Think of these examples as ways to strengthen your body and expand your mind.
Buy a bicycle and ride to work. Commuting by bike has both physical and financial benefits. For $1,000, you can buy a good bike and a good helmet (think of it as cheap life and health insurance). If your ride to work isn’t too onerous, consider the eight-speed Jamis Commuter 4 ($950). Its traditional handlebars position you upright as you navigate through traffic, its padded seat is comfy and it’s equipped with fenders and a luggage rack. It comes in a top-tube or step-over design. For longer commutes, the Raleigh Port Townsend (about $900) is a better choice. It has drop-style handlebars and 18 speeds, as well as commuter-friendly fenders and a front rack.
Self-publish a book. Maybe you’ve dreamed of seeing your name on the cover of a novel or sharing your expertise in a book. Making a paper or digital version of your masterpiece is free at Amazon’s createspace.com (the publisher takes a percentage of your sales), but you’ll have to pay if you want help with editing and design. Among CreateSpace’s services, for example, is the $728 Total Design Freedom Standard package, in which a professional team designs the book’s cover and interior based on your input. Tack on Comprehensive Copyediting for $160 (up to 10,000 words; 1.6 cents per word thereafter).
Hire a personal trainer. Fortify your New Year’s resolution to get and stay fit. A one-on-one session with a certified trainer in your home or at a club ranges from $40-$100 an hour, according to the American Council on Exercise, the largest U.S. certifying agency. If you share a coach with a few friends, you can bring the hourly price to $20-$30 each (giving you at least 33 sessions for $1,000). To find an ACE-certified trainer, go to acefitness.org and click on “ACE GetFit.”
Learn Chinese. Expand your language skills (and impress your friends) with lessons in Mandarin Chinese, the world’s most widely spoken language. Beijing Language and Culture University’s four-week language programs for international students cost as little as $950 for tuition and dorm accommodations. You’ll pay extra for the application fee (about $95), airfare and food. For more details, go to studyinblcu.com (click on the English translation on the site).
Closer to home, try a 12-month subscription to Rosetta Stone’s Totale Online (regularly $299, but look for specials at rosettastone.com).Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.