Last year, I started picked up one of the most infuriating sports ever – golf. Some call it a sport. Some call it a hobby. Regardless of what you consider it, it’s one of those things that you do to pass the time but it’s one that costs a lot of money. The equipment is expensive. The rounds are expensive. Everything about it is pretty expensive – especially hair loss treatments when you pull it out after every bad shot!
Unlike golf, there are a few hobbies that you can take up that can put more money in your pocket, while providing entertainment and/or stress relief. Here are a few that have the potential to save you some cash:
Gardening can be a very relaxing and tranquil activity as long as you enjoy it. We started growing vegetables and herbs on our back deck because it was going to save us money. I didn’t anticipate enjoying the outdoor nature of it. I enjoyed going out on the back deck at night to water the plants and pull out any errant weeds. I enjoy pruning the plants that needed to be cut and “harvesting” as necessary.
It’s a perfect example of a hobby that has the potential to make you money in the sense that you can save on your grocery bill if your good at it. There will always be stories of the $10 tomato from a tomato plant that yielded just one red fruit, but if you keep it simple you can definitely save some cash. You also get great produce to boot!
I started home brewing back in college when two of my friends, Abe Kabakoff and Dimitri Dimoulas, introduced me to the idea of making my own beer. While both graduated to more complicated and involved techniques (Abe now works at Sierra Nevada), I stick with the basics of an ingredient kit that costs me around $20-25 a pop. The process itself is fairly simple (the greatest cost is time) and it yields around 5 gallons of beer, which is about 50 bottles.
If you’re happy drinking domestic beers produced by the majors (Budweiser, Miller, Coors), then those will be cheaper. If you’re a fan of microbrews or imports, then brewing your own will be cheaper and the process will make you a lot more educated about beer in general. Plus… it’s fun!
Tinkering with your car is another hobby where the money savings are pretty obvious. If you tinker a lot with your car, you are probably getting it to run at its peak efficiency because you perform the maintenance regularly (more importantly, on schedule) and you probably have a good idea of what it’s doing. While the tinkering can go “too far,” such that it costs you money, but like anything else it’s got a little more “money positive” than something like golf.
I personally enjoy changing my car’s oil. It’s not necessarily much cheaper than going somewhere but when you factor in the driving, waiting, and the lower grade product the big stores use, I think you come out ahead doing it yourself – especially if you have a car with an easily accessible oil filter.
Arts & Crafts
I don’t know much about arts & crafts but I do know that Etsy  has become the go to marketplace for homemade products often classified in the “crafting” category. If it’s something you’d make after a trip to Jo-ann Fabrics or Michael’s, chances are you can build a small business off it by working through Etsy. My sister does custom made jewelry  on the side and sells it through Etsy and craft shows. She’s hardly alone too – there are plenty of niches with lots of sellers so anyone can do well here.
I have a few friends who have pretty impressive aquariums with lots of colorful and crazy looking fish. I don’t know much about raising fish but I do know that the larger the fish are, the more valuable they become. While I understand aquarium upkeep can be a pricey affair, there isn’t anything that prevents you from “raising” small fish (I guess it’s really just growing fish, right?) into larger fish and selling them to other enthusiasts. I doubt the finances make enough sense for this to truly be a “have a profitable hobby” but it’s something you could find yourself earning a few dollars on.
When my wife was younger, she worked at her local Michael’s. Every week or so, this same woman would come in and buy some stuff from the store. Eventually my wife developed a rapport with the woman and the woman actually asked her if she’d be willing to be her personal shopper. I personally thought that the woman just wanted to be able to wander around Macy’s with someone to talk to but my wife thought it was a little creepy. I suppose that if I had the same experienced, I’d probably react the same way. The pay would’ve been pretty good too, though I don’t remember how much, but it’s something almost any avid shopper could do… as long as they were cool to hang out with. 🙂