over the campfire. Or you could try making a homemade camp stove. You probably have pots and utensils you no longer use that could be perfectly repurposed for camping. And don’t forget about good old fashioned aluminum foil. (Then remember to recycle!)
We started out in Camper Cabins which are prevalent in Minnesota State Parks as well as many National Parks and Forests. We used what we had, were given some hand-me-downs, and purchased a few essentials. It was a great way to find out if we really loved it before investing tons of money into new gear.
THINKING LONG TERM
As I eluded to earlier in this article, you don’t need to buy all the gear for your new hobby at once. For all of our hobbies, we just started with the basics. To this day we’re still collecting and upgrading gear. Keep in mind that as you gain experience, your tastes and preferences WILL change, so why not hold off until you know more about what you like.
We set aside money in our budget to purchase new gear each season. We buy the best gear based on value with the intent that it will last a very long time. We also take exceptional care of our gear.
For example, last fall I found a nearly invisible tear on the floor of our tent. Before I took it out for the first time this season, I patched both sides to ensure there would be no future damage. We do a basic cleaning of the tent after each use and a more thorough cleaning at the end of each season. We do this for all of our hobbies and equipment.
GETTING GREAT DEALS ON GREAT GEAR
As I mentioned, quality is important. And that doesn’t necessarily mean a ridiculous price tag. There are lots of manufacturers who make high-quality equipment at affordable prices. All it takes is a little research.
It shouldn’t surprise you that we’ve scored amazing deals online. Amazon has great deals on everything. When it comes to outdoor equipment, we like Back Country and their sister company Steep and Cheap for their awesome flash deals. Check out SAC Alerts for tips to take full advantage of their flash sales.
If you’re not using Ebates when shopping online, you’re missing out. Once you’re signed up, you can download a plugin for your browser that does all the work for you. I’ve received hundreds of dollars in the mail just for doing my everyday shopping and booking rental cars online. Before you continue reading, do yourself a favor and sign up here.
Whenever possible, buy off-season. I recently needed new cycling shorts and it happened to be the tail end of summer. I scored high-end shorts for less than the regular price of entry-level shorts. Since we’re mostly replacing and upgrading gear, we’re usually able to take advantage of off-season discounts. On the topic of seasons, don’t be afraid to buy prior season’s equipment. We bought a high-quality backpacking tent for half the price by getting our hands on a previous year’s model.
Finally, sales are a fantastic way to get a discount on items you actually need. Remember that you’re not saving money if you don’t use your purchases. We check for deals at every REI sale and take advantage of every member discount. Be sure to save your 20 percent off member coupons for high ticket items. We’ve used this benefit to get great deals on things like backpacks and bike trainers.