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Woodworking Economics #1: 2010 in Review

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Blog entry by live4ever posted 1315 days ago 2982 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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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.



12 comments so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14721 posts in 2301 days


#1 posted 1315 days ago

I could retire on what you have in your shop ;-))

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2786 days


#2 posted 1315 days ago

this is an impressive presentation of the investment.
It will be interesting to see what this year looks like, now that a lot of “setting up” expenses have taken place.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Brit's profile

Brit

5117 posts in 1468 days


#3 posted 1315 days ago

Thanks for being so honest and open about it. I suspect many woodworkers would be too scared to add up all their bills and analyse their spending as you have done and owning up to your wife is to be commended.

Woodworking is an expensive hobby that’s for sure, even if you only use hand tools.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View woody57's profile

woody57

645 posts in 2052 days


#4 posted 1314 days ago

Thanks for sharing that. Most of us acquire tools over time and don’t know how much we have spent.
One thing that’s different about this hobby is that it’s possible to make money. Even if it’s just enough to buy that next tool. And you are right to wait until you need something to buy it. I think everyone shood hold off on buying a lot of stuff until they know what kind of woodworking they are going to do.

-- Emmett, from Georgia

View live4ever's profile

live4ever

983 posts in 1635 days


#5 posted 1314 days ago

It was definitely interesting to track the expenses – having an itemized list makes it easy to go back and look critically at the purchases and determine which ones have proven to be worthwhile and which ones haven’t.

Topamax – I’ve been very fortunate to be able to devote funds to the shop this year, but like I said, it took some sacrifices as well (mostly on the part of my wife). She knows I owe her big time, and don’t worry, that card will be played when the time is right! Because she has been such a big part of supporting this, some of the furniture projects she has requested better start happening! Otherwise, everything in my garage is going to be sold so she can buy shoes. Lots and lots of shoes.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 2060 days


#6 posted 1314 days ago

live4ever:
Wow what an honest guy you are. Frankly, if my wife looks like she’s heading towards the shop I quickly go out of it and lock the doors …......... Oh, honey, sorry I’ve shut up the shop, you should have told me earlier you were coming down here…..he he
That’s the way you don’t have you let her see all the “new stuff” you got “under the carpet. :-)) Yeah, I’m Baddd.

Incidentally, I noticed your tag line – An optimist usually marries a pessimist.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14721 posts in 2301 days


#7 posted 1314 days ago

It is a good thing I did not track my hunting expenses when I used to hunt. The cost of a pound of meat was most like at least $1K a pound :-))

The only cost accounting I have ever done is jobs for estimating basics. Anyone seriously thinking of going into WW business from scratch, should take a look at this to put things in prespective. One thing many can get trapped into is buying junk to save a buck. That rarely pans out ;-( When I think about the old planes I have acquired, I could have just bought a few Lie Nielsens ;-)) Ignorance is an expensive flaw.

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View live4ever's profile

live4ever

983 posts in 1635 days


#8 posted 1314 days ago

So am I the only one who does something like this??

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 2060 days


#9 posted 1314 days ago

Yep, the rest of us make sawdust and silly comments.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View KayBee's profile

KayBee

1000 posts in 1871 days


#10 posted 1314 days ago

LOL Roger, but true. The pros do it or they don’t have a business. I thought about doing it as I’m upgrading my shop. Problem is that I traded for a bunch of stuff and can’t quite figure out how to classify it. Besides a tool gloat, that is.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 2060 days


#11 posted 1314 days ago

Actually KayBee, I just would not want to know how much I had spent on my toys and fun palace, let alone giving the wife something more to nag about. Ignorance is Bliss.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14721 posts in 2301 days


#12 posted 1314 days ago

live4ever The only things I track are business items. If it isn’t tax detuctible and I’m not broke, I don’t really care what the costs are. If money is tight I wouldn’t be spending it.

One day I came home with an antique target riifle that was around $7,500. My wife said you spent that much on a rifle!! I told her I had some others I would sell off. I called a pal who wanted one of my other ones. He paid me $2500 for it. Within half an hour of getting home I told her Charlie is buying one of them. She was happy so i quit selling ;-))

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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