Since I was a small child, I loved horses. I read every horse-related book I could get my hands on, collected little toys, and begged my parents incessantly for a pony. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of money, so that pony never arrived.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Determined to ride, I found ways over the years to enjoy horses without spending a fortune. I’ve managed to become a pretty decent rider despite never owning a horse of my own.
With some ingenuity, you can enjoy even the most expensive hobbies on a budget. Here are five ways to indulge without going broke.
1. Rent instead of buy
The average annual cost to own a horse is almost $4,000. And that price doesn’t cover the purchase price, which can be thousands of dollars. In addition, horses are the worst when it comes to unexpected fees. A single vet visit or medical emergency can wipe out your savings overnight.
While I’ve always wanted my own horse, it’s just not practical for me. However, I’ve found a great alternative by leasing a horse for a set monthly price. My current buddy is a fantastic, well-trained horse that would cost about $10,000 to buy. But because I only ride once a week, I get to enjoy him for just $100 a month.
Whether you love horseback riding, skiing, or scuba diving, renting instead of buying can save you big money. Compare the cost of buying equipment to the price of renting, and take into account how often you can do your favorite activity. If you only have time for your hobby once a week or less, renting can be significantly cheaper.
2. Buy secondhand
Riding is one of the most expensive hobbies out there. Horses are expensive, but so is the gear you need. A new saddle can cost thousands, and even riding pants can cost several hundred dollars.
Rather than buying new, I save money by shopping for secondhand deals online and at consignment sales. I can get gently used riding apparel for less than half the original cost.
Look for secondhand equipment for a range of hobbies on sites like eBay, Craigslist, and hobby-specific Facebook groups. Also check out estate sales, flea markets, and community yard sales. You can often find golf clubs, cycling equipment, and even mountain-climbing gear.
Set up alerts on eBay for things you need and you’ll get an alert when someone posts a new listing. This can help you purchase fantastic quality items at a fraction of the cost.
3. Try a trade
It takes years of training to become a rider, and that means expensive lessons with a professional. Each session can cost $60 or more for just an hour. I reduce that cost by mucking stalls and teaching beginners in exchange for lessons. Without that trade, my riding education would have cost thousands of dollars.
Talk to instructors or venues to see if you can work off the cost of your hobby. For example, you may be able to get free yoga classes if you clean the studio or work the front desk for a few hours a week. Perhaps you can get ice-time in a skating rink if you agree to teach small children the basics of skating. Working off the cost can help you do what you love without spending a lot.
4. Barter for a discount
When I started working, I stopped doing barn chores in exchange for lessons. Instead, I started trading professional services. I managed social media pages, wrote press releases, and edited websites in exchange for time in the saddle.
Barter your skills in exchange for free or discounted services. If you’re a photographer, trade a photo session for a free scuba lesson. If you’re a graphic designer, you could design a new brochure and get discounted dance classes.
5. Be flexible
I logged hours of ride time by being willing to ride any horse that was offered me. If an owner had a high-strung animal that needed exercise or a green horse that needed experience, I was the first to hop on. By not being picky, I was able to ride far more than I ever could afford to — and I became a much better rider for it.
If you’re on a budget, be flexible. If you can take classes during off-hours, on less popular days, or at a mildly inconvenient location, you may be able to get a significant discount.
Hobbies without the cost
Just because you’re short on cash does not mean you have to give up what you love to do. If you’re willing to work and employ some creativity, you can enjoy even the most expensive hobbies without wrecking your budget.
For more information on budgeting, here are five effective ways how to trick yourself into saving money.
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