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What the Olympics Can Teach Us About Expensive Hobbies

in Do What You Love, Joan's Posts, Rants

Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

Look, I’m a gold medalist!

It’s not quite the Olympics – but that photo is from last year’s Keystone State Games, Pennsylvania’s version of an athletic championship. I’m competing in this year’s games less than a week from today, and it got me thinking.

In my free time, I do one of two things. I practice tae kwon do, and I scrapbook. (And for good measure, I often scrapbook tae kwon do photos…)

Anyway, thinking about it this week, I realized: I have some really expensive hobbies.

Since I began studying tae kwon do a little under three years ago, I’ve probably invested more than $4,000 in it. Add in my daughter’s study, and that goes up to closer to $6,000.

And I’m sure I’ve spent more than $1,500 on my scrapbooking in the past seven years, making it no slouch in the “costly hobby” race, either.

I know I’m not alone – in fact, one of the first personal finance posts I remember reading when we started our debt-payoff journey was this one from J.D. Roth on Get Rich Slowly about his comic-book collection.

Maybe you’re gasping in horror right now – but maybe you’re nodding in understanding. As I talked to friends over the past week about this concept, almost everyone had a “thing.”

  • For some people, it was a collection.
  • For others, a sport.
  • Still others, some type of travel or “experience collection.”
  • A lot of friends (OK, mostly ladies) said various crafts or other artistic hobbies bust their budget.

This weekend, we’ve gotten really involved in watching the Olympics. My daughter is fascinated by the athletes and the countries - and I’m fascinated by the passion and energy the competitors devote to their sport.

I am realizing more and more how much it costs the athletes and their families – and not just financially. As I think about that, I’ve learned a few things that help me evaluate my own costly hobbies.

1. If you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll find the money.

I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of stories about parents who sell their homes to pay for their children’s Olympic training.

On a smaller scale, there are people at our tae kwon do school who routinely clean the bathrooms and mop the floors to help offset the cost of their lessons.

One of my friends does a few side hustles throughout the year to fund the annual scrapbooking weekend we all attend.

When you’re passionate about something, you’re willing to make choices to uphold that. Yes, I could have paid off $7,500 more in debt by now if I wasn’t involved in scrapbooking and tae kwon do. I’m pleased with the choices I’ve made, but I recognize they’re not for everyone.

That said, I’m not passionate enough to sell my house and move to Korea to train with some world-renowned martial-arts masters.

While I humbly submit that I’m not half bad at tae kwon do, I’m an almost-30-year-old mom. I’m not an Olympic hopeful, and it wasn’t even in the budget for me to attend the national championships this year, even after qualifying.

So while I’m willing to put what seems like a significant amount of money into my training, I try to balance that cost with a dose of reality! What makes the most sense is for me to assume I’ll max out at the state and national championship level in tae kwon do, so I have no desire to do Olympic-level financial stuff like taking out a second mortgage.

That’s not limiting myself – it’s making a choice based on the LEVEL of my passion and expertise.

Your challenge: Take a look at your own expensive interest or hobby. Figure out how much of your “work” goes toward it, and compare that with your passion level.

For instance, if you’re spending a week’s salary every month on a hobby, but you wouldn’t say you’re more than moderately interested in it, well, that might indicate a problem.

What about the other issue – if you’re passionate about a pastime but feel like you’re lacking funds to pursue it? That’s when I strongly recommend a side hustle. I find that when you’re truly excited about what you want that money for, it doesn’t seem like as much of an effort to do the work to get it!

2. If you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll find the time.

Sometimes for years in advance, the Olympic athletes are practicing as many as 10 to 12 hours a DAY.

On a good week, I might spend six or seven hours altogether in the tae kwon do gym.

This weekend, a group of us spent more than 10 hours helping my best friend move – and we all sat down to work on our scrapbooking projects together for four hours afterward.

We shared this quote on the Man Vs. Debt Facebook page to widespread approval a couple of weeks ago:

If you really want to do something, you will find a way. If you don’t, you will find an excuse.

I could have been too tired to scrapbook. In fact, I was pretty punchy. But I’m in the middle of a project I really want to finish.

If we hadn’t had our gathering, it’s not even that I would have come home and gone right to bed. I’d have probably wasted three of the four hours playing around on Facebook. I simply chose to use my time on one of my favorite hobbies instead of blowing it.

You know exactly what I’m talking about, right? We all have things we say we want to do – and at the end of the day, the week, the month, the year, how far are you toward those goals? Even if you’ve made progress, do you sometimes look back at the end of the day and wonder how you spent that time?

I dare you to watch any one of the Olympic athletes and think about whether they have to ask themselves that question!

Your challenge: Really ponder this: What do you MOST want to accomplish outside of your work this year? Is it a crafting project, a destination to visit, a particular sporting feat, an acquisition for a collection?

Now think about this: How do you MOST OFTEN waste time? Is it surfing Facebook or Twitter? Watching that NCIS rerun marathon for the fifth time this month? Wandering around the mall?

This week, make a commitment to “time swap” those two things. Next time you sit down intending to watch TV, commit to doing 15 minutes of practice or research or crafting instead.

3. If you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll find the mental strength.

In my lifetime, there’s one Olympic moment I remember more than any other.

I don’t think most people can really understand the mental strength it must have taken Kerri Strug to run, vault, twist and land on an already injured ankle in that 1996 competition. We talk about the physical way in which that was taxing, but try to get in her head as she’s doing it.

I like to think I’m a pretty tough chick – but I can’t put myself in her place.

Experts said afterward that she must have known she could be doing permanent damage to her body. While I obviously can’t say for sure if that’s true, if so, I can sympathize – in college, I gave up playing tennis, a sport I enjoyed, in all but the most casual way – after being warned about the damage I’d already done to my knees.

I liked tennis – but I didn’t love it. Not enough to increase the likelihood of knee surgery, and not enough to suffer through the pain after a tough match.

Tae kwon do is different. I’m fortunate enough to practice on thick mats – and to have instructors who are understanding when my knees aren’t holding up to a particular exercise. That said, many of my tournaments are held on solid concrete – and I’ve certainly given my knees a beating in order to participate.

Physical hobbies – sports and so on – make an obvious example of dedication, but it’s no less present in other hobbies. The funny thing about things you do for fun is that they can sometimes feel like an awful lot of work.

Some days, I look at the box of family photos I’m trying to scrapbook and think, “They can sit a shoebox for the next decade.”

I have a friend who, along with her husband, is trying to ride every roller coaster in North America. Some days, I know she thinks, “Man, just once I’d love to plan our vacation without having to consider what coasters are along the way.”

If you don’t love what you’re doing, it’s hard to stay motivated. I’ve talked about that in the context of debt repayment – if you don’t have a good “why,” it’s so easy to get derailed. On the other hand, when your “why” gets big enough, you suddenly realize the power you have to overcome obstacles.

Your mental strength is the truest measure of your passion. If you can say to yourself, “Yes, I like this enough to sacrifice XYZ” – whether that sacrifice is in the form of pain in your knees or a few less hours of sleep or a few more hours worked at a part time job - that’s passion.

Your challenge: Think back to the thing you most want to accomplish outside of work this year that we talked about above. I want you to have, written down and visible, a commitment to WHY you want to do that.

I want to finish scrapbooking my mother’s family album (her pictures from childhood and from HER parents) THIS YEAR. My mom is in pretty good health, but she is 77. It’s important to me that I use the time I have to get her memories written down to preserve them for my daughter and, hopefully, HER future children.

That’s a “big WHY.” When I look at it that way, I actually realize I want to prioritize this project above my tae kwon do advancement, even though I could be less than a year away from my first-degree black belt. But I know the black belt can happen two or three years from now if it needs to.

You’ll be amazed at the difference writing down your “why” will make. Use that written-out “why” to keep your head in the game – even when it’s hard. I might kind of want to spend tomorrow evening vegging out in front of the TV with my mom – but I think I’ll ask her if she’d sort some pictures with me at the same time.

4. If you’re NOT passionate about what you do, don’t feel you have to keep going.

This is sort of the hobby equivalent of “don’t throw good money after bad.” Every year, the athletes who’ve trained for the Olympics but get cut in the trials have to make a decision: Try again in four more years, or throw in the towel?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer to that question, but I believe there IS one wrong mindset with which to approach it.

Imagine this. You’ve invested a bunch of money, a bunch of time, a bunch of mental strength into something. You’ve bought all the gadgets and put in hours of work and made all sorts of sacrifices. And you realize one day that you don’t enjoy it at all any more.

I’m not talking about those days when you’re kind of “meh” and you need to rely on your mental strength and your big why to get you rolling again. I’m talking about the time when you realize, “You know what? I’ve changed, and this pastime just doesn’t bring me joy now.”

So there you are. Maybe it’s only been a few weeks or months, but maybe it’s been years – or decades. You’ve collected coins from around the world, and you just don’t care about them at all.

If you try to argue that you “should” keep up with a hobby solely because of how far you’ve already come, I think that’s a dangerous mindset – a fatalistic one.

“Well, I’ve already spent $6,000 on rare postage stamps. If I quit now, all that money was wasted.”

I’m opposed to this mindset – because IF you enjoyed building the collection in the past, then the money you spent at that time was probably well worth it.

When I was in elementary school, I loved riding my bicycle. I would ride for HOURS and HOURS. I saved up my own money and bought a series of bikes and bike accessories. I don’t ride any more at all – don’t even have a bike – but I enjoyed the time I spent on that, my first hobby.

Was that money wasted? I feel like it’s intuitively obvious that it wasn’t, but as adults, we somehow hold ourselves to a different standard. I’m not suggesting you spend $6,000 tomorrow on a hobby, then quit next week. But if something has served you well for many years, but isn’t a good fit any more, there’s nothing wrong with letting it go, the same way I parted ways with my pink-and-purple bicycle!

Your challenge: I don’t care if you have $2,000 in supplies from a former hobby sitting untouched for years in your basement. Honest. We won’t think badly of you.

But if you don’t love a particular pastime any more, your job this year is to sell anything related to it that you’re willing to part with and stop spending money and time on it – then find something you DO love.

For me, it wasn’t super-hard to give up tennis – or making beaded jewelry. I dabbled in both, and spent a decent amount of money, but when I realized that scrapbooking and martial arts were my true passions, I sold the “crap” that went along with both of my earlier hobbies.

This freed up all sorts of stuff – space in my home, money in my pocket, mental energy (no more feeling “guilty” that I wasn’t making yet more earrings in my spare time!) It also gave me the freedom to spend more time on the hobbies I do enjoy most.

The thing I love most about Man Vs. Debt is that it’s built around a threefold approach.

It’s not “Sell your crap and pay off your debt because it’s the right thing to do.”

Our mission is, expanded out a little bit, “Sell your crap, pay off your debt and, by so doing, give yourself flexibility to DO WHAT YOU LOVE.”

How well are you living up to that?? At a bronze-medal level? Silver? Maybe even gold?

Be willing to go the distance for whatever it is you love the most.

It’s worth it.

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Clayton | frugal habits July 31, 2012 at 9:30 AM

I love the ‘time swap’ idea for completing a goal you want to accomplish. I believe all of us have ‘wasted time’ we can swap for something more valuable, and certainly time we could spend completing a goal.

I’ve been putting off a certification exam I need to take for work, because I haven’t taken the time to study. I plan to do a ‘time swap’ in order to make this happen. (although I’m so busy I’m swapping sleep for studying :))

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 10:22 AM

I like sleep – but I like your plan as a short-term way to focus on getting what you want to get accomplished done! :) Good luck!

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Bilgefisher July 31, 2012 at 9:42 AM

Joan,

Great post. Without the WHY we merely attend life. With the WHY, we participate. The other benefit of your scrap booking is looking at how you have participated in life. That’s a very good thing.

With that in mind, you might enjoy making a vision board. A collage of your goals you wish to accomplish in life. Make it big (poster big) and put it where you can enjoy seeing what you will accomplish. I have known others to go back and post their real pictures over the top of their vision board dreams upon accomplishment. My vision board (AKA bucket list) is right above my computer.

Jason

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Would you believe I have a vision book? I used to do goal posters – a habit I picked up at a part-time job, believe it or not – but I combined mine with a love of scrapbooking and collage and now have a series of books (I’m on the third) that I use to visually represent my goals, and I look at them at least weekly!!

I think the idea of defining your vision visually is an AMAZING idea. Hmm… future post topic idea… want to share yours? :)

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Jenny July 31, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Ah, the Mary Kay Dream Book, right?
Personally I like creating a folder on my computer where I can compile all relevant research and documents digitally. I think in such a scatter-brained pattern that works much better for me.
That way, too, when the time comes to use them I can print them; store them in Google docs, a flash drive, or other portable device for reference.
I tried using a travel map with digital pins for my travel goals – but I got carried away and pinned just about everywhere, so that didn’t work as well.

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Bilgefisher July 31, 2012 at 12:07 PM

To funny. I should have guessed you would have more than just a poster. Reviewing them weekly is a tremendous habit to have.

That would be a good topic.

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Kim' Fitness Journey August 7, 2012 at 4:00 PM

I’m working on my dream board right now! My husband is a sailor and we want him to be able to be on shore full time. We gave to save 50K to be able to afford to send him back to school. I also am working on losing 121 pounds. Both of these things are HUGE goals in our lives. We have combining those goals by starting a fitness business. It hold me accountable for my weightloss progress and helps us finance our financial goal. I have had to make some serious time swap to make it happen. But seriously, who really needs TV time?

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Joan August 9, 2012 at 9:29 AM

Kim, that is AWESOME!! We say a lot of the time that when the “WHY” is big enough, that’s when you take action, and your story is a great example of that.

Keep at it – and keep us posted!

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Josh @ Live Well Simply July 31, 2012 at 9:53 AM

If money was the reason for a participant to be in the Olympics, they’d have given up long before the gold medal. Passion goes a long way and the money just follows the passion.

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 10:22 AM

I don’t think they’re in it to GET money – but it sure costs a lot of money – and you’re exactly right, that’s due to passion!!

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Jenny July 31, 2012 at 10:05 AM

This is a very timely post for me.

It addresses a lot of exactly what I’ve been thinking in planning today; at the same time as it challenges me to address things I don’t want to admit to.

Not only that; but my left ankle is sprained and hampering some of my plans.

As I sit and think about my ‘why,’ sometimes, it’s just ‘because I can,’ and I wonder if that will be enough. But I also realize how many times in the past ‘because I can’ and I’ve set my mind to it HAS been enough for me. I also realize that some of my plans become my why. Why do I need more money? Because of Plan C. How will I get more money? With Plan B which will help lead to Plan C. It’s all a big puzzle for me to piece together.

Though Plan train to run a Marathon is way on the back burner now while I figure out this stupid ankle. Other plans are forming instead, though.

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 10:21 AM

The great thing about goals like you running a marathon or me getting my black belt is that while you don’t want to put them off indefinitely, they CAN be put on the back burner for a season when it makes sense! I hope your ankle feels better soon – and I can’t wait to see what other goals you reach in the meantime!

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Jenny July 31, 2012 at 10:28 AM

Thanks! :-)

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Gary Arndt July 31, 2012 at 10:08 AM

I have one of the world’s largest collection of National Geographic Magazines. You don’t even want to know how much it has cost me.

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Do you love it? My daughter would – she is a devoted NG fan; we even had to visit their headquarters while on vacation so that she could get her photo taken there :)

I say if you love it – and you enjoy having them – that’s awesome!

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Simone July 31, 2012 at 11:27 AM

I enjoyed this post a lot. I have to admit I choked on my coffee when I read about the parents selling their house. As the mother of a relatively talented gymnast I just want to hide under my bed when I think about how expensive the sport can get. That being said, I never question her dedication and passion but am constantly checking mine. Someone else’s passion – no matter how much I love and cherish the person – is just that. It’s someone else’s passion that might require all my time and energy to make happen. I’ll do it, but man, I think that’s a level of sacrificing for a kid that I did not prepare myself for in advance. But I signed up for the kid, so if the kid is good, I sign up for that, too. You’re right – we’ll find the money if it means knocking over liquor stores. LOL Thanks for a great post.

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Simone, thanks for an incredible insight – you hit on a major facet that I didn’t touch on at all, which is the personal sacrifices you AND OTHERS make when you’re passionate about something. I often give up nights with friends to practice tae kwon do – but my husband does too, and it’s not HIS passion. That’s a major point.

Also, we’re pretending we totally didn’t hear anything about that liquor store. Not at all. ;-)

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Eric July 31, 2012 at 12:05 PM

This is a tough topic to tackle, especially using the Olympics as an example. I used to swim competitively and knew people (not personally) that did make it just short of the Olympics and, having missed the cut, had to reevaluate their priorities. It’s a huge time and money suck (especially at a young age – many of these kids miss growing up) and most Olympic sports don’t have a professional component (such as Basketball), so you can’t really make money in related ways to support it if you don’t make it all the way to the .00001%

I tried to address this topic in my blog, giving examples of how some popular hobbies could be done for cheaper. I like how you wrote about giving up your hobby. That is also a topic I touched on because I felt like other bloggers in similar posts overlooked it. But I feel like I need to defer to Ramit Sethi on this one: “…spend extravagantly on the things you love…but you have to cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.” I think the key to making that work with hobbies, is to reevaluate it every year to make sure it’s still what you love.

BTW, $7500 on a hobby is nothing, so don’t feel guilty. Even simple things like music, golf and biking can easily surpass this. I’ve easily spent over $10,000 on music, but I try to balance that with an occasional paid gig. It all works out when it’s what you love.

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Eric, that’s a very good point – and one that echoes a thought I got (from our tae kwon do school owner, actually!) when I shared this on Facebook. He said, you know, it’s REALLY relative what you consider expensive. Golf, boating, RVing… those are hobbies that are easily in the tens of thousands of dollars in a YEAR, let alone what they add up to over time!

I think the way that would have been more accurate would’ve been for me to say they’re “expensive hobbies AS COMPARED TO THE REST OF MY BUDGET.” So expensive for me is probably not expensive at all to a lot people – and probably budget-shatteringly impossible to others!

Definitely an interesting perspective. I have to say, I’m glad I never got into golf. I wanted to – but I can’t even imagine the time and money I’d have put into it!

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Maria July 31, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Hi Joan,

You seem like a sweet person, and I am glad you are making strides against your debt. There is a place for moderation, and life cannot and should not stop because of debt. However, your recent posts about vacations, expensive hobbies, and high quality clothes have not helped motivate me in my family’s efforts to eliminate roughly $18,000 in credit card debt. I too struggle with these exact same issues. But somehow your scaled back version is what I am stretching to make remotely possible. It is a hopeless feeling, comparing the two. Please write more about how you actually get out of debt.

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 10:14 PM

Maria, I know exactly where you’re coming from – and believe it or not, these things ARE how I get out of debt!

To use the posts you mention as examples: I spend so much less on clothes now that I buy high-quality ones and plan out my purchases, than I used to. (By, honestly, probably close to $1,000 a year or more.) I spend less on hobbies by focusing only on the ones I do love, again to the tune of probably more than $1,000 that I used to “waste” per year. Our “vacation” this year was literally less than a quarter of the cost of some vacations we took in the past – and we paid for it in cash instead of credit.

Then there are cases like last week’s post, where I saved hundreds of dollars every year on my car and homeowner’s insurance (http://manvsdebt.com/save-money-on-insurance/) – and ALL of these are exactly how I’m getting out of debt. I’m taking the money we used to waste, and it was a scary-lot of it, and putting it toward our debt.

Add that to trying to bring in extra money via our side hustles (http://manvsdebt.com/make-money-with-side-hustles/), and unfortunately, our secret is there isn’t any big secret. We try to evaluate all our expense categories, get rid of what doesn’t work, keep what does, and put any found money from so doing toward our debt!

That said – I appreciate the need for the fundamentals a LOT – because they’re what got us to the point we’re at now, with more than $25,000 of almost $90K in debt paid down. Expect some posts in the coming weeks on our emergency fund, our grocery budget and some other categories that probably seem more practical at a base level to paying down debt! In our case, they weren’t areas we slashed hugely like we did on hobbies and clothes and travel, but they’re incredibly important and I will do my best to do them justice!

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Mr Bob July 31, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Joan, great article, I’m going to nitpick about Tae Kwon Do being expensive though! I guess your idea of being expensive is pretty relative. Someone who’s really into boating (gas, maintenance) or golf (greens fees, equipment), or muscle cars would probely laugh at your dollar figure for the amount of time you have been into your activity. I guess what I’m saying is, it might seem like a large lump sum, but it should be a really good value considering that’s more than a few years worth of lessons and mat time.
A really good Martial Arts Practitioner should apply the lessons learned on the mat to their life outside the mat. For me the lessons I learned where respect, hard work, dedication, goal setting, plus the obvious physical and self defense lessons. I remember getting a bill from my Master when I was 17 years old (1990) for something like $1200. I paid for my own lessons. Because of these Martial Arts lessons I learned, I was routinely the hardest worker and the highest paid person in my various positions through my career. That $1200 investment (the Black Belt Club) has paid for itself 100 times over. Anyway, great article!

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Greg@ClubThrifty July 31, 2012 at 2:41 PM

I used to have a lot of hobbies. I loved acting. I loved writing. I loved going to sporting events, movies, theatre, playing poker, getting drunk in bars…the list goes on and on. That was back in the day, when I was semi-cool.

Now, I’m old and lame. I like it that way, and so does my pocket book. Now, my hobbies include spending less than $20/month writing on my blog and $25/year on fantasy football with my friends. I know, I’m a baller.

“If you try to argue that you “should” keep up with a hobby solely because of how far you’ve already come, I think that’s a dangerous mindset – a fatalistic one.
‘Well, I’ve already spent $6,000 on rare postage stamps. If I quit now, all that money was wasted.’
I’m opposed to this mindset – because IF you enjoyed building the collection in the past, then the money you spent at that time was probably well worth it.”

When I played a lot of cards, we used to call this “chasing your money” – which means continuing to play simply to win back the money that they already lost. A gambler who wants to make money should never ever ever chase chase their money. You take more unnecessary risks, tighten up, and begin playing worse than you played before.

As you noted, the same is true if you are continuing with a hobby just because you’ve spent so much time and money on it. You are doing yourself any favors, either financially or in terms of time commitment. However, if you love it, by all means go for it – as long as you can afford it.

Now that I’ve rambled on, I’m just going to hit “Submit” for this comment before I confuse myself even more:)

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 10:17 PM

I’m glad you got where I was going with that, Greg! It’s definitely tempting – and when I used to play slots (there’s a post for another day…) I was one who would want to “win it back” when I was losing. You can guess how well THAT worked…

My husband has a great appreciation for your ballin’ hobbies. His is finding old pieces of paper (ephemera) in scrap bins or in huge boxes for a dollar at estate sales and blogging about it. Not expensive by any means – except in terms of time!! :)

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Kathleen @ Frugal Portland July 31, 2012 at 4:22 PM

I like this post, but I don’t think that you got there via the Olympics — what I think the Olympics teaches us about finance is this: if you’re not good enough to win, you should find something else to do with your time. But believe that you can win, try to win, go and do something big, and when you get home, reevaluate. If you’re past 30 and you got 12th place, you’re probably ready for your next adventure.

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 10:19 PM

Kathleen, that’s a hard call! Almost certainly true if you’re talking about the Olympics itself – but when you bring it down to a personal level…

I can definitely say I wouldn’t sink a ton of money into a hobby I was terrible at. That said, I sure do love doing some things I’m never going to be better than “slightly above average” at, but I wouldn’t give them up for the world. (The golf courses of the world would be awfully barren if people took this advice, though!)

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Cassi July 31, 2012 at 7:01 PM

I like this post an I feel like I can relate in some ways. Personally, I am a person who is either very passionate to the point of obsession, or I don’t care and have zero motivation. I haven’t strayed far from my passions though. I ADORE karate and dance. I would do them all day if I could, and I like you, have to deal with an ingury. (Except, I would still be dancing and doing karate if I was allowed to >.<) When I am better, I will not let money stop me, because I love it so much.

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 10:21 PM

Cassi, that’s just it – if you really love it, that’s EXACTLY what you should be doing with any time you have! I’m the same way, though; I tend to either be all in on something, or I just don’t care to do it at all any more. I’m not really a “dabbler,” but I have some friends whose favorite hobby seems to be taking up new hobbies, and they love it!

Who knows, maybe someday we’ll meet up in martial arts competition! :)

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Charlotte @ Everything Finance July 31, 2012 at 9:04 PM

Isn’t that the way we do everything in life…we make time for the things we love. When it comes to our children, we scarifice whatever we have to for them to have a better life.

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 10:23 PM

Isn’t that exactly it, Charlotte? I’ll tell you what, that’s one thing I have to add. My daughter does NOT have any particularly costly hobbies in terms of time or money (unless you count rescuing stray cats, which sure has added up over time!) … but if she did, I’m almost positive I’d make the hard choice to sacrifice one of MY passions to help fund hers!

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Debt Free Teen July 31, 2012 at 9:14 PM

I have a pretty inexpensive hobby-surfing but my brother did Tae Kwon Do and got his black belt- it was quite expensive! I’ll stick with surfing even though the gas is a bit expensive!
Chase

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Joan July 31, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Chase, surfing is one sport I hadn’t thought of when I was thinking about costs – I’m surprised to hear it’s relatively inexpensive in comparison to some others; I guess I had made the assumption it would be pricey! (Of course, since I live in Pennsylvania… it might be a bit pricier for me!) ;-)

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Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager August 1, 2012 at 10:51 AM

I’m trying to get my act together and make some money off my beer brewing hobby. I’d give myself 4th place right now, so close to medaling but not there just yet.

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Joan August 1, 2012 at 9:33 PM

Jenna, at least you’re “on the field” as it were! Seriously, that sounds like a cool hobby. If I drank beer I know I’d drink yours :)

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Brooksette August 1, 2012 at 12:20 PM

“I simply chose to use my time on one of my favorite hobbies instead of blowing it.”

This line really speaks to me. My hobby is knitting (and crocheting actually) and I’m pretty slow at it, so it can take me awhile to finish a project. There are so many projects that I start, then set aside to … fool around online or watch TV. *eye roll* You just kinda get lazy and think you’ll get around to it later.

My second-favourite site, Ravelry, holds knitting/crocheting/spinning competitions to coincide with the Olympics. The idea is to set a goal and complete it between the opening and closing ceremonies. This is a fabulous way to fall in love with your craft again, and to really work towards an accomplishment.

Whatever your hobby, the Olympics can be a great springboard for rediscovering your passion for it … or for discovering it’s time to find a different passion.

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Joan August 1, 2012 at 9:34 PM

Brooksette, EXACTLY. I think it is incredibly inspiring to watch people doing what they most love, and the Olympics is a good chance to do just that. When you see that passion, it really makes you want to capture your own dreams, you know? (I’m glad that’s not just me!)

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Dana Leavy-Detrick August 1, 2012 at 4:44 PM

This is absolutely true. And working for yourself makes it equally easy and impossible to dedicate time, space and money to pursue your interests and various creative endeavors. I joined a communcal artists’ studio to work on illustration and design work outside of my consulting work (and escape my desk). I figured if I was paying for the space, I’d prioritize using it. And you’re right – if it’s something that’s important to you, you WILL find the time/money/energy to do it, and fit it into your life. Creating space for those endeavors – mentally and physically – is key.

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Joan August 1, 2012 at 9:35 PM

Dana, that is a GREAT point! I think building a business and/or career is great – but I also think that it’s easy, when you’re really in the trenches doing that, to get tunnel vision. I used to have an affirmation that was “I grow stronger as I create,” and I believe that I’m better at all the things I do when I am doing more than one thing, if that makes sense?

Good for you for joining that studio – and for prioritizing your passions as well as your business!

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Kyle August 3, 2012 at 12:49 PM

This is a great point and your passion for hobbies really does reflect how successful you are at it. It doesn’t matter if it’s an Olympic sport or if you are working on your passion. The people that tend to be the most successful are the ones that dedicate themselves to it. Money can get you only so far, passion takes you the entire journey!

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Joan August 5, 2012 at 2:55 PM

DEFINITELY, Kyle! I see a lot of people who “could” be very good if not great at things, but they’re not passionate about it, and what skill they have soon fades. By the same token, I’ve seen people who didn’t start out as “naturals” at a particular hobby and they go on to greatness thanks to dedication and passion. I won’t say that I don’t think some innate talent is required for top-level performance, but I also think it’s not the most important factor by far!

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Ida August 4, 2012 at 6:54 AM

Excellent article & view point!

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Joan August 5, 2012 at 2:56 PM

Thanks, Ida!

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Hannah August 4, 2012 at 12:26 PM

This was a great post Joan. When I was paying off my own debts it was my passion for travel that kept me going. Working over 80 hours a week was like torture, but every day I would wake up, see the world map above my bed, and find the strength to push on. It was always a struggle, but it was also ALWAYS worth it. Now I have been debt free for a year and the dream that got me here is about to be realised. Dreams and passions are priceless tools; they will keep you going, even when you can’t see the path ahead, so enjoy every moment of yours :)

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Joan August 5, 2012 at 2:56 PM

Hannah, I was hoping you’d see this post – and weigh in! You are someone who has really lived the dream of sacrificing to get where you want to be and to follow your passion, for sure!

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Debt Killer August 5, 2012 at 1:42 PM

I took up physical exercise a number of years ago because I thought it was a relatively inexpensive hobby. And while the health and well-being benefits are priceless, it does impact my wallet. Gym memberships, supplements, vitamins, etc. It all adds up. Over the last 24 months, I’ve gotten into running races, 5K’s, 10K’,s 15K’s, mud runs, obstacle course races, etc. The average fee for a 5K is around $25-$30. Some of the mud runs cost over $100 to register. Doing 5-6 of these events per year (plus adding in the cost of travel, etc.), can easily exceed $1,000/year. What I thought was a cheap hobby, is in fact, not cheap at all.

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Joan August 5, 2012 at 6:00 PM

It’s funny how that works, isn’t it!!

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TB at BlueCollarWorkman August 8, 2012 at 11:53 AM

I remember that Kerri Strug thing, that was crazy!

My girls so far are intrested in sports that aren’t too expensive. I do have buddies who have kids interested in more expensive sports and I feel bad for them. It’s tough, really tough. Pay for food on the table or expensive ice skating lessons? Glad my wife and I don’t have to deal with that right now! Swimming at the Y, softball in the village league… cheap and fun, and no serious Olympics aspirations. Yet.

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Joan August 9, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Hey, you never know, but I’m glad you’re keeping it real, TB! Save the hard choices for other areas, right? :)

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John August 8, 2012 at 9:26 PM

That’s so true, that if you are passionate about something you’ll find both the money and the time to do it. One thing about the money part… make sure it’s in the budget! No impulse purchases now! :D

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Joan August 9, 2012 at 9:31 AM

What, John, you mean I didn’t really NEED a 15th set of nunchucks because they matched my uniform that day? ;-)

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J.J. August 16, 2012 at 4:56 PM

When my husband and I lost everything three years ago and found ourselves drowning in debt, the first step was to determine what “vices” we had. It was a negative way to brand expensive hobbies, but a blend of realism and cynicism was the kick in the butt we needed to make some serious lifestyle changes.

You hit the nail on the head by referring to the “collection” scenario. My hubby is a gadget junkie and ham radio enthusiast, so his splurges tend to be tangible and create household clutter. However, I’ve always been a minimalist with a whiff of disdain for consumerism, but you’re the first blogger to give my expensive hobby a name: I “collect experiences”! I would negatively judge my partner for spending a couple hundred bucks on a new electronic item, but I had no qualms about blowing two grand on a vacation since it would “be such a great experience!”, “we both need it!”, and “it will create so many awesome memories!”.

Emotionally accepting my hobby of collecting experiences as just that- a hobby- instead of quantifying it as a “necessity for my sanity” was a huge step. It was far more psychologically liberating than I could have ever anticipated. This is the first year in my adult life (I’m turning 30 in October and have been independent since 18) that I haven’t gone out of state for a leisure trip- but I don’t miss it. Why? Because the money that would have gone towards airfare and destination expenses is instead being funneled into paying off debt and saving up for a modest home purchase next year.

Thanks for providing such a solid perspective on an issue that I suspect is unique to the American lifestyle. :-)

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Joan August 19, 2012 at 9:27 PM

J.J., thank you – what an invaluable perspective on the value OF perspective, let me just tell you! I think that’s exactly it – there is definitely a hierarchy in most people’s minds on the cost and value of certain things. I once had a friend who had a 2-Starbucks-a-day “hobby” make fun of my tae kwon do practice; over a year, though, she spent MORE than I did, and I’d argue I’ve got a bit more to show for it!! ;-)

We are also almost-birthday-twins; I turn 30 in November and am looking forward to it!

I hope you’ll keep in touch as you and your husband keep up the journey. Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

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Hugh Myron January 31, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Hi Joan,

I just wanted to say congrats for your gold medal in the special olympics. I’m sure your family is proud!

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