Investing in Myself

Over the past 6 months, I’ve noticed something striking about people I admire who are doing their work well. These people weren’t all that much different from me, except for one thing: They were investing in themselves.

These people were purposefully spending money on things I wasn’t, things like classes and conferences and coaching, so that they could get better at whatever it is they do.

I practice to get better, and so do they. But I’ve almost always stopped short when it comes down to laying out actual cash.

This spring, I’ve loosened up the pursestrings a little. I’ve focused on investing in myself, with time and money. For this frugal girl, that’s required quite the paradigm shift.

But I want to get better, and so I’m making myself do it. It’s not been easy.

This spring, I decided to err on the side of saying yes when it came to events. I attended a conference. I met up with some blog friends in Cincinnati. I just got back from a writing weekend in Austin.

I decided to pay for help: I signed up for a photography class. I hired a smart and creative someone to help me think through a project, and another smart and creative someone to design something eye-catching for it.

I decided to bring on help at home, which has made my day-to-day life run much more smoothly–and has allowed me to get much more work done.

I haven’t actually spent that much money, but I’ve had to change the way I think. I’m still working on convincing myself that spending money on my own development is a worthwhile investment.

I want to keep improving in my work, but that’s not going to happen without putting effort into it. I need to be smart about how I approach it. I need to carve out space for deliberate practice. I need to solicit feedback from the right people, and then figure out what to do with that feedback.

Sometimes, the most efficient way to get better is to pay for the insight I’m missing, the skills I’m lacking, or the help I need. I resisted spending money on a photography course for a long time, but then I learned more in two hours than I’ve learned in two years on my own. That’s a worthwhile investment.

Investing in myself feels kind of weird, but I suspect it will be worth it in the long run. And in the meantime, it sure has been fun.

What have you done in the past to help yourself get better at whatever it is you do? What would you like to do in the future? Share your thoughts to comments–we could all use the food for thought!

*****     *****      *****

I just finished Laura Vanderkam’s new ebook What the Most Successful People Do at Work, which reassured me I was on the right path. You don’t need to work a traditional office job to get a lot out of this short ebook. Her chapters on Practice and Pay In alone are more than worth the cover price. If you want to invest in yourself, I highly recommend her $3 ebook–you’ll get a great return on your investment.

photo credit


Leave A Comment
  1. Alisa says:

    I get so much out of your blog!! Thank you so much for allowing me to start my day on such a positive note. I purchased Vanderkam’s book… I am working towards a major career transition (from being a classroom teacher to starting my own business and working for myself as a health and wellness coach/ freelance writer) and can use all the useful information and encouragement I can get. I really appreciate starting my work week in what I hope will be my last May in the classroom like this!

    • Anne says:

      Alisa, thanks for the kind words! And best of luck on the big transition! It sounds like you’re doing a great job of paving your way to a successful switch.

  2. Great post, Anne! I’m learning how to do these things, too. I started with taking a “writing night” every week (actually my husband’s idea). I’m hoping to take a writing course soon, and I would love to take a photography class as well. I hope your weekend in Austin was successful!

    • Anne says:

      Kelly, a writing night sounds like a great place to begin. Let me know if you decide to do a photography course, I’d be so interested to hear about other people’s experiences.

      Austin was great. I enjoyed my first time in Texas. Beautiful country and nice people. But of course you knew that. 🙂

  3. Corrie Anne says:

    I really love this. I usually want to stop short of spending money as well. I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve even been anxious about spending my own free time. I was tempted to work on things for my classroom, but chose to practice piano instead yesterday afternoon. I think that in the end it helped out both. 🙂 We also recently invested in taking CrossFit for at least a few months to have trainers teach us some skills in the gym.

    • Anne says:

      Corrie Anne, I’m so glad you pointed out that spending time and money on your health can be a great investment. Good luck with CrossFit! I used to do that (my husband still does) and I miss it. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  4. Jaimie says:

    Right now I’m spending major $$ to be in college (although, thankfully, I won’t have to start paying back the loans for a while, and I do have a lot of scholarships!). I’m an English and Theology major, so both those things are investing into what I want to do in the future: write, especially things like devotionals, inspirational books (on marriage, homemaking, etc), and maybe Bible studies. Those are way-in-the-future dreams, but they are dreams I have.

    For now, I just keep pluggin’ away at the schoolwork and blogging, learning as much as I can. Maybe someday I’ll have the guts to go to a blogging conference. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Jaimie, thanks for pointing out that college is an obvious investment in yourself. I’m glad you’re working on getting a lot out of your college experience.

  5. Jacey says:

    Hi Anne, thanks for the insight and encouragement. It’s funny how we never question college as a worthwhile investment, but it is an expensive one! You mentioned soliciting feedback- I’d love to hear more about how you’ve done it, and what the results have been like.

    I hope you keep investing in yourself, because all of your readers benefit when you do! I look forward to reading What the Most Successful People Do at Work. I love Vanderkam’s work!

    • Anne says:

      “You mentioned soliciting feedback- I’d love to hear more about how you’ve done it, and what the results have been like.”

      Oh, interesting. I’ll give this some thought. Do you have a specific question about this, or should I just wax poetic on whatever comes to mind? 🙂 This might need its own post.

      • Jacey says:

        Feel free to wax poetic! I suppose I mean, have you solicited feedback formally or informally? Do you have a mentor specifically for writing/work who gives you feedback at regularly scheduled intervals? How do you determine who the “right” people are to ask for feedback? Are they people you know, or people you seek out specifically for this purpose? There are a few questions to think about! Not that you need to answer all of them.

  6. Stacey says:

    What a great reminder for us all. I have recently been taking a bunch of on-line writing classes and am finding the time and money to be so well spent! Keep sharing all your wonderful insights- I learn something each time I visit here.

    • Anne says:

      “I have recently been taking a bunch of on-line writing classes and am finding the time and money to be so well spent!”

      I love hearing how other people are working on getting better–thanks for sharing!

    • Anne says:

      “I’m so guilty of stopping short when it comes to spending money.”

      I’m glad I’m not the only one! Why is it so hard??

  7. Sarah R says:

    I’ev been thinking a lot about this in a different context- I’ve been trying to practice daily spirituality. It’s hard, and I am going to have to pay for coaching and classes to help me implement the practices that I want to incorporate. I’m also in the midst of changing careers- from business/teaching to natural medicine. Since I’m unemployed, it’s hard to come up with the mindset that says ‘spending this money is good!’. I’m already rethinking every little spending decision I make!

    • Anne says:

      Oh, thanks for sharing the different context! It’s so helpful for me to remember that there are many, many different ways to invest in ourselves. It’s not all just about work!

  8. Cori says:

    I’ve been shelling out the dollars for a wonderful counselor to help me grow as a wife and a mom. I always tease my husband that I saw my “friend” today and had to pay her $95 to chat. The truth is, she’s more like a mentor to me than anything. Sometimes I wish I could just take her to lunch and call it even, but her time is valuable also and I’m learning to gracefully hand over my $95/hour for her time. I am growing and becoming the mom and wife I want to be so in the end it’w worth every penny.

    • Anne says:

      Cori, that’s such a wonderful way to spend money on yourself. That’s truly an investment–money you spend now that reaps huge dividends later. It’s an investment I’ve made, too, and it’s been so worthwhile. Thanks for sharing.

  9. So glad you enjoyed the book! It has been a long process of learning to invest in myself and my career, but I feel like I’m finally starting to see real payoff, which is motivational. And I just love the idea that we can get better at what we do. We are not good or bad at things. We are just more or less along on a journey.

    • Anne says:

      Hey, thanks for the books that provide the food for thought! I appreciate how you’ve written about your own journey: it’s made mine a little smoother.

  10. Tim says:

    My work/career development is primarily funded for me. but on the personal scene, I’ll occasionally fork over the cash for a session with a personal trainer to see how I’m doing with my workouts. The other place I spend money readily is on books and other resources on Scripture study and theology; it’s either that or go off to seminary!

    • Anne says:

      Great example. Health is an investment, too. And you won’t be surprised to hear that I think a good book is a great investment!

  11. Rebekah says:

    I love the concept of investing in yourself. After 2 kids in 3 years (now almost 3 and 1), I’m craving creativity, learning, and something OTHER than kids (that I love dearly, of course). I also bought the Shoot Fly Shoot photography course, and while it’s not super professional or slick, I was just telling my husband that the $ was TOTALLY worth it because a few things just suddenly clicked in my head. It was like a light bulb went off, so you can bet those lessons were worth whatever it was I paid (think I bought it on a sale, but anyhow 🙂 )
    Thanks for the post!

    • Anne says:

      Yep, sometimes it’s worth paying some money or spending some time for a good lightbulb moment. I felt the same way about the photo course.

  12. Victoria says:

    This year I spent some of an inheritance I received on a new laptop, a camera for my blogging and a ticket to the BEECH conference held in Florida. It was so hard to do that my husband had to press enter for me when it came to booking the tickets. I had to have a friend stand by me as I ordered the camera. When it came to the laptop I sat in the parking lot with everything within me saying I should go take it back, until my son finally pipped up and said “mom are we ever going to go”. Now a few months later, those things are the best things I have ever spent money on. I am improving the look of my blog so much with the camera and with the tools I learned from the conference. With the new laptop I am so much more portable and able to work where ever my mom day takes me.

  13. Anne says:

    Oh my goodness, I can totally relate to that–the need to have someone else pull the trigger. But I’m so glad you did it, and that it’s clearly a good call in hindsight. Thanks so much for sharing!

  14. Hope Connell says:

    Wow… this post just resonates for me on so many level, especially, because, like you, I have a really hard time spending money. For instance, I had been talking about wanting to get a “thin, brown belt” for a couple months when I found one I liked at the thrift store for a dollar, and I STILL stood there and deliberated for ten minutes until my husband said, “Hope, just put it in the cart.”

    Anyway, all that to say I have recently started “investing in myself” by purchasing high-quality, eco-friendly make-up. I never wear make-up, and as a work-at-home-mother of two under two, I rarely have any “need” for it. But on those days that I DO want to gussy it up, I want good quality products and the skills to use them. It has been so hard spending money on something that feels so frivolous, but at the same time I know it’s important for me to have the tools and skills to help me look and feel my best, and good make-up is one of these things.

    Thank you so much for this post!

    • Anne says:

      I’m glad you put it in the cart. 🙂

      I love your makeup philosophy. Mine is very similar–if I’m going to put it on my face (and I do every day) then I want it to be good stuff that’s easy to use and make’s me feel pretty. I think it’s a good investment. 🙂

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