Free & Low Cost Education Alternatives

Education Alternatives: Free & Low Cost

You may be in a career that you love and want to enhance your skills to advance, or just keep your job (in today’s...
FLBlogCon13 (662x800)

Florida Blog Conference 2013 (FLBlogCon)

I always try to improve my skills and learn as much as I can about the many topics that interest me. Everyone can learn...

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Duggar Family: An Inspiration in Frugal Living

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Grocery Shopping Online: Enjoy the Convenience and Savings

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Education Alternatives: Free & Low Cost

Free & Low Cost Education AlternativesYou may be in a career that you love and want to enhance your skills to advance, or just keep your job (in today’s economy). You may want to change career paths all together (you hear of highly stressed corporate executives that go back to school to become a chef). Or, you may want to venture into a side business by enhancing a skill that is currently a hobby and earn extra cash with something you love (maybe photography or writing is your passion).

Enhancing the skills you already have and gaining new ones can only help you in your future career and you may even enjoy learning something new along the way. While some careers are better developed through formal degrees and/or certifications, there are also free and low cost alternatives for many career paths.


Staying in your current career path:

In your current career path, is there a certification that would make you more valuable to your current employer or marketable in your field? This is valuable in IT jobs and project management field, for example. Often in fields that change rapidly, a new or updated certification will show that you have been able to “keep up with the times”.

Have you thought of perusing a degree or advanced degree in your field? Although this endeavor can prove rather expensive, in many cases it will pay off in the future. If you are already well established in your field, staying current may be less expensive with a conference or course covering a new topic or one you are less familiar with. Showing that you have put an effort into learning something new will appeal to (and if often required by) many employers.


Seeking a new career path:

Are you still passionate about a career path you chose many years ago? Did you ended up in a career that no longer has the future you once expected? Learning a new career that interests you may be a security measure that would be smart in your situation. You may want to consider paths that are similar to your current career, but are more in demand at the present time. On the other hand, you may be interested in a completely different path. There are situations where even with less salary, a career path is appealing for other reasons (less stress, location, etc.). Consider all your options, and then decide if the demand and prospective income in that field is what you are looking for.


Starting a side job:

Are you a baker? Have you thought of making cakes or pies to sell? Maybe a side photography business is more your style. Have you thought about earning a little extra cash by fixing or upgrading your friends and neighbor’s computers? Maybe you enjoy writing and starting a blog is something that would appeal to you. Have you ever thought of tutoring kids after school? There are many options to earn a little cash on the side while doing what you enjoy as a hobby.

We can all improve our skills and learn something new. Some skills require a lot of practice. Often it is additionally helpful (even for the most proficient) to get input or a different point of view from someone else. Highly skilled surgeons still attend conferences to learn new techniques and find out about new scientific findings. Famous TV chefs are able to learn new skills and techniques from their peers. Artists are always perfecting and enhancing their skills. And, IT professionals always have something new to learn, given their quickly changing profession.


Free and lower priced learning options:

We are familiar with higher learning options; consisting of colleges, universities and technical school. In some fields these may be the best or even only alternative for increasing some skills (especially when degrees are required). On the other hand, there are also lower priced and even free options available to further your skills.



creativeLive offers online video courses, with the main categories including: photography, business, software, design, video & film, audio and lifestyle. The courses typically last between 1 to 3 days each, and are held from 9am to 4pm PST. I took one of their 3 day courses on photography and was very impressed with the quality of the instruction, content and the overall class.

Costs: The courses are free to watch if you are able to watch them live, during the filming. They are then available to download for a fee after the course ends. The fee does vary depending on the course and course length. If this is something that you are interested in, there is usually a discount during the live course and I have seen sales on the classes at other times as well.


The Great Courses:

Although most of these courses are more on the personal enhancement category, there are some videos that could help enhance your career or side career. The courses are available in DVD, downloadable video and audio. The categories of courses include: Science & Mathematics, History, Fine Arts & Music, Religion & Theology, Philosophy & Intellectual History, Literature & English Language, Business & Economics, Better Living, Professional and High School. I have viewed a few of these courses and have been happy with the quality of instruction and content of them.

In a recent interview with Bill Gates on 60 Minutes, he showed his extensive library of The Great Courses DVDs. I believe this shows that even someone I think of as highly educated and successful, still desires to continue learning. Maybe this desire is one reason he’s so successful.

Costs: The cost of The Great Courses also varies greatly. DVDs that are mailed to you are the most expensive, downloadable videos are less expensive and the audio versions are even less expensive (if available). There are also frequently sales on the courses, so keep your eyes open if one of the courses interests you. Additionally, I was able to find the audio versions much less expensive if you download them from . The down side to this lower price is that you only have the audio version as an option and no supplemental books are included. In some cases this may be a good option, for other courses you may prefer a video version with supplemental printed materials.



Coursera is another online presence that seeks to provide higher education alternatives for free. The courses are offered through highly respected Universities worldwide. The wide range of course topics include: Arts, Biology & Life Sciences, Business & Management, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics & Finance, Education, Energy & Earth Sciences, Engineering, Food & Nutrition, Healthy & Society, Humanities, Information (Tech & Design), Law, Mathematics, Medicine, Music/Film/Audio, Physical & Earth Sciences, Physics, Social Sciences, Statistics & Data Analysis and Teacher Professional Development.

Many of these courses offer a certificate of completion from a Universities worldwide. Although these certificates are not a college degree, there have been individuals hired into new career fields showing theses certificates as proof of their desire to continue learning and content completion.

In addition to the free courses, some of the courses are available as “Signature Track”. When you sign up for a course with this option, there is a small fee (compared to a typical college course) and the certificate provides official recognition for the providing university and Coursera, which can be verified electronically. The Signature Track Certificate is meant to be a level of proof above the typical certificate of completion. This certificate includes your grade, syllabus and workload along with a personal URL on Coursera that you can share with a prospective or current employer.

Costs: All courses can be taken for free. Some of the courses give you the option to register as “Signature Track” for a small fee (varies depending on the course).


Khan Academy:

Khan Academy was created by Salman Khan, a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School, who has a vision of providing an education to everyone worldwide, free of cost. These high quality videos, stored on YouTube, have provided just that. The non-profit organization is also backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google. The categories of courses include: Math, Science, Economics & Finance, Humanities and Computer Programming. If you are interested in furthering your education in any of these categories, give Khan Academy a look. They are a great option for students, parents and educations.

Costs: Free


Florida Blog Conference 2013 (FLBlogCon)

FLBlogCon13 (662x800) I always try to improve my skills and learn as much as I can about the many topics that interest me. Everyone can learn something new and improve their skills. I was given a perfect opportunity to do just that yesterday. This is the third year that this blogging and social media conference (originally CFLBlogCon now called FLBlogCon) was held locally (the Central Florida area), and I’ve had the opportunity to attend the last two years. Although much of what I learned was specific to blogging and business, there were so many life lessons that could benefit everyone.

The keynote speaker was Pat Williams, the Senior Vice President of the Orlando Magic. He is an author of many best-selling books and an amazing motivational speaker. This was quite an inspirational talk and provided lessons that everyone could learn from.

Pat’s 10 Foundational Block To Make Your Dreams Come True

  1. Think the right kind of thoughts: What you think about will become reality in your life
  2. Say the right kind of words: Our words are very powerful and they will also become reality. Think before you speak!
  3. Be specific in goal setting: Set short term, mid-range and long term goals; each with deadlines. Write them down, review them frequently and revise them when needed! You need self-discipline to complete goals.
  4. You are responsible for your attitude (not world problems). You have a choice to pick a good attitude!
  5. Seek out the right kind of friends: Choose to be around positive people not negative ones. Your friends (and partner) should make you a better person and you should make them better people too.
  6. Take your hurts, pains, setbacks and disappointment and turn them into strengths. Don’t waste these bad times, they are our best time for learning.
  7. Go the second mile: Do twice what is expected of you in every situation. Don’t expect things to just be given to you, be willing to work hard for what you want to accomplish.
  8. Never Give Up! There are many successful people who initially failed many times. By never giving up they became great successes, like Walt Disney.
  9. Character Counts: Honesty, Integrity, Responsibility and Courage are character traits that count. We only achieve what our character allows us to!
  10. Live your life by the faith phenomenon!

Practice them every day and your dreams will become reality!

There were four different tracks of sessions offered, so there was something that would appeal to everyone’s experience level and interests. I chose to attend the Business of Blogging Track which included five sessions:

I have a long list of items to add to my To Do List after these sessions. I learned a lot and my eyes were opened to new aspects of blogging. I’ll be able to implement some of these new goals in the near future and others will be long term goals. I want to make this blog better for you, the Frugal Patti readers, while I continue to improve daily

We can all improve our skills and be better and whatever we are doing! There are always learning experience we and be a part of and most of all others that we can be inspired by. I strive to always move in a forward direction and keep improving in any way I can…

What are you doing to improve you skills and learn new ones?

There were many sponsors that I would also like to thank that made this conference even more special. Bahama Breeze provided and an amazing lunch (and free t-shirts), Barnie’s Coffee Kitchen for keeping my caffeinated, Florida Dairy Farmers for snacks throughout the day and Motherlove Massage for a relaxing massage over my lunch break (Pam you are amazing!)


Walkers and Runners: Earn Money with Walgreens Steps with Balance Rewards Program

28781_Hero_320x408b Are you a walker or runner? Do you want to earn some extra cash by doing what you do already? Maybe you need a little motivation to start a healthy habit or increase your mileage. The Walgreens Steps with Balance Rewards program may be just the incentive you need.

Walgreens Balance Rewards Program now allows you to earn reward points for healthy activities; such as for the miles you walk or run, logging your weight and other activities. These points (along with those you can also earn for purchases in store and online) can then be turned in for discounts on Walgreens purchases.

Under this program each day you log your weight, you will earn 20 points. You will also earn 20 points for each mile you walk or run. If you track your daily steps on a pedometer, the program will also convert your steps to miles for you. 20 points may not sound like much, but they do add up. Once you reach 5,000 points you will earn a $5 discount. See the complete reward structure below:


Points earned Reward
5,000 $5
10,000 $10
18,000 $20
30,000 $35
40,000 $50


To start the program, sign up for Walgreens Balance Rewards Program and select Join Now. Once you start logging your activities, you’ll see how quickly the points will add up; and be able to view past activities for encouragement and as free motivational tool!


Duggar Family: An Inspiration in Frugal Living

Duggar Family While watching the Dr. Oz Show last week, I saw a very interesting interview with the Duggar family. If you’re not familiar with them from their reality show, they are a large family with 19 children. Unlike most of the large families we are familiar with from the news, this is a family grown the old fashioned way (not a large number of multiple births). What really impressed me was how well mannered, respectful and well-spoken the children were (especially the older ones). The family has very strong beliefs, with a focus on God, family and frugal living.

The Duggar family is such a great example of frugal living while still living well. The family was not only well dressed and didn’t seem to be lacking in any way; but discussed how they made a commitment to living debt free. They make many things themselves that most of us take for granted. One of the children showed how she made homemade laundry soap, while another showed how he made homemade pickles. You can find the Duggar family frugal recipes at The Duggar’s Family Recipes .

The Duggar family homeschool their children. They eat well. They clothe the family well by shopping at consignment stores. They keep the family organized through an application called Cozi Family Organizer (available free for iPhone, android and a web version at The parents keep their relationship strong by keeping a weekly date night, where they focus on strong communication. I love this example of frugal living. They focus on what is important in life, God and family; and live well and debt free through living frugally.


photo credit: Spiff_27 via photopin cc


Grocery Shopping Online: Enjoy the Convenience and Savings

Shopping Basket Do you have special dietary needs? Is it hard to find the grocery staples you need locally? Or maybe you just want to find a cheaper price for those items you use frequently? Finding those items online and at a better price may just be the answer for you!


Gluten Free Groceries:

My mother is on a gluten free diet and lives in a small town. She has to drive a bit of a distance to a health food store that has her favorites, and at times they are out of what she’s looking for. Although gluten free items are becoming more popular and readily available, her local stores don’t always have what she needs or the brands that she prefers. I was able to find many of her favorite gluten free items at Not only were most of these items lower in price, it was also convenient for her since she doesn’t have to go out (delivered to her door for free with a $25 minimum purchase).


Organic and Gourmet Groceries:

My husband and I have had similar experiences trying to find our organic and specialty/gourmet favorites. Our local grocery store frequently decides to no longer carry the items we grow to enjoy and eat on a frequent basis. Even less convenient is when we drive to our closest Whole Foods, just to find that they are out of what we traveled for or no longer carry that item. Many of these items can be found on also.

The only down side I’ve found to buying groceries from is that items are usually sold in lots of 3 to 6 packages. In other words, I wasn’t able to buy just one jar of organic almond butter; I had to buy 3 jars. It’s kind of like shopping in one of the big box stores. Make sure they are items that you will be able to use in that amount or go in with a friend if you need to. It’s always a waste of money to buy things you won’t be able to use, no matter how cheap the price.


Household Items:

This convenience doesn’t stop with groceries. Many of the household staples that we used to buy at Target, are now hard to find. The large garbage bags my husband likes are no longer stocked at Target and they’ve also limited their selection of Seventh Generation cleaning products that we frequently use. We started buying many of these products through, and have enjoyed both convenience and price savings. offers a wide variety of household products (including green and organic items), great deals and free shipping with a $49 purchase. Once you register with the site, you’ll receive emails containing their specials, which is also convenient.

Saving time and money is always a good thing. If you can’t find what you need locally, or just want to price check those items that you spend the most on, online is an option.


Shopping Resources:

My husband and I use these resources on a regular basis. I hope you enjoy the convenience and money savings that we do.


Note: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning that I will receive a commission if you make a purchase through that link. I have only mentioned sites that I believe in and use, whether I have an affiliate relationship with them or not.


Photo Credit: Maciek PELC via stock.xchng