Your family and friends have probably lavished you with gratitude for the high-tech gadgets you passed around so generously this holiday season.
But your wallet isn’t thanking you quite so much.
Fortunately, there’s a surefire way to cut down on your spending right now, with the benefit of practicing a little self-improvement, too.
If one of your resolutions this year is to learn a new skill or increase your knowledge base — and ultimately, your productivity/career — you’re in luck. With the ever-expanding Internet, new websites are popping up every day designed to teach you an entirely new skill completely for free.
There are tons of benefits to learning a new skill: finding what you want to do with your life, being able to relate to others, becoming a more interesting person and more.
So what are you waiting for? It’s a win-win situation. Check out these five super helpful websites that can enhance your life without draining your wallet.
Learn a New Language at Duolingo
Duolingo makes it fun and easy to learn a new language of your choice in the form of interactive games.
Each bite-sized lesson on Duolingo ends with a number of multiple-choice challenges, and you’ll gain “hearts” — the website’s version of reward points — for correct answers.
Duolingo also keeps track of your learning streaks — that is, the number of days in a row you’ve signed in to practice a lesson.
The free service is also available in an app form, compatible with Android, Apple iOS and Windows operating systems.
Buena suerte — of, if you prefer, bonne chance!
Become a Coding Guru With Codeacademy
Whether your goal is to develop a basic proficiency in HTML or to master more complex server languages like SQL and Python, the Codecademy might be just what the tech doctor ordered.
All you have to do is create a personal profile and specify the coding language you’d like to learn, and you’re on your way to becoming a coding machine.
The site provides interactive feedback, sends you badges for successful completion of exercises and keeps track of your daily streaks.
The platform also offers a peer forum so Codeacademy users can participate in discussions with each other.
You can download Codeacademy as an app on your iPhone, too, for when you’re on the go but still want to practice your coding.
Practice Your Piano With Pianu
Do you have an electronic keyboard that has been collecting dust in your basement for the last several years?
It’s a familiar story — your parents encouraged you to take piano lessons when you were young, but you quickly lost interest. And you haven’t touched a musical instrument since you were a kid.
But maybe now you’ve developed some rekindled interest in honing your musical skills.
Pianu “Academy” is an interactive piano teacher that lets you hook up your musical keyboard to your computer and guides you through basic lessons, which you can complete at your own pace.
There’s no guarantee this service will turn you into a virtuoso like Bach or Beethoven, but you can certainly gain enough skills to impress your friends and family at social gatherings — and maybe with something a little more advanced than “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
Feed Your Head With Highbrow
Highbrow is an email subscription service — free, of course — that stimulates your mind by sending bite-sized courses to your account on a daily basis.
You can choose as many mini-courses as you’d like, and the available topics range from philosophy and history to psychology and science, among many more.
So if you want to increase your breadth of knowledge and hold your own in intellectual conversations about a range of subjects without a huge time commitment, register with Highbrow and you’ll be on your way with just five minutes of checking your email a day.
Don’t Forget YouTube
Sure, for a lot of people, YouTube mainly serves as a portal for when you need to spend those cold, winter nights in bed watching funny cat videos on repeat.
But don’t be fooled — YouTube is so much more than a source of viral humor.
Offering video tutorials from proofreading lessons and a review of the Socratic Method to arithmetic exercises and how your kids can tie their own shoes, YouTube is the one-stop shop for all ages on how to do basically anything.
But since the video makers on this user-dominated site are mostly lay people and not qualified professionals, proceed with caution when following the advice you see on the site. If the video starts with “Don’t try this at home,” you probably shouldn’t.
Increase Your Confidence, Not Your Debt
With just a little bit of persistence and some time commitment, you can use sites like these — and plenty of others -— to enhance your knowledge and skill base without ever opening your wallet.
Then, when you do decide to splurge on that fancy meal in the new year, at least you’ll know what you’re talking about when you strike up conversations with fellow diners.
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