We save money so that we can spend it on experiences and the things that we love to do. What happens when a hobby interferes with the money that you’re putting away into savings? That’s the conundrum that I’m currently facing as I try to balance my budget and make room for savings goals.
When I was in middle school, my mom gave me an ultimatum: I had to choose between signing up for ballet or ballroom class, and not choosing was not an option. Apparently, I had all the flexibility of a column and no femininity to boot. My poor mother decided that she needed to intervene. Both options felt stuffy to me, but I chose ballroom because the idea of being in a tutu was absolutely abhorring to my 13-year-old tomboy-ish mindset.
I only ended up staying in class for 8 months or so before high school came around and I found a totally new, time-consuming hobby: marching band. It wasn’t until I graduated from high school that I found myself craving ballroom again; I took lessons over summer and winter breaks and later joined my university’s ballroom dance club, where I made many wonderful friends. During college, ballroom was quite affordable. A semester of lessons cost $95 (many students thought that was steep; I knew just how much of a deal that was), and competition fees were covered with that as well. Plus, my mother was so excited that I had willingly returned to ballroom that she paid for my dance shoes, and the random paraphernalia that all competitive dancers need (thankfully the club had a large selection of costumes we could borrow at no fee).
When I entered the workforce, it took me half a year to take up dance again; partially due to my unwillingness to pay for lessons myself. Once I did, the additional (now quite hefty) cost was balanced out by the fact that I was still living under my parents’ roof and therefore not paying rent. Also, I had found a studio with a fabulous instructor, and so the cheaper group classes were just as (if not more) valuable than private lessons.
Fast forward 2 years: ballroom dancing in New York City is hella intimidating. I feel like world champs occupy every major studio in town, and lesson costs are significantly more expensive than what I am used to. Last month, I managed to find a smaller studio (read: I prefer to be big fish in a small pond). Dance lessons in September made up 20% of my total monthly expenses, which is actually more than what I pay for rent. My work schedule doesn’t conveniently allow me to better capitalize on cheaper group classes, so I’m really just paying through the nose for private lessons.
And yet, this is the happiest I’ve been with my work-life balance since moving up here.
I’ve recognized that being happy on a day-to-day basis is important. It keeps me motivated to reach my unrelated long-term goals. After all, who’s able to push forward for the future when everything about the now is totally shitty? Also, what’s the dollar amount I should assign/allot to feeling fulfilled? At this rate, I’m spending approximately $5,000 a year on my hobby. The frugal side of me is absolutely trying to rebel against dancing.
For pastimes we care passionately about, I believe there’s a “zone” you hit when you’re in the groove that brings us utmost satisfaction and content. For me, there’s something to the feeling of exerting a certain kind of control over my body… especially the kind that is perceived beautiful by others (as well as myself). If anything, pursuing dance gives me greater confidence to succeed at other aspects of my life, and for that, keeping it is worth it. Also, dance may sort of be my only legitimate form of exercise, because I hate exercising for exercise’s sake.
My budgeting solution? Just make it work. I’m setting lofty savings goals for myself in 2017, and now dance is just going to be another line item in my budget that I will have to account for. Hopefully none of you have as expensive of a hobby as I do, and incorporating hobby expenses do not come at the cost of your savings goals. It really comes down to how passionate you are about your hobby vs how motivated you are towards your financial goals. If you care enough about both, then chances are, there are other, less important expenses in your life that can be cut out. Bye, bye, shopping.