Christine Park

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Starting a Hobby Without Breaking the Bank

I scrapbook. Or I should say I scrapbooked. As in past tense. There are hundreds of dollars worth of supplies collecting dust in my closet. Papers, ribbons, and stamps that I once HAD to have after attending a scrapbooking convention. Yes, I KNOW how nerdy that sounds.

But this is my modus operandi. I also have a brand new sewing machine, a gym membership I keep having to freeze, and a brand new tennis racquet with adorable, but useless tennis skirts.

So before you dive into your next hobby head first, here are some ways to do it without breaking the bank.

PICK A CHEAP HOBBY: This might seem obvious, but some hobbies are a LOT cheaper than others. For example, if you're trying to decide between golf and jogging, jogging is a LOT more affordable. All you need is a pair of running shoes and comfortable clothing. Whereas golf clubs, green fees, shoes... all add up very quickly.

TAKE A CLASS: Craft stores Michaels and Joann have tons of classes for popular hobbies like bow-making, crocheting, you name it. Home Depot has classes that are a do-it-yourselfer's dream. Classes allow you to get a hand-on experience for a small fee.

RENT EQUIPMENT/BORROW FROM FRIENDS: When you're starting out with something new, see if you can try it for free before investing any money. If you want to learn to play a keyboard, see if a friend will lend you hers for a few weeks. I could have easily borrowed my husband's tennis racket for my beginner's lessons before buying my own. If you want to try out ice skating or bowling, those facilities always rent out the necessary equipment.

BUY BASIC EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES: As a beginning photographer, you don't need the latest and greatest camera from Canon. As a wannabe chef, hold off on the top-of-the-line cookware. It's tempting, but recognize your passion for your new found hobby can quickly wane, and your new things (like mine did) could end up collecting dust. You can find basic, entry-level products on eBay or Craigslist, or secondhand in classified ads. Shop around and look at reviews – you want something which will give you a good introduction to your new hobby, not something that falls apart after a few uses. Consider hobby kits -- they're also a good introduction to crafty hobbies like model building, scrapbooking, knitting -- and they contain everything you need to get started.

AVOID ADVANCE OR SUBSCRIPTION PAYMENTS: However enthusiastic you're feeling right now, gyms make much of their money from all the people who pay monthly and rarely or never set foot inside. Look for ways to try out a new hobby without paying up-front for weekly classes, a monthly magazine, or similar. Yes, it's more expensive on the face of it to pay for individual gym sessions or to buy copies of a monthly journal in the store, but if you lose interest after a month or two, it'll work out a lot cheaper.

SELL YOUR OLD STUFF: Most of us have a lot of stuff which we're not using. Exercise bikes, musical instruments, DVDs, computer equipment ... all sorts of things which we bought a while ago and haven't touched in months or years. How about selling some of that clutter on eBay? It might be trash to you – but treasure to someone else. With a bit of extra money (and extra space!) you'll find it much easier to get started on your new hobbies and interests.

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