10 Classes to Boost Earning & Savings Power

Photo: Raquel Abe

The New York Times recently featured a story about parents who provide Spanish and other language lessons for their young children. At 50, I have my own wish list of classes that would improve my personal and financial accounts.

1. Chinese

I would love to learn to speak and read one of the Chinese dialects. Why? I've read some of the English language marketing materials that are printed abroad. There's definitely a market for translating business and marketing materials from Chinese into everyday English. Also, the characters and the calligraphy are so beautiful and as a hobby, I would enjoy writing in Chinese.

2. Tai-chi

Learning to chill out in slow motion is one of my goals. I've attended Yoga, kick-boxing and other martial arts classes, but I think moving at a slower pace would improve my decision-making capabilities on a personal and professional level.

3. HTML course

I spend a lot of time blogging and reading online. Therefore, it would be helpful to have a better grip on the inner guts of the HTML language and the world of web design. A course on software and programming would be very useful. I actually lost out on one job opportunity, a few years ago, because of my sluggish computer skills. It was a research position, but they also wanted a maven in spreadsheets, data processing and programming.

4. Marketing 101

Attending a course taught by a gifted teacher and expert in marketing would be helpful for promoting books, blog posts or even coffee at Starbucks. No matter what we do, we're all selling or promoting something. Even teachers are promoting education.

5. Spanish

I can get by with my ragged Spanish when I'm in the grocery store. But I need a total immersion course to speak Spanish fluently and politely in a business setting. And I've noticed that many positions in South Florida (and perhaps in other areas of the country) demand bi-lingual speakers.

6. Personal finance for the self-employed

I know how to write. I know how to network. But a business and finance course for small entrepreneurs would help me handle the nuts-and-bolts, back-office chores of my free-lance writing career. Many of us -- even if we have full-time jobs -- have side careers or part-time businesses that would get a boost from a course in Self-Employment 101.

7. Organization

My computer laptop bag is as messy as the book-bag that I once carried around in third grade. Organization has been and remains my Achilles heel.

8. Sewing lessons

The tailor charged us $30 to hem the pants and to nip the waist of my son's suit for his recent Bar Mitzvah. Ouch. It was a lot of money for a few simple stitches. I just wish that I had the skill to make professional alterations or to sew a simple skirt.

9. Defensive driving course

Yeah. It's an old story and very embarrassing. I'm 49 years old and terrified of driving. But I think that a good one-on-one course on defensive driving would help me tackle my fears and save me a lot of money in cab fares.

10. Relaxation courses

Most of my worst decisions -- personal, economic and professional -- have occurred when I was totally stressed out. A mind-body relaxation course, a new approach to stress management and a few lessons on proper breathing would really put valuable resources in my personal accounts.

Editor's note: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg (The Frugal Duchess) will be joining Wise Bread as a full time blogger in August. In the mean time, she'll be dropping by with a few guest posts a week.  You can find more great tips from Sharon in her book Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money or in Wise Bread's new book 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.

Can't wait until August? Here are other great posts by Sharon on her blog The Frugal Duchess. Enjoy!



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Guest's picture

I totally agree with #8. I highly recommend learning to sew by hand as well as by machine -- and spending the money on quality tools. I've saved a lot of money over the years making my own home decor items (like curtains, table runners and cushions), so I definitely think it's a worthwhile skill.

I would still pay someone to alter an expensive piece of clothing like a suit or a formal dress. Some fabrics are very fussy to work with and some alterations aren't as easy as they look. However, with sewing lessons you'll be better able to tell what's a quick and easy fix and when you're better off getting professional help.

Guest's picture

Wow, thanks for reminding me of the “valuables” I had already: 1, 3, 8, and 10, if yoga counts. Perhaps I should do something with them now.

Like Beth, I will go to a tailor for complicated alterations. I can definitely save some cash just by hemming my own pants though. Mental note: dig out the sewing machine!

Guest's picture

Marketing is the top one on my list. If you can learn to sell something thing that skill can be applied to many roles in life and work...

At various stages in life you will have to market yourself (interview), your products, etc...

Guest's picture

than you think! Fifty to sixty years ago, most clothing was home made and on far less sophisticated machines than are available today. The machines available now make things like hemming ultra easy with specialized stitches and feet. I make the majority of my garments and home deco items. I've also made some pocket change teaching others to sew as well as doing alterations. I've even taught my husband to sew. I recently taught a group of women to sew a travel wardrobe based on clothing in a popular (and expensive) travel clothing catalog. Cost for the identical fabric for ALL 6 items (2 tops, 2 pants, 2 skirts) was $32-40 dollars. No one item took more than 2 hours to make including cutting time. Total cost minus shipping from the pricey catalog for these same garments is $380. The savings were more than what some of the women had paid for their machine.

Guest's picture

1. Chinese and Spanish are the 2 languages I'd like to learn too. I'm on the way with learning French at least.. but Spanish would be muy bueno for the States

2. Any sort of computer skills (basic) like MS office stuff -- Word, Excel, Powerpoint, are generally highly regarded.. I'm just lucky to have loved computers all my life.

3. Organization is my middle name. I love it. Again.. I got lucky with a lifelong passion for arranging and decluttering.

4. Sewing -- I learned how to hem my own pants at least, since I'm 5'4" and most pants are made for 5'7" women. Saved me a bundle!

The best way to hem a pair of pants without sewing and to make it look great, is no-stich hemming tape. I LOVE this stuff. $1.00 for a chunk that will last you a while if you don't buy much, and it's worth every penny.

Just need an iron, pins, water and a sense of what's straight/not. Plus balance.

Guest's picture

I had them in high school, back when there was still Home Ec. It's a great life skill. Now that there's so much in thrift stores I buy my clothes there, but I still mend and alter. And it's great to be able to pick up thrift store sheets and turn them into decorative pillows, table skirts, etc.

I think Home Ec and Shop should be required in HS, both classes for both sexes. If people graduated with some idea of how to take care of themselves, they'd have a lot fewer money problems.

Guest's picture

Wow, since most of the items are on your wish list are on mine, I'd already done a bit of legwork on this...

If you're looking to get a basic handle on a new language, the BBC actually has free lessons in the fundamentals of quite a few over on their site: BBC Language Site.

If you're looking to learn a programming language, such as HTML, look no further than W3Schools for learning everything about programming for the web. If you're looking to learn a full-on language, I would recommend Python; it's a very straightforward language, with extensive development and a huge community for support. Not to mention completely free! The creators of the language actually keep an updated (last updated 7/13/09!) 'beginner's guide' right on the site: Python Tutorial.
Microsoft makes free lessons available for all of their Office products on the Microsoft Office website

I've found that many schools with 'community education'-type programs will teach defensive driving in the summer in conjunction with drivers' education. Results may vary with this one, but check with your state's department of motor vehicles.

As for anything else under the sun, I'll recommend the best site ever: The OpenCourseWare Consortium. Colleges and universities around the country have released the full context of hundreds of courses under 'Open Courseware,' meaning anyone can log in, find a course they'd like, and go through the materials just like one of their students. Don't expect any college credit or acknowlegement you've taken the course at all, though. It's just for your own edification.

Whew! That about covers it for now. Hope it helps!

Guest's picture

Sewing is a useful skill to have.