From time to time, you might think of taking up a new hobby or activity. Perhaps some of your friends are into a particular sport, or maybe you've developed an interest in learning to paint or play a musical instrument.
You might be on a quest for some sort of self-improvement: perhaps you're thinking of getting gym membership, joining Toastmasters, or signing up for a diet club.
However, I'll bet you've had all sorts of hobbies and interests in the past which were short-lived - where you spent money on classes or items or books which you didn't really use. So how can you start a new hobby without wasting your hard-earned money?
- Pick A Cheap Activity
Okay, it's obvious, but some hobbies and activities are considerably cheaper than others! If you're equally keen on the idea of learning to jog and learning to ski, you'd be best going with jogging; it's virtually free (you just need decent trainers and some loose clothing), whereas even skiing on artificial slopes will cost you.
Even if you've already got a particular interest in mind, you may be able to find a cheap way to get started. For instance, losing weight doesn't need to mean paying for expensive supplements and classes: you could get going for free, just by keeping a food diary and becoming more mindful about what you eat.
- Avoid Subscription Payments
However keen you're feeling right now, recognize that your interest might wane after a month or two. Gyms make much of their money from all the people who pay a monthly subscription and rarely or never set foot inside.
Look for ways to trial a new hobby without paying up-front for weekly classes, a monthly magazine, or similar. Yes, it's more expensive on the face of it to pay for individual gym sessions or to buy copies of a monthly journal in the store, but if you lose interest after a month or two, it'll work out a lot cheaper.
- Borrow From Friends
When you're starting out with something new, it's worth seeing if you can try it for free. That might well mean borrowing something from a friend who's already got equipment.
For instance, if you're considering getting a netbook, can you borrow one from a friend for a few days to see whether or not you find it comfortable to use? If you want to learn to play a keyboard, could you go round to a friend's house to play hers for a few weeks?
- Sell Your Old Stuff
Most of us have a lot of stuff which we're not using. Exercise bikes, musical instruments, DVDs, computer equipment ... all sorts of things which we bought a while ago and haven't touched in months or years.
How about selling some of that clutter on ebay? It might be junk to you – but well worthwhile to someone else. With a bit of extra money (and extra space!) you'll find it much easier to get started on your new hobbies and interests.
- Buy Basic Equipment
Finally, if you are going to buy, go for basic equipment. I know it's tempting to get something good, especially when you know it'll last longer and be a better investment in the long run ... but if your interest is going to wane after a couple of weeks, that flashy guitar or professional treadmill is just going to end up gathering dust in a corner.
You can find basic, entry-level products on ebay or craigslist, secondhand in classified ads, or from places like Walmart. Shop around and look at reviews – you want something which will give you a good introduction to your new hobby, not something that falls apart after a few uses.