Is Making an Expensive Hobby?

Money, it’s a gas
Money, it’s a gas

Is making expensive?

Just lately I have had a few people imply I was wasting my money on all this electronics/3d printing shenanigans. But is it really any more expensive or wasteful as anything else?

Obviously you can make it as expensive as you want, but does it need to be? And is it compared to other things you might do already, or instead?

Let’s look at some alternatives …

  • Smoking just one pack of cigarettes per day would cost you upwards of US$2,555 per year. It would also increase your insurance premiums.
  • Casual weekend beer drinking would cost more than US$1,560 per year, on average. Increase that if you are fond of wine, liquor or cocktails.
  • Sports? Apparently it costs $628.90 for a family to attend a New York Jets game, just in tickets. I did an informal survey and apparently even playing golf (locally) most weekends will cost up to $2,000 per year.
  • Like animals? According to the ASPCA, the total first-year cost of owning a dog is $1,270 and for a cat it’s $1,070. Aquariums can cost between $200 to $10,000+. Owning a horse is akin to owning a car.
  • Talking of cars, how much does it cost to buy and maintain those RVs, trucks, Ski-doos and other pleasure vehicles?


3D Printing? Monoprice Maker Select v2 = US$299 with free shipping, grab some Hatchbox filament while you are there for ~US$20 (I love Hatchbox, especially with Prime shipping because filament is heavy!). Fusion 360 and Onshape are free and professional-grade 3D CAD applications for most of our needs, Cura and Slic3r are free slicers. Octoprint is free as a printer controller.

Raspberry Pi? Canakit ultimate starter kit US$89.99 (you can do this cheaper — use a phone charger and might already have a HDMI cable), or if you prefer Arduino, US$70 for the official Arduino Starter Kit (the Arduino/NodeMCU boards I use are <US$5 each).

Need access to bigger tools? Maker spaces are opening everywhere. Mine costs CAD$50/month. Maker spaces also provide education and support.

The cost per hour of enjoyment is a way better deal on this stuff than, say, a movie on DVD, a steak dinner, or a trip to the sports bar …

Return on Investment

Other than pleasure, what do you get out of it?

Education / Future Career? Making (and related technologies) are the future, such as rapid fabrication, robotics/automation, and so on, but the benefits can be had now, by moving into software development (start simply on Raspberry Pi, include the kids!), 3D design, and all the other associated STEM fields.

Repairs? How much might you save by having the confidence to repair your own stuff instead of taking everything to the land fill or paying someone to come out and repair it for you?

Networking? I have met some amazing people through this little hobby.

Therapy? This is a big one for me. Having a creative outlet, and a distraction from thinking about work 24/7, gives me a way to escape the stresses of the week. Priceless.

Bottom Line

Anything can be expensive, but it all depends on how you look at it. What do you think? Discuss in the Facebook group here!

Originally published at Maker Hacks.