How much should you spend on self-improvement?

Sanjit Bakshi
5 min readSep 29, 2021

Ah, it’s good to be home and finally get back into the routine. As part of that routine, I have read hundreds of emails, including quite a few questions from readers.

“I am 25 years old and starting to get serious about personal finances. I am in graduate school and am fortunate to have a confidence in teaching that allows me to do this without loans. Knowing how fortunate I am, I live well below the means that confidence can provide, I have an intense part-time job, and I am working in a career that will (hopefully) ensure that my children receive the same gift as me: freedom. to get the best. education they can get without significant debt.”

“Between my work and my confidence, I have a lot left each month. I know I need to do something productive with this money, but right now I’m spending it mostly on other things.”

For instance:

“ I will use some of the extra money for a CBT therapist.

I bought a ticket for a museum gala that I always wanted to attend.

I have decided to massage myself once a month.”

“ I don’t spend a lot on clothes or waxing or anything like that because I prefer to do other things. I rarely go out to eat. I do not have a car. I live in an old part of my city. I have no debt and I save about $ 400 a month.”

“ I think I’m fine, but I spend a lot on “self-improvement.” Hell, right now I’m also thinking of brushing up on Spanish and taking an economics class (for fun!). Also, I am thinking of going back to the personal trainer that I had for a while to improve my physical condition.”

“ This is my big question: how much do people spend on “self-improvement” and cultural stuff? How much does it get lenient? Will I regret this later? Does all this mess make me a confidante?”

Does the person spend on self-improvement?

I have asked myself the same thing. It’s no secret that I’m something of a personal development junkie. I like to read about self improvement. More than that, I like to put what I read into practice. (Heck, there’s even been a category of self-improvement in GRS from day one!)

However, I recognize that there is a lot of useless information. Also, people like me tend to spend money on self-help materials … and then never act on it. (You may have read tons of books on self-improvement, but I’ve only acted on a few.)

Is it okay to spend on self-improvement? Absolute. But you have to be smart about it. I give myself a little more leeway for self-help expenses, but not too much. It’s just as easy to foolishly spend here as anywhere else.

Here are some rules that I made for myself to make sure that I am paying for real personal development and not for dreams of heaven:

Focus on one thing at a time. I know from experience that it is tempting to tackle a lot of self-improvement at once. This is a recipe for disaster. The more I try to change at a time, the less I change and the more I spend. Instead, I have learned to limit my ambitions. Just as I only strive for one resolution each year, I try to improve only one or two aspects of my life at a time. Otherwise, I spend a lot of money doing nothing.

Pursue your goals. I want to do everything. I want to speak fifteen languages, play a dozen sports, fly an airplane and drive a boat. But some of these things are just daydreams. Why do I want to fly an airplane? Instead, it makes more sense to spend my time and money improving the things that help me achieve my goals. For example, since I want to travel, I really need to learn some languages. And since I want to lose weight, it is good to spend it in a gym. But as much as it appeals to me, it doesn’t make sense to pay for carpentry classes or power tools. Sure, I’d love to make my own furniture, but that doesn’t really fit my long-term plans.

If you don’t use it, please stop paying. Many self-improvement expenses are based on wishful thinking. We join a gym and promise to go every day. So we only go once, but we keep paying. This is a bullshit. Know yourself. If you join a gym, you won’t get in shape. Paying for a computer class doesn’t teach you to code. You still have to put in the time and effort. If you see that you are not doing this, throw them away. (And don’t worry about sunk costs.)

It is also important not to fool yourself. In general, a massage is not an expense for self-improvement; it is a luxury. There is nothing wrong with indulging in luxuries once in a while, but don’t pretend they are something they are not. (Two or three years ago I received my first massage because my doctor prescribed it as part of my physical therapy, I had a running injury, but subsequent massages are luxurious, pure and simple. If only there were no massage therapist in the office next door ….)

But back to Me question: how much do you spend on self-improvement and cultural activities? I’m not sure what is normal and I’m curious what Quora readers have to say. (I suspect the answers will vary widely.) Kris and I don’t spend a lot on cultural things (except when we travel), but I probably spend a few hundred dollars a year on self-improvement: books, classes, computer programs, et cetera.

And you? Do you pay for personal development? What kinds of things do you buy? How much you spend? What costs are worth it and which ones aren’t (and you certainly don’t want to start taxing your credit cards to pay for this luxury)? What rules have you developed to make sure you don’t waste your money? What advice can you give Annie to determine what expenses are worth it?

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Sanjit Bakshi

Master’s in Business Administration with majors in finance from the Columbia Business School.