Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.
Cheap Hobbies Can Be More Fun Than Expensive Hobbies...
Many hobbies are expensive and involve expensive equipment and/or travel. Hobbies such as golf and skiing are in this category. A person could easily spend thousands of dollars on golf or ski equipment plus lots of money on travel and fees to get in to golf courses and ski slopes.
Some hobbies can be either expensive or inexpensive, depending on how you go about it. Camping is a good example of this. You could buy a tent for under $100 and a few other camping items and get into camping for very little money. Or, some people spend over $100,000 on a motorhome plus lots of money for gas to drive it all over the country.
A penny pincher like me needs a cheap hobby. I have found several hobbies that don’t cost much money, some that are free, and even a few hobbies make money for me.
Gardening: Break-even or makes money
Gardening does cost some money. You need to buy at least seeds to grow vegetables. Some years I buy plants that have been started from a green house or even at the grocery store. At my house, I have built some raised garden beds. The initial cost was a few hundred dollars, but each subsequent year I only spend a small amount of money on compost to enrich the soil.
When I had a large garden a few years ago, I had a rototiller. I purchased the rototiller for $650 about 15 years ago, and sold it for $300 three years ago. So the cost of owning a rototiller was only about $30 per year.
The cost of gardening is offset by the value of the produce that you can grow. Not only that, but it is fun to grow your own vegetables and give them away to friends. Growing up, we grew extra vegetables and sold them at farmer’s markets.
I would say that most people would at least break even on the cost of gardening by getting that much savings on groceries from the vegetables produced by the garden. One you have some experience, you may be able to save quite a bit more on groceries than the cost of planting the garden. Some people could even make a little extra money by selling or trading vegetables.
Cheap Bike: Less than $50
One day while walking on my lunch break at work, I came upon a bike for sale chained to the front porch of a house. I was able to buy the bike, a bike helmet, and bike lock for under $50. I kept my bike at work for a few summers. Having a bike handy allowed me to explore a lot of areas of town and get some good exercise. This was a great value to spend $50 and get years of exercise and entertainment. Depending on how close you live to work, riding a bike instead of driving could quickly pay for itself.
Camping: Cheap or Expensive...
I bought an 8 person tent many years ago for about $150 that I continue to use for camping. About 5 years ago, some of the tent poles were damaged by high winds during a thunderstorm. Eventually, I was able to replace the damaged tent poles. Camping can be a very cheap hobby and can provide may hours of entertainment.
In addition to a tent, you'll want sleeping bags and perhaps an air mattress or two. If you plan to cook at the campsite, you'll need some pans and a camp grill that you can set up over a campfire. Most camping equipment is not very expensive and lasts for years.
Years ago, I owned a Class C motorhome- a 1986 Minnie Winnie. I bought the motorhome for $5600 when it was about 12 years old and got nearly $5600 for it on a trade-in several years later. The asking price when I bought it was $8000, and I am glad I bargained the price down. I ended up having the motorhome for almost free! This is unusual though, generally motorhomes and travel trailers depreciate rapidly. Owning and operating a motorhome or travel trailer is an expensive form of camping. If you avoid long trips and camp near home, you can greatly reduce expenses.
Blogging: Makes money
I got curious about blogging. Can you really make money from a blog? I ended up starting a blog about saving money! Since then, I have developed several blogs and published an eBook. Blogging turned out to be a great free hobby that makes money for me every day.
You can write and publish a blog for free. You can write on a revenue sharing site such this one (HubPages), or you can start your own blog on Google's Blog site called Blogger. If you have good internet skills and are willing to invest a bit of money, you can register your own domain name and set up your own website. Here is a link to learn more about writing on HubPages and sign-up for free.
Hypermiling: Saves money
Actually I would not consider my driving to be true hypermiling- I usually get over 40 mpg driving my 2002 Honda Civic with manual transmission. I don't use some of the extreme driving techniques and planning as hypermilers do, but I get pretty good gas mileage with my approach to driving.
The first step in hypermiling is to check your gas mileage so you can try to improve. I check my gas mileage every time I get gas. Here are some simple instructions on how to check your gas mileage. Tracking my mileage provides incentive to try to improve my driving to reduce the amount of gas that I consume. I can tell the difference in my gas mileage when I make a small change such as driving with a passenger. Once I noticed an unexpected dip in my fuel economy and this prompted me to check the air pressure in my tires- one was low.
I have found that one of the best ways to improve my fuel economy is simply to avoid city driving. This means that I try to avoid short driving trips in town whenever possible. I also try to accelerate slowly, coast into stop lights, to avoid using more fuel than necessary. Even though it bugs my wife, I like to turn off my ignition when I am sitting at a drive through window line...
Remote Controlled Quad Copter: Under $50
I got into a new hobby for free a couple weeks ago. I received an Estes Proto X quad copter as a gift. They cost only $40, so this is a cheap hobby. I have been interested in flying remote controlled helicopters for years, but they are quite expensive. The Estes Proto X is a quad copter that is fairly easy to fly and small enough to fly in a small indoor space. I added a few accessories to my Proto X including some spare rotor blades and a blade guard. Still the cost of flying a Proto X makes for a very cheap hobby.
Walking is a great free hobby that requires no special equipment. You can walk anywhere, at any time. I often try to go for a one hour walk at lunch time. I have been very busy lately, so I have not been able to do this. In the evenings, I often walk my dogs, sometimes bringing my wife and/or kids along. Walking is good exercise, and provides a good time to relax and think. You have a chance to explore your neighborhood and keep up with what is happening. Sometimes I drive a few miles so I can walk on a trail or walk in a State Park.
Drinking Great Coffee: 60 cents per day
If you buy coffee at a coffee shop, you are probably wondering how I can get great coffee for only 60 cents per day. The answer is that I make it myself using fresh ground whole beans and filtered water. I use an auto drip coffee maker with a cone filter and a thermal carafe to extract maximum flavor and to avoid getting any burned or stale flavor. This article goes through the cost of making coffee at home. I can make 16 oz of great coffee at home for only 60 cents- including electricity, water, the coffee filter, the cost of the coffee maker, and of course the cost of the coffee beans.
I experiment with coffee beans from all over the world- I have some really great Australian coffee beans right now. I consider my coffee making and coffee drinking to have reached the level of a hobby. I like coffee so much, I even started a blog about making great coffee!
Coffee Maker with Cone Filter and Thermal Carafe
Cheap Hobbies- Which One Is For You?
As you have seen, there are a number of hobbies that are cheap, free, or even some that can make money. For me, spending a lot of money on a hobby would not be enjoyable. What are your favorite cheap hobbies?
© 2014 Dr Penny Pincher
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on January 29, 2015:
Chin chin, I like hobbies that produce something. It is nice to be able to see a result from your hobby, such as blog posts or artwork. One downside of my cheap hobby of bike riding is that I don't have anything to show for that, except good memories. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Chin chin from Philippines on January 28, 2015:
I also got myself into blogging years ago at blogger. I also enjoyed cross-stitching as a hobby. It's not that expensive, but I stopped after two years. Just got busy yet I still get to see my beautiful artwork hanging on the wall.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on May 19, 2014:
Thanks Suzanne! If I had more skill, I might try combining recycling and making craft items like your projects- that sounds fun. You could probably sell some of your creations on Etsy to make some money... Thanks for your comment and vote!
Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on May 19, 2014:
Never heard of hypermilling before but it makes sense. There's one hobby I do that's cheap and not listed here....collect buttons and labels from old clothes! I recycle them onto quilts and bags etc to make them look hippy. Thank you for all of your cheap hobby ideas and voted useful!