Some people get the idea that you can’t enjoy your hobbies or interests while you’re saving money for the future. They picture themselves pinching every penny and cutting out every fun activity until they’re in their 60s. That’s not how you should envision wealth-building. Not at all. The truth is that you can save for the future and enjoy life right now.
You can go on vacation, collect coins, or go antique shopping. You can hunt, draw, or sculpt. You can even go skydiving if you want. The key is to be strategic in how you save and spend your money doing those things.
What to Do Before You Spend on Hobbies
Before you break out your debit card to buy that new hunting rifle, there are a few things you need to do to make sure you’re on solid financial footing. Otherwise, you’re shooting yourself in the foot financially. Here’s where you need to start:
- Always, always, always pay off debt first. If you’re spending money on a new guitar but you can only make the minimum payments on your credit cards, your priorities are upside down. Debt is your worst enemy when it comes to building wealth. Get rid of it as fast as you can. Yes, put that cooking class on hold until you’re debt-free.
- Put yourself on a budget. To build wealth, you need to live below your means. Your hobbies can be in your budget, but not disproportionately. We can’t tell you exactly how much you can spend on hobbies because we don’t know your financial situation. Just remember that remote control cars may be awesome, but they won’t pay your medical bills in retirement!
- Fill up your emergency fund. If you’re still paying off debt, you need $1,000 in the bank. If you’re debt-free, you need to stash away three to six months’ worth of expenses in case Murphy’s Law lands on your doorstep. And eventually will. Hint: A new tennis racquet is not an emergency.
- Get your investments in order. Before you spend money on hobbies, make sure you’re putting away at least 15% of your income toward building wealth. See if your employer offers a 401(k) program. Also, consider funding an IRA or Roth IRA to boost your investments.
How to Enjoy Hobbies Without Going Overboard
Now that you’ve covered the bases, you can give yourself permission to pursue your passions and interests. To keep your finances in check and make the most of your hobby budget, use these tricks and tips.
- Try it out before you commit. How many hobbies have you taken up, only to lose interest a few weeks later. Save yourself some money and try out a hobby before going all in. Ask a friend to borrow equipment or take a class to find out.
- Save up for it. Remember when you were a kid and had to save up for that new bike? That concept doesn’t change when you get older. If you need a new fishing rod, start putting extra money away every month. That might mean cutting back on meals out for a little while, but the thought of all the fresh trout you can catch should keep you motivated!
- Go with used or trade-ins. There’s a huge market for second-hand sports equipment. You can also check with local pawn shops, online forums, and shop garage sales. You can also ask people on social media if they’re selling what you’re looking for.
- Find cheaper options. Depending on what you’re interested in, you can choose fancy or functional. A private golf course may offer beautiful fairways and soft sand, but it also costs a pretty penny to join. Lots of public golf courses are just as appealing and challenging without the high sticker price. If you want to play golf a lot in retirement, opt for the cheaper choice now.You could also consider switching to less expensive hobbies. For the time being—as you’re building up your wealth—you might want to choose a less costly weekend pursuit. Then, when you have more time and money to spend, you can return to the more expensive ones.
- Ask for hobby-related gifts. Friend and family may want to buy you a birthday gift related to your interests, but they may not be sure what to buy. To help them, create a wish list to let them know what they can buy you. You get supplies for your hobby and they feel good about their purchase. Everybody wins.
- Make a profit from your hobby. You can make money from the things you like to do—trading baseball cards, hunting for fossils, making jewelry, brewing beer. The options are endless. However, don’t purchase fancy equipment up front assuming you’ll make that money back quickly. Learn the trade well and then work on selling your stuff.
Spending money on hobbies is about opportunity cost. That’s a fancy term that means if you spend on this, you can’t spend it on that. If you shell out $2,000 on a new saltwater fish tank, you won’t be able to invest that $2,000. In 20 years, that $2,000 could be worth $10,000 or more. That’s the difference between looking at tropical fish behind glass now and looking at them in their native waters later. Hobbies are great, but don’t let them rob you of your retirement dream.
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