Back when you were a kid, you’d spend so much time reading new books, learning about the world and playing with your friends. Your days were filled with crafts and coloring books. Now, your days are likely filled with work, raising a family and other responsibilities.
But being a responsible adult doesn’t mean you should forget about your passions or hobbies. A 2015 UC Merced study found that people who engage in hobbies are less stressed and happier than those who don’t. Whether it’s taking a yoga class twice a week or becoming a full time photographer, everyone should have a hobby. See what these experts had to say about finding money in your budget to do what you really love.
1. Find Your Passion
The first step to finding money for what you love is to figure out what you love. Ashley Jacobs, who runs a pet-sitting business that also supports local rescues, said a passion is different from something you simply enjoy doing — a passion runs to your core.
“It’s easy to find things you love to do, but finding a passion involves going out in the world and finding things that move you,” she said. “ The process looks different for everyone, but you have to go and have experiences with things that intrigue you. You have to learn about the things that excite you. If you aren’t having experiences and learning, you’ll never find things that move you.”
Think about what you enjoyed doing when you were younger or activities that you daydream about doing now. If you take your time finding your passion, you’ll save money in the long run. Take a trial class or get a book from the library before you drop a lot of money on a potential hobby.
You might want to jump in head first without dipping your toes in the water, but that isn’t safe. You don’t want to waste money on something that isn’t really your passion.
2. Keep Your Goal in Mind
It’s one thing to say, “I want to spend more time on my hobbies.” It’s quite another to say, “I want to play basketball three times a week at the gym.”
Having a specific goal in mind is the first step toward achieving that goal. Plus, it’ll give you a visual to shoot for when you’re having trouble prioritizing your spending. Most people find it easier to save $1,000 if they know it’s going toward something — like a week’s vacation.
“It’s not money that motivates,” said Afford Anything blogger Paula Pant. “It’s the ‘why’ behind the money.”
What Pant means is that having a clear goal will help you succeed more than if you decide to do something vague. Using the S.M.A.R.T. system — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely — you can narrow down your goals so that you can set them clearly.
Once you find out what you’re passionate about, it’s time to figure out what’s stopping you from doing it. Whether it be a scheduling issue, a budget problem or a logistical snafu, find out which actions you need to take to reach your goal.
3. Create a Strategy
Once you have your goal or hobby in mind, you need to figure out the gap between what you want to do and what you need to do it. For example, signing up for photography courses and saving up money for the class is an important first step. Many of us stop at this point because we don’t know how to reach our goals, which can often seem lofty and insurmountable.
“Most passions have a financial cost, so figure out where you want to be and then reverse engineer that goal,” said Jacob Wade, blogger at I Heart Budgets. “For example: I want a $6,000 sports car in two years or less. Dividing $6,000 by 24 months means I need to save an average of $250 per month to buy it. I can automate that savings to make sure I always save that money, regardless of financial temptations throughout the month.”
Knowing how much your hobby will cost will make it more manageable. It’ll help you decide quickly if it’s something you can start on now or if you need to make some lifestyle changes beforehand, like adjusting your budget. Using Wade’s suggestion of automating your savings can ensure that you fund your hobby first before paying for less-important items like eating at restaurants, buying new clothes or going to bars.
4. Cut Your Budget
Once you know how much your hobby will cost you, you need to figure out if you can afford it. Go over your budget to see how much discretionary income you have. After paying your bills and buying basic necessities, you need to decide if you have enough to fund your new hobby.
If not, it’s time to make some changes. As Pant wrote on her blog, “You can afford anything, but you can’t afford everything.” That means you can buy a designer purse or a cruise to Greece, but you can’t do both.
Now is the time you have to prioritize. If your goal is to take a French cooking class, you might have to give up grabbing lunch at the local deli every day. Find things to cut that don’t mean that much to you — like new clothes or the newest technology.
Cutting your budget is the most personal step. You have to evaluate each purchase and compare it to your passion. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth postponing your trip to Europe so you can go to Napa for one weekend. If you’re really passionate about it, it’ll be worth it.
5. Earn Extra Money
If you’ve reduced your spending and still don’t have enough to fund your hobby, it’s time to reevaluate your income:
“Figuring out how to cut your spending is a good place to start, but there’s only so much spending you can cut,” Jacobs said. “The best thing to do is find alternate sources of income because, with hard work and determination, there is no limit to the amount of money you can make.”
There are countless ways you can earn more money. Both Jacobs and Pant recommended finding side gigs to do on top of your day job. You can even look online for more work.
“Deliver pizzas, freelance, consult, teach, design, program or drive for Uber,” Pant said. “Rent your spare bedroom on Airbnb; tutor Spanish and math lessons to high schoolers. Do whatever it takes to boost your earnings.”
Keep Reading: 30 Clever Ways to Make Money Online
By cutting corners in your budget, you can easily afford a hobby you love. When you focus on your passions and hobbies, you’ll see how much farther your money goes and you’ll be spending money on something you love. You’ll learn how to make money a source of happiness instead of a source of stress and shame.