Raggedly Rich

Canadian Finances, Musings, and Art

Preventing the Expensive Hobbies That Come From Modest Origins

I’m not really able to toot the horn on this one – I play ice hockey, which is a pretty expensive (and painful! I’m currently keeping the score between Ms. Raggedly vs. hockey bruises, and it’s sitting at a sad 3-5; note to self: catching flying pucks with the palm of your hand leads to popped veins in said palms – much better to avoid). I also own a motorcycle, which you can read all about here. I’m hoping to keep the cost of it under control, and would never have made the purchase if we couldn’t do most of the work on it ourselves.

my raggedly, frivolous buy

The thing is, most expensive hobbies start out cheap or free. 

The ones that initially come to mind are:

  • Cable (6 months for only $29.99/mo!)
  • Gaming (board games and video games)
  • Rock Climbing (take an intro belay course and get your first month for free!)
  • Gym Memberships (your first week free!)
  • Motorcycles (yes, yes, I know)
  • Wine & Beer (alcohol in general)
  • Cycling (is my road bike light enough though?)
  • Photography (the iPhone camera just isn’t cutting it…)
  • Travel (always get travel insurance!)
  • Dating!

There are a lot of ways to enjoy these things on the raggedly or thrifty side, but there’s also a lot of ways that their costs can run up your monthly expenditures. There’s also a lot of great benefits to some of these! There’s plenty of ways to exercise and stay healthy at home, but if you’re going to be at the gym 4 days a week and using it effectively (physically, and financially), then that’s a fantastic choice for you! But so many people get trapped in a year-long membership that sees them using it half a dozen times a month, and withdrawing four dozen dollars from their accounts.

Some of them start with exposure via your friends – I know the only reason I have a PS3 is because I wanted to engage with an interest of my then-boyfriend (and have easy access to Netflix and BluRay!). My friends have dozens upon dozens of board games; luckily, I get away with only owning a decade old version of Monopoly (Pokemon-themed), and Scrabble, since between them all, we’ve got any game we’d like to play). Some hobby’s come to you by way of family – a huge reason why I got a motorcycle was so that I could have something I could do with my Dad.

Be honest with yourself about your hobbies – know exactly what you get out of them, and what they give you.

Hobbies are a wonderful thing. They keep you active, engaged, and add purpose and drive to your week. If you’re passionate about something, and you can afford it, and you’re smart about it, there’s no reason why you can’t, say, own a camera worth five-figures. I’m not talking about those hobbies – I’m talking about the hobbies that slip into your day-to-day routine by starting out cheap or free, that you only started because they were cheap or free.

even hiking was a bit of an expensive initial cost

Free for a Limited Time! (with skyrocketing costs shortly thereafter)

I jest, but not really. The skyrocketing part is a hyperbole, and if you’re honest about what you need and why you’re getting it, the limited time discount might actually add up to tidy sum of savings. If going to the movie theatre every week is your thing, and they come out with a loyalty card that toots 3 free movies – by all means! But if you instead get the card and decide to start going to the movies every week because of the card, you might just continue the habit once the free movies are up. It’s basic marketing psychology, and everyone utilizes it to varying degrees.

Even bloggers use the concept – giving away free ebooks or free resources to join a mailing list, in the hopes that once you’re on it habit or apathy will keep you there. And it’s not a bad thing! The ethics of it only start becoming questionable to me when you’re required to ‘use a valid credit card’ to get a ‘free trail’ that’ll automatically bill you unless you opt out at the end of the trail. Sure, there’s nothing technically wrong with that, but it’s the spirit of trying to make money dishonestly that bothers me.

How does this translate into habits? Everyone knows the old ‘own a car for 2 Starbucks drinks a day’. It’s true – and it’s so deeply entrenched into our capitalist day-to-day culture that I noticed it most recently with something as innocent as discounted cards.

I was in a greeting card shop this week (the kind some people give for birthdays and holidays), and I saw that there was a whole boat load of cards that were 2 for $1. Now, considering these cards are normally between $5-$8 (and go as high as $16!), you can’t deny that 2 for a $1 isn’t a steal of a deal. But even if you take advantage of the deal and pick up 20 cards, what then?

It’s about the kind of life you want in the long term, not about the kind of life you want now. Just like anything, you have to invest now to get what you want later.

And that’s because buying cheap cards and handing them out sets you up to become a card person. What’s going to happen when you run out of your cheap 2 for $1 cards and have become used to giving cards? Now you’re spending serious dough on a habit you only picked up because it was ‘such a good deal’.

from pricey hot yoga, to a much preferred Yoga with Adriene

I was about to start hunting through the cards when I realized that getting a bunch of cards and handing them out would set a precedent that would then make me feel compelled to give cards. I only have a three cards I would give (usually to my bro and my sisil for their birthdays, with a gift card enclosed, and one for Christmas), and those I only give because I know they mean a lot to the receivers. Of course, if you already send out cards every month, then the deal would be worth it to you.

If there’s a coupon for it, think about if you really need that item, or hobby, or not. If it’s on sale, think if you want to introduce that thing into your life. This is where the minimalist mindset really comes in handy – don’t need it? Don’t buy it.

If it’s free, make sure it’s always going to be free.

Make sure it’s realistic.

Make sure it’s sustainable.

Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, and it fits into your lifestyle.

What are some of your hobbies or habits?


  1. Well said! My wife and I have a lot of cheap hobbies like hiking and endurance running but we also had some equipment laden hobbies like bass fishing and off roading. You can’t bass fish without a boat, rods and reels and fishing lures. And you can’t ride off road without an All Terrain Vehicle of some sort. Because we were on an aggressive path toward FI we had junky used bass boats that were constantly breaking down and old worn out cheap four wheelers that ran, sometimes. Now that we are slightly early retired and have pretty much unlimited resources we have a nice brand new bass boat and a nice brand new RZR off road vehicle that we can both sit in! Those would have been ridiculously extravagant expenditures when we were in the accumulation phase but fit in perfectly well with our net worth now. Even at that my new boat cost only about 25% of the cost of a top of the line model and the RZR only cost about half of what the most impressive model does so I suppose there is no getting over that frugality, and that’s a good thing. teve

    • Ms. Raggedly Rich

      June 30, 2017 at 8:30 am

      Sounds like you did it the right way! Off roading and boating sounds like tons of fun – and like things you can enjoy even more once you’ve reached FI, and have a little more time and a little less worry 🙂 I’m sure those raggedly boats and ATV’s gave you plenty of memories too! Thanks for the great comment.

  2. I love this! I’m totally one of those who get entirely sucked into a hobby…actually worse…hobbies.

    I have a stash of designer board games in my closet. I played them a lot for 3-4 years, but now that I’ve moved further from friends, I find it harder to host board game nights. I hope I can get back to hosting again because I’m having a really difficult time thinking about parting with them.

    And I’m a photographer and rock climber too! But these have been 2 tried and true hobbies I’ve stuck to over the years. I do have a purchase ban on climbing supplies because I’ve definitely noticed the desire to invest more in gear when I really have no need for it! NO TO LIFESTYLE HOBBY CREEP!!

    • Ms. Raggedly Rich

      July 23, 2017 at 10:31 pm

      The hardest part I find is wanting to buy the rock climbing equipment as an ‘investment’ before I know if I’ll actually be going full-time; why waste up to $60 on 2-3 climbing nights when that money gets you a harness and a fifth of a pair of boots?!

      Any local groups you can sign up with / join? Finding some like-minded people you could hang out with once or twice a month and play games with sounds like a dream! ( And I say dream, quite literally, because it sort of sounds terrifying too, but lovely, but like something you need to be an extrovert to actually find enjoyable off the bat 😛 )

      Hear hear! No to lifestyle hobby creep!! ( Although a measured, ‘perhaps’ to leveraging those who already insist on giving you gifts to make those investments for you 😛 I have new hockey gloves and a new stick that were birthday presents… )

      Sounds like your pretty self-aware though – good luck on future hobby creeps Jing!!

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