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Hobbies? Who has time for hobbies these days! Well, we should all make time. Having a hobby is one of the best ways to increase your happiness, the evidence is pretty convincing on that.

But hobby’s are expensive and time consuming. So how do you choose which one to take up?

Especially as the more fun the hobby is, the most expensive it seems to be.

Except that’s not quite true. There may be a link between the cost of a hobby and how ‘fun’ it is in the short term (perhaps knowing it’s expensive makes us value it more?). But there isn’t a link between the long-term enjoyment of a hobby and the amount it costs.

If your hobby is skydiving, and you spend 10 years doing it every week and getting really good at it. Despite spending a fortune, it doesn’t mean that you will get more enjoyment out of it than if you had spent all that time on another, cheaper hobby. Actually there are some pretty good reasons pointing to the opposite. For instance if your hobby is cooking, you get to practice and experience it a lot more than you would skydiving. It’s also much more inclusive, meaning you can enjoy it with your friends – not just the other, rich, skydiving enthusiasts.

But let’s take it one step further, what if we could find hobbies that aren’t just cheap but actually make you money?

If we could find a hobby like that, we would not just be learning new skills and getting happier, but also making money. Awesome!

Even better though, I’m not just talking about hobbies that you can exchange directly for money (such as such as carpentry, where you can sell your creations).

I’m talking about hobby arbitrage.

Hobbies that save you money. And saving money, as we have learnt, is just like earning money, but better.

Take cooking. I eat out a lot. If I got really into cooking then I would save a load of money. I would save on those meals out. I would save on travel costs as people would come to visit me for dinner. I would save on alcohol as dinner guests always feel it’s their duty to overstock you on booze.

Not to mention all the other, non-financial, benefits – I could eat a lot healthier, improve relationships with my close one, be able to put on an awesome date. Ohh and don’t forget happiness.

What about DIY? I’m useless at DIY. Recently I tried to put in some insulation at The Wren. I thought – “how hard can it be?” It was a disaster and cost us not just on the ruined insulation material but also on having to pay someone who knew what they were doing to come and fix it.

Being rubbish at DIY is also stressful. Someone told me recently that in their rented flat the hot water wouldn’t turn off in the shower. It was just spraying scorching water everywhere. They had to run around to find the master valve to turn the water off… The master what? I had no idea there was a master valve. What on earth would I have done in that situation? It’s quite terrifying just thinking about it. I can image me impotently waiting, the flat slowly filling with water. Waiting while we tried to get in touch with the landlady, who could then get in touch with a handyman, who could then come round and fix it.

Or how about putting up a picture on the wall? It’s not quite as straightforward as you’d think. I decided to hammer a nail into the wall and hang a picture on it, got 2/3rds in and thought ‘oh crap, what happens if I hit an electric wire?!’? On this occasion, I didn’t die, but I also didn’t get my picture.

Here are some ideas for hobbies and their financial benefits:

  • Carpentry – Create your own furniture or sell your creations on Etsy.
  • Cooking – Save on meals out.
  • Photography – You can sell your pictures on sites such as iStockPhoto.
  • Beer brewing – Need I say more?
  • Policing – If you become a volunteer policeman in London you get free travel on TFL.
  • Writing – Sell a novel. Improve your written communication. Win, win.
  • Gardening – Save on a gardener. Make your neighbours jealous.
  • Painting – Sell your artwork online, at a site like Save on purchasing artwork.
  • Mechanics – Save on your car repair bills.
  • Poker – Good if you get good.. Very bad otherwise.
  • Knitting – Save on clothes! Or at least on repairs.

In 2014, I did a different sort of hobby arbitrage. I spent the year learning to play table tennis. Now that’s a hobby that you’d expect to be cheap, but still cost money.  It certainly didn’t save me any money.  To try and make a bit of money from it: we videoed my progress, wrote about it

Luckily there are other ways to make money from a hobby – start a niche website. It was one of my 10 Part Time Businesses You Can Start for Peanuts and has got to be one of my favourite types of micro-business; there are just so many benefits. To try and make a bit of money from my table tennis hobby: we videoed and uploaded my progress, wrote about it on a blog and are currently writing a book about the experience.

Our video has now been viewed over 1.5 million times and the blog got about 1,000 views a day. Although I’ve stopped playing table tennis, the revenue is still coming in and so far has more than covered the cost of the hobby.

This year I’m doing a similar thing and attempting to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Got a hobby that I missed that’s valuable? Let me know!