June 1 2010|08.35 AM UTC

Stan Reybern

10 Elite Hobbies on a Main Street Budget

Category: Personal FinanceTags: ,

There are as many hobbies as there are activities in life, but there are some that stand out more than others as the hobbies of choice for the people fortunate enough to afford the expenditures of pursuing them. The odd thing about those hobbies is that many people believe that they’re just too costly to afford, when in reality it’s often not nearly as bad as it seems. These ten hobbies are normally seen as reserved those who have cash to spare, but you don’t have to be rolling in benjamins to enjoy them in your spare time, either.

Wine Tasting

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Wine tasting isn’t just for the rich any longer. There are now monthly and even weekly tastings in just about every city and medium-sized town across the country, and it’s only getting more affordable with every season. One of the great things about local wine tastings is that the organizers tend to stock the selection with wines local to the region — wines that also tend to get better with every season since many of the wineries are relatively new. When it comes down to it, wine doesn’t need to be 30 years old to be good, and you don’t need to bring home a case of wine when you go tasting. You can actually go through an entire tasting for nearly nothing, and you can walk away with at least a bottle or two of your favorites for very little.

Traveling

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While it’s true that travel has become an expensive pass-time, there are still ways to pull it off without dumping your life savings. For one thing, it’s important to recognize that most people don’t ever get farther than 100 miles from the place they were born. Set your goals a bit low for starters, since there’s always time to see Paris later. You should check every airline with service local to your area for the best rates several months in advance, and pick a spot that’s appealing to you (like the opposite side of the country), and book your flight early. If you do your research and play your cards right, you can get away with a trip to some place several thousand miles away for a fraction of the cost that you likely thought it would be — and there’s no reason you can’t do it four times a year.

Country Clubbing

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Watching movies from the 80′s and 90′s will get you thinking that country clubs are still cloistered-off centers of elitist pampering. While there are still many clubs that cost anywhere from $20,000 to $250,000 yearly, there are many more that cost $5,000 or even less. These clubs offer a place away from the public parks that are often trashed or full of kids using the area for anything but golf or tennis. Another huge plus to clubs is that they come with a restaurant and bar, ready to serve you meals throughout the day and always putting on parties for the members.

Big Game Hunting

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You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to hunt game bigger than ducks and deer. Granted, traveling to Africa is a bit expensive, and once you get there you have to deal with the expenses of staying and making your way into viable hunting areas, but if you can scratch together enough to pull that off on your own then you could tell stories about it for the rest of your life. Be that as it may, we’re still talking about huge costs, so staying closer to home might be the best option — and that’s where Alaska comes in. Spending some time in the extreme northwest hunting moose, wolves and bears every now and then is definitely more affordable than going overseas to chase wildebeests.

Sailing

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Going yachting is basically reserved for those who can afford a yacht, and at anywhere between one and 200 million dollars, yachts just aren’t easy to come by. Sailing in general, however, is something that anyone living in a coastal region can do. Small sailing boats can be found used for as low as $10,000 to $20,000 — cheaper than most new cars these days. The great thing about having your own boat is that you can go out on it any time you want, whether it’s after work for a couple of hours or floating around for a whole weekend.

Art Collecting

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Most people tend to think of art collecting as a luxurious pass-time of the opulent, but it’s more than a way for rich people to dress up empty hallways. You don’t need to spend millions at an auction to get your hands on art you love, either. As cliche as it may sound, art is everywhere, and you can find it with almost no effort if you bother to look. There’s always a supply of fresh art, and if you’re not sure where to start looking, many small cafes and coffee shops (we’re not talking Starbucks here) have the work of local artists on the walls. Websites like Etsy are also great places to get started.

Recreational Flying

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Given that it takes around 70 hours of flight time to get your license, recreational flying is a hobby that needs a great deal of time to work up to. Because of that, it’s also a hobby that forces would-be practitioners to take things slow, instead of getting in over their heads by moving to fast. It’s going to take a bit of money, since lessons aren’t cheap — but they’re not ridiculously expensive either. Stretch out the licensing phase for as long as you can to allow you to save up money while you still can’t legally fly by yourself. Planes aren’t like cars or small sailing boats; they run a bit steep even when used, but they’re unobtainable. Hangar space isn’t quite necessary, since a spot on a secure tarmac is really just as safe, and much more affordable. Choosing a craft with good safety ratings will get your insurance lowered, and every airstrip has at least one mechanic willing to do good work cheaply for folks running older models. You can be a pilot if you want to, and you can make it a great life-long hobby.

Poker

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Watching games on TV can make you think that all poker is high-stakes, with million-dollar payouts and thousand-dollar buy-ins. That’s simply not the case, and there are thousands of happy people all over the world playing poker without going to the poorhouse. The biggest problem with hobbies like poker is that it’s easy to get addicted, and get in over your head. People who don’t handle their money very well shouldn’t get involved in poker, even if it’s extremely low-stakes. If you can handle the temptations, playing poker recreationally can be a great hobby, and a very social one at that.

Equestrianism

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Horseback riding isn’t just for rich land-owners, if you live in an area near horses, whether it’s ranchers or breeders (or even a track), chances are that somebody’s set up a place where people can spend time with the animals, learn to ride, and visit regularly. Wherever horses are, there are people who love them, and that nearly always leads to a community of riders. Once you find one of these groups, you can go to regular meet-ups in designated riding areas. Many of these places charge very little, so you won’t likely be overspending unless you decide to buy one to keep for yourself.

Vintage Cars

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When people think of vintage car aficionados, they tend to think of guys like Jay Leno with his ridiculous garage of mythical proportions, packed full of rows upon rows of vintage collectibles. As wonderful a dream as that life may be, it’s not quite tangible for most, but you don’t need to collect loads of vintage cars to enjoy them. Pick a car — any car you want, whatever your favorite was in high school — and then find one nearby that’s used, beat up, and cheap. Having a project car to work on anytime you feel the urge is the definition of a hobby, and when you finally finish what you’ve been working on you can turn around and sell it for profit — only to find another and happily start again.

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