My 2016 Budget Challenge: Where to Find Cheap Training for a New Career

[Editor's Note: This is another episode in Max Wong's journey to find an extra $31,000 this year. Read the whole series here.]

Yesterday, one of my friends asked: "So, what are you working on?" To which I responded: "Um, you know, stuff. All sorts of things. I'm so busy. Uhhhhh, It's kind of boring to explain."

For the past four weeks I've been grinding away at an increasingly long To Do list. It's always been like this. Or, to be accurate, I've always been like this. I always complete the majority of my projects during the last four months of the year. Perhaps it's because 24 years after graduation, I still feel like September is the start of a new year. Or perhaps it's the change of seasons… even though Los Angeles only has two seasons: vacation weather and unreasonably hot.

Or, perhaps I accidentally schedule all my deadlines for every project for December 31st. Regardless of the motivation, my completion panic kicked into high gear one month early this year.

I suspect it's the public shaming aspect of this writing exercise that has accelerated my inner clock. After all, it's September and I am still over $21,000 short of meeting my goal of saving $31,000 before the end of the year. If I want to make this goal, I will need to make or save an additional $5,280 per month. Uhn.

To that end, I have been working every moneymaking angle available to me from the confines of my house. I am canning my award-winning fig jam in advance of Holiday Craft Fairs, I have applied to every job lead that has come my way (including one that would require me to wear an abaya everyday for a month — but since I look weirdly cute in a headscarf, this is actually not a bad thing), and I am selling everything I don't completely love on Craigslist and eBay.

At the end of June, I got a really good job lead from my sister. If I can become an expert at Adobe Illustrator and pass her company's skill test, she can hire me for a freelance job that would easily make up my budget shortfall.

Access Free Job Skill Training Via the Library

Once I learned about the job opportunity, I jumped into action. I subscribed to Adobe Illustrator ($30 per month) believing that I would be illustrating everything by the end of the 30-day free trial period. "I totally got this," I told myself. "I'm going to spend the 4th of July watching 32 hours of tutorials that I can download for free using my Los Angeles Public Library card. Then I will give myself three weeks to cram for the skill test. My education cost will be zero and I can work full time starting in August."

Cramming Doesn't Work

I started watching the tutorials that same night. Two hours in I began to lose focus to the point that I had to stop and rewind the video several times because I kept spacing out. "Ugh. What is wrong with me? Why am I struggling so hard to learn this?" I asked my best friend. "Well," she answered, "there's a reason why most college classes are only two hours long. Your brain is actively learning, not binge watching Daredevil, you dummy."


Now resigned to the fact that I cannot master Adobe Illustrator in one marathon study session, I've had to alter my schedule for total budget domination considerably. Not without a huge amount of denial, I have discovered that my brain can only absorb an hour of technical lecturing per day. So it was 32 days of watching tutorials, not three. I've also had to admit to myself that it's going to take a minimum of 100 hours of practice with the Pen Tool before I have any proficiency. So basically, my free self-education and accelerated learning plan now looks and costs the same as a semester-long class at my local community college, but without teacher office hours so I can actually get one-on-one assistance.

What is possibly worse than acknowledging that I am not the quick study I thought I was? The realization that I am now losing paid work hours to unpaid study hours. In order not to backslide into more debt, I will have to get a better-paying job to supplement my job training for a better-paying job.

Sigh. Lesson learned?

Progress So Far

My blood tests are fine. My teeth are fine. My boobs are fine. My OCD is…what it is. My savings this month? Not so much. My regularly scheduled doctors' appointments erased any savings from Mr. Spendypants this pay period as I'm on his health insurance. (Thanks Cutie).

Between my new study schedule and my doctor appointments, I only managed to turn in $90 worth in writing work this pay period. Luckily, my bees came through for me and helped me sell $150 in bees and $293.76 in honey. Because I've been under house arrest, and Mr. Spendypants has been working 16 hours a day, we still managed to come out $533.76 ahead, even with all the medical expenses.

Goal: $31,000

Amount Raised: $22,040.17

Amount Spent: $12,153.66

Amount Left to Go: $21,113.49

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Guest's picture

Well if you do fail this series will be great proof how bad the economy is, how useless degrees/education are, how screwed us younger people are, and how it is all about who you know to get work now-a-days (your sister finding a job opp for you).