An economical hobby

Depending on what you choose, hobbies can be expensive. If your hobby requires a great deal of expensive equipment and travel (such as skiing or sailing), it’s going to take some careful scrutiny to fit that into a budget. It’s all going to have to come out of your discretionary budget, and only after savings have been fully funded.

I might contend that sometimes the collecting of materials for a hobby is actually a hobby in itself. Some people (ahem) can hardly resist the beauty of materials like yarn, fabric, embroidery floss, art materials…whether or not we’ll ever have time to make something out of them. In fact, making something, which means choosing one concrete creation instead of all the possible dreams, may act to spoil the fun.

However, the internet and maybe even the pandemic  have taught us there are cheaper ways of acquiring knowledge—YouTube and even subscription sites are far cheaper than live lessons with an individual, or the cost of a three day conference seminar. I’m definitely not discounting the value of a live instructor, but if we’re sampling a possible new skill or trying to reactivate something we already know a bit about, it can be very economical to begin online. Online also gives you a community, no matter your location, job, previous experience, age…really, it’s opened up the world for pursuits where it can be hard to find enough people and information in one place.

I’ve seen some discouraging posts  lately on some music sites. You have to be very careful to scrutinize marketing—anyone that promulgates they are the “only way to learn” while charging a hefty fee should be suspect.  My strong advice is to look for a money back guarantee in case you don’t like what you’ve paid for. For example, I recently subscribed to a guitar program that I adored—for the first 30 days. Then, for some reason, the owner decided to update his well-functioning website. For one week (which I was paying for), the site was down entirely—with no extensions offered. Then, for the next 3 weeks it mal-functioned, crashed, and offered significantly less material than previously. As far as I can tell, all the “improvement” consisted of a change in theme colors. I exercised my money-back guarantee on the 59th day, after hoping against hope that it would be fixed. Two months after, I hear it still isn’t.  I feel a lot like what I felt when you have a great first date and never hear from the person again.

Having been rejected by a potential guitar teacher as pretty much too old to bother with, I’ve thought a lot about why an adult might want to take up or return to a hobby. Are you ever too old to learn something? Should teachers only be interested in young students with conservatory potential? Obviously, I believe this is defeatist, aging self-talk. After all, when possible, you should use your money on things which enhance your life. Here’s what I came up with while mind-mapping. While it’s mostly focused on guitar, perhaps it will apply to a pursuit you are considering.

  • Now you can recapture something you loved as a young person, but life intervened.
  • Now you can enjoy the sheer joy of playing an instrument without the pressure of getting into a university program. No more tryouts!
  • Now you have the luxury of time to perfect a piece. The process can be more important and more satisfying than any result.
  • You can learn to play an instrument where even the simplest pieces sound wonderful (unlike, say, violin). N.B. but if violin or French horn is your interest, you’ll put up with the sounds, as has every other learner before you.
  • You can get a decent instrument for far cheaper than many others (such as piano, harp).
  • It’s easily portable. You can play with a group or other instruments.
  • As an adult, your knowledge of the world of music is much larger—you’ve simply heard more than kids. If not, playing guitar can introduce a whole new world.
  • The instrument itself is beautiful and a pleasure to pick up every day.
  • You can take up a challenge to learn something uniquely beautiful and relatively uncommon that many people wouldn’t have the courage to do.

When I become disgruntled with my “lack of progress” (to where?), I plan to review this. It’s a good use of time and money to improve your life. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

 

Read this before retiring!

 

Public service announcement: the age to collect your full Social Security benefit is NOT 65, and hasn’t been since 1983! Every year I see people who are planning to retire at 65 because “that’s when Social Security kicks in”. Please see a financial planner before you notify your job or the Social Security Administration that you’re retiring. AND, SSA is not in the business of telling you how you can get the most money, so know your options before you commit to anything.