9 Affordable Hobbies to Discover This Year

 Christine DiGangi

The whole point of a hobby is to do something because it brings you joy. But sometimes, that happiness comes at a cost – literally. Hobbyists can easily spend hundreds of dollars on supplies, workshops, tools and event tickets.

If one of your goals this year is to save more money, you don't need to sacrifice fun. Instead, consider picking up one of these inexpensive hobbies to satisfy your curiosity without stressing your finances. The following hobbies can be done on a daily to weekly basis for less than $25 per month or at a start-up cost of less than $100 but little monthly spending afterward.

Learning a language. Whether you want to learn a foreign language for the first time or refresh the Spanish you learned in high school, there are several free mobile apps and low-cost services to help you do it. Duolingo, Memrise and Babbel have high ratings in the App Store and in Google Play and come at a reasonable price.

Costs to consider: Duolingo is free, but the premium version costs $9.99 per month. Memrise is also free but charges $9 per month for its premium product. After a first free lesson, Babbel users pay $12.95 per month for courses.

Coloring. Adult coloring books have more intricate designs than what you had as a kid, but the concept is the same: Put a colored pencil to paper and fill in the blank spaces. It's something most people know how to do, and some research has found it may relax people by directing their focus away from regular life stresses. You can find coloring books at a variety of price points and free coloring pages online.

Costs to consider: You'll need to buy coloring pencils and new books occasionally. Printing coloring pages requires a printer, paper and ink.

Volunteering. No matter where you live, there's an organization that could use your help as a volunteer. Ask around your community or use sites such as VolunteerMatch or All For Good to find opportunities.

Costs to consider: You'll need to pay for travel to and from volunteer work, but these costs are potentially tax deductible.

Computer programming. There's no shortage of online tutorials for learning programming languages. Sites such as Skillshare and Codecademy offer free beginner lessons for several programming languages. If you're interested in hands-on computer building, check out Raspberry Pi. It's an inexpensive computer the size of a credit card you can use to learn programming. There are many free project guides online, and you can get a starter kit for the Raspberry Pi Zero for as little as $20.

Costs to consider: Beyond their free products, Skillshare's premium version costs $15 a month, and Codecademy Pro costs about $20 monthly. Buying computer programming accessories can quickly add up, but you can keep your hobby affordable. For example, there are several Raspberry Pi starter kits that cost less than $100.

Reading. Find a public library in your area and enjoy hours of free entertainment while reading books, how-to-guides and other literature that piques your interest. Don't forget to shop for secondhand books and e-books if you'd like to own your own copy. There are several ways to develop reading as a hobby: Participate in a digital book club, join reading message boards for inspiration on what to read next or challenge yourself to try a new genre every month.

Costs to consider: Stick to the library or secondhand bookstore to stay on budget. Remember to return borrowed books and avoid fines.

Photography. A majority of Americans own smartphones (77 percent in 2016, according to Pew Research), which means most Americans have cameras. Take photos of your friends, family, pets, nature or whatever else appeals to your eye. You can find free photo-a-day challenge ideas on Pinterest and Instagram or go at your own pace.

Costs to consider: There are relatively affordable groups you can join if you want to increase your level of commitment to the craft. For example, you can join the yearlong Capture Your 365 challenge for $59 or 365 Project for $19.99 (there is a free version, too).

Writing. This is about as low-cost as a hobby gets – you can write about anything, in any length, either on your computer, smartphone or with a pen and paper.

Costs to consider: You may want to buy paper and pens or set up a free or low-cost blog.

Running or walking. While the average listing price for running shoes is $121.10, according to analysis of more than 183,000 running shoe prices by RunRepeat, you can go to a sporting goods store with a budget of $100 and likely find a suitable pair on sale or in the clearance section. After that initial expense, running or walking costs very little.

Costs to consider: Once you've found a pair of shoes you like, keep an eye out for that model on sale, as you will need to replace your shoes eventually. You should also consider the cost of getting a checkup with your doctor before starting to exercise.

Cooking. Cooking can be expensive, but preparing your own food makes the cut for a simple reason: You have to eat, so it's not a superfluous expense. Stick to recipes that require few ingredients and basic kitchen equipment.

You can find recipes for free online, in library books or in used cookbooks.

Costs to consider: One of the biggest costs that comes with cooking is food waste. Throwing out food is throwing out money, so when you have a surplus of an ingredient, look it up in the cookbook's index or online to find more uses for it.

You can also end up spending a lot on obscure ingredients and kitchen gadgets. When a recipe mentions a piece of cooking gear or ingredient you don't have, search the internet for alternatives.

Of course, any hobby has the potential to get expensive. The nice thing about these hobbies is that you can try them out at a low cost before committing more time and money to them. Then again, you don't have to – spending little to no money on your passion doesn't make you any less of a hobbyist.

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