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Reframe your life: How to invest in yourself when you can’t go back to school

  1. Sign up for Udemy

If recurring classes with clear lessons and outlines are missing, Udemy may be a great option. I’ve taken several marketing-related classes a few years ago. They were certainly enjoyable and useful. Udemy is a platform enabling people from all over the world to create courses about their expertise and upload them to the site for sale. The topics covered vary from SEO to ethics and data science. It could be a great option to learn what you were hoping to learn in school in less time and with less money.

Cost to invest in yourself: prices vary but tend to be between $14.99-$24.99 per course

2. Take a Workshop

If you don’t have time to take a whole course, you can sign up for workshops instead. They tend to be much shorter; usually 1 to 3 hours in length. Yet, you still gain valuable information. Depending on the workshop you can collaborate with like-minded people. My favorite workshops are those that are highly engaging and interactive. I’ve taken a sushi-making workshop and a home organization workshop for free through my library. I personally deliver a workshop about starting a career as a freelance writer. The other workshop I do is about mastering email confidence which I structure to be hands-on and interactive. While some workshops can be costly, you can also attend some for free if you attend through another organization. If there is something in particular you are interested in learning, you can talk to your employer, library, or other organization you are a part of to foot the bill.

Cost to invest in yourself: Free to several hundred

3. Attend conferences

Attending a conference can definitely be a cost-effective way to invest in yourself. Not only is it a notable way to meet others in your industry, but it could lead you to your next opportunity. Whether you are seeking a pay raise, looking for a new position, or hoping to be seen as a thought leader, conferences can help leverage your career. With every new panel session and connection made you are positioning yourself to be top of mind for when something great comes up. The cost of conferences vary greatly depending on the industry. However, sometimes there are scholarships and sponsorships you can apply for to help make it more feasible financially.

Cost to Invest in yourself: $100 – $500

4. Plan a lunch date

If there is a friend or coworker you haven’t seen in a while invite them out to lunch. It can reignite a relationship gone stagnant. Plus, it’s helpful to talk to people willing to listen. I don’t know about it, but hearing someone actually laugh instead of reading LOL just does my soul good. And if you plan on getting ahead anywhere in life, your soul likely needs to be uplifted. Aside from that, interacting with others is how you learn new perspectives, develop new ideas, ward off loneliness, or validate findings. All essential to the investment in personal development.

Cost to invest in yourself: $30 or less

5. Play and explore

It’s easy to fall into a rut doing the same routine over and over. When that happens it can be hard to feel motivated to do anything, pursue new ideas, or follow through on projects. Allow yourself to do something different and see where it takes you. Take a different route driving home from work. Maybe learn a dance from your favorite music video from childhood. (I’m still trying to master the choreography from Scream and My Love is like Woah.) Create a bucket list map to visit all the best-known baseball stadiums in the country. Instead of telling your kids not to play with their food, join them. Or just order something new from the menu at Panera. You might just discover a spark or burst of inspiration to tackle something new. Plus, allowing yourself to play and explore somehow makes the world feel so much lighter. When was the last time you got lost in something new? When did you last have fun? If you can’t answer the question, you may be overdue.

If making your corner of the world lighter and brighter isn’t a cost-effective way to invest in yourself, I don’t know what is.

cost to invest in yourself: Free

6. Find an online community

All the technology that has made life easier has somehow made building a community even harder. It’s hard to know your neighbors if you never have to shovel your own driveway or ask them to “borrow sugar” when Instacart delivers it. Getting to know anyone, past what time they tend to leave home from seeing their car back out at 9:15 am every morning, is complicated. If you’re lucky you might run into them frequently at the Dollar Tree and know they are their preferred shopping time.

That’s why it might be helpful to join an online community. Having camaraderie in an online community can help you feel less lonely. It can also be instrumental in your personal growth and professional development. I’ve recently joined a community, Badassery, for thought leaders looking to grow their network. While it costs $350 per quarter, it’s far less expensive than a college degree and has the potential to be far more valuable. However, there are also free online communities you can join to invest in yourself. Sometimes all it takes is being very active in a Facebook or LinkedIn group to reap greater benefits.

Cost to invest in yourself: $350 or less

7. Read books

It’s usually a given that a good book is definitely worth the investment for learning opportunities. Books also serve as a wonderful escape from everyday life when your mind needs a break. However, a good book can also take the place of a good mentor if for some reason you’ve had difficulty finding one. I’m a big fan of The Power of Life: The Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential in Business and in Life. I’ve read through the book several times. Another book, I’ve heard good things about that acts as a “mentor” is Creative Living Beyond Fear. The book, The Creatives Guide to Grant Writing, also comes highly recommended.

Cost to invest in yourself: $10-$25

8. Get a new headshot

The jury is out on including photos of yourself in email signatures or resumes; especially if you are a woman, Black, disabled, or identify with any other marginalized group. However, a good professional headshot is still a useful tool to have. I find myself having to include one in my professional bio, Linkedin profile, social media platforms, and more. A relationship with fellow blogger and photographer, Kita Bryant, lead to an amazing headshot session. However, if you don’t have a photographer in mind, I recommend using Shoott. You can use my referral code ( B6169784) to get 20% off the purchase of photos.

Cost to invest in yourself: $125 – $300

9. Listen to podcasts

If I’m being honest, I’m not big on listening to podcasts. But I do love being a podcast guest. Regardless, they are a wealth of knowledge. I’ve learned so much about investing and travel from listening to podcasts. You can even consider being a guest on a podcast which may further your growth, development, and recognition. If interested in podcast interviews, you can sign up for this newsletter to get opportunities sent to you.

Cost to invest in yourself: $0

10. Upgrade your space

I feel strongly about cultivating a space that aligns with your life. That could mean organizing your closet, getting a new mattress topper for your bed, or rearranging your refrigerator. Whatever you choose to do, think about the changes you make to your space as a manifestation method. When you create a space for where you’d like to go in your life, it’s as if you’re already there each time you walk in. I’m a big fan of using wallpaper to decorate spaces. I’ve used Wallpops to change the aesthetics of my kitchen cabinets. Admittedly, they can be a bit prices. It doesn’t need to be expensive though. I’ve also used “tiles” from the Dollar Tree to improve the lining of a shelf in my room. Upgrading your space can be as simple as hanging a bucket list on the wall to help motivate you or painting the walls in your space.

Cost to invest in yourself: $25+

11. Master your routine

You have a routine whether or not you realize it. They’re the things you do habitually on a consistent basis. For the longest time, I didn’t think I had a morning routine. When I thought deeply, I realized that my routine focused solely on getting my kids ready for school. Now, my routine involves a drink of sparkling water in a champagne flute, a review of my daily tasks, and meditation. Following through with it makes a big difference in what I get done in the day. For some reason, the way you start and end your days plays a big role in what you get accomplished. It may take some trial and error to help you yield desirable results. You likely consider it a worthwhile investment once you find the right one.

Cost to invest in yourself: time, patience for trial and error, and $0+

12. Hire a Virtual Assistant

It can be so hard to track the day-to-day demands of life. From work projects to tracking the amount of toilet paper you have, and checking bank accounts, it’s likely things may slip through the cracks. Hire a virtual assistant to take the load off your shoulders. Handing some tasks over to them may allow you to invest more time into bigger and more fulfilling projects.

Cost to invest in yourself: $100 to $2,000 depending on how many hours you need

13. Pick up a hobby

I know this statement comes with a lot of privilege, but I encourage you to do something for fun and NOT monetize it. Of course, it’s hard to do that when the cost of living continuously increases. Sometimes, it seems profiting off your hobby is the only way to keep your head above water. While monetizing everything you enjoy can lead to more money, not monetizing something can lower stress levels, prevent burnout, and help you feel better about the world around you. No doubt, some hobbies can be a costly investment. If you’re not sure what hobby to engage in, start with whatever piques your interest. Then visit YouTube, sign up for interesting classes at the Library, or sign up for free trials of classes.

Cost to invest in yourself: Varies

14. Audit Social Media

Studios have shown that social media often has a bigger impact on our lives than we think. Depending on what accounts you engage with or see in your feed, social media can depress you, inspire you, upset you or more. However, you choose to use social media you should consider investing the time audit it. Be intentional about how you engage with social media from how much time you spend on it to who you follow. If you want to learn more about body neutrality you may want to unfollow all the strictly body positivity accounts. Or if you want to be a better chef you follow meal planning hashtags. Regardless of the purpose, be intentional about aligning social media with your goals or lifestyle.

Cost to invest in yourself: Free

15. Master your elevator pitch

There’s a chance you desire to go back to school because it will get you what you want. You can also get what you want by being clear on who you are. How many times have you met someone and they ask, “What do you do for work?” or “What’s your goal?” and you stare blankly? People can’t assist you if you can’t clearly and succinctly state who you are and what you desire. If you don’t know, you risk missing an opportunity. Take some time to get clear on who you are and who you want to be.

Cost to invest in yourself: free

16. Buy a domain name

Whether or not you are a thought leader, influencer, or business owner it’s never a bad idea to carve out your space on the internet. Maybe you’ve had a genius idea for a business but you just haven’t gotten it off the ground yet. You’ll want to reserve your name or that of your business idea before it’s no longer available. Fortunately, it’s relatively simple to purchase domain names now. (Maybe too simple as I’ve lost count of the number of domain names I’ve collected over the years.) And if you haven’t already, make sure you reserve the email address for it too.

Cost to invest in yourself: $10-$20 per year

17. Rest

If you wanted to go back to school this year and just couldn’t afford to, maybe it’s a sign that you need to rest. It’s hard to grow and maximize in your joy if you’re too busy to notice where you are now. So step away from the course catalog and step into comfort so you can rest in peace. Use the time to regroup, assess the situation, or just do nothing. Rest may not be what you want, but it could be the investment you need to move forward.

Cost to invest in yourself: Free!

The affordable yet nonconventional ways to invest in your growth on your budget are endless. Going back to school is not the only way to see your potential grow beyond measure. However you choose to invest in yourself, do it on your terms.

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