5 No Cost (or Low Cost) Ways to Update Your Skills

Blonde funny looking woman holding her notebook.

Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune. ~ John Rohn

Is there anything funner than earning money?

Well, I can think of one thing: Learning. Fortunately, the enjoyable activity of educating yourself often leads to an increase in income.

Dollar for dollar, my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration was the best investment I’ve ever made. But I can’t go running back to school every time I want to add to my existing skills or pick up a new one. Even a semester at a community college can cost thousands of dollars. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So, what’s a gal to do?

Read a Non-Fiction Book. (I’m Not Kidding. Read an Actual Book.)

Obtaining a book and not reading it is about as helpful as going to the gym and not working out. Yet our bookshelves are cluttered with unread works. Our e-readers are stuffed with volumes we were excited about for all of 5 minutes.

Blogs are great.

Magazines are awesome.

Newspapers are wonderful.

But there’s something about a book. In 200 pages or so, you climb into the details of a specific subject matter that can’t possibly be covered in a 750 to 1,000 word article.

You can borrow a book from a friend, rent one from the library, grab one off your forgotten bookshelf, or – I struggle to even suggest it – buy one from a bookstore. (Yuck. I feel like I need to take a shower.)

I don’t care how the book in question comes into your possession. Just get one and read it – from start to finish. 

Listen to a Podcast

I am shocked – SHOCKED I say – by the number of people who’ve never heard of podcasts.

They’re A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

The great thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them on-the-go. Download your faves (for free) from iTunes or LearnOutLoud.com, upload onto your MP3 player, and get moving.

My favorite ways to devour a podcast is while performing a mundane task that doesn’t require too much brain power, e.g., commuting, cleaning, or exercising.


Giving back doesn’t have to be a totally selfless act. Really. It’s okay to get something out of volunteering besides the warm and fuzzies. Even when you’re helping other people, you can help yourself.

Why not help yourself to the development of a skill you can provide to a paying customer?

I’m astounded by the level of knowledge and professionalism possessed by my fellow volunteers. Additionally, program coordinators and directors of many nonprofit organizations are a wealth of information.

Find ways to get involved by searching websites such as VolunteerMatch or United Way. You can also visit your local chamber of commerce’s website to search for nonprofits that focus on areas you’re interested in.

Watch a Video

After Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College, he continued to drop in on classes  that peeked his curiosity at his alma mater.

Nowadays, you don’t have to risk being revealed as an education stealing leech at your local university. At anytime and, practically any place there’s an internet connection, you can sit in on a virtual class taught by a professor at a world class institution.

Although I appreciate the organization and ease of navigation on Khan Academy, Udemy (partially free), and Academic Earth, YouTube EDU  seems to be the most comprehensive. Just try not to get distracted by funny videos of fashion models falling on catwalks.

YouTube is also a great source for how-to videos produced by amateur masters – everyday folks who are insanely gifted at their craft.

Although not free at all, Craftsy offers affordable, high quality video tutorials about – what else – crafts: crocheting, knitting, quilting, jewelry making. Many courses are only $7.99. You can use the information on this site to save money on items you make yourself or make some extra cash by selling your wares.

As an added bonus, Craftsy is ripe for pinning. (For those who are late to the party, “pinning” is bookmarking a site/image on the popular social networking site, Pinterest).

Attend a Class Offered on SkillShare

Sadly, SkillShare isn’t free. 🙁 But unlike many of the other sources I’ve mentioned, it provides you with a chance to get in on real face-to-face interaction with members of your local community. If you were so inclined, you could advertise a class you teach yourself on the website.

Currently, SkillShare is only available in the U.S. Sorry, Canada.

What free or inexpensive strategies do you use to acquire additional knowledge or skills? 

About the Author

Shawanda Greene is a free thinking, frugal gal whose only vices are boxed wine, lip balm and money grubbing. You can find more of Shawanda's musings at You Have More Than You Think – a productivity focused guide to maximizing the money you have to obtain more of what you want.