The Most Expensive Hobbies — and How to Do Them on a Budget

By Zina Kumok

| Photographs By Milkos

Diving into a new hobby can be fun — in the same way it can be fun to go on a week-long bender. One minute you’re learning how to crochet, the next you’re waking up in a gutter covered in boutique Persian yarn and a vintage gold-plated crochet hook.

OK, maybe that’s not how it happens for most people, but picking up a new hobby will definitely lead to expenses you didn’t even know existed. Even the most frugal hobbies can get pricey as you learn to appreciate high-end gear and notice the limitations in your own. When it comes to the more-expensive hobbies, things can get ugly quickly.

Here are the most costly hobbies you can pick up, and how to do them without going bankrupt.

Snow sports

Skiing and snowboarding every winter weekend is one of the best parts of living near the mountains. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most expensive. Lift tickets can cost up to $150 a day and custom skis can be $1,000 or more.

That’s why it helps to shop early. Many resorts offer season passes at low rates in the spring — which is also when stores sell last season’s models at a huge discount. Thankfully, once you have your gear, you usually won’t need to buy anything else for several years. Take care of your equipment and it should last you a decade.

If you live within driving distance of a ski resort, consider going there instead of flying to pricier destinations. Yes, skiing in Michigan isn’t as beautiful as Park City, but it’s also affordable enough to do more than once a year.

Want your snow fix on a more regular basis? Try cross-country skiing, which is less expensive than downhill skiing and can be done without buying pricey lift tickets.

Gym memberships

Getting abs like Gwyneth Paltrow’s comes at a cost. Between gym memberships, workout equipment and exercise clothes, it’s easy to drop $200 a month just to stay fit — and that’s assuming you don’t use a personal trainer. Thankfully, there are tons of ways to work up a sweat for cheap.

Some gyms will let you wipe down the equipment and fold towels in exchange for free classes. One owner let a friend of mine write blog posts for his gym’s website in exchange for a free membership.

National chains, like the YMCA, will often offer a sliding-scale membership based on your income. My current gym charges $10 less a month if you come before 3 p.m. If you’re not sure about your gym’s policies, just ask.

If you want to save even more, consider switching to an at-home workout instead. You can try to borrow someone else’s equipment, rent workout DVDs from the library, or learn some bodyweight routines like yoga and pilates.

As for workout clothes, visit your local thrift stores. Tank tops and shorts are much cheaper there than at Lululemon.

If you decide to sign up for a gym, make sure you go regularly to make the membership worth the cost. If you end up attending only a few times a month, try paying for each class separately instead of buying the monthly package.

Photography

Learning how to take professional-level photos requires more work than just adjusting the filter on Instagram — and it can also get pricey. New lenses cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars each, not including the photo-editing software and accessories you’ll want to buy.

That’s why buying used equipment is always a better choice. You can save up to 50 percent or more, and many reputable stores offer a quality assurance if you buy used. Plus, you can often rent a lens for a day to make sure it’s really the one you want.

As with most hobbies, the key to high-quality photography is less about buying the best equipment and more about using it well. Even cellphone photos can look good if you know how to manipulate the images.

Music

Whether you love to jam out to Beethoven or Beyonce, pursuing music can be one of the most expensive ways to spend your free time. Whether you’re buying audio software, professional headphones, or a new guitar, all that gear doesn’t come cheap.

But if you’re looking to buy, there’s always someone looking to sell. Sites like Reverb.com sell used equipment, and eBay and Craigslist are always good options if you’re looking to save money. Just make sure to test out what you want beforehand — you don’t want to get stuck with a $300 keyboard that doesn’t fit your needs.

If you really want to minimize expenses, go with the “gear in, gear out” approach used by frugal musicians and record producers. The idea is to keep a limit on how much equipment you own at any one time, always selling something before you buy. This way you’ll avoid overfilling your studio with synthesizers and effects pedals that just end up collecting dust.

Fortunately, listening to music as a hobby doesn’t have to be as expensive as making music yourself. Go crate-diving at used record stores for undiscovered albums and have listening parties with your other musically inclined friends.

Sewing and quilting

When I started sewing a few years ago, I was amazed at how expensive everything was. I assumed people who sewed or quilted were frugal grandmas passing away the time. I didn’t realize you could easily spend hundreds of dollars on fabric.

To minimize costs for my sewing projects, I’ve avoided the trap of buying every beautiful piece of fabric I see. I don’t buy any material unless I have a specific project in mind, and I’ve never upgraded the sewing machine my Grandpa gave me — even though it came from Wal-Mart.

Thankfully, most local fabric stores have sale aisles and scrap fabric you can take for free, which is perfect to practice on. I also found that once I started telling people about my hobby, they offered me their leftover fabric, needles, and thread for free.

Sewing can be expensive if you use premium fabrics and attempt large projects. One way to decrease your costs is to focus on one piece at a time, instead of trying to juggle multiple. Not only will that reduce your expenses — it will also keep you from having a house full of half-finished quilts.

Summary

We should all have a hobby or two (or more), but some of these hobbies can get expensive. Buy used and sell what you don’t need and you should have no problem keeping up your hobbies!


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This article was written by Zina Kumok from Money Under 30 and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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