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My Current Spending Vices and Devices: Photography and Coins

This article was written by in Consumer. 44 comments.

Although my income has increased over the past few years, my spending has increased as well. After living the better part of the decade watching just about every dollar leaving my bank account, saving as much as possible, and living within my means, I’ve recently begun allowing myself to spend more freely.

I’m sure to spend only what I have available after accounting for all my bills and obligations and saving a significant portion of the remaining income. I’m currently investing in my 401(k) up to the government-mandated maximum as well as in my SEP IRA as much as possible each year. I’m allowing my bank accounts to grow, in order to have cash available for when I decide to buy a house within the next few years. None of this has changed, though increased spending means my savings are growing a little slower.

Here are some of the big outlays.

Photography equipment

Although I am far from a professional, I enjoy photography. I took one class last summer in order to sharpen my skills and my second class began in January. Photography can be an expensive hobby if you’re not satisfied with a cheap point-and-shoot digital camera. Two years ago this month, I purchased a Canon Digital Rebel XTi, a basic digital single-lens reflex (dSLR) camera. Since then I’ve been slowly accumulating various accessories like lenses. Last year was somewhat tame; I refrained from adding to my collection.

Here are the lenses currently in my arsenal.

The last lens was purchased in 2008, so last year ended without any new major photography purchase. I couldn’t let that continue, so this weekend I ordered the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM 1-to-1 Macro Lens. This will be a better choice than the other lenses for portraits and the only choice among my current options for macro photography.

Coin collecting

I’ve enjoyed coin collecting since I was very young. I’m still dabbling in the hobby only rather than filling coin folders with pennies found in circulation, I’m looking for some nicer coins that have been professionally graded. At the moment, I’m focusing on a set of Lincoln cents, but my next project will likely be a 20th century type set.

Recently, I’ve been successful finding certified coins on eBay at a fraction of the current prices listed in widely-accepted guide books. I don’t intend on buying these coins as an investment, hoping they will increase in value so I can sell and make a profit. I’m more interested in building a collection that I would be proud to own and possibly pass along to a future generation. According to the price guides, I’ve already made a profit on paper.

I’m currently creating a system to track each coin as an investment in Quicken.

Hobbies are luxuries. I feel lucky that I have income I can spend on a few activities that interest me. I’m only able to spend this money after years of living quite frugally, including living with three roommates to share rent, eliminating cable, and finding ways to transport myself without a car. If I had credit card debt, I would not be doing this. If I had student loans to pay off, which I had until a few years ago, I would be dedicating the money spent on photography equipment and coin collecting to eliminating that debt.

For those who are more financially secure, how are you spending your money now? How are you treating yourself and your interests now that you have paid off debt and are still making your savings targets?

I could always do better for my future self by saving and investing even more of my income. But I strongly believe that, when it is practical, I should be doing whatever I can to enjoy my life.

Updated May 5, 2014 and originally published February 1, 2010.

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About the author

Luke Landes 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 Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Smithee

Anybody who can say this:

“I’m currently investing in my 401(k) up to the government-mandated maximum as well as in my SEP IRA as much as possible each year.”

should never feel guilty or worried about spending money on the things they enjoy.

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avatar 2 Luke Landes

Smithee: Perhaps but I could always do more. You never know if the choices you make will lead to the result you desire, even if you choose to follow all the typical advice. The future is unpredictable and all we can do is make best guesses.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

Would it help you to know that Bill Gross the head of PIMCO is an avid stamp collector? (I saw a part of his collection at the National Postal Museum in DC.)

Wait till you start buying lights and backdrops. :-) Do you share lenses amongst friends?

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avatar 4 Luke Landes

I don’t think any of my friends have a compatible camera; in fact as far as I know I’m the only one into photography. Sharing lenses is something I would consider though.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

I took a two week cruise to Hawaii last year with my Rebel XSi, various accessories and – oh yeah – my wife. (some 40 year anniversary or something) Even though I’m retired and do not have anymore “Savings Plans” to contribute to, I still budget and spend less than I receive in pension income. Two years into retirement and I haven’t touched any of my investments or tapped any savings accounts. As Smithee suggested, you need not feel guilty when enjoying what you’ve earned as long as you’re meeting your financial responsibilities and maintaining a plan to insure your future.

“Budgets are like underwear – we shouldn’t feel comfortable without them” ..somebody said this …really!

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avatar 6 Anonymous

I bought my wife a dSLR for Christmas this year…WOAH I had no idea what those things cost and then as soon as we bought it the upsell on other products is NUTS. I am still waiting for her to learn how to use it.

I actually don’t have any hobbies (sounds kind of sound) – the only thing I spend money on is going out, and recently a lot of bachelor parties.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

Now you need to get the 7D to take advantage of the focusing offered by the 100mm.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

My wife and I have been spending our money on vacations, two each year. We’ve recently started a new project that I suspect will soak up all our extra funds – a child.

I started out my adult life with student loans and a new vehicle loan, however I paid those off pretty quickly and am now maxing out various accounts. We’ve got our “down payment account” up high enough that it could pay for 20% of any house we’d currently consider (even though we haven’t bought one and aren’t even looking), so we were pretty much out of things to spend money on. Both my wife and I have always been naturally frugal.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

I’m debt-free and the two things I enjoy spending on most are art and experiences.

I made a commitment years ago that when I sold my company, I would buy some art by Romero Britto. He’s one of my favorite artists. When I sold my business, Richard and I went on a cruise and the art auction there offered a set of 5 prints of his! I ended up buying 6 of his works total, plus several other pieces (including a nice limited-edition Rockwell reprint for my dad’s office as a thank you to him.) Total cost about $12,000–but they are hanging all over my house and they look fantastic!

As a bonus, buying art on a cruise incurs no tax, and the prices are often cheaper.

Richard and I recently went on another cruise. We visited Belize, Honduras, and Mexico. I went zip lining through the jungle and cave tubing through a river. Don’t regret spending that money, either.

I have no debt and I fully fund my IRA every year, plus make a lot of taxable investments…so I’m happy I get to do things I enjoy. Of course, there are plenty of free things I enjoy, too. :)


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avatar 10 Anonymous

You caputed my interest right up until you mentioned the Richard fella…….just kidding.
We often here people say “They got what they deserved.” but it is usually tied to a prison sentence rather than nice things. Enjoy your success – and your art!!!!

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avatar 11 Anonymous

A high-grade 20th century type set has long been a dream of mine. I am sufficiently ancient that I collected coins from circulation as a kid – my prized find was a Fine 1932-S – and even remember Buffalo nickels, Standing Libertyt Quarters and Walking Liberty half dollars in circulation.

p.s. As one living on a poverty-level income, I’d say that just about everyone (in North America) could save and invest more.

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avatar 12 Anonymous

My only advice is collections like coins should be for YOUR enjoyment, not for the idea of passing them on to another generation to enjoy. My father and grandfather both collected coins and stamps, and nobody in my generation cares about them; we would sell them in a heartbeat.

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avatar 13 Anonymous

My girlfriend and I really enjoy good meals either at home or at restaurants. We don’t pinch pennies in that category because it’s something we both love and get a lot of enjoyment from. We also don’t eat 30 meals out a month, so there is some restraint there.

I still find it hard to say “buy it” to myself even when I can afford it. There’s something in my makeup that always says that money could be used better else where.

Enjoy the new toys, Flexo!

– Austin @ Foreigner’s Finances

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avatar 14 Anonymous

It’s great that you’re getting a chance to enjoy your money. I recently started taking up many outdoor hobbies which have fairly expensive startup costs, but it’s great to be able to enjoy my money on things that make me happy. I recently wrote about making financial compromises here:

To me the most important thing to understand that you’re making a tradeoff. As long as you know that you’ll be happy with that tradeoff later one then I say go for it.

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avatar 15 Anonymous

HA, We share the same interests. I just purchased a Canon 7D a few months ago, and while I have a lot more learning to do, I absolutely love it. We also inherited my grandfathers and my mother-in-laws coin collections and since then have been totally hooked. The digging through rolls of bank coins has worn off a little, but we now attend coin shows and will probably start building to the collection slowly over time. Just not enough time in the day.

Ryan & Leslie @ Spilling Buckets

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avatar 16 Anonymous

Photography and coins are – to me at least – a great combination. I would like to learn coin photography.

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avatar 17 Anonymous

I believe that hobbies can excite and do stimulate the mind and enrich the soul and make you an interesting person. Hobbies also are a form of wholesome meditation. They can lead to earning an income. Your hobbies can educate your children and guide them into wholesome interests. The earlier in your life you spend money on your hobby to grow it the greater the quality of your journey through life and the achievement in your hobby – I don’t believe you should save to the extreme for your old age and sacrifice the quality of your journey when young or middle-aged.
I believe the money you spend on hobbies which leads to life enrichment till the end of your life span is money very well spent.
Rather live frugally and cut down on other budgetary expenses to allow for more hobby finance eg: cell phone costs, entertainment and food costs etc.
For example I’ve just cancelled my cell phone contract and bought a prepaid ‘straight talk’ cellphone package from WalMart for $45 per month for unlimited calls and text messages. I save about $1200 over 2 years moving to this prepaid package and it even pays me to pay the cancellation fee of my contract.. Another dirt cheap prepaid ‘Straight talk’ package is the $30 one for 1000 any where/any time minutes and 1000 text messages.

Another example of cutting costs on a daily basis – buy a cook book of ‘low budget’ recipes – just because the ingredients are low cost doesn’t mean the food is not as tasty as recipes with more expensive ingredients. Get creative with new food combinations, and spices.

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avatar 18 Anonymous

I have a very small personal spending budget of $500 dollars a month. The budget include about $60/month for gas and $15/month for Friday eat out at a local burger restaurant. The rest of the budget of $425/month is for misc shopping.

I’m glad I never got interested in electronic gadgets, clothing, shoes, cable tv, high speed internet, oversea vacation. I don’t remember the last time I spent a buck on those stuff; otherwise I would not have much saving for future rainy days

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