Most hobbies aren’t free. Whether you have to pay for lessons, equipment, time, or anything else, it seems difficult to have a night of fun without paying for something.
I realized that through my university years, I was able to save a lot more money than my friends. While I didn’t really do it intentionally, I now realize I stumbled across a great technique for saving money: Find a way to get paid for your hobbies.
For me, I sang in a barbershop quartet, played in a brass quintet, worked on a high ropes course, and ran student programs in residence. I was lucky enough to get paid for all of them!
A friend of mine stumbled on the same technique: He plays the trumpet in a military band, teaches yoga, teaches spin classes, and he tutors people.
This technique may not be for everyone. Turning hobbies into jobs comes with some downsides – there’s some increased pressure to deliver and added commitment, for example. But if saving money is a top priority for you right now, then why not try to earn some cash while you have your fun.
Let’s look at some examples:
If you love to perform, there may be a way to get paid for your performances. Even if you don’t make much, splitting up a modest honourarium from a senior’s home gig, for example, may cover expenses such as gas, music, or merchandise.
For me, this relates to music also, since I’ve been lucky to travel the world with some phenomenal choirs and quartets. In almost every case, my travel has been subsidized. With barbershop quartetting, the wonderful folks in the Ontario District help fundraise. With choirs, I was able to go either as a chaperone, percussionist, or artistic staff member. But music isn’t the only way to have travel subsidized. Perhaps you are doing a volunteer trip and can fundraise? Perhaps you are on a sports team and are supported by a league? Perhaps you could volunteer to do some extra administrative work for a group tour in exchange for a discount? Don’t be afraid to ask about the possibilities!
My friend teaches spin classes because he knew that he’d be much more likely to show up for his morning workouts if he was getting paid to do it! Teacher training can sometimes be lengthy, and often requires some financial investment, but not always. If you’re really into it, the investment could pay off in the form of a more long-term employment opportunity. Even if you don’t end up teaching, the experience will probably be fun, interesting and help you improve your technique.
If becoming a teacher is too much, look for ways to barter your time. A friend participates in the energy exchange program at the local yoga studio. He gets free yoga in exchange for one night a week of volunteering. While working the desk on Friday nights, he noticed that not only does he enjoy the social time at the studio, but he’s less tempted to go and spend money doing something else during a prime “money spending” time of the week.
They say the best way to learn something is to teach it. I love teaching, and during university, I had a job both as a teaching assistant and as a private tutor. Both jobs paid well, and I got the bonus of reinforcing the important concepts from my own education. It was like I was being paid to study! Don’t think you’re smart enough to teach?! Not true! I’ll bet you’ve got something you’re really good at, and if you can find people who want to learn what you can do, you’ve got yourself a part-time job!
My brother-in-law is a fantastic photographer. A few years ago, they rented a small studio space, invited everyone they knew to the show, and framed some enlargements of his best shots for display. They didn’t sell everything, but he sold a bunch! Maybe you like to write? Or sketch? Or make pottery? I’ve been trying to convince my mom to sell her quilts for years now… she’s having a hard time letting them go, but as the pile grows, I think she’s getting closer!
Already spending loads of free-time crafting the perfect tweet or capturing amazing Instagram shots? Feel like you have a lot to say about the current events or culture? Like to program, write or design? There are so many avenues for people to get paid online. My assistant knows a few people who live-stream themselves playing video games and earn enough money through donations to keep themselves going. Other friends build apps and websites for clients in their spare time. Alternatively, if you have lots of “followers” you might be considered an “influencer” and that could be a ticket to some income – or at least some free swag!