The case for cash-neutral hobbies
I am sure we have all read the posts that advertise keeping hobbies that are cash positive. You know, the fun project or sidehustle that turns out bringing in a bit of money on the side and helps the quest towards general 9-5 independence?
I love those. And I particularly love the idea of them. Who wouldn’t like to make a living doing something they love?
But, and here is the teeny ‘but’ for me; most hobbies don’t start out that way. For most paying hobbies, you do have to work up some skills and proficiency before anyone will open their wallets for you.
That’s why I’d like to suggest cash-neutral hobbies as an absolutely acceptable starting point. Or a milestone if you will. But not all hobbies need to go beyond the point of breaking even, even if we might want them to.
Take Mr. E’s writing adventures, for instance. Now, writing is a grateful hobby because most people (at least those of you reading this) will have access to some sort of device capable of accessing the grand interwebs anyways. If you have one of those, you already have everything you need to be writing! Even that is technically way more than you actually need, as a pen and paper would suffice as well. However, if you ever want to publish any of the projects you write, a computer-device is the way to go.
Now, why isn’t Mr. E. earning nickles and pennies already, if he enjoys writing, you might ask. And that is a good question. For those of us living outside the big countries like America and the UK, our banks take an exchange fee whenever our accounts are paid in anything but our local currency. This exchange fee tends to eat up any small sales from things like Amazon KDP and other self-publishing sites. It is only when you start getting popular and somewhat well read that the income starts to outweigh that exchange rate. And that is ok! It is still fun to see that other people are actually reading what you are writing, and it does start to build an online presence and a reputation. Reviews are also another way Mr. E. enjoys to spend his writing energy, as the small projects are quick to finish and encouraging.
What of me then? What sort of cash-neutral hobbies do I enjoy?
Well, cooking and preserving food has been a big source of joy for me. Laws about food safety and hygiene stops me from really wanting to dig in and make a business out of it, but it still saves us money.
Another passion I’ve recently picked up again is cold process soap making. As a chemist, it is a fun and simple home chemistry project that simultaneously taps into old creativity stores. In short, it is just great fun (even if an HSE part of me balks at the fact that any Tom, Dick and Harry can just buy lye).
Now, while my ultimate goal is to launch an Etsy shop where I can sell handmade soaps and hopefully make a little bit on the side, that is not currently where I am at. I am still reviewing my skills and experimenting, which means that I do not consider my soaps fit for sale.
Does that mean my new hobby is a cash drain? Of course not! The heaps of soap currently curing in our pantry (3 batches, so far) have found uses as gifts to friends, as well as obviously being employed to wash our hands, hair and body.
Even if materials like good oils are not cheap, I still consider my soap making a net-positive project. After all, even if it has not brought in a penny in terms of sales yet, it is still saving us heaps on shampoo, body wash and hand soap from the store (with all its associated plastic packaging). It also keeps me busy, which is good. Just like crocheting fruit/mushroom shopping nets from thrift shop yarn does.
In short, even if none of your hobbies create income yet (or ever!), you can still save a pretty penny and increase your frugality points, simply by choosing hobbies that somehow provide something you already need/use. As self-acclaimed frugal foodies with a particular drive for self-sustainability, this is very much a field we can relate strongly to.
So if you are in a position to choose, and hopefully, most of us are, I would urge you to look at your interests and see if you cannot find something to do with your time that is a production hobby (crafts, carpentry, gardening, cooking, writing, making podcasts, etc.) rather than a consumption hobby (watching movies/series, collecting things, being a support member at the gym, shopping… etc.).
Plus it is just so rewarding to be able to use a nice, frothy, bubbly, moisturising bar of soap and think, I made that. Self-reliance is, after all, a gradual process.