Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Money Maximization: A Game of Skill

What is the best way to make the most of your money? Learn some new skills. The more things you can learn to do yourself, rather than pay someone to do them, the more money you will save. This frees up cash for other needs.

One important skill you can learn is cooking. If you are not a very experienced cook, there are many ways to improve. You can watch cooking shows on TV, rent videos from the library, ask an experienced pal to give you some lessons, or take a class at a community center or junior college. Much can be learned from library books. My library has an excellent selection of recipe and cooking basics books. The Internet also contains a wealth of information on the subject. If you improve your cooking, you will not have to buy as many expensive prepared meals in the store, or visit restaurants as often. You also have a new source of inexpensive gifts! Besides, cooking can be a lot of fun as a shared activity with family or friends.

Another valuable accomplishment is learning to sew. Although in this age of cheap mass-produced clothing sewing your own duds from scratch is not always cheaper, it can certainly provide you with a more unique wardrobe. Acquiring the ability to make basic repairs and alterations, however, can save you some serious money. Tailors do not work cheaply. Cloth napkins, place mats, potholders, etc. to coordinate with the recipient's decorating scheme are also welcome gifts that don't break the bank. Sewing machine shops often provide free classes if you buy a machine there. You can also go the budget route, buying a serviceable machine at a yard sale or thrift store, and asking a snip-n-stitch-savvy friend to impart his or her basic wisdom. Community centers offer instruction in some locales.

Home improvement is another area where the hands-on approach is much easier on the budget. Home Depot offers special workshops to improve your competence in all sorts of areas, including painting, flooring installation, window-screen repair, ceiling fan installation, etc. New workshops are added all the time. Should you be tempted to use your gender as an excuse not to do-it-yourself, they even offer special workshops for women! Simple projects may even be handled with a quick perusal of a library book or web tutorial. I find encyclopedia-type books regarding basic construction techniques and household repairs in the thrift stores all the time. One caveat: please leave any complex jobs requiring the altering of your home's footprint, or those involving any possibly load-bearing walls or electrical work to the professionals!

A facility for basic auto repairs can likewise come in handy. I wouldn't attempt anything beyond changing the oil and wiper blades myself, but those of you with a willing tutor, good, clear set of instructional manuals, or especially informative website may wish to delve a little deeper. The financial savings can be huge!

An aptitude for investing your money is another arrow in the quiver of cash-management. Check out some personal investment books from the library, join an investment club, read Smart Money, Money or Kiplinger's magazine, pick the brain of a friend or relative who has grown their money successfully, or look for a community center or junior college course. Learn all you can, and make sure you understand the risks of any investment you are making. Also, be aware of any commissions or fees that will be charged when you invest, and how these will impact your returns.

Gardening is something that can be attempted with some limited success by even the (pardon the pun) greenest novice. Some additional know-how will greatly improve your chances of success, however. Shadow that green-thumbed neighbor, read the gardening section of your local paper, click on horticultural websites and borrow gardening magazines from the library. Nurseries offer excellent workshops as well. Home-grown fruits and veggies are cheaper, tastier, and more nutritious than their store-bought cousins. Grow your own flowers, too! A decorative pot of herbs, flowers or a cute succulent makes an attractive and reasonably-priced gift!

These are just a few examples of how gaining some expertise can improve your cash flow. Please share some of your own ideas.


Anonymous said...

I love the idea of baking presents for people. And who wouldn't want some fresh veggies from a friends garden!

Together We Save said...

You make a very good point. We all have skills to develop. I love giving baked goods or homemade candles as gifts.

Anonymous said...

Learning new skills have other benefits as well....such as delaying the onset of senility and possibly Alzheimers. You'll save money on caregivers and nursing homes