What useful skills can learned by oneself without a lot of money?

Since I have recently finished mastering the skill of playing Civilization 4 :D, I’m searching for something else I can do in my free time without a lot of monetary investment. It would be nice if it were a skill that could be marketed into a job of some sort, but that isn’t necessary.

Some possibilities I have on my short-list so far:
-Re-learn HTML coding (or whatever websites are built on these days)
-study basic gardening techniques
-learn how to cook from scratch (home-made bread, noodles, etc)
-work on obedience training with my dog
-learn to knit and sew
-make my own booze

  1. Learn CPR and first aid. There are free materials available from the Red Cross to teach you.

  2. Learn another language. You can borrow tapes, videos and books for free from your local library

Lockpicking, not a marketable job skill (unless you were planning on being a locksmith or 007 I guess), but if you manage to lock yourself out of your house you can get back in.

When it comes to programming, don’t limit yourself to HTML. There’s a big world of open-source development out there, and from what I hear, a large percentage of developers are self-taught. If you make a significant contribution to an important project, employers will be interested in you no matter what your background is.

I am a self-taught software developer (been doing it since 1987) and am able to earn a nice living working from home for my own business.


1)You never know when life-saving skills will come in handy and most of them (CPR, Heimlich, making splints, etc) can be learned free online or IRL. I downloaded one of the US Army’s survival textbooks the other day because, y’never know, might come in handy some day. Why not be prepared?

2)I’m a firm believer that basic foreign language skills can be learned with a few resources and alot of elbow grease. Pick a language you want to learn, find some materials for the basics (free at the library or cheaply at a bookstore), get a dictionary (usually less than 20 dollars or maybe more for a really good one) and study and practice your ass off. You’ll at least pick up enough to impress people.

  1. (not really a “skill,” but…) Make up a first-aid kit. As with #1, you’ll never know when you might need it and it’s good to just have around.

  2. Learning a musical instrument might be fun, too. New instruments can be expensive (especially for name brands), but you can find used ones on Ebay for pretty cheap. Combine that with a book (usually pretty cheap, too) or DVD/video and you’ll be on your way. Spring for a hat and bus fare to a public place, lay hat down, play instrument and you’ll get at least a couple bucks.

I taught myself to knit, crochet, tat, and make candles from various books that I either found lying around the house (think of the old Family Encyclopedia of Crafts books) or in the library.

My daughter and I each learned basic cooking skills from our mothers, but we have both learned more skills from library books and cooking shows. In particular, my daughter has learned new techniques from these shows. Man, I miss having her around the house, she’s an excellent cook.

Heck, just toddle on down to your library and browse in the crafts section. There’s sure to be something that catches your eye.

Me too (but since 1997). I make really good money developing using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, VBScript, C# and SQL…and I’ve never spent a penny doing it. My college degree is in journalism.

You could do the same. You can get MS SQL and Visual Studio for free, or you can go the Linux route and get MySQL and PHP for free (the latter runs on Windows too).