You Need to Spend $1000 to enjoy X | Over-Consumption in Hobbies and How to Curb It

Last edited: May 05, 2022

If you are like me, spending excessive time on internet forums or subreddits to find equipment or advice on a hobby will end up with you spending more time worrying about weird technical details than doing the thing that you set out to do. As a bonus, you will end up spending far more money than you planned on.

As a possible scenario, let us imagine that you want to start kayak fishing. The first step that I would take would be to look for decent equipment on a related subreddit. There will probably be some thread that lists an "entry-level" option for around $1000-$2000.

This seems to be a common theme. All of the cheaper options will be disparaged as something that you will "grow out of" or will inexplicably disintegrate the moment you bring it home. I have noticed this with varied hobby areas such as fishing, hunting, cycling, and even computer keyboards .

I believe that the reality is that the people that spend a large amount of time on these forums compare with each other and have a vested interest in feeling like their financial investment was worth it. One way to feel that one is part of something or a social group is to make a larger financial investment than others would have made.

Is this really you or would you have just as much fun just biking around?

As a small aside, I feel like the term "entry-level" is a very clever marketing term that presumes that no matter your circumstances, once you have decided that you enjoy something, you will need to start spending money on more "serious" or "quality" equipment.

Something that observing people from non-American cultures has taught me is that it is quite easy to confound looking for quality and falling into consumerism. For instance, while I was fishing the other day, I saw a guy and his family fishing. They weren't decked out in "fishing clothes" and used expensive lures and rods. He was fishing with some cheap natural bait and throwing the line into the water and retrieving it by hand without even a fishing rod. His two kids and wife were laughing and enjoying time with him and he caught a lot more fish than I did! Would that guy have had that much more enjoyment if he were in a 50K boat with 4 outboard 600HP motors (that gets less than one MPG) fishing with $2K+ fishing rods?

My point isn't that all American culture is bad or that boating is somehow evil, but rather that it is a good idea to take a step back and think about whether or not that large purchase that you are considering would improve your experience enough that it would be worth the financial and environmental cost.

Environmental Effects of Over-Consumerism in Hobbies

Aside from the more obvious financial costs that buying equipment for leisure activities incurs, I think that is important to consider the environmental costs. When I buy artificial lures, I need to consider the fact that if my line breaks, that lure will be in the water forever; that in any case, once it wears out, it will be sent to a landfill; that when I buy something new instead of trying to make do with what I have or buying used, there is a real environmental cost. Buying a new plastic kayak will use a non-negligible amount of petroleum. A carbon fiber bike isn't recyclable and will have to be binned once it wears out. With leisure activities, I think that this is important to consider as, by definition, they aren't things that I need.

Root Problems and How to Solve Them

I think that part of the reason that I feel drawn to buying more things for hobbies or spending too much time gathering knowledge is that I want to find identity in a hobby. I would like to seem like I know what I am doing and find some sense of belonging in that. However, I need to step back and realize that buying equipment and reading doesn't make me a skater/golfer/hunter/etc and that even if it did, the enjoyment comes from doing and not buying or browsing forums.

What is the Solution to Over-Consumption?

Buy that "entry-level option" that will last and use it or ride it until it falls apart. Even better, find a used option that will lessen one's environmental impact. Secondly, and this is a bit more practical, get off Reddit for anything related to hobbies or minimize time spent there. If you need real advice, a good Facebook group in your local area may have more genuine people with real faces with whom you can make real relationships with.

Someone that I think exemplifies the attitude of consuming less and enjoying more is the channel PathLessPedaled. Although it is a cycling-focused channel, I think that the ethos of riding with a "Party Pace" that they put forth can be generalized to other activities. For me, it means a redirection of focus from mini-maxing efficiency, flash gear, and competition to one focused on relationships made and the joy that comes from living a more simple life.

To clarify, I don't mean to have some sort of reverse-elitism. It is fine to be competitive or to care about technical details, but that you might not need to buy as many things as marketing divisions from famous brands would have you believe.

Finally, and this is the biggest one for me, realize that one will not find true identity in whatever hobby you pursue and that value from leisure activities comes from connections built with others and/or the pursuit of knowledge.