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Ask The Readers: What Is Your Hobby Worth To You?

Our friends' weeks and weekends are crammed full of various pursuits - soccer, baseball, gardening, scrapbooking, calligraphy, swimming, dressage, sailing … the list goes on and on. And let's face it: No matter what the hobby is, it's going to involve the wallet.

There is a price of entry for virtually every hobby, beyond which the sky is the limit. And after watching the Olympians compete this summer, I started thinking about just how far you can take these pursuits and how much it costs to go there. How do you decide if you're spending too much?

The intangibles

All in all, the pursuit of a hobby, sport, or interest can be rewarding on so many levels that it seems pointless to weigh the cost against the benefits. The mastery of any skill produces confidence, tenacity, and appreciation. Team-building adds social awareness, cooperation, and respect. Pursuing a sport usually leads to better health, and, for a lucky few, a gold medal.

The hidden costs

But it's easy for a hobby to spin out of control before you even realize it. For instance, were many of the Olympians' parents aware when they enrolled their sons and daughters in lessons that they could soon be paying $15,000 a year on average for camp, competitions, airfare, and training?

My friend Katrina loves horseback riding. She expects to pay $1,000 for a horse - at least. But then she has to house and feed it, to the tune of $350 a month. She regularly shells out $200 for various unexpected expenses too, and that's over and above tack and trailer. And to top it all off, when she became interested in entering her prize stallion in a horse show, she found that competing added another $1,500 annually per horse.

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