Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Thrifty Thursday: Practice Your Hobbies for Less

It's been awhile since I've written a "Thrifty Thursday" post. I like to post some frugal ideas when I think of them in hopes that they inspire others who are possibly trying to save or reduce spending.

I think it's fair to say that modern day society is geared towards spending money in free time. Never mind family vacations that might be saved for and occur annually, how much money do we spend simply because we have the time and feel "bored"? Shopping as a pastime is driving household debt through the roof, not to mention creating homes overflowing with clothes and "stuff" and a society that is stressed out and working ever-harder to pay for a lifestyle that brings them little joy.

I think that hobbies and non-work related interests are what truly enrich our lives and bring a gratification well worth the cost in time and effort. Some hobbies can be costly, true, so I wanted to examine how a person can learn and practice a hobby/skill without it becoming a financial burden.

  • I had my first garden while I was pregnant with my first child. I removed myself from Facebook the following year, feeling that it wasted my time and prevented me from learning more about the things I was interested in. Instead of spending my time creeping on FB I began reading gardening blogs and books about landscaping and permaculture. Fast forward to building our acreage and doing our own landscaping. I derive such joy from my yard, visiting nurseries, buying flowers. This year I want to focus on reducing the cost of this hobby. I plan to:
    • tour my neighbours yards rather than cruising nurseries for plants. My yard is filling in now and there will only be a few specific things I add. Rather than tempting myself with the possibility of spending more on plants I think I'll get my fix of beautiful flowers by visiting the talented gardeners nearby.
    • Offer to plant swap by dividing perennials and trading with friends and neighbours. This way I will achieve variety without the added cost
    • Experiment with more plants from seed. I don't have terribly good luck starting things from seed, but I figure with more practice my odds will improve.
    • Trade fellow gardeners for their excess produce. Perhaps someone will have pumpkins they would like to trade for potatoes or beets. Even if I'm not able to grow everything under the sun, asking around might develop a bartering relationship that benefits everyone

  • It's no secret that I love fabric. LOVE. FABRIC. There's been a moratorium declared on buying more, however. This year I plan to make scrappy quilts using flannel sheets as batting and thrifted sheets as backing. What was becoming an expensive hobby (considering I like to give away what I make) can still be practiced using what I have and what I can find at thrift stores. I've already gone through my mom's stash and my own and started a lovely morning star scrappy quilt. I still get to practice one of my favorite pastimes but without the guilt of spending too much!
  • Husband likes to take the kids to the movie theatre for a movie once in awhile. It just really costs too much, though. I think the last time it was $60 for the three of them including drinks and snacks. We can borrow movies from the library or find something on Netflix for free or next to nothing. Throw in a homemade pizza and stove-top popcorn and you've got a special family night at no extra cost. Better yet, skip the movie and play board games and really interact as a family.
  • Try to take your hobby to the next level. We have some sheep now and in the spring they will need sheared. I've volunteered to help the neighbours with their shearing day so I can learn how and shear my own. Who knows, but this little venture might end up actually earning us some money if we can eventually shear for others. Aside from that, I have big plans to learn to spin wool and hope to work off the cost of lessons rather than having to pay cash. 

  • Get to know the hobbies available near you. I enjoy doing pottery and would one day like to take another class. It's rather costly, though, at $220 for six evening classes. I know of a couple local potters who might be interested in giving pointers and allowing me to use their pottery wheels. Perhaps and arrangement could be made to trade/barter for lessons. 
  • Make a plan and make it happen. For a couple years I've been talking about building an outdoor pizza oven in our yard. I'd like to find salvaged bricks and build it myself but usually get too busy to really look for what I need. Although there would be some cost to the project, dedicating the time to finding used (cheaper) materials would be a challenge and something to do in my free time. Although, looking back on the list there is probably not going to be much of that!
Having a hobby is a great stress-reliever and enriches our lives. Some things we have decided to try as a family are: rather than going to a movie, go fishing at the river or for a picnic at the park or go riding bikes. Rather than take the kids to the fair (very costly) we could visit the museum or art gallery (much cheaper) and do some follow up activities to learn more about what we see. This summer I want my boys to play on the informal--and free--local ball team. There are many hobbies to be had that do not need to cost much money if you are creative. Have you got any low-cost, high entertainment hobbies that you could add to the list?


  1. What a great post. I don't like it when things cost a fortune so I'm always looking for cheap/free alternatives. People say gardening and growing your own is expensive, but I really think that it doesn't need to be. Back in the war years everyone was vegetable gardening, but on a very small budget. Just because there are lots of fancy things to buy, it doesn't mean we need them. Love your movie tip as well. We never go to the cinema because of the cost, but a home movie night is a great idea. CJ xx

    1. Hi CJ, thanks for commenting! I really feel like what we do in our spare time should enrich our lives without causing debt and stress. It's such a good exercise to take something right down to "bare bones" budget, see how it feels, then only add in what is really necessary. Not only do we appreciate it more we hopefully don't have a bunch of "stuff" that doesn't get used! For awhile I had thought about getting a fancy sewing machine because I enjoy sewing so much. Then the idea struck to spend a year only making things from what I already have. And it seems ridiculous to get another sewing machine when the one I have works just fine. I think my little sewing machine will serve me just fine for many years to come :)

  2. Nothing to add here but I will say that if you can afford certain activities, it is nice to occasionally do them as a true treat. Your husband taking the kids to the movies - yes it costs money but if he does it only a couple times a year those could be some swell father-son times. Things they will remember and look forward to. Same thing with going to a fair. They don't happen often but many of us have sweet memories of visiting fairs as children. I think it's about balance - having a lot of free/inexpensive activities partnered with some higher price activities (but activities that you value or will enjoy or provide exposure-especially for children).

    Again providing you can afford the occasional activity/event, some things can be priceless. I'm sure it cost a lot of money (when you add in the food, tickets etc.) for our family, but even at my age I still remember going to a rodeo a few times as a kid and those memories are pretty cool when I think about them.

    1. You're absolutely right, Pru. Cutting back on what we spend shouldn't come at the cost of making special memories and it's important to keep a balance. Last year, instead of the fair, we did more trips to the lake and even rented a cabin. Not free, but quieter, less overwhelming with noise and sugar and money money money. I do want my kids to have all those fun experiences but to recognize the price tag and hopefully someday be able to see that a movie at home and some games can be special too. I can be too extreme, definitely, when it comes to cutting spending. That is balanced out by my husband who leans the other way ;)

  3. It's very hard to find someone who'll shear here unless you have a big flock. I'm sure there would be more people with sheep if someone like you could do the job. I think you're onto something!

    1. Hi Robin, it's the same here. Usually if someone has been hired to shear all the people with sheep in the area let each other know and either have to haul their sheep to a central farm or the shearer travels around. There's definitely possibilities, if I am up to the job :) Thanks for your comment!