Whenever I find myself with a little extra free time, I try to learn a new skill. From home repair to cooking, one easy way to save money is to do things yourself.
Now, sometimes I laugh at even the idea of “free-time” but in reality there are phases in my life (and probably yours too) where you have a little extra time.
When I used my extra time to learn something new it has always benefited me. I firmly believe that you are never too old to learn a new skill and that as long as you keep learning you will stay (and feel ) younger.
It is amazing how knowing how to do something can save you money and lots of headaches! While some skills (like installing baseboards) are probably not as practical as others (baking bread) I view all of them as a way to save money and become more self sufficient.
If you learn to bake your own bread you will not be tempted to purchase expensive loaves of fresh baked bread at the bakery.
When you know how to make simple home repairs you will not need to call someone every time something breaks in your home. If you learn basic sewing skills you will be able to prolong the life of clothing by mending, hemming, or patching.
Not only will you save money by knowing how to do things yourself, you might be making yourself more marketable in the workplace, depending on the skills you learn.
In today’s culture there are many skills that in previous years were known by many, but today are known by few. And those few charge a high price to help others.
I realize that everyone does not have the free time to become experts in every area of life, but learning simple basic skills is a real money saver.
How do you learn new skills?
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It’s not as if we all have time to go back to college or trade school to learn something.
In fact just the other day I was telling a friend that I really wanted to learn how to use Excel. I even mentioned taking a course at a local college.
They suggested signing up for a $10 Udemy course which would save me time and money. For $10 and a few hours of my time I am able to learn a new skill that will help me in my business and in life. (I use spreadsheets for everything!)
Find an Expert
Often people tell me that they would love to sew but don’t know how. Years ago I said the exact same thing. I tried to sew in the past, but just couldn’t quite figure it out.
In fact, right after I was married I purchased a sewing machine from a catalog. (If that doesn’t make me old, I don’t know what does, lol!)
I attempted a few sewing projects but they were all disasters. Finally I put the sewing machine in a closet and it stayed there for nine years.
Then I met someone who was an accomplished seamstress and begged (I’m not kidding) for lessons. Many people who are experts in their fields will gladly give lessons in exchange for something else.
In my case, this woman was so happy someone wanted to learn she gave lessons for free. I now have basic sewing skills and am able to do things that in the past I would have paid someone to do for me. It was an investment of time on my part and in return more money stays in my pocket.
Not everyone is willing to teach you a new skill for free, so be prepared to barter. I’m sure there is something you have to offer to them as well.
Research & Practice
As for baking, I love fresh baked bread. I really didn’t know how to make bread, but over the years asked others why their bread tasted so good and learned as much as I could by asking questions.
I also watched cooking shows and checked out numerous library books on the subject of baking. I also baked many, many loaves of bread that were less than perfect, while I was learning the tricks to baking a great loaf of bread.
Watch & Learn
With regards to home repair, learn by watching others. The next time you have to call a plumber watch to see what they are doing. Ask questions and educate yourself while they are working in your home.
You are paying for their service, so use that money wisely and learn some home repair.
There isn’t a time when someone has come to repair something at my house that I haven’t asked them a bunch of questions. While I still rely on service people to make large repairs (especially things related to electric). I’ve found that many small repairs can be done without help.
Use the library
Another way to learn new skills is to check out several books from the library on home repair. Two of my favorite books are the Reader’s Digest New Fix-It-Yourself Manual: How to Repair, Clean, and Maintain Anything and Everything In and Around Your Home and Back to Basics. I have learned many new skills just from reading these two books. They are popular so will probably be available at your local library.
Use the internet to your advantage. You can do a google search for anything! Many times when I want to know how to do something I google it and find a great tutorial, usually with pictures to help me finish the job.
YouTube is my go-to now for how to do just about anything. I watch video tutorials almost every day. From how to frost a birthday cake to how to fix a problem with iTunes, I’ve learned as much from youtube videos as I have from four years in college!
Skills you can learn in a month
I find that over the summer, when my kids are out of school and have less activities, I have more free time. Here are some of the skills you could learn in just a month.
- Baking: Who doesn’t love fresh baked goods and your family will be thrilled to eat all your mistakes. Learning how to make bread was one of the best skills I’ve learned over the years.
- Basic home repair: YouTube and google are your best friends! Spend a few hours watching DIY tutorials to learn how to complete simple projects around your home.
- Simple computer skills: Many of my friends make a part-time living doing simple computer work for online businesses. These jobs do require some computer knowledge, so educating yourself will open up opportunities for extra money.
- Learn a musical instrument: My son learned how to play guitar by watching youtube videos. My sister-in-law is learning from virtual lessons. You are never to old to learn to play and instrument!
- Organize your photos: Organizing digital (or actual) photos isn’t a skill, however it takes time and patience. Especially when you have over 30,000 photos in the cloud like I do! Learning how to use a photo program or tool to help get everything organized is a great way to invest your free time.
- Learn a new language: You may not be able to master a new language in a month, however you can get started.
- Start an exercise program: Daily exercise (even stretching) can increase your energy levels, clear your head, and improve your health. Thirty days is more than enough time to get into a daily routine of exercising.
- Learn how to budget: Does your money run out before the end of the month? If you are tired of living paycheck to paycheck, take 30 days and learn how to create a budget and stick to it. Educate yourself on how to invest extra money and spend time cancelling the services you don’t need.
- Learn how to clean and organize your home: Not everyone is naturally organized. Spend 30 days practicing habits that will keep your home clean and organized. It could be as simple as decluttering a few trouble areas or you may need to create a system that helps you stay on top of chores.
- Learn how to refinish furniture: After baking, this is probably the skill I am most proud of learning. When I first got married we had no money and no furniture. I found a bedroom set at a yard sale that was cheap and in horrible condition. I learned how to refinish the entire thing and it looked almost new. Over the years, this one skill has saved us thousands of dollars as I have purchased almost every piece of furniture in my home used.
How to Learn a New Skill in a Month
Not all of these skills can be learned in 30 days (especially another language) but 30 days is plenty of time to get started!
Set aside time to learn
The first thing you need to do is set aside time specifically for learning. Whether that’s researching articles on organizing, reading books, watching tutorials, or talking to friends you need to educate yourself first.
Set aside time to practice
It’s impossible to learn how to play a musical instrument without practicing, so don’t expect to learn how to play the piano if you don’t own a keyboard.
It’s easy to learn a new skill, but hard to master one. The more you practice the better you become. Remember the time I tried to make homemade spaghetti sauce. It was a DISASTER! However after a few more attempts I can now make just about any kind of sauce. It just took a little practice.
Keep working on it
Some skills are impossible to practice on a regular basis (like unclogging a toilet). However others, like organizing, baking, or exercising are skills you can use all the time.
Continue to use your skills and not only will they improve, you will find yourself very self sufficient and proficient in a variety of things.
Share your skills
One of my favorite things is to share what I have learned with others. That’s actually why I started this website all those years ago.
It’s not that difficult to create a website and add tutorials. From making soup to changing a tire, people search for instructional posts on how to do everything. Share your knowledge with the world.
If you don’t have a website, it’s almost free to start one. You can learn how to start a blog here.
You’re never too old
Did you know that Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was in her 70’s? Ronald Reagan didn’t enter politics until he was 55. Colonel Sanders started KFC after he collected his first social security check!
No matter how old you are, you are never too old to learn something new!