Exploring personal interests is important for everyone, regardless of their financial situation. Pursuing a hobby or sport you love adds to your quality of life, even though you'll almost always have to spend money to do so.
Obviously, some hobbies are more expensive than others. Horseback riding, flying, ballroom dancing, and collecting expensive objects can really set you back, and even less expensive hobbies can consume a lot of money over time. To manage finances effectively, you need to take stock of your hobbies (or hobbies you want to pursue), and often you have to make choices on how much to spend, and on what. Here are some tips to help you manage finances when it comes to your hobbies.
First, Make Sure You'll Stick With It
Perhaps a friend took you out to play a round of golf and you loved it. Now you want to learn the sport and make golf a part of your life. Ask yourself what you loved most and least about the experience. Was it the sheer thrill of hitting the ball and watching it speed toward its destination, or was it the trip to the "19th hole" afterwards? Were you happy to get up and get ready on a Saturday despite an early tee time? If you're sure it was the activity itself that you loved, that's great! But it doesn't mean you need to rush out and buy an expensive set of gloves, clubs, shoes, and a high-end rangefinder. Take lessons, rent equipment, and give it some time to be sure the activity is as great as you think before sinking serious money into it.
Finding the Money
For most people, pursuing an expensive (or even moderately costly) hobby involves learning to manage finances to meet both needs and wants. There are countless ways to do this, from offering to clean the dance studio in exchange for lessons to holding a yard sale to raise money for your equipment. Maybe you're willing to cut back on dinners out to help fund your hobby. If so, talk it over with your partner and find out how they feel about it. If they're skeptical, perhaps you could offer a compromise, like cooking a great meal for them rather than going out sometimes (and cleaning up afterward).
To begin to manage finances to pay for a hobby, write down the costs, for everything from equipment to clothing, to lessons to transportation. Now divide that figure by how much you make per hour to learn how many hours of work it takes to fund your attendance at that paintball game or to buy a guitar. You might be surprised how expensive it is, but if it's your passion, you can be creative in coming up with ways to lessen the financial impact.
Making the Most of Your Equipment
Impulse buys are a bad idea when it comes to equipment, particularly when you already have working equipment. If you have equipment, learn everything about it. If it's well maintained it will last longer and provide more enjoyment. Learn to restring your own guitar and you'll master yet another aspect of music and save money (and can offer to re-string others' instruments to earn a little extra). Learn to tune up your bike or skis, and clean and store your golf clubs. And if you do want to sell your old gear and upgrade, you'll get a better price for it.
Also remember that you don't have to buy new. Sports consignment stores, Craigslist, and eBay can be good sources for your supplies and equipment if you're careful. It also pays to get to know the people who run the stores you frequent for your hobbies. They can alert you to great prices on demo or previous year's models and may be willing to bargain with you.
Increasing Income to Bankroll a Hobby
If you're absolutely dedicated to comic book collecting or DSLR photography, consider taking on extra work to help fund it. This could mean a part-time job at a local retailer or restaurant, or freelancing with your marketable skills. Obviously, if you have a family, you'll need to discuss this with your partner and enlist his or her support, because it affects them too. Hobbies and personal interests are important, but not important enough to wreck relationships over.
To manage finances when you have a costly hobby requires that you think ahead, and perhaps borrow or rent equipment before you getting more expensive gear. Accept that you may have to make financial sacrifices.
You can manage finances successfully, even with a pricey hobby. It starts with being realistic, includes calculating the real costs up front, and may involve making sacrifices or developing new sources of income.