Grab your six demon bag and let’s get started.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics) the average American family spent $2728 on entertainment in 2014. That’s an impressive amount of money spent on ‘non-essential’ activities. You want to find money for wealth building? Look right here.
Wikipedia defines a hobby as: “A hobby is a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time.”
In the beginning, every thing was going great for Mr. Caveman. He had it good – a dry cave, enough food, and he didn’t have to spend all day working. For some reason, after Mr. Caveman had day-to-day survival covered, he decided he needed something to do.
Without warning, the worst thing possible happened: Hobbies were invented. Things like sticks, and rocks were top quality entertainment. This was OK, because they didn’t cost much. Mr. Caveman could afford them, and he had a good time hitting things with his stick.
The other cavemen though this looked like fun. They joined in. Next thing you know, Mr. Caveman is paying sports league fees. He has to have a fancier stick, and a better rock to compete with the cave next door. Mr. Caveman then has to get a better paying job to pay for all that stuff, and no longer has as much time for his hobby (his leisure time decreases).
This is the tragedy of Mr Caveman. For those who desire a financially independent life, we must scrutinize this lesson well. Be very very careful with leisure time activities or we may repeat Mr. Caveman’s misfortune.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal
What about non-competitive hobbies?
Like photography? This kind of hobby has problems too: You have to buy camera gear, lenses, perhaps a Mac to help you do all that imaging work. It’s expensive, and then next year there’s a new version of that camera gear. It has new wiz-bang features that will make your pictures look better. Many folks will either ‘keep up’ with their hobby and buy the latest gear, or give up on their hobby when they realize their results are substandard.
We’ve all done it. We pick a hobby, hoping we’ll be good at it. It turns out being good at it takes a LOT of work, a lot of expensive equipment. We might try it for awhile, but most people aren’t that dedicated. A new shiny distraction will come along to fill our time. This creates waste.
That my friends is Evil Word #1: WASTE
You want to get rich? STOP WASTING money!
All that equipment to perform your hobby gets put away and just sits there on the shelf. That’s money doing nothing! It should have been put into productive assets that build your wealth!
What if you sell the stuff on Craigslist once you’re done? That’s a little better, but you probably won’t get the same price you paid. You’ve still lost money on the endeavor!
I guilty of it too – Mr. Tako has a shelf of board games that don’t get played often enough, because kids happened. Lucky for us we didn’t invest much in those board games – Mr Tako wouldn’t do that! Many were either gifts, or Mrs. Tako and I made them for only the cost of some paper. (There’s a whole community around PnP Board Games, go check it out.)
So no hobbies at all? They’re all just waste?
Well, no! Hobbies are great things. They give us enjoyable tasks to fill the hours. Much better than watching TV in your spare time! If you’re going to have a hobby, I give you the following:
Hobby Guidelines for the Financially Independent :
0. Find the Zen. Some of the best hobbies have a Zen-like meditation quality that relieves stress, relaxes, and brings enjoyment. Seek out a hobby that has this quality.
1. The best kind of hobby is a productive pursuit. By productive pursuit, I mean one that will produce income (carpentry, sewing, etc) OR have a material ability to lower your living costs (e.g. cooking, building your own furniture, making your own clothes).
2. Your hobby should not require re-occurring fees. Hell has a doorway and it’s called membership fees.
3. Do it cheaply. If the hobby requires equipment, find a way to get the equipment for free, borrow it, or otherwise acquire the equipment at extremely low cost (yard sales, craigslist, etc).
4. Pick a hobby that does not require top notch equipment to perform well. Used equipment already 1 or 2 decades old should be able to produce admirable results. If you pair this up with Guideline #3, you can expect good results for next to nothing.
5. Dedicate yourself to your hobby for a minimum of 5.5 years in order to build up the skills and expertise required. How did I come up with 5.5 years? This is Malcom Gladwell‘s 10,000 hours needed to become an expert. Say you work 8 hours a day, sleep 8 hours a day, 1 hour of commuting, and 2 hours eating, showering, etc. That’s 5 hours a day to dedicate to your hobby, and 5.48 years to become an expert. (Note: According to the BLS American Time Use Survey, Americans have just over 5 hours per day of leisure time) You may not work on this hobby every day, so it could take even longer. Once you’re an expert you will feel accomplishment and command the respect of your friends. If you’re not willing to put in that much time, you’re probably just going to waste money.
6. The hobby should be primarily a solo affair. Sure you can have friends join in, but if the hobby requires a group of people to perform (like sports, or board games), it’s highly likely that your schedules will conflict. Then you’re stuck on a Saturday night watching TV, or worse – you will find another hobby.
Not all hobbies are going to fit these guidelines perfectly, but how you conduct that hobby is key. Let me give you an example – Imagine for a moment you wanted to build furniture for a hobby:
The Working Slave Caveman way – Starting your new hobby, you go out and buy tools and raw materials to build furniture. Results aren’t great at first, and that’s discouraging. Unfortunately you don’t dedicate yourself to the hobby and end up quitting before your furniture pieces are good enough to sell.
The Financially Independent Octopi way – Starting your hobby carefully, you pick up the tools for free or from yard sales. Other tools you may borrow when necessary. You scavenge the raw materials from the trash and neighbor’s renovation projects. Results aren’t great at first, but you dedicated yourself. Once you’ve gained some decent skills you’ll probably be able to sell your furniture pieces to fund further endeavors in your hobby. This success builds upon itself.
I’ve just described someone a lot like Matthias Wandel over at woodgears.ca. Massive props to that guy. He builds his own proper power tools from scraps and builds the most amazing things from junk.”
Being the big reader that I am, I would be remiss to end this article without mentioning my favorite (practically free) hobby: Reading. See my book recommendations page for some reading ideas!
What do you think? Are hobbies a good place to control spending?