Only 45% of Americans say they have enough money to spend on hobbies: Here's how to make room for them in your budget

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Key Points
  • Only 45% of Americans say they have enough money to spend on their hobbies.
  • When mapping out your monthly expenditures, first consider your core and essential expenses. Whatever's left over can be spent on discretionary expenses like hobbies.
  • If you don't have lots of money for a hobby, consider finding a workaround, like volunteering at a place that enables you to do that activity for free.

Hobbies can be an important part of your day-to-day routine for multiple reasons: They structure your time and ensure you're not spending all of it working, can help build new social connections, and provide an outlet to cope with stress, according to Psychology Today.

They can, however, cut into your paycheck, sometimes significantly. Less than half, 45%, of Americans say they have the money to spend on their hobbies, according to 2021 Personal Capital survey of 2,006 U.S. adults.

There isn't a defined percentage of your take-home pay that should be dedicated to your favorite pastimes, says Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial planner and CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth. But since they can improve mental health and up your joy in life, it's definitely worth trying to squeeze hobbies into your spending.

Here are a few tips from experts about how to go about it.

'Include the hobby as a line item' in your budget

A straightforward way to make your hobby a financial priority is to include it when you plan out how to spend your money.

When mapping out your monthly expenditures, consider, first, your core and essential expenses. These may not be fixed. "A good example of something that's essential but not fixed is electricity," says Cheng. "In the summer, your electricity bill could be higher because of the AC."

Tally up your housing, utilities, groceries, gas bills, and any other basic necessities. Add any debt you're paying off and savings or investments you're putting away, then take a look at what's left over. The rest can be considered your discretionary fund. If you're using a budget framework like the 50/30/20, those discretionary expenses could represent roughly 30% of your take-home pay.

"Going out to eat with friends, maybe getting your nails done or vacation," says Jamila Souffrant, host of the Journey to Launch podcast, these are the activities that add meaning to your life and fit into your discretionary spending.

"I would include the hobby as a line item in there," she says. Some people have more discretionary income than others, so how much each person spends on these activities will differ.

Figure out if 'this hobby means more to you than maybe brunch'

Once you've noted the size of your monthly discretionary budget and taken inventory of your favorite activities, hobbies included, start prioritizing.

"You may realize that, you know what, this hobby is important to me, I actually want to invest more in this thing," says Souffrant. You could then end up "cutting out what doesn't matter because this hobby means more to you than maybe brunch."

Barbara Corcoran: How your hobby can become a side hustle

Video by Stephen Parkhurst

If you don't necessarily want to cut any activities, you could consider picking up a side hustle to ensure you have enough for everything you want to do. You could also find other hacks that enable you to take on that activity you love.

"One of my clients actually volunteered on the PGA Tour," says Cheng. He loves golf, "so the benefit to him is he gets to play on the world's most beautiful golf courses for free or very reduced fees."

Cheng has another friend who loves both travel and Pilates. "So what she does is she takes people on these Pilates tours," she says, including to places like Italy. She has to cover the cost of airfare, but she doesn't have to pay for food and lodging. Plus, she gets a paycheck for teaching while they're there.

"I can't live off this income alone," she told Cheng, "but this allows me to be able to pursue my hobby at a higher level."

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