How Much Does it Cost to Learn a Skill?

Last week over a million people watched our 1 Second Everyday video of the year I spent learning table tennis. A million! That’s such a large number I don’t even know how to grasp it.

Along with so many views we also got a lot of comments (both on YouTube and there was a big discussion on Reddit). I’d say the comments were split 60% encouragement, 20% jokes, 10% trolling/negativity and 10% intelligent criticism.

The main gripe people had with the challenge was the cost.

“So this is what it looks like when people spend a lot of money to get good at something. What a shocker that he gets good at it.”

“Wish I had time and money.”

“Guy has enough money to play and train in table tennis for a year!”

“Wouldve been alot more ‘inspiring’ if it didnt show that he obviously spent alot of money during the course of this training”

“Being rich must be fun”

I can kind of see where they’re coming from, but I was also rather surprised. One of the things we tried to make clear with the challenge is that we were doing it on a budget. We both worked full-time, so the challenge was to prove that you can achieve really good results by not spending a fortune and not having to train all day long.

I mean, we did almost all of the training in my kitchen! How much more budget can it get?

price learn expert in a year cost to learn a skill
Some of our luxury accommodation in Denmark

So we sat down and calculated how much the year cost. We got some good discounts from people throughout the year as Ben reached out to people who followed the Expert Table Tennis blog, but I’ll assume we paid full price to get a better idea of what it would take for someone to replicate:

£3,927.31 (or $6,080).

Okay I admit it, that’s a lot of money. Is it more than you thought?

It is a lot of money, but I don’t think it is too great a cost to learn a new skill. How many things are there in life that you are really good at? Did any of them cost less than this to get that good?

Let’s see the breakdown:

Mizuno Table Tennis Shoes£69.9
Palio Master Table Tennis Bat£34.99My beginner bat.
4x Tenergy Rubbers£199.96The rubbers for my main bat. Needed to be replaced in September.
Time Boll Spirit Blade£89.99The wooden blade for my main bat.
12x Dunlop T-Shirts£72Table tennis clothing is expensive so I went for cheap tennis shirts.
4x Shorts£40
20x Pairs of Socks£6Cheap socks - whatever is on sale at Sports Direct. £1.5 for 5 pairs.
Table Tennis Table Top£210A table top we laid across the kitchen table.
Practice Partner 20 & Net£300A ball shooting robot. The price has gone up.
144 Butterfly Youth Training Balls£49.99Orange
ETTA Membership£32Required to play official tournaments.
1-to-1 Training£330.00Stephen Gertson, Eszter Igaz, Mario Genovese x2, Sherwin Remata x3, Mark Simpson x4.
Eli Beraty Camp£402 days. Not the camp in the link but similar.
Swerve Camp 1£453 days including food.
Swerve Camp 2£302 days Including accommodation & food.
Swerve Camp 3£453 days.
Denmark B75 Camp£47010 days. including food and accomadation.
Eger, Hungary Camp£3906 days. Including accommodation.
ISH 1 Year Membership£40Unlimited drop in sessions and league play.
Highbury/Finsbury Drop in Sessions£210£6 each. Did roughly 35 sessions.
Horsham Spinners Circuit 8 Nov£8
Bristol Grand Prix 15 Nov£43
Cippenham 1 Star 22 Nov£12.5
Nottingham Grand Prix 6-7 Dec£55
Highbury 13th Dec£5
Cardiff Grand Prix 20 Dec£35
Batts SuperSeries 28 Dec£25
Sussex Grand Prix 3 Jan£43
Cippenham Teams 11 Jan£12.5
Flight to Denmark£208.00
Flight to Hungary£243.98
Train to Swerve 1£90.00
Hotel Swerve 1£81.00
Train to Swerve 2£70.00
Train to Swerve 3£70.00
Hotel Swerve 3£45.50
Accomadation Cardiff£12.50
Accomadation Bristol£12.50
Grand Total£3,927.31

Could We Have Done it Cheaper?

To be honest there’s not much in there that we could remove, we were already pretty lean. But let’s give it a go and strip out all ‘unnecessary’ costs.

I could perhaps of spent less money on a table tennis bat. I got a professional level blade and rubbers, but I never really got good enough that it mattered. In fact quite a few people told me to get a slower bat as the one I was using was too hard to control. Instead when I upgraded from the beginner bat I could have got something like the Palio Legend for £39.99. Let’s say I needed two over the course of the year, that would have saved £210.

We could have booked our trains and flights in advance. We definitely overpaid on trains to Swerve and the flight to Budapest due to leaving it till the last minute. I could have saved £200 there.

I could have bought some cheaper shoes. I got the best table tennis shoes I could find, but I would have done just as well with a cheap pair half the price. Another saving of £40 there.

The tournaments were important for the original aims of the challenge and for playing people much better than me, but they weren’t necessary for learning the skill. They were also expensive. I could have replaced them with playing a weekly league match. I would still have got all the match experience but it would have been free as the cost is covered by the ISH membership. Saving £239 in entry and £175 in travel.

If I had cut all that back, the year would have cost: £3,063.

I was very fortunate in having Ben.  My practice partner was also a coach so I didn’t need need to pay for many individual coaching sessions.

What Would it Take to Replicate the Challenge?

The hardest part in replicating the challenge is replacing Ben. If you were to do the challenge with a friend, that would cover the practice partner part, but you would need at least some coaching. An hour a week of one-to-one would have been enough but I think that a two hour session would be ideal.

One 1-hour £30 session a week would add: £1,560

One 2-hour £50 session a week would add: £2,600

But as that covers all one-to-one training it includes the £330 that is already accounted for.

If you did the cuts I suggested and had 2-hours of coached training a week the year would cost you about:

£4,890 (or $7,573). 

If that is too much you could find some good group coaching sessions. They’re normally 2 hours and cost between £5 and £15. Let’s say £8. If you did that the year would now cost £2,722.

That’s really not too bad. It includes all the gear, good quality training, 26 days training full time at camps and plenty of match experience.

How much would you be willing to spend to learn a skill?