I started writing this post while somewhat hungover after a night out in Toronto with friends from University that included a bar that had 343 different kinds of beer on it’s menu. This was an expensive night (with that many different flavours, I felt it was my duty to try to get through as many as I could) that I don’t regret (other then the tiredness and sore head in the morning) and got me thinking about other things that I buy or spend money on that I know are a waste of money and are counterproductive to my end goal of retirement at 45, but I do anyway because of various justifications. Over the years, I have also learned how to limit the amount of money I spend on these activities in order to at least have some semblance of budgeting with my vices, which are as follows:
Video Games: This “hobby” is probably my most expensive habit. I own an XBox 360, Wii and Playstation 3, which means in total, I have approximately $1,000 worth of hardware that all play essentially the same games (in my defense though, the PS3 was a wedding present). Trent at the Simple Dollar gave tips on how to reduce the cost of video games by buying only games that have long-time playability, reducing your cost per hour to a minimum. I don’t have an attention span long enough to continually play a game for months and months and after I have beat it, I rarely feel the need to return to it to play it again. Up until a few years ago, this meant that I would be trading in games for 25% of what I bought them for to get new games, something that is not entirely desirable. Now, I spend $17 per month and rent games over the internet through zip.ca. I pick the games I want to play and the company mails them to me as I mail them back. This allows me to play several more games then I normally would for a flat fee, thus limiting the expensive ownership cost of the games. The only downside of the service is that I never know what game I’m going to get, which is kind of interesting sometimes.
Golf: I love to golf. If I had a choice, I would spend most of my summer wandering around courses in the area. This is a very expensive hobby as well, with equipment and usage costs, a person could spend significant amounts of money over a season. I have limited my costs in couple of ways:
- I golf in the evenings, utilizing “twilight” deals offered by most public courses in the area. For most courses, it works out to 25-50% just by starting the round later.
- I limit golf equipment spending. I limit club purchases to at most one per year. Golf balls can also be expensive, but you can find deals online on used balls. In my experience, a $0.20 golf ball will go just as far in the bush, or just as deep in a pond as one you’ve spent $1-$3 on. Last year I bought 10 dozen used balls for $30 + $10 shipping. These should last me several years and work just fine.
- I budget year-round for this hobby. I could fix the playing cost by purchasing a membership, but in general unless you play 50+ rounds at the same course during the day, it doesn’t work out to be cheaper then paying on a per-round basis.
Gambling: This vice actually costs me the least amount of money per year, and actually allows me to make a little bit of profit on a per year basis [If I pick the right teams, which I didn’t do yesterday when I went 1 out of 4 in the first round of the NFL playoffs 🙁 ]. I found a gaming site that accepts bets as low as $1 per game and use this, reducing my risk, while still allowing a wager on the game, which is really all I want. Profitability is uncertain, but if bets are researched (similar to stocks), I think that a skilled person could make decent long-term profit through betting.
Beer: I’ve been led to believe that most people also enjoy beer (unless I’ve been watching too many football games), which can get expensive to drink in Canada where alcohol and tobacco are taxed significantly. This year, I am going to start brewing my own beer, mainly because I enjoy making most things from scratch, but also because I believe if I learn to do it well, it could lead to some cost savings down the road, after purchasing the equipment. Right now, I just drink cheaper beer, after finding a few brands that I enjoy (I’m not sure if it’s available elsewhere in the country, but I would highly recommend Brava Light). It would be healthier to give up beer altogether, but it is something that I enjoy occasionally, and it’s just tasty :).
How about you, what are your vices? How do you fit them into your financial plan?