I'm normally a do-it-yourself kind of guy. There's a certain sense of pride knowing that I was able to fix this or built that. And it is totally frustrating to me when I have to pay someone for a simple task that I could have done myself.
I bet you feel the same way! So, I'm challenging each and every one of you to learn one new skill every month for the next year.
Free and low-cost places to learn new skills
I'm a big fan of the concept of “if you're not moving forward, you're falling behind.” The best way I know how to move forward and improve upon myself is to learn new skills.
The skills don't need to be monumental like building a house, but they could be related, such as learning how to swap a light fixture for a ceiling fan. White collar skills are just as important and easy to learn, such as budgeting, blogging, and starting to invest.
If the skills you learn are job-related, that unique knowledge can set you apart from your colleagues. My friend Shannyn describes how talent stacking can lead to a fast track to financial independence in her article.
The library is your friend
A public library is a useful tool that many people ignore. I recently visited my local library to find 10 free things you can get at your public library and came away impressed with how many resources are available.
Books are awesome and are the best way to buy someone's expertise at a low cost…or for free if you borrow the book from the library. But, the resources available at the library are more than just the ability to check out books.
They have free online courses, audio & ebooks, computers you can use, and community presentations, to name just a few. Check out my article and speak to your local librarian to see what's available at your public library.
YouTube will walk you through it
There are two things I love about YouTube. It's available 24/7 and you can pause and rewind a video as often as you need to.
For just about any skill you want to learn or any project you want to tackle, there's a video dedicated to it on YouTube. Possibly even hundreds of them.
The headlight bulb on my truck went out about six months ago. There's no way I wanted to pay dealer prices for them to replace something so simple. I ordered the bulb from Amazon, but I couldn't figure out how open the compartment to replace it. Here comes YouTube to the rescue.
After watching the video, I figured it out and replaced the bulb a few minutes later. The money that would have otherwise would have gone to the dealer, went right into my investment account.
Home Depot offers hands-on training
Home Depot offers three different class settings to learn skills that you can use around the house or in the yard. All of these classes are free and are geared towards:
Here's a listing of the Home Depot DIY classes available in your area.
Lowe's also offers in-store DIY classes for adults and children. But they've taken it a step further with The Upskill Project, where professionals will come to your home and teach you valuable skills. It's almost like you're on an episode of HGTV!
The classes include hands-on training from a store employee and reference materials that you can take home with you. A sampling of the upcoming classes at Home Depot near my home include:
- Field Goal Game for kids
- Installing light fixtures
- Installing a faucet
- Building a rustic S'mores Station
- Installing wall tile
- Building a fireboat for kids
If you can't make it to either of these hardware stores, check with your local stores to see if they offer similar classes. Or you can always browse the Home Depot or Lowe's websites for DIY instruction or plans on how to build or repair something.
Free classes online
The internet is a great equalizer. It is cheap for you to access information and also cheap for educational institutions to provide access to knowledge.
A few of my favorite places to learn new skills for free are Khan Academy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Open Courseware, Codecademy, and EdX.
Here is a sample of the diversity of free classes that are available:
- Programming for the Puzzled
- Introductory Japanese Language
- Build Websites from Scratch
- Accounting for Decision Making
You can learn the skills for free from these websites. Many programs offer a certificate to document your education so you can show a current or future employer for a small fee.
Your friends and family
Don't overlook the fact that people in your immediate circle are experts at what they do. I have personally looked a ton from my friends and family, starting with my Dad when I was a young boy. Whether I liked it or not, I was involved with many projects around the house. I learned how to build furniture, paint a wall, replace sprinkler heads, and so much more.
My education didn't stop when I grew up. Friends have taught me a diverse set of skills, such as editing HTML, best practices of social media, and how to install a ceiling fan. If there's something you want to learn, hit your friends up on Facebook or via text. Maybe there's even something you can teach them to return the favor.
Trial and error
As great as it can be to learn from someone else, don't forget that experience is often the best teacher. Even if you don't have the ability to learn from someone else, you can build your skills by just trying it.
About 25 years ago, I had just learned about a new (at least to me) program in college called Microsoft Excel. I didn't know much about the program and had only opened it a few times in my Microsoft Office computer class.
My Dad needed something prepared for one of his bankruptcy clients and everyone had gone home for the weekend. I looked at what he needed and confidently said: “I can do that” even though I had no clue what I was doing. I spent all weekend fiddling with Excel until I was able to produce what he needed.
Those skills turned into a business offering forecasting and reporting services to my Dad's bankruptcy clients and the clients of his peers. It evolved into preparing business plans for companies looking for debt and equity funding. And I continued to grow that expertise into a 13-year corporate finance career at a regional bank. You never know how your life can be impacted just from learning a new skill!
Time to learn some skills and save some money
Now that you have some valuable resources to learn new skills for little to no money, it's time to add to your expertise. You can learn many of these skills in less than a day, although it may take much longer to perfect them. That's alright! Practice makes perfect. And these new skills may not only save you money, they may even turn into a side hustle to earn extra cash.
I challenge you to use these resources, or others in the comment section below, to learn one new skill every month for the next year. Next, add up how much you saved by doing the task yourself instead of paying someone else. Then come back and let us know how much you saved and what you did with the money.