The LITC Series: How To Hone In On Your Hobbies

The Little Intern That Could

Hello again! I’m happy to be back to talk about the very first topic of the Little Intern That Could Series: Hobbies.

I love backpacking, and consider it to be one of my favorite hobbies. When I first started out, I usually rented or borrowed a backpack for trips. Once, I even used an old school backpack with socks shoved under the shoulder straps as padding and a leather belt rigged to act as a waist strap. It worked well enough, but I looked like DIY gone very wrong – hiker edition.

So when I finally saved enough to buy a fully functional backpack of my own to use on trips, I was beyond excited. But even still, almost immediately after ripping off the tags on my new purchase, I felt compelled to fill it to the brim with other gadgets. Mostly unnecessary things like a spice kit, a pair of snowshoes…. a protective donut case.

The wants continued to escalate, and soon enough I realized that if I bought every single ‘extra’, I wouldn’t be left with any money to pay for the essentials – like park fees and camping permits. Sure, I’d be able to camp comfortably in the middle of my bedroom floor – but that wasn’t wasn’t really what I was looking for in the hobby.

There will always be a reason or excuse to make yet another purchase to support an activity or contribute to a collection. Whether you feel like you need it, deserve it or it just simply looks cooler – when it comes to hobbies, one want can lead quickly to another.

So in honor of warmer weather and boosted extracurriculars, let’s take a look at some tips on how to avoid letting your extracurricular interests take over your extra income:

Value Functionality Over Aesthetics

One of the easiest ways to overspend on a hobby is to give into the idea that you need the best equipment out there if you want to become an expert. It’s a tempting idea – but also not entirely accurate. While it’s true you’ll need to invest in a pair of knitting needles to take up knitting, they certainly don’t need to be made of gold. Or diamonds.

Diamond Car

It ran just fine without the extra sparkles.

Sure, it can be exciting to buy fancier or more updated versions of items that aid in your pursuit of a hobby, but most of the time you’ll be going beyond what’s necessary. If you’ve made your hobby into a career – as a professional cyclist for example – then you might need to update to the most functional, up-to-date and overall pricier models. But if you cycle on the weekend for fun, you can likely still get a few years out of your current bike before upgrading. Think in terms of investment vs. impulse – and assess where the intended purchase fits into the spectrum.

The same applies when comparing yourself to others. Let those Joneses do their own thing – don’t try to keep up with every other person pursuing the same hobby. If you’re buying newer versions of what you already have just to show up those around you, then you might as well consider your hobby to be spending unnecessary money. Doesn’t sound too fun.

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Think Back to the Beginning

It also helps to remember why you jumped into the hobby to begin with, and what you really like most about it. In my case,  I was first drawn to backpacking because I really enjoyed the opportunity to interact with nature. I liked the challenges, I liked the process and most of all, I liked how the activity made me feel. None of those initial results came about from the act of buying bigger or newer things.

The breathtaking scenery wasn’t made better by having the latest gadgets. In the beginning, I still appreciated the impact with or without the knowledge that I had a foldable coffee cone in my pack. Whenever my eyes get a little too wide (and believe me, they do) while perusing an outdoor gear magazine, I try to put it all into perspective, and remember what made me happy when I first started. It can help to halt impulse purchases and ease the temptations.

It started out with only ONE Garfield.... and then this happened.

It started with just one Garfield… and then this happened. 

Don’t Spread Yourself (or Your Finances) Too Thin

We all have that super-friend who seems to excel in all areas of life – hobbies included. They’re always off to compete in a dance-off, an archery competition or a throw-down barbecue challenge. And while an admirable amount of energy goes into those jugglers of extracurriculars, so often does a sizable amount of income.  It might be tempting to throw yourself into each and every one of your interests, but some hobbies are simply more expensive to finance than others. Pick and choose, and find one or two that you can pursue with enthusiasm and sincere interest. Not only will you be saving money by narrowing your interests, you’ll also be able to focus more of your concentrated energy into a few specialized hobbies.

A Little Research Goes A Long Way

Sometimes the only thing you’ll really need to support a new hobby is a little internet research. Chances are, if you’re interested in a particular topic, subject or activity- there are plenty of others who are interested as well. On top of that, most cities and towns offer free opportunities to learn and invest in activities with like-minded people. Running club? Free. Book Club? Free. Foreign language groups? Free. Pick an interest, and pursue expertise by putting in the effort to research meet-ups, clubs, and conventions.

The LITC Backpacking

It would appear that waving is also a favorite hobby of mine.

It’s important to explore hobbies and engage with new experiences. But if pursuing a hobby means spending your savings to support it, then it could be time to reassess how practical it will be long-term. Ultimately, it comes down to making financially sustainable choices that allow you to support your pastime – be it backpacking, knitting or sculpting.  With compromise and some smart choices or alternatives, you can take advantage of your well-deserved free time.

I’m happy to say I reigned in that little backpacking gremlin of mine, and have been able to walk through REI without making a single purchase. Tough? Yes. But worth the savings? Absolutely.

Have any other tips? I’d love to hear ’em!!


Credit for Image 2: Mr. Littlehand

Credit for Image 3: ingridtaylar

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  • david

    I think I’m in love…. I also love backpacking and the LITC is the hotness.

    Thanks for the tips LITC!

  • Frankensteen

    Claire- Thanks for posting a good article with sound advice. I love ReadyforZero’s services, and good blog posts make it even more enjoyable.

    @david- a little advice for “picking up chicks”… focus on their words and not so much their looks. They’ll appreciate you more.