Do Cheap Hobbies Exist?

Q:  I love taking up new interests, but between specialized equipment and gear, training and membership fees, every hobby I'm considering costs a lot more than I can afford! Is there any way for me to enjoy my downtime without spending a bundle?

A:  If you feel like every hobby you pursue is prohibitively expensive, you're not alone. If fact, Americans spend an average of $5,000 a year on their hobbies. From skydiving to guitar lessons and everything in between, it can seem like every hobby will make you broke.

Luckily, though, this line of thinking is simply a myth.

With a bit of creativity and an open mind, you can find dozens of hobbies that will help you relax and expand your horizons without costing a bundle. Many won't cost anything at all!

If you have a fairly expensive hobby you'd like to hold onto, though, take a good look at how much of your monthly income it's costing you. Most financial experts recommend that your total monthly entertainment budget not exceed 10% of your take-home pay. Does your hobby put you over the top? If it does, make sure its worth the cost and not impacting your other essential needs.

You might also want to consider monetizing a hobby. If you're an avid coin collector, for instance, consider selling parts of your collection (or duplicates) on eBay; if you love writing, you can freelance in your spare time.

Ready to find a great new pastime that won't cost you much? Here are 10 fantastic and inexpensive hobbies to get you started.

1.) Hiking - The only thing standing between you and the local hiking trails is a pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes. After that one-time purchase, this hobby can be completely free! Get ready to clear your mind, feel the sunshine on your skin. You can also tune into your favorite songs or podcast while you hike or play an audiobook for the ultimate on-the-go entertainment.

2.) Cooking - Who doesn't enjoy puttering around the kitchen? With thousands of free tutorials and excellent recipes available online, there's no excuse not to tie on that kitchen apron and get to work. Cooking is creative and fun, and best of all, it has a delicious payoff!

3.) Volunteering - You might not consider this a hobby, but you can easily use your own interest to bring joy to others who are less fortunate. If you play an instrument, consider playing for events at the children's ward in the local hospital. Are you an artsy type? Volunteer to decorate the neighborhood soup kitchen or senior living home. Even if you're not doing something you specifically enjoy, giving back to the community is always a wonderful way to spend spare time.

4.) Learn Something New - Your college days may be ancient history, but that doesn't mean you can't broaden your knowledge in areas that interest you. Are you a science geek? Pick a specific topic and read up on it until you're a genuine expert of the subject.

Love history? You can find loads of documentaries on virtually any time period online or at your local public library. You can also choose to learn a new language, skill, or read up on the latest psychological studies. It never hurts to learn something new!

5.) Gardening - Get out those green thumbs! All it takes to jump start this hobby is an inexpensive packet of seeds, some basic gardening tools, fertilizer and soil. You can read up on gardening, watch how-to videos on YouTube or ask a knowledgeable friend for tips and suggestions.

6.) Reading - There's nothing quite like downtime spent flipping through the pages of a thick, engaging novel - and it doesn't have to cost a penny! Hit the local library for recent releases or borrow books from a friend. Then curl up on the sofa with your coziest afghan and a huge mug of coffee to spend hours making friends with a cast of unforgettable characters and losing yourself in an enthralling plot.

7.) Camping - The great outdoors is calling! Camping is a fantastic way to spend time doing something different without spending a lot of money. If you're a completely new camper, you'll need to spring for basic equipment, but that one-time expense should run you $100 or less. After that, it's just paying to use campsites and bring along food and supplies. To keep the costs even lower, try camping out in your own backyard!

8.) Yoga - You don't need to join a costly class to learn the secrets of mind-and-body harmony; you can watch clear, informative tutorials on YouTube. After springing for a mat, this hobby won't cost you anything at all.

9.) Scrapbooking - Scrapbooking is a great way to use your creativity, capture special occasions and have fun all at once. Supplies are fairly cheap and you can get started with material scraps and ribbons you have lying around the house. When you're done, you'll have a beautiful book of memories to cherish.

10.) Writing - Creative writing of any kind is a wonderful, cost-free outlet. You can write poetry, any genre of prose, or try your hand at writing a children's book. Look for free writing clubs in your neighborhood and online forums you can join to gain inspiration and valuable feedback. You can even start your own blog. You never know - the next bestseller may have your name on it!