One of the issues with hobbies is that they tend to suck up a lot of cash and compete with other priorities such as eating, clothing oneself, bills, etc.
I try to meticulously track my woodworking-related purchases for several reasons:
1) It helps me keep track of my spending.
2) It allows me to keep a running list of the things I have, what I paid for them, and where I got them from. This would be particularly useful for insurance purposes in the event of burglary or fire.
3) It’s kind of fun to look back and analyze the numbers, if you’ve kept everything well-organized and are into that sort of thing.
Though I’ve been purchasing tools and piddling with woodworking prior to 2010, 2010 was the first full year that I pursued it HARD. I basically set up shop during this one year, acquiring the majority of my stationary tools, turning the garage into as much of a shop as it can be, buying my first hauls of hardwood, etc. In a nutshell, I spent more on woodworking in 2010 than I probably will any other year of my life, mostly because I tried really hard to get my shop up and running. I was fortunate to be able to devote some cash to this project, but I also made some sacrifices in order to do so.
As I was catching up on updating my “list” of spending, a few things began to dawn on me. Things that I was already suspicious of, but it’s different once you have the numbers in front of you.
First, I spent WAY more than I intended to, and WAY WAY more than I was authorized by the wife to. I felt really bad about it because for the most part, she has been supportive of this hobby. But I actually apologized to her tonight because I felt sheepish at the amount I had spent when there were other competing priorities that I was probably neglecting.
Here’s a breakdown by category of my 2010 woodworking expenses.
A quick explanation of the categories:
Tools: All power and hand tools and their accessories, including blades, fences, miter gauges, clamps, etc.
Supplies (wood): Lumber and sheet goods
Supplies (non-wood): All consumables such as finishes, adhesives, abrasives, hardware and fasteners, etc.
Shop: Electrical, lighting, shop storage, mobile bases, etc.
Learning: Subscriptions/websites, books, PDFs, etc.
The first thing that jumps out at you is that I spent the vast majority of my 2010 woodworking budget on tools (85%!). This is again not surprising because I was setting up shop and acquiring new capabilities, but I did not think the percentage would be so high. I did a lot more shopworking than woodworking this year, that’s for sure!
One thing I feel really good about is the bang for my buck I’ve gotten in the learning category. As we know, the learning curve in woodworking is steep. I have been really happy with the amount of money I have spent on books and online subscriptions – they have allowed me to learn rapidly and supplemented the free knowledge I have gained from forums. Relative to the rest of my woodworking budget, it’s a small drop in the ocean, but it is money that to me feels well spent.
Taking the Tools category and breaking it down:
Stationary power tools: Tablesaw, bandsaw, jointer, planer, dust collector, etc. The big boys.
Small power tools: All the portable power tools such as routers, sanders, shopvac, biscuit joiner, etc.
Hand tools: Measuring & marking tools, planes, chisels, etc. plus sharpening and honing materials
Accessories: Everything else: blades, router & drill bits, miter gauges, fences, dust collection fittings, clamps, jigs, etc.
Not surprising that a large part of the funds were stationary power tools – after all, for many of us, these are the core woodworking machines without which we can’t make sawdust. But what really blew me away was the proportion spent on all the accessories (over 1/3 of money spent on tools was for accessories)! That stuff adds up FAST! You always hear everyone tell you not just to budget for the cost of the tools themselves, but I suppose we all have to learn the hard way. The largest contributors to the accessory category was a bunch of Incra items (miter gauge, router/joinery fence), router bits, blades, and clamps. And I don’t have enough clamps, I can tell you that for sure.
Another thing that hit me as I was looking through my itemized list was the amount of things that I hadn’t used yet or didn’t end up needing. I really wish I could go back on many of those purchases. Most of them were bought because they were on sale, clearance, blowout, and at the time they seemed like items that I would eventually need. But I haven’t needed them yet, so those dollars could have gone to more pressing needs or been saved for another day. A really great example of this is my Kreg pockethole jig. Everyone knows how darn useful pocketscrew joinery is. And I’m sure one day I’ll have a project that makes great use of pocketscrews. But that’s probably the day I should have waited for to get the darn thing!
So where does all this get me? Perhaps to some goals for 2011.
I’m giving myself a pass for spending…...irresponsibly….. in 2010 because I was “setting up shop.” But when I do this analysis for 2011, I sincerely hope that the vast majority of my woodworking dollars have gone towards wood. If I can’t devote the majority of my woodworking budget to wood and other materials needed to build projects beyond the “setting up shop” phase, I won’t be able to call myself a woodworker but rather a tool collector. I know I’ll probably always be fighting an uphill battle against my tool junkiness, but we’ll see how it goes.
And for any tool or accessory purchases I make this year, I’m going to try really hard to resist the urge to buy something until I have a project that calls for it or a pressing use for it. That may mean I’ll miss some blowout prices, but I think it will ultimately lead to more disciplined spending.
(If you’re interested in doing an analysis like this, all it takes is your receipts and a little bit of time in Microsoft Excel. You might learn something about your woodworking spending habits…whether that’s a good thing or not I’m not sure yet!)
-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.