I’ve mentioned before that it’s tough to figure out what to write about when for so long you were solely focused on frugality and getting out of debt. Now that we’re down to just a (very manageable) mortgage and have quite a bit of “disposable income”, the question is How Do I Spend My Money? Technically it’s OUR money, but I’ve already talked about that long ago in one of my first articles.
Hobbies…They come and they go
Growing up, I didn’t really have any hobbies other than reading, mostly fantasy and sci-fi fiction. I was probably using it to escape as I was quite the fat kid back then (really all through college and some of my post-college years). When I wasn’t blowing my birthday and holiday money on junk, I was buying books. My favorite series were Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Fred Saberhagen Swords Series, and The Shannara Series by Terry Brooks, and I still have those books and read them every few years. But I haven’t really been into books for a long time, and in college, I picked up a new hobby…
GUITARS! As you’ll read in the preceding link, I spent A LOT of money in college on musical instruments when I really had no musical talent, nor did I attempt to get professionally trained. I failed at that hobby because I tried to learn on my own, but wasn’t motivated enough to learn to play more than a couple songs on the bass guitar. So after selling my bass guitars, amp and then finally, just last year, my acoustic/electric Washburn guitar, I am now musical instrument free (unless you count my beautiful singing voice…lol).
Six years ago, I decided to pick up another hobby…CleverDude.com. I knew someone with a personal finance blog already and they helped walk me through the setup and how things work in the interwebs. It was just meant to give me something to do, then it turned into motivation to get out of debt, then it became a money-making venture. I never spent a cent advertising the site, yet I began earning very decent money each year (and of course getting taxed heavily on it), but even something fun like blogging your thoughts becomes work after a while. I still write, as you see right here, but it’s far less than the 40-60 articles at my peak. What’s next?
Well, I’ve been in love with cars (more from a geek standpoint on specifications, comparisons, etc. than pure performance), so I subscribed to a bunch of car blogs, a number of car magazines, and picked up watching shows like Top Gear, Motorweek and other shows that have come and gone (like The Car Show). But this can become a very expensive hobby if you have the credit and you have tons of auto dealers within just a few miles of your home. So while I started a blog to write about cars, I found early on that just writing about cars makes me want to buy one. Therefore, I stopped writing on my car blog for the most part (but things will change shortly as you’ll find out).
I should preface, though, that I am lucky enough not to suffer from an addictive reaction to alcohol, so I don’t want to encourage anyone prone to alcoholism, whether known to you or based on family history, to take up this hobby.
Back in college, I would only drink beer because it was cheap. And wine just made you look like a snob. But it was cheap beer and after college, I didn’t care to ever drink beer again. I thought all beer was the same, with just a few varieties, aka light, dark and skunky. When we went out to restaurants, I never bothered to ask what was on tap, or what their beer selection was, but I did have a glass of wine rarely (I turned snobby I guess).
But things changed over the last year or so when a group of friends introduced me to craft beers. Otherwise known as micro (or nano or pico) brews, these smaller operations produced beers far different than Bud, Miller and the other stuff I had in college. I won’t get into details here because the world of beer is so big that encyclopedias have been produced to catalog just the STYLES of beers, much less the thousands of brewers and even more brews they produce. But I will say that I’ve found a hobby that has created new friendships, new knowledge and only costs as much as I wish to spend at any one moment.
A few friends and I get together almost weekly to try new brews that each one has picked up, bring our wives to join in whether they drink wine, beer or nothing, and really make it a social event rather than someone just drinking in front of their TV alone and sad. The benefit of drinking in a group like ours is that each person brings a few different beers that we haven’t had before, and then we each have a little sample of each bottle. In the end, we can sample 8-12 different beers in a multi-hour session and not get drunk or break the bank!
I do use an app to track the beers I’ve tried as I don’t often like to drink the same beer twice (unless I really like it), much like I don’t like eating the same food more than once or driving the same car for too long :). I’m a man of variety, and craft beers, and even beers from the macro-breweries, provide me with an almost endless supply of options and styles. I’m the type of person who would rather have a broader set of experiences than become too deep on one thing, and I also love history, so reading about and drinking beer as a hobby has become my favorite pastime.
Granted, I got into a phase where I was spending up to $200+ a month on expensive beers to add to my collection, but in the last few months, I’ve reduced it down to just what fits in my fridge and a few special brews I’m “aging”. I’ve found a few places around that provide the variety I like in a draft form, and it gives me a chance to get out and meet other enthusiasts, business owners and others in my community. They’re not the typical bars, because there is a big difference between a craft beer enthusiast and a simple bar patron. One loves the subtle nuances of each beer and discussing beers just like one would talk about wines, cigars and cars, while the other sits in a smoky bar drinking a Bud and watching TV or playing pool. Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter, but that’s not my style.
Lastly, I’ve taken up brewing very small batches of my own, and am looking to have brewing sessions with some friends where we get to try and make some more special brews than the normal lagers. Brewing is a small investment in money, but can be a big investment in time, especially when you have to learn the chemistry, hop styles, recipes, cooking, fermenting, bottling, etc. The smart thing to do here is to find someone who already owns all the materials and partner up with them 🙂 It saves you the money, and you get to learn whether it’s something you want to do yourself.
So now you know what I do for a hobby and how I spend some of our money. It keeps me busy at least one night a week, plus the time reading about beer history and styles and so forth, but it’s not as absorbing as blogging was and it’s much more relaxing. What’s even better is having a beer while I blog 🙂