Paying for Your Self-Improvement

Career, Personal finance, Tips for saving money

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It seems like working towards self-improvement is one of the most expensive things people spend money on–and yet people rarely if ever talk about how costly paying for self-improvement can be.  The gurus are silent–perhaps because they’re in the self-improvement business.

Almost anything we classify as “improving ourselves” can come with a price–and sometimes a hefty one.  What do you classify as self-improvement that’s really an excuse to overspend?  Or in the case of an internship, to under-earn?

When you’re keeping up with the latest fashions, is that a form of self-improvement or is it a matter of simply being wasteful with your money?  “It depends on the requirements of your job,” I can almost hear you all saying.  Fine, but what about college educations?  College is supposed to be the ultimate form of self-improvement, but how often do we overpay for a college’s “name” that won’t likely lead to a better career.

I haven’t detected much of a difference in the career success of a graduate from an average private school v. a graduate from an average public school–other than the amount of debt they often each carry.

This post will go over some of the basic “improvement” expenses and how to minimize their cost.  Because no matter how great your improvement, you’re still not going to get anywhere with an empty wallet.

Self-Improvement Education (Non-College).

I’ve paid thousands of dollars for books, e-books, and even some online “courses.”  I’ve learned how to be minimalistic, optimistic, and how to invest in penny stocks.  I’ve learned time management and been coached in obtaining web traffic for my sites.  Ok—I haven’t really done all of these things (yet), but you get the point.  A lot of the stuff we pay for can be found for free on websites such as this one or in free e-books like Dividend Guy’s new e-book on dividend investing.

A formal education is expensive enough, let alone paying for many of these educational tools.  But here’s the caveat–a great e-book, book, or course can ultimately really lead to self-improvement.  If that’s the case, then it’s worth the investment.  Just be sure to do your homework and to try and hone in on one area of improvement at a time so you get the most out of the resource outlay.  Of course your homework should also point you to the high quality self-improvement books rather than the scams.  Remember, if it’s too good to be true or they are promising too much, generally SKIP IT.


Ok, I’ll be honest, I may am not be qualified to even talk about fashion…but I’m going to anyway.  Who hasn’t justified a new shirt or hairstyle by thinking that it will “make me more presentable at work” or “make me feel more confident.”  To some extent that is true, but there is certainly a cost-effective way to go about it.  This is easy–search for sales, and don’t get caught up in “names.”  More importantly, don’t throw out your clothes because they “go out of style” or “no longer fit.”  Fashion is in flux–just like your weight likely will be, for the majority of people, myself included.  Speaking of which–


I once lost a tremendous amount of weight.  Again, I used free websites for any info I needed or to track my calories.  I didn’t read or implement any fad diet plans and I didn’t consult with any experts or join any groups.  I simply ate less and exercised more.  I also found that you can keep in shape without an expensive gym–but it’s a lot tougher.  Sometimes it’s worth spending that extra money to improve yourself or obtain your goals.


I already addressed this above, but the trick is to focus on the value of your education.  In other words, to focus on the expected Rate of return (ROI) for your college experience.  What is the average starting salary?  What are your odds of graduating in four years?  What types of scholarships or grants can you apply or qualify for?  And once you’re there, the key is to target college as a great opportunity for personal growth rather than a chance to party or avoid work for four (plus) years.


I always fall into this trap.  In my day job I will always be going to “so and so’s retirement dinner,” or “this or thats trade convention.”  I am a member of the local chamber of commerce.  I am constantly attending association events or going out for a few drinks with colleagues.  It’s both tiring and expensive–and sometimes (often, actually) I never get a client from my attempts. At the same time, you’re only as good as your ability to obtain your next job, so perhaps it is oftentimes worth the investment.

If you can, have your employer pay for these types of things.


I believe in life-long learning.  I always want to strive to be more productive and improved in different ways that I value.  At the same time, I don’t want to pay for my improvement–at least not more than I am receiving.  If you can keep your costs down, then you can work on yourself without paying for it.

Just think of this as another way for you to start improving yourself…and who doesn’t like another self-improvement project?

What have you done to mitigate the sometimes expensive self-improvement costs?  What “self-improvement” rationalizations do you make?



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