5 Ways to Avoid Overspending as a Multipotentialite
Photo courtesy of Sakeeb Sabakka.

5 Ways to Avoid Overspending as a Multipotentialite

Written by Emilie

Topics: Multipotentialite Patterns

Editor’s note: this is a post by Saul-of-Hearts

One of the trickiest parts of being a multipotentialite is figuring out which interests to spend money on. Specialists can spend years investing in the tools and resources they need to become experts. But as multipotentialites, we’re always asking ourselves, “Am I still going to be interested in this subject a few years from now? Is it worth investing in?”

I’ve certainly spent more money than I would have liked on classes and equipment. I’ve bought domain names that I never ended up using and group memberships that I’ve never made use of. Even business cards can be costly if you’re constantly having to update them with new titles and offerings.

Here are five things to keep in mind when you’re considering spending money on a new project or passion.

1. Don’t assume you need formal lessons to learn a new skill

The amount of money you invest in a new interest should relate to your plans for that interest. If you plan on turning your skill into a business or if you want to teach it to other people, it might make sense to learn from the best. However, you may not need to take an expensive course if you’re just learning for fun.

Think about your goals for each new project. If you can get just as much fun or value out of the project by learning on your own, maybe formal lessons aren’t necessary. Your DIY approach could even be your calling card, as it is for Elise Blaha Cripe, who runs a handmade arts-and-crafts business, and who is honest with readers when she loses interest in an activity.

Plenty of free and inexpensive courses are available on sites like Code Academy, Skillshare, and Udemy. If you’re a blogger, look around for free resources before you pay for expensive how-to guides and workshops.

2. Make sure any courses you do take are legitimate

If you decide to take formal classes, be sure that the course you’ve enrolled in is accredited or that it has some kind of standing in its field. This will save you from having to deal with unexpected fees and paperwork afterwards. But remember that in some fields, like writing, credentials aren’t important.

3. Do the math before making big investments

If you’re hoping to turn your new skill into a career or income stream, be sure to figure out how many clients you can expect to end up with in your chosen field. While the potential hourly rate may sound impressive, how long will it take to build up a client base? Will you have to invest in a new website and promo materials? If you already have a client base, will they be willing to pay you higher rates just because you’ve earned a new certificate? Is this something you can do for a bit of extra cash on weekends or will you have to invest a lot time and money in order to build a business using your qualification?

4. Rent or borrow resources before you buy any

If your new interest is resource-intensive like photography or woodworking, your biggest investment could be simply gaining access to the necessary tools. As a videographer, I’m always looking at the latest cameras and trying to decide whether to upgrade, trade in, or add to my collection of audio/video gear.

If you’re not sure how long you’re going to stick with a skill, why not try before you buy? CameraLends allows you rent cameras, lenses, and other accessories from photographers in your neighborhood. Lumoid lets you try out photography gear and then deduct the rental fee from the cost of the item if you decide to keep it. Sharehammer lets you rent power tools from your neighbor. Spinlister offers bikes, skis, and snowboards. If the item you need isn’t available for rental, consider going in 50/50 with one (or more) of your friends.

5. Ask for advice from someone who’s been down the same path

Whether you’re embarking on a short-term adventure or a long-term one, don’t be afraid to reach out to people who have been there before you. When I wanted to earn my yoga teaching credentials, I asked my first yoga instructor about his experiences. When I thought about going to grad school to become a science writer, I e-mailed a writer I admired and he gave me some pointers.

Most of the time, people will be flattered that you like what they do enough to want to do it yourself. They may not be able to answer all your questions, but they can at least give you some information about their industry and career paths. Ideally, you’ll ask, “Is this the best course for me to take to get where you are, or would you recommend another option?” You can even turn to sites like Clarity.fm or MicroMentor to find experts who might be able to help.

Your Turn

How do you save money as a multipotentialite? Are there any investments you’ve made that have saved you a lot of money? 

saulSaul is a writer and videographer based in Portland, OR. He’s studied everything from yoga to evolutionary psychology, and blogs about work and travel at www.saulofhearts.com. He’s also the author of The Lateral Freelancer and the host of the Rational Hippie Podcast.


  1. Wow. I love the free stuff! Thanks Saul! And number 1 really struck a cord in me. I have been doing my DIY learning for almost a year now and I would say I learn a lot when I’m in control of my education. Reading books is the most comfortable method for me. I can always stop whenever I want, leave the book for a while, get a new one, read then return to the previous book whenever I like. Books and reading materials give some sort of freedom when it comes to learning that some formal courses can’t obviously give because of time limits, etc.

    Good job Saul! Cool article!

  2. Linda says:

    Wow!!! I just realised something while reading this. Being an academic scanner I’m really good at digging up and using information. I got fed up with the paid for education a long time ago, having spent vast amounts of money on my interests. The internet is now the free information source that I use, and it is available any time I want, at my beck and call. So, one of the things that has bothered me for a while is – if I can find it so can anyone else, so why would they buy books / courses / expertise from me when they can get it for free? But of course some people will want my services – some people cant be bothered searching for things, some cant pull together and make sense of what they find, some people prefer face to face teaching or need a consultant… all things that I am good at. Cool!

    • Saul says:

      Absolutely! Everyone has their own way of approaching these things. It’s the same reason some readers will buy an e-book even if the content is available on your blog for free. They’d rather be able to read it in a curated form, at their leisure, rather than hunt for it themselves, and they’re happy to pay for that service.

  3. Mas Wanto says:

    “Am I still going to be interested in this subject a few years from now?….. ”

    Hmmm, this is me. Thats why I never be an expert in any field :D

    • Saul says:

      Being an expert is over-rated! Often, being “good enough” at something is already more experience than most people have with a subject.

  4. Natalie S says:

    This is great, Saul, especially #4!!! I am always trying to save money where possible, and try to avoid unnecessary waste & consumption, so these sharing resources are invaluable! Definitely spreading the word. Thanks!

    • Saul says:

      Thanks Natalie! The Sharing Economy is a big focus of mine, there are so many new sites and resources to check out. Glad you liked the article!

  5. Simon says:

    Good advice. I’ve bought many language courses and other learning materials for languages I’ve only dabbled with or might never get round to learning. Now they just sit on my shelves gathering dust, apart from the ones I’ve sold on Amazon. I’ve realised that you can learn languages for free, or cheaply, using online resources, and when I buy language books, I look for second hand ones, or ask friends if they have any they don’t need any more. Many people start learning languages, then give up when it gets hard, they loose interest, and/or they think they don’t have enough time, so there are plenty of language learning materials out there looking for a new home.

    I’m also a multi-instrumentalist and have had lessons on some instruments (piano, clarinet, guitar and harp), but have taught myself the others. I think you can learn most instruments on your own using books, online resources and by asking other musicians for tips, but it does help to have some lessons, especially at the beginning, and to help you with particular techniques that are tricky to learn on your own. For expensive instruments, like the piano and the harp, it makes sense to hire them first until you’re sure you really want to commit time and money to learning them.

  6. Niki says:

    Saul, you wrote the post that was in my head. Hehe. I have quad skates and all the skating accessories just sitting in my room. Some of my books for Spanish have gathered dust because I found online resources much better than books. I also am paying for a course which I didn’t have time to commit to and now it’s just bleeding me money! Ah the pitfalls of being a multipotentialite! I have definitely learned to distinguish what is needed and what isn’t. Thanks for writing this post up and all the resources linked to it. Will check it out. :)

    • Saul says:

      Thanks Niki! I’ve definitely over-committed to courses and books too — glad you’re figuring out which ones are and aren’t worth the money.

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