How far do you take a Hobby?

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any. Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

I like to brew my own beer.  I haven’t done very much of it, but have found it is a pretty fun hobby which allows me to drink beer, something which I enjoy.  Cost-wise, after 3 batches of beer I have essentially “paid for” my initial equipment investment, as I can make a 650 ml bottle of beer for around $0.60, compared to $2 at the beer or liquor store in Ontario.

The problem that I am having, which is similar to how most hobbies go – whether it’s golf or fishing or knitting (which my wife loves to do) is that at a certain point you want to specialize more, and this generally costs money.

My previous few brews have all been made through extracts, or those cans of stuff you can buy at some grocery stores.  I would like to get into all grain brewing, which would allow me more flexibility to make my own recipes and to actually “brew” beer, rather than just dumping a can of stuff into a pot.  Much like cooking food, I would rather make my beer “from scratch”.

In total, to upgrade my current setup to be able to brew beer right from grains (rather than the cans of stuff) will cost approximately $200  – for a place to let my beer “steep”, a big brew kettle to boil water and wort (the steeped grains), a stir table to propagate yeast, and a place to control fermentation temperature while the beer is brewing.

I have come across this sort of high cost hobby in the past (and present) through golfing.  I really like to golf, but it is kind of in opposition of the rest of my lifestyle – it has a high per use cost through green-fees, balls, tees and equipment.    I have found in the past that I essentially have to stick to a budget that I set out in the beginning of the season – if I budget $500 for golf for the year, I generally make sure that I don’t spend more than this during the year.

It is easy to get swept up in a hobby – to spend too much through excitement of the new activity you’re into.  Part of the fun with a hobby like this is to get as much return out of as little investment as possible.  This strategy generally means a lot of internet research regarding jury-rigging together equipment rather than buying it, causing a significant delay in start-up as it will take weeks or months to gather all of the materials together.

So, my brewing stuff will not look pretty but it should function just as well as store-bought stuff.  The new equipment will reduce my costs (eventually) as well as allow me to learn to build the interesting gear needed for my hobby (which is part of the fun of doing something like this for me).

Do you have hobbies?  Has a hobby sidetracked your financial plans?  If not, how do you ensure the hobby does not alter your current or future financial plans?

10 thoughts on “How far do you take a Hobby?”

  1. I suppose you could say I have several “hobbies”… fortunately none of them cost much. I used to have a golf fixation as well, but that has fizzled in recent years- I don’t think golf and ER plans are a good marriage anyway. My favortie hobby is sea kayaking… I’m fortunate to have property on an island here on the west coast – and although the initial investment to buy a couple of 18ft kayaks is considerable, once you have the equipment you essentially have a cheap hobby which allows you to see different natural wonders everytime you launch from the beach. I have had unforgettable encounters with orcas, porpoises, sea lions, etc…. great upper body workout as well. 🙂

  2. 650ml for $2? I’m moving to Ontario! Haven’t seen a 650 for less than $4.50 for ages.
    If the hobby makes you happy, then budget for it and do it. The fact that you are getting a great result from it helps make it even more worthwhile.

  3. Oh,yes, there are expensive hobbies to be sure and I have my share of them! Anything automotive is going to be expensive, especially if it involves competition. Fortunately I’ve found a few ways to keep costs down and enjoy racing, but it is very easy to lose sight of the retirement goal.

    Fishing has reemerged as a hobby. Licenses and gear are the obvious expenses, but what can really hurt financially are the travel costs if one is not keeping an eye on them.

  4. I have a very expensive hobby – my horse. I have financial goals for savings and I do not compromise on them. I make sacrifices in all areas in my lifestyle to make owning and showing my horse work for me and my family. It expensive and makes no financial sense but it makes me incredibility happy and fulfilled – well worth it in my opinion.

  5. My husband brews his own beer but at the end of the summer last year he made a batch that he hated so much he couldn’t even drink it. He’s had a few successes but hasn’t found a beer yet that he loves as much as what he can buy. Any good suggestions on brands/ mixes/ cans? We are also in Ontario so we should have access to the same stuff as you.
    My husband brews his own beer because he didn’t drink for years (liver issues) and since getting the green light from the doctor has really enjoyed drinking again but didn’t like the expense. He also has an expensive gun hobby and we’ve been trying to think of ways to make money off of that. Besides the obvious benefits of hunting (cheap meat but a bit hit and miss) he is thinking of taking the necessary steps to become a gun license instructor. We try hard to make our hobbies pay for themselves.

  6. Photography has to be one of the most expensive hobbies out there! My SIL is very talented (and trying to make a business out of her skills) but she has spent thousands and thousands of dollars on equipment. Then there’s courses etc..

  7. Well, retiring at 40 with a small pension for income, we had to be very careful with regards to hobbies. My wife has none, I have all of them, except maybe golf. However, of all the things I like to play around with, my sailboat is by far the most expensive. I have spent just shy of $50,000.00 on her in the last year. The key to making it work is to budget it into the retirement plan, and be flexible. We originally had $30k set aside for the boat in retirement. Even though we are way over budget, deciding to sell our house and build another one eventually, will free up more than enough money to cover it. On top of that, we will be living on the boat in the Carribean for a while, one year we break even, two years we pay for the boat, any longer is cash in the bank. Living on the boat is far cheaper than on land, and the capital from the house makes money for us. Budget and be flexible, that’s the key.

  8. Hi Dave,

    I just started my own batch at a u-brew, from a kit. Like you, I want to get closer to the ‘from scratch’ level. I enjoy a well hoppe d Ila but will never have this sort of control from a kit, or extracts. The next step for me will be to buy the primary fermented, and a carboy so I can do it at home. At $70 for a stater pack with all the equipment I still think this is reasonable for a hobby that is fun and saves money. While I am further back the curve than you, I anticipate similar issues when I want to Tak it to the next level. Interested to hear how much extra investment you would need to make to go all grain? Also interested to hear how you convince a spouse that brewing in your house is a good idea :p

  9. For those starting brewing at home, I highly suggest looking into getting used equipment. Lots of people buy new equipment only to discover they hate it and sell it.

    I got all my starting equipment used (approx 200$ worth) for 50$. I then sold a pump that came in the same lot (you don’t need a pump for racking) for 75$ for a net profit of 25$.

    A way to ease into going all grain is to start with a kit and to add extra hop and / or specialty grain. This is what I did prior to going all grain.

  10. Thanks everyone for the comments, I apologize I got really busy with work last week and didn’t respond in a timely manner

    @ Jon_Snow – I’m not sure how well golf and ER will go together, but I’ll give it a shot….

    @SarahT – I think it helps that I’m not beer fussy – as long as it tastes like beer, I’m in!

    @ George – The added bonus with fishing, if the travel costs are kept under control is fresh fish.

    @ Leah – My father has 5 horses, all they seem to do is eat. If it’s your thing though, and you’ve budgeted the costs into your lifestyle it’s probably no worse than any other hobby.

    @ Marianne – I’m sure at some point I will brew something I despise. I’m not sure where you’re from in Ontario, but the Canadian Homebrew supply store in Brampton seems really helpful. Also, maybe look into joining a homebrewer’s group? Getting together with more experienced people to learn and also to buy inputs in bulk would probably help.

    It’s a great idea to make the hobbies at least break even (or ideally pay for themselves).

    @ mycanuckbuck – Photography seems like a hobby that you never stop buying things to do…..and it’s not like you can rig together a new lense or something.

    @ Rob – living on a sailboat in the Caribbean sounds like fun. I’d love to do something like that to get away from the cold.

    @ Brian – I will follow up in a future post with regards to my continuing beer “investment”. My spouse is a beer drinker, so she’s behind it 100%.

    @ Gus – I keep an eye on Kijiji and Craigslist in my area, and have gotten some stuff from there, the rest I’m hoping I can build myself (like a mash tun, stir table, fermentation chamber) there are tons of good instructions online.

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