Brits have long been known as a nation of hobbyists. While people from other countries may have 'interests' or 'enthusiasms', we're proud of our heritage...

Brits have long been known as a nation of hobbyists. While people from other countries may have ‘interests’ or ‘enthusiasms’, we’re proud of our heritage in concentrating on specialised ephemera, be it birdwatching or building model railway sets.

A hobby is a great release from the stresses and strains of daily life. It allows you to concentrate on something other than work, and can stimulate the mental faculties for those who require it. And in a competitive job market, showing you have a wide range of interests may help any applications – some employers like to see evidence of a well-rounded life, and at the very least your hobby could prove an interesting conversation point during the interview. 

But where do you start? While some hobbies may grow organically out of existing interests of circles of friends, that doesn’t mean you’re not able to throw yourself into something completely new. A quick online search will throw up a wealth of ideas and it’s worth asking around to see what others are up to. Check your local area for clubs and societies where you can meet like-minded souls, and you can visit your local library to get more information on making the most of your new interest.

Of course, some new ventures will require a large financial commitment – whether it’s new equipment, a training course or a requirement to travel. Personal loans may be a good option if you want to get your new hobby off to a flying start.

If you’re looking for ideas on what opportunities are out there, then here are a few suggestions:

Photography: While taking pictures has long been an interest for many, the advent of digital technology has revolutionised the field. But it’s not cheap to get started. If you’re serious about it, you’ll need a good camera, which you could get for around £500. These will come with a standard lens, which is certainly enough to get you started. But if you’re enthusiasm grows, you may want to add additional pieces and here the sky’s the limit – some lenses can cost under £100, but the real high end pieces used by professionals can run to several thousand – if you are budgeting for your personal loans, however, plan on spending £3-500 for a good amateur lens. Many amateur photographers also buy photo editing software, which can be picked up for around £50, although you may need to upgrade your computer. Some photographers find that taking a course can really help them get the best out of their camera, although others just use practice, along with the odd book. 

Painting: Bringing out your creative side in the form of painting is a fulfilling and relaxing hobby, which fortunately doesn’t cost too much to get started – an easel will cost up to £50 and you can get a selection of paints and brushes for a similar amount. But as your hobby grows, you may become a bit more choosy about your materials, when canvases, paints and especially brushes can go up in price. If you want to improve your skills with like-minded people, there are societies and clubs you can join, or you could take a course.

Walking: A great way of seeing nature, while staying fit and healthy, walking can also be cheap. If you join the Ramblers’ Society, you will get access to local groups who organise trips to nearby sites. Membership is less than £30, with discounts for concessions, and the costs of the walks depends on whether there are overnight stays, food provided and access fees. And all you need is a pair of sturdy boots and some warm clothes. Those walkers who have become more involved then need to think about their finances, as there are plenty of opportunities for walking holidays around the world.

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The information given in this article was correct as at 25 March 2010. It does not, however, take account of any changes in regulations, the law or interest rates since that time.

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