Thursday, March 7, 2013

Women's Money Week: Happiness, Hobbies and Money

How do your hobbies affect your happiness? What about your finances?

I've had some expensive hobbies. Dance (costumes, classes), quilting (fabric), and even reading (some books you just have to own) compete for my spare time and my spare dollars. But what impact do they really have on my happiness and my finances?

I think hobbies are actually a very important part of our overall happiness. All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy, after all. Even if you enjoy your work, you should have something else to spend time and mental energy on in order to be a well-rounded person. In my case, all three of my hobbies have made me very happy. Dance provides physical activity, a sense of accomplishment, and when I was performing with a troupe, the thrill of performance and camaraderie that comes with being part of something larger than oneself. Quilting creates something satisfyingly tangible for my effort, something that can be given as a gift or used and passed down within my family. And reading is the perfect form of both escapism and education.

Accomplishment, satisfaction, and entertainment - three great aspects of happiness. And what about the financial impact?

Well, I could argue that dance was the overall most expensive hobby - I spent thousands and thousands of dollars on costumes and classes. But I was able to turn that into paying performance gigs, and most years I broke even when all was said and done. I doubt I would have kept up with it for as long as I did if I was just spending money with no chance of recouping it (also, I would have had no justification for all the costumes!). So it looks like quilting is taking the place of dance as my most expensive hobby - fabric can be had cheaply, but of course the fabric you love the most is the most expensive bolt in the whole store. I've taken a few classes and would like to take more. Good sewing machines are not super cheap, and the longarm machines are thousands upon thousands of dollars (luckily, I'm not sure I'll EVER be prolific enough to need one). Even so, renting them by the hour has a hefty fee attached. Reading is obviously the cheapest hobby - books can be had for free from the library or swapped with friends and are easily resold to recoup some of their original expense.

However, I think that the cost of all three of these hobbies is well worth the joy they have brought to my life. As my life has changed, my hobbies have moved in and out of active enjoyment - I'm not going to dance classes anymore and have started thinking about selling some of my costumes. Instead, quilting has become something I do more of, since I can do it in spare moments from my home - no need even to put real pants on! And this, I think, is the biggest key to allowing your hobbies to provide maximum happiness for the least financial pressure: you can do anything but maybe you can't do everything, at least not all at once.

Check out some other posts on happiness, hobbies, and money from Women's Money Week bloggers.

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