3 Ways Your Hobbies Are Draining You of Cash, and What You Can Do About It

hobbies drain money singapore

Take away your job and your home and you might still survive, but if someone tries to pry that Gundam model from your fingers or cancels your MMA gym membership, you might actually have to put yourself on suicide watch.

While hobbies keep you off the streets, out of jail (presuming your hobby is legal) and out of your family/spouse’s hair, they can also be a drain on resources that could otherwise be better used to buy you a spot at the columbarium. What’s a poor Singaporean to do?

Here are some of the ways hobbies can quickly suck up all your spare cash and how to deal with them.


1. Signing up for expensive classes

Part of the fun of most hobbies is that you get better and better at them over time. Hate your job? Never mind, you can still have buns of steel or become the best bass player who ever lived. Someday you might even be able to turn that hobby of yours into a career, who knows?

But right now, constantly improving your skills so you get awesomer can be… expensive. Especially if you’re signed up for courses or subscriptions that eat up a big chunk of your salary each month. At the same time, you really don’t want to stop learning and practising because then you just regress to being one of those Singaporeans who do nothing but work, eat and sleep.

If you take paid classes, once you’ve gotten good enough you can try to shift some of your learning online instead.

I’m going to use myself as an example here. When I first started studying Italian 10 months ago I took about 3 months of classes, which were helpful at the time especially for speaking practice. But after reaching a certain point I decided I could study on my own and have since stopped. The classes were useful at the start when I was clueless but ultimately I found that self-study was by far the faster, more efficient, and most importantly, cheapest method.

If giving up classes is out of the question, you can also decrease the frequency of your lessons.

For instance, Kathleen a 34-year-old bank executive, is learning to play the piano as an adult, and instead of going for weekly private lessons, she takes lessons every two weeks. “Due to my busy schedule sometimes I don’t have a chance to practise what was taught in the last lesson. By having fewer lessons I have more time to practise and actually learn more.”

Finally, it’s easy to get attached to a particular teacher or centre when you’ve been going there for a long time, but things in Singapore change so fast that newer, more affordable options may have arisen since the last time you checked.

Marissa, a 30-year-old bank executive, used to be a member of Pure Yoga, but cancelled her subscription after a year when she realised she only had the time to attend classes once a month. These days, she goes to studios where she can buy lessons in blocks, which is much cheaper than paying a monthly fee.


2. Amassing equipment

When you’re really into something, there’s a lot of temptation to buy and buy. Many of my friends who are crazy about motorbikes amass truckloads of expensive gear sourced from all over the world. Then there are those people who buy an entire set of scuba diving equipment, a brand new acoustic drum kit before they’ve learnt to play or a mountain bike that costs more than a car in another country.

While there’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself with some shiny new equipment from time to time, getting obsessed with having the latest and greatest products puts you on the fast track to financial ruin.

The secret to avoiding this is simply to focus on doing rather than buying. After all, unless your hobby is collecting, at its heart it’s all about enjoying a particular practice or activity.

For instance, if you’ve just started learning to play the guitar, you don’t exactly have to head to Toys ‘R’ Us to get a cheap plastic instrument, but still, resist the temptation to get something so expensive that even pros will be giving you the evil eye. Instead, focus on actually learning how to play the damn thing.

Farhan, a 31-year-old advertising executive, is into photography and has many friends who are enthusiasts, too. “In the photography community, some people are always hankering after the newest releases and buying big lenses. But usually the very best photographers are the ones who have quite a simple set-up, because they really get to know how to use their equipment and focus on improving their skills,” he says.


3. Your hobby is just plain expensive

If your hobby requires the use of expensive equipment, buying first hand might not always be the best choice, unless you’re sure you’ll be using it enough to make the cost worth paying. Renting and buying second hand are options newbies should definitely consider. For instance, most scuba divers can get away with renting equipment instead of buying, while there’s a huge second hand market for hobbies like photography and music.

Farhan rarely buys first hand photographic equipment, choosing instead to buy older models on forums or in second hand shops. “When it comes to digital, things move so fast that there’s no point paying so much to get the latest models,” he says.

Often, getting in touch with people who have the same interests can show you the way to lots of “lobang”.

Arnold, a 32-year-old entrepreneur, often plays golf with his friends at courses in Johor with a set of second hand clubs a friend helped him pick up. “I used to think golf was too expensive for me as I don’t have a country club membership, but many of my friends have been golfing for years and many are not rich. Thanks to them I’ve found cheaper ways to enjoy the sport.”

Do you have an expensive hobby? Share your tricks for cutting costs in the comments.