Budget Notebook

Imagine you could take any continuing education class that you want to, regardless of cost. You don’t have to imagine, because with basic budgeting you can obtain whatever education you desire.

There are so many great learning opportunities for massage therapists. These include online courses, in-person workshops, conferences and educational travel.

For example, can you see yourself getting your continuing education on a cruise to Jamaica, Bermuda or Alaska? Perhaps you are a land-lover and want your continuing education experience to be in a jungle setting in Costa Rica or Mexico. And in the U.S., there are multi-day training programs in almost every state.

Yet, too many therapists settle for classes that really do not interest them, but that simply fulfill continuing education requirements. Quick, free, online classes and local workshops serve a purpose, but don’t have to be the only kind of continuing education a therapist enrolls in.

When I talk to massage therapists about their educational choices, I find that many times those choices were based in lacking the money to pay for the education the therapists really desired.

This doesn’t need to be your story.

You work very hard, and you deserve to engage in the professional development that will make a real difference in your practice—and I’m here to tell you there are easy ways to save money and build up the funds you need in order to obtain premier continuing education experiences.

1. Financial planning

First, research the classes you really want to take, and then determine what the general costs are, including travel, lodging, meals and other expenses. This knowledge will empower you to create a savings goal, and will help motivate you to begin your financial planning.

Consider, again, a travel opportunity. One of the six-day cruises I looked at included a cabin and up to 40 continuing education hours for $1,500. You might think that price is unattainable; however, if you set up a plan to save for this experience now, you will be able to take that cruise and get all of your continuing education taken care of for the next two years.

2. Save regularly

Your second step is to develop the habit of saving a certain amount of money each week. Put this amount into a savings account at your bank. (If you keep it in your checking account or sitting in a jar, you might just be too tempted to spend it.)

If you save just $25 a week, by the end of the year you will have $1,300 saved. If you divert $50 a week into savings, you will have $2,600 at the end of a year to spend on your ideal continuing education experience.

If you live in an area where massage bookings fluctuate, such as Tucson, Arizona, where vacationers come to escape the cold winters by playing golf and being pampered by massage and spa services, then during the weeks where you make great money, save $100 each week that bookings are great, and $25 per week during the slow times. If we assume there are 14 weeks of snowbird season, then you will have $2,350 saved at the end of one year.

Another way to build funds for continuing education is to figure out where you can save money by changing your spending habits.

For four weeks, journal every penny that you spend, whether you spend it in cash, check, ATM, credit card, online or in person. Keep track of everything. At the end of four weeks, look at where your money is going, and where you could redirect some of your money into savings.

I learned this technique from a basic finance class I took at a community college. I and other students were surprised by how much money we spent unconsciously. One student stopped buying coffee and switched to a different makeup brand. She saw that she could save $140 a month. Another student cut his expenses by $170 a month by switching from cable television to an online provider and by shopping around for deals on organic food.

Take this 30-day challenge and find out where you can save more money. You will be amazed to learn where your money goes, and you will become a much wiser consumer.

3. Save on travel

Massage therapists can also achieve the goal of high-quality training by attending professional conferences. However, this type of education involves a conference registration fee, airfare, hotel costs and purchasing meals.

One way to save money is to contact the conference planner and offer to be a volunteer. You will put in a certain number of hours and receive continuing education training at no charge or at a discount. These opportunities are usually listed on the conference’s website. (If you do not see this opportunity listed, send the coordinator an email to ask about it.)

If you want to get the best deals on airfare, sign up for an airline’s email notifications to find out when the airline is running its best deals. Tuesday is the best day to check on airline prices.

You can also go online and begin looking for deals on places to stay, a few months ahead of your trip. I usually call hotels directly to get their best deals. Ask if they are offering any discounts—oftentimes called a conference code—for the conference or class you are attending.

If you know of a colleague attending the conference, you can share a room with him or her, and cut your lodging costs in half.

In areas where there are not many hotel choices or prices are high, look at Air B&B (airbnb.com), Hostelling International (hiusa.org) or Vacation Rentals by Owner (vrbo.com). You can save a lot of money by not staying in a hotel, and will usually have access to a kitchen, thereby saving even more money by cooking your food instead of buying every meal from a restaurant.

Create your foundation

Determine your professional training goals and begin saving today for that ideal continuing education experience. You, and your clients, deserve the best training you can get.

Taking high-quality professional training will provide a foundation for better session outcomes, thereby creating additional referrals and re-bookings—which in turn will result in more money for your next exceptional continuing education experience. Dawn Flemingis a Holistic Health Educator, continuing education provider, and author of Creating a Successful Holistic Health Practice, Navigating the Continuing Education Approval Process, Teaching Workshops Effectively, Reiki I and Reiki II, and Mastering Reiki, and the creator of the DVD titled Mastering Reiki.