Picking up a hobby for the first time is an easy New Year's resolution that doesn’t involve dieting or deprivation.
That’s why it’s a popular promise to make to yourself this time of year. But don’t forget to budget for it. While some hobbies are very affordable — a challenging jigsaw puzzle ends up costing pennies per hour — others, like buying a musical instrument or turning your garage into an art studio, are more costly.
If you’re considering taking up a pricey hobby in the new year, here are some questions to consider before investing both time and money.
What’s spurring your desire?
After an indulgent holiday season, January is often when we shift into reset mode, with a renewed focus on a fresh start. Seeing friends’ activities on social media and the barrage of online ads as you’re scrolling only adds to the desire to try something you’ve never considered before, says Rebecca Weiler, a licensed mental health counselor in New York.
“You may be more likely to invest in products you may not end up using or begin hobbies you may not actually like or be able to commit to for the long term,” she says.
Be honest with yourself about your intentions around the proposed hobby and whether it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, or if you’re pursuing it on a whim.
Do you have sufficient time to devote to it?
Some hobbies only offer a sense of achievement if you dedicate a lot of time to master them. For instance, you may not find strumming the guitar to be particularly satisfying until you can play a recognizable tune. Or, you might find golf appealing, until you realize you need to schedule a tee time and devote the larger part of an afternoon to rounding the course.
Devoting time to a new activity can be great way to fill the day if you’re retired. It can also be a way to spend more quality time with your loved ones. On the other hand, your potential hobby could end up forcing you to find time you may not have. So determine if it can realistically fit into your schedule.
How much should you spend?
Once you’ve decided you have a true interest and enough time, Weiler recommends you then determine your level of interest and budget accordingly. “See if there's an option for a free trial, or to take one class instead of signing up for a big commitment,” she says.
If you need to purchase equipment, Weiler recommends reading reviews and joining groups on social media for insider information so you know you're getting the best bang for your buck. This can also be a good avenue if you want to borrow or buy used first.
For expensive hobbies, a greater initial investment could end up paying off, particularly if having a longer-lasting, better-quality product could improve the experience. So if a $1,000 spin bike will motivate you to use it more because of the extra bells and whistles, it could be a better purchase in the long run than a $500 model with sticky pedals.
While setting a budget at an amount you’re comfortable with can help you avoid buyer’s remorse, also keep in mind your level of intent and if you see yourself keeping up with the activity long-term in order to determine whether you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
What if you change your mind?
Even if you do your due diligence, it’s still possible to jump into a hobby only to realize it’s not for you. Should you feel obligated to continue?
“Remember that hobbies are not supposed to be chores; they should bring a level of interest and enjoyment,” Weiler says. So if you do find yourself with an abundance of unused equipment, think of the adage, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” List your items online and think of the joy you’ll be providing the next would-be bird watching or beading novice.
The same goes for if your new hobby forces you to abandon your budget. Hobbies are there to help with your overall mental and physical wellness — the last thing you want to do is incur financial stress to pursue it. If your hobby starts introducing more negative than positive emotions to your life, don’t feel obligated to continue.