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The Simple Dollar

How many hobbies do you really need?

Having too many hobbies can cost you unnecessary time and money. Figure out a small handful of core hobbies to focus on and discard the rest as active interests.

By Guest blogger / February 17, 2013

Bob Casey plays guitar at his home in the Wasena area of Roanoke, Va.earlier this month Hamm is letting go of some of his more casual hobbies so he can focus on learning the guitar, saving both time and money. (AP Photo/The Roanoke Times, Kyle Green

Kyle Green/The Roanoke Times/AP/File

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I’ll be the first to admit that I have a lot of interests. Without skipping a beat, I can name off a dozen hobbies that I actively enjoy and a dozen more that I enjoy on occasion.

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The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money.

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I know I’m not alone in this. I have quite a few friends who are roughly my age, have careers, have children at home, and have a ton of interests.

The problem is that there’s simply not enough time for all of my interests. I don’t have enough time to do all of the things I want to dabble in.

When I do take a “dabbling” approach, I usually end up feeling like I’m letting other hobbies down. If I spent a lot of time dabbling in a wide variety of interests, for example, I feel out of touch with my reading. I also feel like I’m not improving at many of the hobby skills I want to build – if I spend an evening playing a computer game with an old friend, for example, I’m not getting better at the guitar.

At the same time, virtually every hobby I want to dabble in has some sort of cost. Usually, there’s a fairly steep startup cost and a smaller but still relevant maintenance cost. Learning to play the guitar requires the cost of the instrument and, eventually, the cost of strings and picks and any learning materials I might need. Any sort of gaming hobby eventually includes the cost of new games. Exercise involves regular replacement of running shoes and other exercise gear. If you’re taking any kind of lessons, there’s that cost. Art projects involve art supplies of various kinds. Any entertainment-based hobby usually involves electricity and a monthly fee for the service.

So, the more hobbies I choose to dabble in, the less time I have for each hobby and the higher cost for my hobbies as a whole.

The solution is really simple. Figure out a small handful of core hobbies to focus on and discard the rest as active interests.

So, let’s say I go through my two dozen hobbies that I dabble in and I select three or four to really focus on. I decide to focus on reading, board games, exercise, and the guitar and drop the rest of my hobbies. (This is a thought process that’s ongoing for me, by the way.)

First of all, I now have a lot of hobby supplies to sell. The gear associated with the dozen or so hobbies I’ve chosen to de-focus are now just taking up space in my home. I can sell them off and use the proceeds to cover my hobby spending for quite a while.

Second, I’m actually going to gain significant skill at the hobbies that remain. I’m going to become much more well-read. My ability to look at situations and analyze them strategically is going to grow. I’m going to get in better shape. I’m going to be able to play music at a much higher level.

Third, I’m going to lose that sense of neglecting a “more important” hobby. As I mentioned above, whenever I dabble in other things, I find myself often feeling that I’m neglecting some other aspect of my life. By eliminating a significant number of things, I’m left with more than adequate time to address the things I care most deeply about.

In other words, this type of trimming is a triple win. It puts money back in my pocket, builds my skills, and leaves me with a sense that I’m not neglecting something more important.

I’m going to lose that sense of neglecting a “more important” hobby

If you find yourself with more hobbies and interests than you can handle and you sometimes feel like you’re neglecting the pursuit of something more important in your life, look at paring back on the number of hobbies and activities in your life. You’ll feel refreshed – and your wallet will be pleased, too.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on www.thesimpledollar.com.

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