Optimising your hobbies

We do enjoy a hobby or two here at Frugasaurus central. The winter in particular is a popular season for the more indoor oriented ones, like sewing, crocheting and weaving.

However, there is a prevalent attitude about hobbies, and that is often that they should cost money. Lots of money. The better you get at whatever you do, the better equipment you want/need.

The gamer wants a better computer, the skier wants better skis, the cook wants better tools and the knitter wants more, always more yarn.

In the spirit of Uber Frugal Month over at Frugalwoods, I encourage you to kick that attitude in the curb. If you’re feeling that hobby optimisation creep starting to take over, take a step back, and ask yourself why you started in the first place. 


I mentioned last week that I taught myself to weave in my early twenties. The technique I learned first is called card weaving, and utilises numerous square cards with holes punched in each corner instead of a loom (hexagonal cards are also possible, but that’s a digression).

When I first learned about this technique, I wanted to have a go straight away. But I didn’t have a stack of lovely, polished wooden cards. What’s a person to do?

Simple beginner pattern.

Well, I took an old drawing pad and cut out the cardboard backing. With a ruler and a hole puncher, I quickly made myself a small stack of fully functional cards for testing out. I was also visiting my parents at the time, so it was a small fear to ask my mother, eternal knitter that she is, if she had any leftover scraps lying about that I could practice with. Of course she did.

Those simple cardboard cards served me well for years. They were a bit bulky, but not a problem while I was still doing the simple, beginner bands.

I will admit, I did eventually fall for the temptation to upgrade to slim, wooden cards. As my skills grew, I wove wider and wider bands, and I simply couldn’t get my hands around the increasing stack of cardboard any more. The wooden ones were slimmer and fit easily in my hand. Added bonus, I could now weave in public view on viking markets!

Saving by increasing your skill

Testing brocade for the first time after a medieval pattern. This and the one above are almost the same width!

In the beginning, I spent a fair bit on wool to make fairly simple, quick to make bands. Of course, when they’re simple, that also means they are less expensive.

Contrast that to learning to weave with linen and silk plus some new techniques. My bands got thinner again, but more complex. I used less thread, but spent a whole lot more time on each band. From spending an evening or two on weaving 2 meters, I could spend an hour just weaving 2 centimetres!

It sounds mad, but I think this is very often true for a whole lot of hobbies in the craft category. For some, startup costs can be a bit heavy, but the better you get, the more time you spend on each product, and the cheaper it is for you, as the crafter, to enjoy your hobby.

Not cheaper for anyone who wants to buy anything, of course! Since you spend a whole lot more time, but proportionally less in materials.

So level up your skill at whatever craft of your choice, and you’ll often spend more time, but less money, on each project! Learning crafts also means you don’t have to spend money buying it from someone else.

The outdoors

Contrast that with outdoorsy hobbies like hiking, biking, skiing, snowboarding, camping, paragliding and what have you. Here, I am frequently getting told that equipment matters.

You should totally spend $65 025 on the best, most epic pair of skis this season, to make sure you have exactly the same stuff as that pro athlete on TV. It’ll make all the difference in the world!


Old hiking shoes I was given by Mr. E’s family. No idea how old they are, but they keep my feet warm!

Wrong. Unless you yourself are a pro athlete. Sorry, but no, it’s not going to make much of a difference. It is all marketing and brain hacking and perhaps a tiny bit of thinking better kit will improve whatever time you had, instead of adding 10% more work?

I suppose I am lucky. My brain is not much of a competitive anything. When I bike, it is for transportation, when we hike, it is for the fresh air and sights. Neither of those care how old my kit is or whether or not I have the lightest, most top-tech bike.

On the contrary, I would argue that nature cares positively that I have old, hand-me-down kit. After all, that means I’m not just buying new and throwing out my old stuff.

Wear out your stuff! It took a lot of energy to produce, it deserves to be properly used. Don’t fall into the trap that once you throw it away, it’s gone. There is no “away” on a finite planet. It has to go somewhere.

Mr. E. has been looking for old skiing shoes in his size online for months now. He really wants to go enjoy the snow, but refuses to blow the budget on new stuff when other people are cleaning out their sheds and posting “for free” ads daily!

Hobbies that save you money

All right, I admit it, I’m not sure all of these count as “hobbies” in whatever way you want to define it. But, it is something I enjoy to spend time on, so it gets to be on my list.

Mending and darning is a big one in our house. It does come with the skill of sewing, which can be costly, but mending is by far the more done thing in our household at the moment. Particularly patching trousers in that one spot between the thighs that gets worn out 10x faster than anywhere else. And darning socks, I feel like there’s always a pair in need of some love.

Another big one that saves us lots of money is cooking and a general interest for food. Although I am loathe to call cooking a “hobby”, it’s more of an essential life skill. Luckily, if you don’t know your way around a chopping board, there are tons of resources available for free online. One of my favourites is Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube, just because of his love for simple, rustic and local dishes, all while being inclusive. Another, personal favourite of mine is Peaceful Cuisine, plant-based food with a Japanese twist, if you’re into that kind of thing.

A favourite of ours is hiking and going for walks. But we don’t just go for walks doing nothing else. Except in the depth of winter when there’s a thick layer of snow covering everything, there is usually something to forage. Be it spring greens, mushrooms, spruce shoots, meadowsweet, nettle, herbs or berries. There is almost always something, and we learn new uses for different plants all the time.

Aloe vera from Mr. E’s mother. Still going strong!

And finally, one that I am eager to pick up in whatever small capacity I can, is gardening. We don’t have much land to do so with at the moment, but we do have a tiny patch where I planted some garlic cloves in November. We try to keep herbs in the windowsill, but many of them find Norwegian winters a bit on the dark side. Basil seems to be managing just fine though.

Then of course, there is writing and/or, which doesn’t cost much beyond access to some sort of computer device or a paper and pen. Expensive tools might seem appealing in both those circumstances, but I’ve seen amazing work done with the cheapest of the cheap.

So there you have it, go forth, and optimise!

How did, or can you, optimise your hobbies of choice?

Let us know in the comments!

optimising hobbies

9 Comments on “Optimising your hobbies

  1. We tend to gravitate toward hobbies that don’t cost money, like walks in the woods and swimming (free if you have access to a pool, that is!). Traveling costs a good deal of money, but seeing the sights and visiting parks and other natural resources while you’re there doesn’t. We also love cooking and eating! 🙂 We’ve been making bread lately which is cheaper than buying it AND smells amazing! We’ve also figured out how to get all of our bookworms outfitted for books free (thank you Benjamin Franklin for having the foresight to start our country out with lending libraries). One hobby that is pricey is skiing, but we’ve learned to keep that as cheap as possible with used skis and finding the cheapest season passes around. 🙂

    • We really enjoy hobbies that don’t really cost money as well. Even with my soap making we could argue that we’d spend money on soap anyway. Swimming is definitely a good one!

      We bake bread occasionally as well and it is so good! I love insourcing. ?

  2. I’m mostly happy just reading (books from the library) and writing blog posts as well as taking the kids for walks, to playgrounds etc. Nothing expensive for sure!

  3. Ah – all good tips here. Which makes me think of the things I used to do around the house before pre-kiddo. Making my own laundry detergent was one of them! I will have to get back into this habit! Thanks for sharing your skills!

  4. Canning/gardening/cooking are all things I have come to really enjoy but it’s taken some time to get them to the point where they are actually a net positive. Canning in particular – the first year I canned ALL THE THINGS, and it turned out we didn’t actually like it all and some of it went uneaten. Now I know what we’ll eat (and what will be eaten by others) and stick to just that, however fun a new crazy recipe may sound.

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