Having fun is fun. But, for many in mainstream America, hobbies are costly ventures that suck us into continually buying new stuff. Stuff we use to pass the time before we return to our day jobs. Where we earn money to buy more stuff for our hobbies. Yikes.
Anyone that’s set foot into a Cabela’s or a Hobby Lobby knows how expensive an interest in fishing or scrapbooking can become when you add up all the “needed” items, simply to start a hobby.
Hobbies don’t have to serve a purpose other than having fun. But for people on the path to FI, it's easy to see the benefits of offsetting the expense with creativity or even creating income from the hobby. In Episode 83R, Jonathan and Brad talk about optimizing your hobbies for FI:
Jonathan’s checklist for hobbies:
1. Enjoyment: it’s bringing joy to your life.
2. Cost: it fits within a price range that you’re comfortable with.
3. Networking: brings you into a community.
4. Fitness: it makes you healthier.
5. Skill Set: it adds to your current skill sets.
You should absolutely have fun–but having a hobby that's fun while using it as a distraction from life–doesn’t mean it’s truly adding value to your life. Is this fun leaving you isolated, strapped for cash, or drowning in clutter?
Fun, in and of itself, is great–but not at the expense of your other goals. Additionally, numbing out on a Netflix binge or throwing back a few beers to watch the Sunday football game can be a relaxing way to spend a weekend, but is it moving you forward?
While pursuing hobbies can be a great way to spend your off-hours, most would agree that you can have fun, master a new skill, and even make some extra cash or community impact along the way, this is the best sort of hobby you can spend time on while you work towards FI.
It seems that most hobbies, from camping to auto tinkering, have gobs of expensive and fascinating new gear. Even taking up a simple hobby like running can lead you down the rabbit hole of expensive shoes, $20 moisture wicking socks, foam rollers, protein shakes, and pricey branded athletic gear. Truly, all you need to get started is a decent pair of shoes and some internet research on form–not $350 in new gear.
What can you buy used, borrow, or do without entirely? Evaluating the cost of any new hobby is important–especially if you’re doing so without the intention of adding this skill to your resume, or building it into a side hustle where you can use your purchases as a tax write off.
Can your new hobby help you build your network? Absolutely! Activities like group runs, book clubs, volunteer groups, community gardens, and even dog rescue can put you in touch with potential future friends and be an enriching part of life.
Connections are a key component in leading a fulfilled life, but also can help you when you need a favor or other help. The friends you make now are the ones that will help watch your children, dog sit, or pick you up at the airport. And you can return the favor to help you both save money. They are the contacts that may just recommend you for a better paying job down the line. Meeting new people can be socially enriching, and it can pay dividends in other areas of your life.
Video games, binge-watching TV shows, and watching sports every weekend are a fun way to spend the time, but they often mean you spend hours alone in front of the TV without company. These sorts of past times have a time and a place. But keep in mind that when done without a sense of balance you may feel lonely even after having “fun.”
Balancing your solitary hobbies with social activities that put you in touch with like-minded people will help build your sense of community and contacts for even more satisfaction for your time investment.
Okay, so working out may be your idea of torture–but if you’re able to pick up healthier hobbies beyond the typical “happy hour with friends” or sitting on the couch with your significant other, you’ll thank yourself later.
If you can get healthy in the process of having fun–with hobbies such as hiking the local trails, yoga or swimming at the community center, or even a walking group, you’ll offset healthcare costs to boot.
Your hobby can include running 5ks for charity, organizing a hiking group, or even volunteering to do yard work for elderly and disabled people in your community. Doing double duty between fitness and having fun by employing some creativity can mean you have fun and a trimmer waistline.
5: Skill Set
What if your hobby could help make you money on the side or build a skill set that could further your current career? Perhaps your hobby can turn into a post-retirement project that you love.
While you’re able to craft your own adventure to FI, pursuing hobbies that also help you make more cash are always a plus. Instead of consuming, what could you be producing and contributing? Hobbies for most, means making things for personal use (like crafting or woodworking) but could you sell your wares–even just for fun, to learn the business side of things?
Picking up skills as a handyman (or woman), learning to code websites, basic graphic design, and/or blogging can be a job–or a hobby, your choice. Talent stacking is a great lever to pull on the path to FI, and it can be even better when you truly enjoy doing it–paid or unpaid.
Fun Along The Way
Making your hobbies “FI-aligned” can yield even greater benefits than zoning out in front of the TV. They can lead to a truly enriching way to spend your free time. FI is not just about the destination or your net worth on Personal Capital, it is living a life that is a rewarding journey as well. So have fun along the way!