When Hobbies Become Too Costly — The Lost Art of Improvisation

If you're an inveterate retail consumer and derive value-added thrills from shopping for stuff you don't really need, this post will probably not interest you. If, on the other hand, you have hobby-like passions that end up costing far more than you expect in unanticipated extras, read on.

I love music and musical instruments and my passion just happens to be my pastime, and I'm fortunate that my adult stepson happens to share this hobby. He recently purchased a vintage Fender Rhodes electric piano -- an instrumental icon of the past 40 years par excellence, and Donald Fagen's (Steely Dan) instrument of choice. They typically sell used for thousands of dollars but this one was a mere 200 bucks. Of course there was a catch: it needed new hammers, damper felts and a few pick-ups. The overhaul would have typically cost at least $1500 if performed by a pro tech. But my stepson found the needed hardware on Ebay for less than a hundred, and after a number of challenging evenings, voila. It sounded great -- so far so good.

The piano didn't come with legs, and while my wife is amazingly patient, she drew a line on how long the piano could remain on our dining room table. Piano legs were available, but as it turns out, they cost more than the instrument. And who wants to look at old pitted metal legs anyway. I found an old thick plank of oak in the basement, ripped it down on a table saw into 1 x 1 inch lengths and made a custom stand using wood screws in another late night.

Okay, I'll admit I was a boy scout. But there's a lesson here. It's oftentimes the anticipated or incidental cost of peripherals that impede us from pursuing our passions, hobbies and pastimes. Assigning an absolute limit to what you're willing to spend on them can be (excuse the pun) the mother of invention. It can also morph into a tremendous sense of further satisfaction and intrinsic rewards.

Gardening -- try unmarked seeds and plants at a flea market and see what happens... Model building -- don't buy the pricey stand, make one out of old furniture pieces... Cooking -- buy what's on sale without a recipe and go for it... Oldies Music -- pick-up a used turntable, record washer and seek out old vinyl. Maintaining a hobby within tight budgetary constraints is the ultimate reality show so long as you remain tenacious and creative.

Now, where can I find a pipe organ?

- William Busch

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