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How to Afford Expensive Hobbies

As you read this, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is rolling thought Colorado. We were fortunate enough to experience a little of the hoopla yesterday when the cyclists sped right through our area. Literally if you blinked, you missed it, but then you got to see all the decked out swag wagons carrying bikes worth more than many cars, any gear you can imagine, and Barry Bonds. Yes, apparently Barry Bonds has become quite the bicycle nut in his retirement. Who woud have figured? Where we live, outdoor sports are a way of life.  They stop you at the border if you don’t bike or ski. I’m not quite sure how I made it across without either skill, but I’ve made up for lost time in the 12 years I’ve lived here. Outdoor sports like biking, skiing or golf can require some expensive gear and/or fees. Is there a way to participate in sports without breaking the bank? There are tons of blogs out there to help you save money, like iheartbudgets or Young Adult Money .  If you’ve read all those and  have saved up and want to try a new sport, remember these tips.

Make sure you are going to stick with the sport

Before you go out and buy a set of golf clubs, shoes, gloves, and a GPS rangefinder for your golf balls, head out to the driving range. You can rent clubs, take a lesson, and hit drives until your heart is content. You can also find places to rent bikes, skis, kayaks, and most other equipment to try out your skills or lack therof. See if something sticks. Otherwise, you’ll just end up with an empty wallet and a closet full of stuff that you’ll have to sell later.

You love it! How do you buy it?

My first mountain bike was from Sears and weighed just less than a tank. I wore a t-shirt and regular shorts. After that first ride on a real trail, I was more sore than I’ve ever been  in my life (except for my one attempt at water skiing). Your butt can lose feeling for a whole day! I almost gave up.  When my soon to be husband convinced me to invest in a nicer bike, I suddenly turned into queen of the mountain (well, maybe only in my mind,but it is so much easier to get up the hills when you’re not carrying 50lbs of metal). You also gotta have the shorts. No woman wants to put padding on your backside, but it’s better than being numb. 

 When you have done something enought times to know a bit about the technical side of the equipment, you are ready to purchase. As with any purchase, decide how much you are going to spend and stick to that. No impulse buys! Look for sports consignment shops. Check out ebay or Craig’s list. If you have a local store, ask them what sort of deal they can give you. You might get demos or last year’s model for a steal. Also look for swap meets. Every year before ski season, there are seveal ski swaps in the area where people bring their used equipment and clothing for others to buy, kind of like huge yard sale oriented toward one type of sport.


Just like your car, quality sporting equipment can last for a really long time if it is well maintained. If you leave your golf clubs out in the driveway covered with mud, don’t be surprised if you’re not under par. After each use, you should clean your equipment and store it indoors. Things like bikes and skis need tune ups after each season of regular use. By taking care of your equipment, you should not have to buy very often, and when you do, you’ll get a good resale on your product.


Obviously it might not sound as prestigious to go skiing at Hesperus Mountain as opposed to Telluride, but for $65 per lift ticket in savings, it might be just as fun. If you live close to a ski area and have kids, you can volunteer for a school program. Kids get to ski cheap, and if you volunteer to take a school group, you can often get a free or reduced lift ticket. Municipal golf courses are often a great deal, or if you want to play at an expensive course, play during off peak times. You can often save 60-75% if you don’t mind going later in the day. You can always find a deal, but you have to plan before you go or you might get ill due to severe sticker shock.

If you find a sport you love or would love to try,  you should plan and budget for associated costs. By doing your homework, anyone can find a way to afford hobbies that may seem expensive. Of course you can always just go running or swim in a lake for free, but sometimes the experience is worth the cost.


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I like the point about borrowing / renting the gear before you try. To often I have seen people who have bought a full Scuba kit get in the water for the first time and realise they hate it… All the gear – but no idea! 🙂

  2. I was watching the tour on television yesterday! You live in a pretty area.

  3. I bought garage sale golf clubs and go to the range a few times a year. I would love to get into golf, but just don’t have the time/money at the moment. Also, the fees to golf more than a few times a year really add up. maybe when I’m ballin’ like Barry Bonds I can afford the clubhouse dues and just play golf all week instead of work…..you know….because my money will be workin’ for me 😉

    • Golf is stressful for me, so I’d never want to do that all week. I’m sure I could come up with some other equally expensive hobby to shoot for though.

  4. A hobby is a stress reliever and brings balance to your life. So, I totally agree you should budget for you hobbies (it makes it easier when you splurge on your “gotta-haves”)

  5. My hobby is to find new, expensive hobbies, then buy all the expensive stuff for the hobby and finally never actually take it up.

  6. Hobbies are a huge part of my life because they keep me sane.
    Currently I play soccer on 2 teams ($350 every 6 months). I play a lot of golf (so far through this golf season I’ve spent $2k +), and I also have a personal trainer ($200/month).

    I budget for it, and work even harder to have all these things. I feel great, healthy, and more importantly relieve tons of stress. I wouldn’t change a thing.

  7. Oh, my gosh, I have a sibling who always got a new hobby…that lasted about a month. I don’t know how my parents stayed sane footing the bill for those initial investments that ended up being a waste.

  8. I usually get a very cheap / introductory item when I first get into something because I have no idea how long I’m going to stick to it. I own one golf club which I got on sale for $20. Considering I only go to the driving range about once a year now, I’d say it was the right price for the return! 🙂

  9. Try before you buy is definitely key. That was something I notice with climbing gear. Not that it’s terribly expensive, but it does have some of the same technical aspects as biking or whatever. And after climbing for a few months, my preferences were totally different than what I would have been sold on day 1. Waiting to buy was a good plan.

  10. I have an expensive hobby–investing in money that has been doodled on. People think I’m nuts but I am fascinated by the subject: http://www.moneygraffiti.com

  11. First Gen American

    My husband called my mountain bike “the paper boy bike”. I mountain bike a lot (I live in New England in a really great area with lots of trails), but I don’t even own a road bike. You’d think the two went hand in hand, but I borrowed someone’s roadbike once and I thought it was the most boring thing ever. Thankfully I didn’t just impulse buy a roadbike because it would be a towel rack now. I still want one from time to time as I have a lot of roadie friends but it’ll most likely be a used model.

    • I used to hate road biking until I did a triathlon. That just changed it for me somehow. Also I don’t like to mountain bike by myself because I get lost. With a small child, my hubby and I don’t usually go at the same time. At least on the road, I don’t get too turned around.

  12. Expensive hobbies are tough to deal with, but not having good equipment makes the hobby a lot less fun. Hubby & I are triathletes. That is an expensive hobby – bikes, running gear, nutrition, race fees, travel costs… you find a way to pay when you have a passion. 🙂

    • Wow. I do one local sprint triathlon a year. I can see how that would get expensive with travel. It’s a huge rush though. I might consider doing more when the daughter is older and doesn’t need me so much.

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