A Question of Money

I was listening to a radio programme yesterday on the CBC Radio.  A man who was a huge collector or something (I am not quite clear what it was because I picked up the programme as it was finishing) was talking about his spending contract with his wife.  He had written a contract that specified how much he could spend a month on his hobby.

The hosts took him fairly seriously and the guest didn’t take himself too seriously.  He also explained that he often broke the budget for “special sales/events” that fell outside of the contract.

It got me thinking about how I spend money on hobbies.  I don’t really have a budget.  I control my spending the old fashioned way….fear that I won’t be able to eat if I spend too much.

Then I started thinking about my hobbies and which ones cost the most money, which ones cost more money than I expected.  Cycling has been the least expensive.  Once I bought the bike, except for some clothes and some nutritional supplements, there isn’t a huge ongoing cost.  Of course, going on cycling trips, which I have done, costs money.  Of course, I think of these as vacations, totally unrelated to my club cycling.

I balked at stamp collecting because it seemed like something that my start off small, but grow to something huge if left unchecked.  You might start off collecting one country and used stamps and then up trying to collect the world in mint stamps.  Deluxe books for stamps cost a small fortune, not to mention inventory software and travel to stamp shows.

I suppose coins are much the same.  The book to house the almost one hundred years of the Canadian penny is probably worth more than the pennies themselves.

Hockey cards seem to have so many sets and special cards that you’d be through your budget in no time.

I suppose all collections start like that.  They start small, but they grow.  Suddenly you are spending more money on storing the collection and reading about the collection than actually collecting.

How do you set a budget for whatever your hobby is?  Is it a monthly amount or a yearly amount?


A Modern Day Dilemma

I can be a bit of die hard.  I can hang on to technology far longer than some.  I haven’t gotten a Blu-ray player or flat screen TV yet.  On the other hand I have an eBook reader, and I was the first to get a DVD player.

The question is whether it is time to go completely digital where my music is concerned.  I already have an MP3 player and have most of my library on my laptop.  I could put every single CD I have onto my computer and then either store or get rid of my CDs.  This would have been unthinkable years ago, but now…

When cassettes became passé they ended up in the trash (or recycling box…which then probably got put in the trash) or got sent to people who still had cassette players in their cars.  I didn’t get rid of my LPs and now they seem to have come back in fashion.  I may have to go and dig them out of their storage/hiding spot.

This is such a first world problem.


When I tell people I have a lot of hobbies they mostly ask what they are and leave it at that.  The more adventurous ones might wonder how I can afford it.  Funny though, no one wonders where I keep it all.

I have written a couple of blogs about storage, but that’s common to all hobbyists.  We’ve all got tools and supplies and various other equipment.  It takes up space, but most of that is “out of the way” or stuffed into a closet.  There is always room for that stuff.  What nobody really stops to consider is what do you do with the finished products.

If you have a hobby that results in some finished product, you might want to display it.  In some cases you’ve got to display it.  Sure, you can give some of it away–some people do crafts that turn into Christmas presents.  But, how many times do your family and friends want that stuff?  If it is a quilt, you probably don’t mind having six or seven of them, but how many wool sweaters do you want?  How many hooked rugs do you need?  How many paint by numbers can adorn your walls?

Okay, some of these crafts are beautiful.  Hence the reason I wrote that you’ve got to display them.  Sometimes these crafts are so integral to your life that everyone expects to see them on display at your house.  No problem there.

I, Jack of all hobbies, however, have so many hobbies, and do not often produce things of display quality.  What do I do then?

Limits.  I have limits.  There are only so many of one thing that I can have before it needs to get pared down.  If I make a good car model, it usually displaces a model I am less happy with (though some parts end up in the parts box for that diorama I am going to do someday).  I’ve only go so much shelf space, and the better models make the bad ones look rather poor.

New magazines displace old ones–or more likely, deluxe editions of books put out by these magazine publishers displace the magazines.  Realizing that they had me paying twice, I read the magazines at the library and only buy the books….but this is a topic for another day.

Train stuff….well, I can always make more room for train stuff.  I am into N scale, and that doesn’t really take up  a lot of room…..besides, you’ve got to have priorities, and you’ve got to rationalize.

Take my latest puzzle.  I did it because I liked trains.  I thought about putting it up over in the room where there will be a train…but then I realized that wall space was at a premium, and I had already done a couple of other train puzzles that I thought were better than this one.  So what could I do?  Despite my pack rat nature, I am going to pass this puzzle off to someone else who will have to figure out what to do with it once they are done.

Too Much, Too Many?

How much is too much?  How many is too many?  Either every hobbyist must answer these questions, or spend a lot of time avoiding answering these questions.  If they don’t ask themselves, then surely someone in their family, or circle of friends, or amongst their co-workers will ask this question.  At first, it will be polite, but that will change…. Given time.

Hobbyists (the part that becomes the collector) start out small.  A few model kits here, a stumble across a sale means a few more, a deal at a yard sale, a trip to a convention…. I used model kits as an example, but it might just as well have been trains, die cast cars, Lego kits, DVD series, tools, doilies, stamps, hockey cards….. really, I should have just left a blank and asked you to fill it in.

You know the kind of hobbyist I mean.  This person has way more stuff than they can ever tackle, and has no desire to part with any of it… at any price.  They’ve got some great stuff, some usual stuff, and hidden away, though not less valuable to them, some very mediocre stuff that they wouldn’t show their hobby friends.

In my case, it isn’t quite that bad.  I don’t have too much of any one thing.  I’ve got more than I need (don’t we all), but I won’t be featured on any hoarding television show.  However, I probably have too many hobbies, and therefore too much hobby stuff as opposed to too much of one thing.
I am pretty good at setting limits, but I am often swept away by new interests.  Something new is more interesting than something I have seen before.  Something different is better than something I already know about.  Of course, this is also limited by cost, but that will be the subject of another blog (the title will also be “How much is too much?” but with different implications)

Recent additions to the collection
So how much/many is too much/many?  It’s a tough question.  As for model kits, more than you can build in your lifetime would seem to be a good place to start….but that doesn’t take into account new things that come onto the market.  The same could be said for trains.  More than you can run in a weekend seems like a good number.  Lego…. when you can build your own house out of Lego, you should probably stop.  Comic books…. when the boxes can’t be stored in the guest room, that should be it.  Tools….if you haven’t even taken them out of the package in a few years, the message should be clear.  The list could go on, and I really want to hear from you people and how much you think is too much for the hobbyist in your life.

The Fix for Photos

Sometimes, I am a little gadget mad.  I guess you could say that I get overly enthused by technology (despite this, I have managed to easily resist the lure of a smart phone–I love the apps and all the cool stuff that goes with it, but I am really not interested in having a phone).  I love to wander the aisles in a computer store and relish any opportunity to purchase more technology.

Thanks to this blog I have taken quite a few pictures.  Yes, I have taken them for more reasons than this blog, but I have done more with the photos for this blog than any other photo I have taken.  Now, I am just wondering what kind of photo software would best serve my needs.

The program that came with the computer is certainly adequate, but seems a little cumbersome.  I imagine that with a more sophisticated program I could do more with the pictures (I am not really sure what that “more” would look like, but I feel confident that it would be better–in some way)I imagine that some better software would make my pictures better…..in some, non-specific, nebulous kind of way.

Storage is another difficult area.  I can easily file my pictures away, but I have trouble finding where I stored them when it comes time to write this blog.  I guess I am hoping that some electronic genie will help me with all this.

I guess I will have to spend some time this weekend browsing the aisles at the electronic store. I will have to brave the crowds looking for bargains, and maybe I will have to brave the overly aggressive, and incredibly early, Christmas shoppers.  I know, it is a hardship, but I am going to have to do it.  At least it will be warm inside.  Who knows?  Maybe, I will find the perfect piece of software that can easily solve all my problems.



I have already admitted (perhaps more than once) that I have been bitten by the Lego bug.  That is undeniably true.  What I failed to mention, or perhaps concealed from you, is that I found a way to stave off the call of Lego.  Not surprisingly, that way comes from Japan(my other home, and source of many of my hobbies.)

They are called Nanoblocks.  Basically it is Lego, only smaller.  When you think about it, it is no surprise that these blocks come from Japan.  They made everything else smaller, so why not make something that is similar to Lego, only smaller.

I saw these things first either on Amazon.jp or on BusanKevin’s YouTube page.  Yes, surprise surprise I do check out Amazon Japanoften enough to spot what is new and happening in Japan.  Some family members call it an obsession, even a sickness.  Others think I was Japanese in a past life.  Either one might be true, but that doesn’t really matter.  I like hobbies, and truth be told, Japan is a country which really caters to the hobbyist.

yes, they are that small

Back to Nanoblocks.  The upside is that they are small, and even a large box doesn’t take up so much room when built.  I have built five pieces so far and they don’t take up very much room.  In fact, the marketing for the ones that I have done (famous landmarks) is that you can have the whole world on your desk.  Looking at my photo you can see that is true.

Now, they are indeed small.  Even though I am into N scale trains (the second smallest scale) I found these things to be rather small.  This isn’t such a big problem unless you

a) drop them on the carpet–in which case search and rescue could take some time

b) have slender nimble hands–which I don’t
This is what comes in a typical box
c) have absolutely no patience–I have enough, fortunately

Of all of the ones I have built the castle was my favourite. It was a large, challenging, and came with a fantastic instruction book.  The instruction book set out how many of each type of piece was needed per step.  This was good because the box had more than 2000 pieces.  I enjoyed building it, but it took quite a bit of time.  I think the end result was a good model though.

This was the deluxe kit–and it was spectacular
Nanoblocks are readily available through amazon.com in the US (you lucky people) and here in Canada, Scholar’s Choice sells a few (a few, my advice is to call before you drive there–I had to get them taken from one store to a closer one before I could go and pick them up)   As far as the price goes they are not horrendously expensive.  Granted, I did get the Castle (which is called HimejiCastle) sent from Japan–this is the deluxe one, a smaller one is available.

Once assembled, there are a few pieces left over.  I decided to organize mine in a Stanleyorganizer–perhaps it is not the best use of space.  I have done five and I could probably put what is left over into a small box.  Why on earth did I choose such a big organizer….I am thinking long term.  Someday I might have way too many of these tiles for even that huge organizer….someday.

okay, so I haven’t reached storage capacity yet.
If you have some Japanese ability, you will be able to find some great examples of what artistic people can do on the Japanese homepage  diablock.co.jp/nanoblock   Typical of Japan, they hold yearly contests, and some of the work is unbelievable.

If you want to know more, check the English home page at mynanoblock.com

As an addition to my family of hobbies, it seems to fit right in.  It was creative, fun, challenging, and from Japan–see, perfect for me.

In the hobby world, it isn’t all sweetness and light.  There are things that confound and annoy the hobbyist (and the hobbyist’s significant other–but that’s the subject of another blog) just as in any other endeavour.  For me, among the many, at the top of my list is paint.
I need paint for my models.  I need paint that is easy to brush on, and easy to airbrush on.  I need colours for cars, tanks, planes, and train buildings.  I need paint for ground cover, and water features.  I need paint for so many of my hobbies that I have lost count of my stained shirts.
Tamiya paint carousel
The biggest problem with paint is that either you don’t have the colour you need, or if you do, it is a rock solid mass at the bottom of the paint jar.  There might be a way of stopping this, but all the tips I have received have only worked some of the time.  Sadly, some of the time never seems to be when I really need it.  It is a real progress killer when you have a 30 minute drive when you desperately need a colour.
The next biggest problem with paint is cost.  Some paint is inexpensive, but you get what you pay for.  The better paint costs.  This wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t lived in Japanand seen the Japanese price for the same paint.  Yeah, that paint got on a boat, or plane and made its way to Canada, but that shouldn’t triple the price.
a typically messy desk
I suppose you could save money by buying sets of paint, but that is probably the manufacturers way of getting rid of unpopular colours–just how many things you model are Day-Glo green, or ultra bright orange?
The last problem is storage and organization.  I have already chronicled the problems that are posed by this.  As a result, I have other methods of storing paint.  Some are good, some are lacking.  My hobby desk rarely looks neat, and though I can’t blame paint exclusively or even for the majority of the problem (my natural sloppiness is probably the major culprit) it is definitely part of it.
Tamiya Paint stand
I have bought several cool toys to facilitate painting.   A painting stand, an airbrush holder, a rotating paint tray.  I have it all, but my desk is still a mess.  One day I will get it all organized, one day.  One day.

And You Decided to Take up This Hobby Because….

Where does the inspiration for a new hobby come from?  For me, it could be anything really.  I might see something cool on TV, or it might come up in the newspaper.  Then again a store window or a magazine cover might catch my eye.  I am also surrounded by people who purposefully, or maybe accidently talk about something they are interested in, and in doing so provoke me to become interested in their hobbies.

If my friends are reading this, and thinking that I am blaming them for my ever expanding collection of hobbies, they are right.  Actually, they are only half right.  When you come into contact with people who are really interested in something, there are only too possible responses.  The first, and the one that leads to my downfall, or at least the investment of my cash and time, is COOL!  The other, which I seem to use less than other people, is WHAT?!? or ARE YOU NUTS?!

When I do have the latter reaction, I can often overcome this by sheer force of will and rationalization.  I may not find the hobby cool, but this person seems to be enjoying themselves.  They don’t seem to mind the money and time they’ve spent, so why should I.  Add to the fact, they haven’t hurt anyone, and soon all resistance fades.

Several years ago, while living in an apartment, I met a man in the elevator lamenting the fact that he needed to buy more Rubbermaid containers for a new shipment of beanie babies that he had purchased.  He exclaimed they were a great investment.  At first I was a bit confused, but I applied the above criteria, and it didn’t seem so off putting.  At least I was able to take my hand off the emergency stop button and finish the elevator ride.

I had one friend tell me that when I found the perfect hobby for myself, all the others would simply fade to insignificance and I would be satisfied.  That sounds like sage advice, but I wish a timeline had been provided, or at least she could have given me tips on where to store the ever expanding pile of stuff until that day.

Currently I am not facing the “new hobby dilemma” but rather the “old hobby dilemma”.  I have been working on a train layout for a long time, but have never managed to make it work right.  I have two solutions (though there might be a few more that I am ignorant of).  The first is to take apart what doesn’t work on this one, and rebuild it.  This would mean saving materials, and therefore money.  On the other hand, I could buy a kit which would teach me some of the skills I am lacking, and make the whole thing more visually pleasing in a shorter period of time.  There are some downsides to this of course.  The first is money.  The kit is not exactly cheap, and doesn’t even factor in the costs already acquired.  The other, more emotionally expensive downside is admitting defeat.  As a hobbyist, we tend to think we can complete what we start, and that the plans that we laboured over are good and feasible.   Funny how things work out.

Where to Put My Stuff?

As an adult with too many hobbies storage becomes a big problem.  Certainly more hobbies means they take up more room.  Actually, rooms would be a better way of expressing it.  I’ve got the requisite hobby room of course.  I’ve got stuff in drawers, in closets and in Rubbermaid containers.  In truth, I probably need two hobby rooms–as well as space for the train–but that’s another story.

Big space really isn’t what I have trouble finding.  As a modeller, train enthusiast, card collector, toy car collector, and many other things, I have a ton of small parts, knick knacks, leftover pieces, and various odds and ends that need a place to go.

The small plastic multi drawer contraption ostensibly for holding screws that I got on sale at Canadian Tire doesn’t really do the job.  The drawers don’t really slide that well and make an excruciating scraping sound when I manage to get them open.  The plastic moulded handles on the drawers also serve to obscure the contents of the drawers.

I bought this one at a Japanese Dollar Store.  (they have them too.  They are called 100 yen stores, and being closer to Asian production centres they seem to have swung better deals having slightly better quality stuff and larger quantities–if you’re curious, just check out YouTube)

It isn’t bad, but the tray dividers don’t fit that snugly and rattle around –and things just don’t stay in place the way I would like it to.

I bought big drawers, but they are really only for big stuff,

For one of my latest hobbies I decided to do some research.  I chose this one from Stanley (through Amazon).  I like the mix and match cups. (I bought two and used most of the smaller cups in this one) Most of my stuff seems to stay put.  It was more expensive than the storage containers that I mentioned above.  It appears to be of a higher quality.  Only time will tell, but hopefully I’ve got a winner.

As storage seems to be a big deal in my hobby life, I was wondering what other people are using.