“Whether you want to make faster progress in your career or just stay mentally sharp, lifelong learning is more important than ever. There are many resources that make it possible for people of all ages and stages of life to learn just about anything without spending much money. This article offers 7 easy and affordable ways to expand your knowledge, pick up new skills, and exercise your brain.
Now more than ever, it’s essential to keep learning throughout your life. Whether you want to master the latest software program in your industry, become fluent in another language, or become a crypto currency expert, there’s more and more information that can help you succeed or simply feel more fulfilled. Not everyone has the time and budget to get a degree or attend costly seminars. The following are some of the top ways to learn all kinds of valuable skills without spending much.
1. Listen to Podcasts and Audiobooks
You can absorb lots of information simply by plugging your headphones into your phone or another device. Listening to podcasts and audiobooks is often one of the most efficient ways to learn. You can do this while commuting, exercising, or doing chores around the house. There’s more and more information available on sound files, much of it easy to access for free or at a very low cost.
Free podcasts and internet radio are among your best resources. The best way to find one is to simply do a search, such as “”marketing skills podcast”” or whatever it is you want to learn. When you find podcasters you like, you can follow them and listen regularly.
Audiobooks are getting more and more popular as well. While services such as Audible have a wide selection, they aren’t exactly cheap. A cheaper alternative is to borrow audiobooks from public libraries. Not everyone knows that you can use your library card to download MP3 audiobooks. Many libraries work with OverDrive, a free app that lets you borrow books as well as audiobooks. Thus, it’s worthwhile to have a library card even if you never physically enter libraries!
Another way to find low-cost audiobooks is to search bargain books, free books and daily deals on Kindle. Many of these e-books offer discounted Audible versions (Amazon, after all, owns both Kindle and Audible). In this manner, you can often get both an ebook and audiobook for $5 or less.
2. Explore Free or Cheap Online Courses
You can find many cheap and even free online courses on thousands of topics. If you’re interested in acquiring tech skills, you have many resources from which to choose. ALISON lets you earn a free certificate in web development online. Skillshare, Khan Academy, and Udemy all have reasonable courses on subjects ranging from coding to foreign languages, to learning musical instruments.
Top Uiniversities, including Harvard, Yale, and MIT now offer free courses that you can access online or download. You can study almost any subject taught by colleges for free at your leisure. The only downside is you won’t be earning college credits. If your main purpose is to learn, however, all you need is an internet connection and you’re admitted! Many of these courses are available through EDX
Some people find that it’s hard to stay motivated trying to learn something on their own. One solution to this is to find a partner or organize a small group in your area or through your social media contacts. This way you can interact and enjoy some of the social aspects of attending college even while taking non credit courses.
3. Learn a New Language
It’s now easier than ever to learn a new language without taking a traditional course. You can even go beyond the visual audio and computer programs which are useful but often tedious. Duolingo is a good place to start. This free site offers lessons in several languages in a gamified format, making it more fun and interesting.
If you want to actually talk to people in the new language, look for online language exchanges. If you want actual instruction, you can find reasonable tutors on sites such as italki. However, there are also free sites where you can interact with people all over the world informally via Skype. You can also look for groups that meet in person to practice language skills. Couch surfing is useful for this. though their meetings are mainly in larger cities. You can also check MeetUp or start your own group on that site.
4. Play a Musical Instrument
Learning a musical instrument, or perhaps singing, is not only great for personal fulfillment. It may even stimulate your brain to work better. If you don’t have time or money to take expensive lessons or enroll in music school, there are now several good alternatives.
If you need an inexpensive musical instrument, you can probably find one secondhand. Check Craigslist for local listings. Otherwise, eBay probably has what you’re looking for. Other possibilities include thrift shops, garage sales, and local auctions.
You can find many free instructional videos online on YouTube and other sites. These are especially helpful for beginners. Apps such as Garage band are good for learning guitar and piano, though if you want to tackle more complex instruments you may need a teacher. Live online music lessons work similarly to ones for foreign languages. These can be a cheaper alternative to taking lessons in person.
5. Create Your Own Self-Study Reading Program
With so many resources for learning, the real challenge is finding the time and actually following through. Many learning goals are overly ambitious. It’s not likely that you’re going to become an expert coder, fluent in Mandarin, or a virtuoso pianist in a matter of weeks or even months. It’s more realistic to set more modest short-term learning goals. Choose a subject and devote a few months to consuming books and other materials that cover it.
For example, if you’ve never read classic novels, make a list of authors to tackle such as Dickens, Austen, Melville, Joyce, or anyone you’ve always meant to read. Or read a series of books on economics, politics, history, biology, or design. You can supplement your reading by watching related videos and documentaries and perhaps attending related lectures or book signings on your chosen topics.
6. Play Educational and Mind-Expanding Games
Both online and offline games help to keep your mind sharp. Many games also increase your storehouse of knowledge. Word games such as Scrabble and crossword puzzles help to build your vocabulary. Computer games such as Elevate are designed to teach you while holding your attention. Trivia games are good for increasing your knowledge and keeping your memory sharp. Strategy games such as chess, backgammon, Go, bridge, and many others teach you how to plan ahead and anticipate your opponents moves
7. Learn About Your Own Area
While many of the most convenient ways to learn nowadays involve technology, don’t underestimate the value of doing things in the real world. Travel is always mind-expanding as you learn about history and meet new people. Traveling to distant lands is exciting and teaches you about different cultures. However, this type of travel is expensive and time-consuming. You can also learn quite a bit by exploring areas closer to home.
How much do you know about the history, architecture, and plants of your own town or city? Go on local hikes, attend lectures at your historical society. Or travel to a nearby area that you’ve always been curious about. When you learn about any area, including your own, you’ll be learning more about the world in general.
Learning is no longer something that stops when you graduate from high school or college. It’s a lifelong pursuit that enriches many areas of your life. Fortunately, there are many ways to learn that don’t require a sizable financial investment. Lifelong learning makes you more interesting to others, helps you stay mentally sharp, and alerts you to potential opportunities and possibilities in the world around you.”