Is BBQing An Expensive Hobby?

1) Loaded question. By calling it a 'hobby', that automatically marks it as something that is not necessary for day-to-day life.
You could say all modern-day cooking is a hobby. If you buy a replacement chef's knife, that special copper-bottom pan, the new multi-purpose mixer or food processor, the vacuum sealer (the second one -- you didn't like the first one), the sous vide heater -- none of these instruments are necessary for daily life. But they help you enjoy your food, and BBQ grills and smokers are an extension of the kitchen. All these pieces of equipment last a long time, so their purchase price amortizes out to a low number. (Well, unless you're constantly buying new BBQ appliances. 🙄)

2) If you compare one restaurant meal to one home-cooked meal -- yes, it's cheaper when I BBQ. But overall, I've ended up eating more meat than I did before, so I guess that dollar figure is higher. Without BBQing, maybe I'd be eating more lentils and salads.

2) Yes, I still visit my favorite BBQ restaurant occasionally. Not because I like their food better, but because I can relax, and let someone else do the work. After a while, planning, prepping, cooking, and cleaning up gets to be a chore, and I need a break.
One major difference between barbecuing at home and going out is that when you go out you can't hang around in the kitchen while drinking a beer...well, usually you can't.;)
I also like to tell my wife it's a cost neutral spent eating out was transfered to buying BBQ meats since we stopped eating at the BBQ joint.
As said, it can be whatever you want - cheap or expensive. I'm a bit of a minimalist. I love gadgets, but I refrained, for the most part, from indulging in BBQ equipment. A WSM with a cheap thermometer is all you need. I definitely find value in my Thermapen, though it's hard to argue that it's not a luxury. Still, all in, the equipment is not that expensive and the more you use it, the cheaper it becomes. Especially now, eating out is more and more expensive. We are cooking at home almost exclusively now given the current health environment and it is a noticeable savings over last year (I keep a very detailed budget). So, for me, it's not an expensive hobby - probably because it's more of a function of me living versus a true hobby (though I do enjoy it).
The longer I cook, the cheaper it gets, as the cost of my gear gets spread out over a longer time span. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;) And since I bought my WSM when they were only $179 new, I'm almost playing with house money at this point.
If you shop opportunistically, you can get great gear used on CL, or even new (50-75% off) around Presidents’ Day when stores close out last years inventory. To save on meat, I buy brisket and ribs by the case from my butcher and freeze them. This hobby can be moderately priced if you’re patient and flexible.
We could do a cost break down analysis. That's what I did in my former life as an engineer.

I keep a spread sheet of costs and other details for every cook.

I did a rough estimate for 2 full racks of baby backs, cost for a load of charcoal, wood, foil for wrapping, spices, and sauce.

Since this is a hobby, I'm assuming my time is free.

My estimate for a rack of baby backs (avg price of 1.99/lb) is $10 (rubbed, smoked, wrapped, slathered, served)

I did a google search of bbq places in the San Diego area(Phil's, Abbey's, Iron Pig, Bull's) and the average price for a full rack was $20

So, that's a savings of $10 per rack.

I usually do 2 racks at a time so that would be a savings of $20 per cook, not including sides or drinks (beer at any restaurant is going to be higher as well).

The savings is less when the meat isn't on sale.
I never considered cooking and eating to be a hobby.
More like a requirement

I suppose if you get too carried away with it , cooking food that you do not eat, it becomes a hobby. Cooking for cooking sake alone. Trying new toys anytime someone sells one.

Even my WSM with modifications and ATC all added up to quite a bit of money. $800
But so did my house
And my cars
And my bed

I don't consider any of those to be hobbies either.
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Might want to ask any competitors out there, what their costs are for their bbq "hobby"...

Judging bbq is a hobby since no monies are made from this activity. But it can certainly cost a bunch. Not unusual for the wife and I to head to the contest on Friday and head back home Sunday. Those 2 hotel nights do add up.