Hobbies help you stay happy, studies show — here are 3 affordable options people love


Every year for Christmas, Margaret Craig receives a puzzle. Once it's out of the wrapping, Craig says, the rest of Christmas day is pretty much "swallowed by solving that puzzle."

Puzzling is one of her favorite hobbies outside of the holiday season, as well. "It's a great table game, but its also a great me-and-my-glass-of-wine-time game," she says.

People who spend time immersed in hobbies tend to be happier, according to Thomas Fletcher, associate professor in the School of Events, Tourism & Hospitality Management at Leeds Beckett University, U.K., and chair of the Leisure Studies Association. "There is so much evidence out there that leisure and hobbies are positive to our well-being," he says. "Doing things we enjoy — essentially being happy — however temporary, is never a waste of time."

However, many hobbies can be costly. Getting certified to scuba dive, for example, can mean training and equipment costs of around $700, according to International Training, a collective of dive training agencies. Gardening — which a quarter of Americans consider their favorite hobby — cost the average household $503 last year, per the annual Garden Trends Report.

To take on a hobby without spending a lot of money, consider some of these affordable options.

If you have a green thumb

Last year, about one-third of household bought a plant, according to a gardening trend research paper from the University of Vermont. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars to cultivate your own indoor (or outdoor) garden, try building mini terrariums. Audrey Eichenberger, 26, in Dallas, Texas, got the idea when she saw such items for sale at the Dallas Farmers Market and thought, "I could make that."

"I buy the glass terrariums and rocks at the Dollar Tree and the succulents and soil at Home Depot," she says. All together, she spends under $10 per month on her creations.

Terrariums can also make for thoughtful, low-cost presents, Eichenberger points out, which has helped her save during celebration-heavy months: "I love how cute and inexpensive the final products are, and my friends and family have really enjoyed receiving them as gifts."

Doing things we enjoy — essentially being happy — however temporary, is never a waste of time.
Thomas Fletcher
Chair of the Leisure Studies Association

If you love music

More than half of Americans consider "music" to be their hobby, according to Statista. If you're the friend who is always offering to host parties and spend hours making your playlists, consider being a DJ.

Mandy Weiss, 30, who lives in New York City, DJ'd for the first time when she was in college and a friend asked her to DJ their birthday. "From there, people kept asking me to DJ events and at local bars," she says.

Now, she DJ's two or three times per month but spends two or three days a week making mixes. "It's been a great way to bring people together. Friends have a sense of community knowing they can stop by a DJ set, and it gives me a sense of identity. Your music really defines you when you put it out there publicly for all to judge."

Because she already had a laptop, her only cost is a chord from time to time, which is about $10, and the one-time cost of the software. For her this was was $50, but "the most popular software, Serato, is $129," she says.

"If it's a small bar, and many of them are, I'll get paid around $50, plus drinks, or a percentage of bar sales, which is anywhere from $50 to $100," she says. So, unlike violin lessons, this hobby could pay for itself, or even bring in a little extra.

How this couple runs a karaoke lounge in their home

Video by Ian Wolsten

If you're crafty

Almost one-third of Americans said arts and crafts was their favorite hobby. Since craft classes can be expensive in Chicago, though, where she lives, Sydney Mason, 27, picked up cross-stitching. "It's low-cost — I got a kit on Amazon for under $15 — low commitment, and wasn't too intimidating," she says. Right now she spends less that $10 per month on cross-stitching.

For example, a five-week cross-stitching course at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago is $180. A different medium, such as pottery, would still cost more: Four classes at the Chicago pottery studio Penguin Foot Pottery, for instance, costs $135.

She also likes how cross-stitching keeps her from indulging in some of her less healthy habits: "I have enjoyed it so far, because it can be relatively mindless while simultaneously keeping me distracted enough so I can more easily avoid unproductive boredom habits like snacking or going into an Instagram wormhole."

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