How Much is the Right Amount to Spend on a Hobby?

by Thursday Bram · 14 comments

Hobbies, by definition, are something we do for enjoyment. They aren’t activities that we absolutely have to do. That means that in a purely financial sense, spending any money on hobbies — especially when you have other financial concerns like paying for food and shelter — is wrong. The reality of the situation, though, is very different. We all enjoy our hobbies (or we wouldn’t pursue them). It can help keep us motivated to pursue our other goals. If we never do anything fun, we may end up falling into a rut and feeling miserable. That’s no way to live. In that sense, we need that enjoyment almost as much as we need food if we’re going to live life to the fullest.

But How Much is Too Much?

The problem creeps in when you think about how much different hobbies cost. Photography can be a lot of fun, but you can wind up buying some very expensive equipment. Stamp-collecting can require purchasing stamps that may be worth more than the paper they’re printed on. Skydiving can cost more than $200 for a single jump. But if you enjoy your hobby, those hefty price tags can mean that your money is well spent: you may be getting a lot more out of spending that money than you would be buying a bigger house or saving it up for a rainy day.

There’s no denying that we all need a safety cushion. We each need to have a secure financial basis and spending more than a small portion of your budget on hobbies when you’re not in a great place financially rarely makes sense. Entirely cutting out enjoyable hobbies — especially those that are relatively inexpensive — should generally be a short-term strategy while you resolve other financial issues.

But when your financial house is in order, the question of how much to spend on your hobbies can be much harder to answer. If you don’t actually need a certain amount of money for anything, why shouldn’t you spend it on your hobbies? At the end of the day, money isn’t for hoarding.

Building Hobbies into the Budget

Determining the exact amount you can not only afford to spend on a hobby but also comfortably accommodate is a matter for each person to figure out. After all, there are a lot of factors to consider: maybe your whole family is involved in the same hobby or maybe your hobby has something to do with your work.

But there are a couple of questions to consider:

  • Are you in a comfortable financial position? If not, you don’t have to cut your hobby entirely, but it probably makes sense to keep your spending to a minimum.
  • Are you saving enough to meet your goals in a timely fashion? It’s a matter of personal priorities, of course, but if spending money on your hobbies prevents you from reaching goals like paying off debt or buying a house, then that could be a problem.
  • Do you have a solid rainy day fund, just in case? As much as we all want to have fun, making sure we take care of the necessities first is just good sense.
  • Are you overspending on the hobby? One of the easiest ways to jack up the costs of any hobby is by thinking you need the latest equipment. From cameras to golf clubs to bikes, the top-of-the-line stuff is marginally better but always way more expensive. The kicker is that these companies churn out what they call the latest and greatest every year too. Let’s think about this for a second. Is this year’s flagship product really that much better than last year’s and is that one in turn so much better than the one introduced the year before that? If money is a concern, think twice before you “upgrade” your gear next time you are tempted. Yes, buying something new is always fun, but will the new and shiny really make you enjoy your hobby more? The reality is that the purchase is just another “want” that will temporarily give you a high but permanently put you back on your road to financial freedom.

If your finances are in good shape, though, and you have some disposable income in your budget, there’s no reason not to fund your hobby. You may not be able to go sky-diving every weekend, but you may be able to go on a regular basis… or enjoy your own pursuits.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Alley K says:

    My husband and I are musicians. About 15 years ago, our hobby turned into a side hustle, and we were cranking along quite nicely until COVID and gas prices disturbed our groove. Still, we always tried to keep spending at a reasonable level by seeking out used instruments, amps, and other equipment at pawn shops, consignment stores, private sales, etc. My husband is still using his late father’s 1971 Fender Silverface tube amp, which is heavy as h*ll and showing its age, but still puts out great sound!

  • steveark says:

    It’s like the rest of life, it depends on your budget. As long as what you are spending is well within the discretionary funds available to you then having a three million dollar fishing boat, like one of my ex-bosses had, is not extravagant. He was a billionaire and that boat was a much smaller part of his net worth than my $20K bass boat is of mine. And while my boat is an insignificant cost to me at my stage of life, to a younger person just getting started on their financial independence journey it might well be ridiculously extravagant. Great comments by others, start small with any hobby and make sure your budget allows what you spend. The nice thing is you almost always start out being pretty bad at any new hobby, and that means you can get by with low grade equipment at first. If you stick with it and get better over time you can upgrade and your more experienced fellow hobbyists can give you great advice about making smart upgrades, often with used top of the line gear for a fraction of brand new costs. I still buy used tennis racquets sometimes for less than half the new price because I break them often enough I hate to pay top dollar. That’s not a humble brag, the new racquets are micro thin and play great but they will break if you look at them wrong.

    • David @ says:

      Great advice Steve. I especially like your suggestion to get used equipment.

      They are a fraction of the cost and you can often find almost brand new because there are so many people who keep changing equipment year after year.

  • marci357 says:

    I’m frugal in most areas, so I can afford my hobbies 🙂
    It’s a matter of trade-offs 🙂

  • Karen says:

    Another thing about hobbies is that all of them can be relatively economical, or they can be expensive. It’s really up to you. Photography was used as an example of an expensive hobby, it is one that I enjoy so i will expand on it. I have an entry level camera with a kit lens and inexpensive lighting equipment I had fun researching and hunting down. After the initial outlay of $2000 which will last me at least 10 years my hobby will average less than $5 a week.
    On the other hand I go to photography club and see all the “hobbyists” with the latest PROFESSIONAL cameras that they upgrade every 2 years, and then complain about how expensive the hobby is!
    I’ve tried out the expensive lenses, yes they produce a better image but it is only noticeable when enlarging to billboard size.
    So the trick is to keep it real.

  • Johnny says:

    Well if you consider saving money for down payments on rental properties and renting them out a hobby, then I spend anywhere from 20k to 50k per year on my hobby! 🙂

    If you can get a hobby that pays you back financially then you are in a good position.

    • David @ says:

      Haha good hobby you have there. Everyone will be in good shape if they start finding hobbies that pay them!

  • Miranda says:

    I think the key, as you mention, is to make sure that the hobby is in your budget. We do need to enjoy what life has to offer. But a hobby starts costing too much when it puts you in financial jeopardy.

  • Tyler says:

    I try never making purchases over $200 without taking some time to rationalize whether it’s worth it.

    Waiting 30 days before you make a purchase is a great and smart idea. Thanks for the read!

    • David @ says:

      Waiting is always a good idea. And since the spending is for a hobby that presumably isn’t making you any money, waiting is an even better idea.

  • David @ says:

    Hobbies are another excuse to spend IMO. Like biking for example, you can spend $200 once or $5,000 every year and probably get the same enjoyment. You always have a choice.

  • Cd Phi says:

    Well, hobbies are always fun to start and if you never try different hobbies, you’ll never know what you truly enjoy. Some people simply enjoy starting many different hobbies. For one thing, when I start a hobby I’ll maybe buy or borrow some of the equipment necessary either from friends or a place that rents it out. I never buy the top of the line equipment because who knows whether or not I’ll even continue the hobby.

  • Amanda says:

    I never would have thought about this if I hadn’t read your post. If you are on a budget, hobbies like running or biking may be for you. You only need to buy the equipment at the beginning and it lasts a long time. A lo-key hobby I like it knitting because one ball of yarn lasts forever. And what about reading? Library cards are free.

  • Someone says:

    $100 budget a month is reasonable for a hobby, however you might want to raise that budget if you are going to include going out to drinking or eating and vacations to “hobbies”.

    Some hobbies where you spend big amount of money at once like photography or computing or models should get a break. Sure paying $1000 at once hurts the wallet, but it is probably the same price a person who smokes or goes out drinking every friday pays a year as well.

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