10 Ways to Improve Yourself for $100 or Less

By Damian Davila on 3 August 2016 6 comments

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail," wrote Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. While it may be true that opportunity doesn't knock on your door that often, it's true that you'll only make the most of the good times when you're truly prepared.

Fortunately, there are many ways to reinvent yourself for under one Benjamin! Ranging from career growth to personal finance to personal growth, here's a list of 10 inexpensive investments in one's own self.

Career Growth

Franklin said it best, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." Put that $100 (or even less!) toward improving your chances of landing a promotion.

1. Invest in a Lynda.com Membership

One of the secrets to getting ahead in any career is to become familiar with the requirements of the job you want, and determine what skills you need to develop in order to thrive in that dream job.

For example, I wanted to land more social media management projects, but kept getting turned down because I didn't know basic Adobe Photoshop skills. Most clients look for a freelancer who can create or edit images with this software. That's why I set aside about $75 for a three-month subscription to Lynda.com and learned not only the basics of Photoshop, but also picked up some intermediate skills. You can pay from $24.99 (unlimited access to the subscription library of courses) or $34.99 (unlimited access to the subscription library of courses plus ability to download project files) on a month-to-month basis until you're able to become proficient in the skills you need.

2. Buy Your Name as a Domain

Give yourself a professional look by directing your potential clients or employers to YourName.com instead of wix.com/xY7893b40. Not only are domains that use names easier to share and remember, but they also allow you to keep a consistent look. Your email and URL will share the same domain name. If your name is already taken, then try sensible alternatives. Most basic domain packages start at $10 per year.

3. Get a Professional Headshot

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) clearly states that "employers should not ask for a photograph of an applicant." However, the reality is that you'll run into plenty of instances that you will need a professional headshot. Ranging from social media presences to promotion announcements in the local newspaper to opportunities to contribute to a trade journal, a great headshot will positively contribute to your career. Prices vary per city, so do your homework. Don't forget to check with your HR department if they provide such a service and contact your photography friends for some references.

4. Enroll in a Non-Credit Program at Local College

If learning online isn't your cup of tea, a great alternative is to enroll in a non-credit course at your local university or community college. For example, the University of Hawaii at Manoa Outreach College offers non-credit workshops starting at $50. By enrolling in such a course, you become eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit, allowing you to deduct up to 20% of your first $10,000 in qualified education expenses, up to $2,000 per taxpayer. Depending on your income, you could complete college-level courses for free through this tax credit. (See also: Don't Skip These 8 Tax Breaks for Students)

Personal Finance

"Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship," warned Franklin. Here are three ways to spot some of those little expenses (and debts!) that can truly add up over time.

5. Set a $100 Food Budget for One Week

If you're constantly wondering "where did my paycheck go?" it's time to start taking control of your expenses. One great way to start this task is to limit yourself to only $100 for food for one week and see what happens. Writer Hillary Hoffower took on this challenge and she ended up surprising herself by spending only $99.88 in one week! By keeping track of your food expenses, you'll spot opportunities for saving, such as those daily $4 Starbucks lattes, and improve your budgeting skills.

6. Allocate Some Investments to Index Funds

One way to improve the performance of your investment or retirement saving accounts is to allocate a portion of your actively managed accounts, such as mutual funds or target-date funds, into index funds. Here's why: The average expense ratio across all funds was 0.64% in 2014. That means that you would pay $64 per year for every $10,000 you were to invest.

On the other hand, the average expense ratio for exchange-traded index funds was closer to 0.25%! That means a nice 60% drop on average investment fees. There are some index funds, such as those from Vanguard, that have even lower expense ratios. Those investment cost savings can mean the difference between reaching and missing your target investment.

7. Order Your Free Annual Credit Report

To prevent identity theft and have a full picture of your credit history, request your credit report every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. Federal law requires each of three consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to provide you a free credit report. Order your free credit report every 12 months so that you can double check that only the accounts and loans that you applied for are there. If you find an issue with your credit report, you can submit a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372).

Personal Growth

Personal development is a lifelong process. Here are some frugal ideas to help you maximize your potential.

8. Improve Your Public Speaking With Toastmasters International

Becoming a more effective communicator and finding your own voice are both important parts of personal growth. First established in 1924, non-profit educational organization Toastmasters helps its members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills. Total annual fees generally range from $74 to $92 per year.

9. Develop a Hobby

There are many theories about self-actualization, and many of them share a common belief in the need to remain enthusiastic about the future. One way to become enthused and energize your body is to develop a hobby. Choose an activity that provides you an opportunity to break a sweat, improve a skill, or strengthen bonds with family or friends. From a pair of dumbbells to a chessboard, there are plenty of hobbies that are under $100.

10. Slow Down Through Meditation

While stress is a natural part of life, it's important to keep it in check. It has been estimated that 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and that 75% to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. You need to slow down, and one easy way to achieve this is through meditation. Skip the yoga pants and incense candles and use Calm.com site and app (available for iOS and Android) to guide you. This free service teaches you the skill of meditation so that you can reduce stress and improve your sleeping.

What are other ways to reinvent yourself under $100? Share with us!
 

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Guest's picture
Nick

Even cheaper, get that Lynda account by way of your public library.

Damian Davila's picture

Hi Nick,

I knew that student could get access to many of the courses offered at Lynda.com through a partnership between some universities and Lynda.com, but I didn't know about the public library option. Could you please tell us more how it works?

Thanks!

Damian

Guest's picture
DJ @ Money Goody

I'm not going to lie, I was half-expecting this to be a list of material items haha. I'm glad I was wrong because there are some great resources here. I didn't know Toastmasters was that cheap! I'm tempted to sign up!

Damian Davila's picture

Glad to NOT disappoint! Toastmasters is a great, and affordable, way to improve public speaking. In my research, I saw that some locations offer discounts to members of alumni associations, so if you belong to one ask about the potential discount.

Guest's picture
The Surprise Millionaires

I used number 4. to pick up some new skills that I was able to use on the job. I highly recommend!

Damian Davila's picture

That's awesome! Thank you for sharing.