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How Much Money You Should Spend on Hobbies

This article was written by in Frugality. 7 comments.


A Consumerism Commentary reader wrote in with a simple question which should have a simple answer: What percentage of income should a person spend on hobbies? I enjoy talking about hobbies. I have a wide variety of interests, and many of these have little prospect of making money for me for the time being. This is a great question. There are a number of factors someone should consider when deciding how much money to spend on activities that don’t generate any income.

Although a hobby doesn’t generate income now, it might surprise you in the future. I started writing Consumerism Commentary as a hobby, without any thought of being able to earn money from a blog. Now my hobby has become my primary source of income — and it’s great being able to earn money doing something I enjoy.

On the other hand, I’ve spent money on photography, and that hasn’t generated much in the way of financial return for me yet. I expect this is the type of of hobby the reader might be thinking about. It’s not an issue of how much of your income you can afford to spend on a hobby because that will depend on your necessary expenses. If your after-tax income is already dedicated 30% to your mortgage, 20% for food, 20% for utilities, 10% for transportation, 10% for saving for the future, and 5% for paying off debt, you only have 5% left to play with before tapping the income you’ve dedicated to your future.

I wholeheartedly believe that life is about living and that it’s always worthwhile to spend time and some money on activities that make you happy. It’s not always easy, though, when your concern is making all the bills and having enough left over to build a future. If you have excess income after meeting your obligations including saving, using 50% of whatever is left for your hobbies can’t hurt.

Some hobbies are more expensive than others, so find ways to achieve the same level of enjoyment through spending less money. Taking a frugal approach to the activities you enjoy can help the money you set aside for hobbies last longer. If you like photography, buy used cameras and lenses. If you write short science fiction stories, put off the new computer purchase and skip Dragon-Con for a year.

There is no good answer in terms of percentage of income. When it comes to activities that add joy to your life, spend as much as you want as long as it’s not detrimental to your current or future financial situation.

After paying for all your necessary expenses and after saving for the future in line with your goals, spend anything that’s left over on activities you enjoy. That may be 1% of your income or 10%, but as long as you’re not putting your future in jeopardy, you need to enjoy the time you have.

Readers: how much of your income do you spend on your hobbies?

Updated September 12, 2011 and originally published October 15, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Steve

Our most expensive “hobby” is travel. In the past few years it has comprised about 1/6th of our living expenses (I don’t count taxes or savings as living expenses.)

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avatar Candide

Is going to the gym a “hobby”? How about eating out?

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avatar OrchidGirl ♦16 (Newbie)

When budgeting for hobbies, I consider them both an investments in skills as well as entertainment. And while I might not earn money directly from them, most of my hobbies have saved me money at some point. For example, a friend asked me to make her dream wedding veil – which saved both of us money (her the cost of the veil; for me, the materials were cheaper than what I would have spent on a purchased gift). I’ve also been able to do more repair and DIY projects using skills I learned from my hobbies. Many hobbies can translate to better performance at work too – such as being well traveled if you deal with international customers or photography if you have to do anything involving visual aesthetics and design, including powerpoint presentations.

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avatar Jenna

I home brew beer and spend around $25-50 on supplies per batch. However, I am planning on building out my own small brewery in the near future so I’ve started saving more money and brewing cheaper beer to make it a possibility.

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avatar Money Reasons

I’ve always tried to guide my hobbies in the direction where they either were close to free or actually made me a small amount of money.

Selling stuff on ebay was a hobby that I started as a way to teach my son a bit about business. But I got luck and was able to find a repeating product that I could sell, it was fun and exciting watching the bidding wars :)

Now I’m blogging, and while I’m not making much money, it’s a constant learning experience that I find very enjoyable, not to mention new friends being established…

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avatar eric ♦1,549 (Half-Dollar)

I totally agree…it varies from person to person. If you have your finances in place, it doesn’t hurt to spend on the hobbies you like. But only you can determine exactly what that is.

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avatar KNS Financial ♦404 (Nickel)

I agree that there is no one answer (as far as a $ amount or percentage); but as long as you are taking care of all other financial obligations, then go for it! If that means 30% of your income goes to a hobby – as long as you have an emergency fund, no debt, fully-funded retirement accounts, etc – then have fun!

As others have said as well, always look for ways to develop your hobby into something that generates an income.

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