Retired? How to Avoid Overspending on Hobbies
Written by Christine Diemert

Friday, November 15th, 2019

Dreaming of a retirement spending hours absorbed by your favourite hobby? One thing to consider: All that freedom to pursue your passion also means you've got plenty of time to spend money feeding it.

Sticking to my Hobby Budget

As a lifelong knitter, learning to make socks was a retirement goal. Once I started, I quickly became obsessed with yarn shopping and suddenly had enough to make 12 pairs of socks. I found sales and paid as little as $5 a ball, but I also splurged on one skein that set me back $30. In no time I had spent $152.85.

Getting the right needles was also important. I bought six sets to try. Three were $5 apiece, one $10, one $12 and one $16. The pattern was $9. In total, before tax I'd spent $205.85 on my sock hobby—in a couple of weeks.

As a retiree, that's nearly what I budget for food in a month.

It's Important to Think Before You Buy

Nadia Arbach knows all about spending binges on a hobby. She has a business called Clear the decks! that coaches creative types on the art of de-cluttering.

“I've never come across someone who bought something they didn't have an idea for," says Arbach. The challenge? Not overspending on all those dreams. Her advice is to buy only what's needed for immediate projects. Everything else gets added to a master wish list for consideration.

Arbach insists that spending on projects you plan to start someday is just stockpiling.

An Inventory Can Be Sobering

Which brings me back to my knitting. I did some inventory on what I admit is my lifetime's stockpile for that hobby. Not including my new sock supplies, I have 90 balls of yarn of varying quality and cost stored in two bins. If we average the price of each conservatively at $10 per ball, that's $900. As for needles, there are at least 40 sets and if a modest estimate is $5 a set, that's $200.

Now add my $205.85 for socks, and I'm sitting on $1,305.85 in supplies.

I consider that number rather sobering. But Arbach assures me that she's seen worse. “I think that's a fairly small stash." That doesn't mean I should buy more, however.

Arbach Has Other Ideas to Curb Hobby Spending, Especially for Retirees:

  1. “Set yourself a number of projects you want to complete before you go out and buy something." She suggests starting with five.

  2. Get off email lists that send ads for deals, and don't be fooled by sales. “We always forget the culture now is that everything is going to be on sale at some time."

  3. “Don't buy what you don't need just to get free shipping."

  4. Stay away from clubs that send supplies monthly for new projects. “I've worked with people who have 20 months worth of unopened yarn in their house," Arbach says.

  5. Select shopping companions wisely. "The kind of friend you need to bring with you is the one who says, 'You wanted to spend $50, and that's it. So what are you going to put back?' "


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