How I Wasted Over $1,000 Last Year and What I Wish I Had Done Instead

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You don’t have to repeat my mistakes.

Key points

  • I picked up a new hobby and spent too much money because I didn’t think through my purchases.
  • Taking my time and setting clear goals early on could have saved me a lot of hassle.

When I started researching my family history last year, it was mainly to quell my boredom and curiosity. It quickly turned into what I think will be a lifelong passion. But as I found out, it’s not a cheap hobby.

I’ll admit, my enthusiasm got the best of me at first and I ended up wasting over $1,000 on stuff I didn’t really need. Now that I have a little more experience under my belt, it’s easy to look back and see what I could have done differently. These are three of the most important lessons I learned the hard way.

1. Focus on free resources first

Whether you’re exploring a new hobby like I am or starting a new business, there are probably some free resources that can help. It can be blog articles online or a book at your local library. You can also ask for help from others on social media or on a message board tailored to your interest.

Instead of diving in and emptying your bank account right away, first see what you can do without spending any money. I didn’t do this and then realized I should have. As it was, I ended up paying a lot for subscription services that I wasn’t ready to use at that stage of my research.

It’s okay to be a little stingy with your money at first. Do your research and make sure what you’re spending your money on is really worth the effort. And that brings me to my next tip.

2. Learn from those who have gone before you

If you’re trying something completely new, you may not know what tools you need or what books or courses are worth investing in. But chances are there are other people who have been where you are and have the answers you are looking for.

Before you spend any money, check out product reviews, read expert advice, and try to get an idea of ​​what your immediate goals are before proceeding. Doing this could even lead you into a community of other people who enjoy the same hobby and are learning alongside you. Sometimes that personalized help you can get from someone else is more valuable than the generic advice you’d pay for in a book.

3. Allow yourself to start small

When I get excited about something, I tend to dream big. I wanted to track every member of my family from as far away as I could and identified all kinds of resources that could help me reach that goal. And some of them might come in handy eventually. But I’ve learned that if I want to be sure my work is correct, I have to take it one step at a time.

Rather than spend a ton of money on books and subscriptions that could benefit me one day, I wish I had set clear, simple goals from the start about what I wanted to accomplish. Then when I met those goals, I was able to reassess and focus on my next slightly bigger goals. That’s what I ended up doing, but unfortunately, I spent a lot of money before I knew it.

It’s okay to have a plan for what you might need to buy in the future, but make sure you have clear priorities and don’t get too ahead of yourself. If you need to buy something expensive, budget for it and save over time. And who knows? Waiting might even pay you off. If you don’t need something right away, maybe you could wait for a sale or look online for a cheaper used version.

Sometimes spending money is unavoidable. But if you follow the three steps above, you can at least feel confident that you’re doing everything you can to keep your costs to a minimum. Then check in with yourself every few months to see if you can identify additional savings opportunities as you pursue your hobbies.

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