Friday, September 30, 2011

Fixed Income Retirement-Affording Hobbies and Passions

One of the many concerns about entering the retirement zone has to do with lifestyle issues such as hobbies and travel.Those who have active hobbies wonder if they will still be able to enjoy their passions. Folks who have been dreaming about indulging in new interests may wonder-will that still be possible?  The short answer to both is yes.

Obviously there are a few hobbies out there that require a certain amount of disposable income (flying, boating, mountain climbing in the Himalayas come to mind).  For the rest of us, there are certainly ways to continue our passions without breaking the bank or becoming homeless. Some planning may be involved.  I am a quilter (quilt fabric alone averages 9 dollars per yard), I love to do gourmet cooking. My son a semi unemployed post-college student is passionate about golf, among other things.  We still manage to pursue these interests, and you can probably do the same, with a little forethought. I haven't included travel in this missive because I believe frugal travel in retirement is worth it's own article (if not two or three).

If you re just investigating a hobby/passion, wait to purchase all the tools of the hobby until you are committed.  Use cheaper equipment, rent, or borrow until you are SURE this is where your interest lies. I am one of those Renaissance types who knows a little about a lot of things (a Jeopardy contestant waiting to happen).  But I've only seriously invested cash in those few things that I believe will keep me interested years down the road.

If you have a more costly hobby now, remember that the freedom of retirement may allow you more cost flexibility. The cost of eighteen holes the links on a weekday afternoon is certainly less, for example, than Saturday morning

Buy the best tools that you can reasonably afford, and then work with what you have. In most hobbies, or interests the tools of the trade (sewing machines, golf clubs, knives, climbing equipment, racing bikes) are where the true cost lies.  This doesn't mean these items have to be new, or even the most expensive. They have to do the job and make you feel comfortable using them.  To use the golf club example again-my six foot six inch son grew about four inches in the space of two years. He required new, special height golf clubs Someone got a lovely pair of golf clubs sold through Craigslist, that probably lasted them forever (as he expects to happen to the new ones). Sewing machines that do quilting can run from a couple hundred up to five thousand dollars, but the lower priced ones work well and many things can be found used.

Keep the ancillary costs down.  This means once you've gotten that basic equipment, purchase additional supplies due to a serious need or want-and look at alternative methods.  I have, in midlife, decided to learn gardening. I could bring in truck loads of plants. Instead of chosen to grow from seed and clippings as much as possible, and fertilize with natural materials.  Obviously if I want to make scarves, I need yarn. I don't need a laundry basket full of yarn, however.  Again, consider alternative sources for these materials and supplies. I often get enough yarn from a thrift shop to make a scarf or hat. The second hand market is full of sporting good supplies, used books, and collectibles if you are a collector. And remember that stores make big bucks getting us to buy stuff for which we have absolutely no need- home improvement, golf and hobby stores are no exception.

Join a group of like minded people. In addition to sharing your passion, part of your conversations will be about where to get materials (when the restaurant store has a sale, for example) and where to partake of your interest cheaply (the best cheap golf courses, when William Sonoma has a free cooking class). The garden club in my town is holding a swap this week-for plants, clipping, pots and gardening supplies.

If you are looking for a new hobby, consider adding at least one low cost hobby to your repertoire.  Believe me, they exist.  Acting in community theater, hiking/Vollksmarching, running, writing, collecting non-antiques, naturalism, community activism, drawing, and team sports participation are just a few of the hobbies that are free save for a few start up costs. 

Also, consider adding a hobby that may improve your financial situation and/or your quality of life  Learning woodworking may not only be a passion, it may help you to improve your surroundings, or you may even make gifts.  I've decided to learn to can food. While this involved the one time purchase of a canner as well as jars and lids, I feel that it will save me money in the long run, as well as improve the quality of my family's food while controlling ingredients (and if next years garden improves, it may save me even more money).  Marathon running and biking improve your health.

Consider making gifts to offset some of the cost of your hobby. I'm not merely speaking about those crafty hobbies, mind you.  Gifted writers or genealogists can pen short family memories or humorous poems for cards or gifts.  Woodworkers can make gifts without being "artistic".  Most of my house is filled with photos rather than paintings and I would happily put a really good travel photo on my wall. Ideally my canning and cooking skills will allow me to give homemade sauces (barbecue and dessert), pickles and mojito jelly as gifts this year.

Pace yourself if you are adding new hobbies after retirement. Other wise you may end up with a houseful of stuff you don't use, no room to move, and feel overwhelmed.  Most of us have one or two major interests or passions and a few interests in which we "dabble".  In addition to being sure you have an interest before investing financially, be sure you have the passion and energy to maintain the hobby over the long haul. It's fine to experiment with many things-but keep your major emphasis on a few.

My last two thoughts on affordable and retirement hobbies are two. First, if you have a gift or skill consider using it to help others.  Most any hobby leads itself to volunteering, be it using woodworking to assist Habitat for Humanity, teaching golf to children, or making blankets for newborns or abandoned pets. Using your hobby to volunteer will bring it to a new level, I assure you.  My second thought is that many hobbies translate into streams of income. If you feel you need extra money or a part time job, consider using your hobby as a base. It will offset costs, and perhaps bring in income.  However, remember that once a hobby becomes "work" you sometimes have a different relationship. In my case I still love to quilt, for myself and others. However, there is a different element that comes in when quilting to sell (things like keeping track of the hours I spend, deciding on fair value and so on). At this point it is still a joy to me. If that changed, I would have change the work aspect of that hobby.


  1. This is a wonderful post about hobbies. I recall reading a wonderful list of hobbies on the web a couple of years ago. The one that made me laugh was "dumpster diving". Different strokes I guess.

    I like that you added the teacher others portion. Don't you think we learn the most when we are teaching someone else?


  2. Did you see this "Worlds Largest List of Hobbies at (


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