We've written a lot about why you should start CPCU today and how to do it because most of us are very lucky to work at carriers and agencies that are willing to pay for CPCU, but if you happen to work for a smaller agency or a carrier that doesn't pay for CPCU, there are some ways to do it on a shoestring budget:
1. Apply for the CPCU Presidential Scholarship:
The institutes gives out 100 scholarships every year which include everything you need to get your designation. The requirements are tough including getting nominated by the President, CEO or Chairman of an insurance company with at least 50 employees, but if you can pull it off, you'll earn your CPCU for free even though your company doesn't have a program to pay for it. Give it a try!
2. You only need the textbook, and it doesn't have to be the last version:
There's a lot of fluff material to study for CPCU, from note cards to third party books and study guides, but for each test, all you really need is the textbook, don't buy any of the fluff material. Also, most of the time you'll be fine if the textbook is three or four years old, even if it's not the very latest version, chances are the changes are very few and far between. The Institutes lists the Table of Contents of all the tests on their website, so you can compare and figure out if there are whole chapters or topics missing in the old version of the textbook.
3. Hit the library:
As far as we've found, public libraries don't carry CPCU books, but a lot of companies keep collections of people's used CPCU books. Ask around and work your internal network! Are there used books in another branch office that you can borrow?
4. Work your entire network:
Do you have any coworkers or friends from other companies who recently finished CPCU? Ask them if they kept any of their books. Chances are they'll be more than happy to sell them cheaply and will be more than happy to let you have them.
5. Walk around the office:
Most insurance offices I've worked around have at least a handful of people who have a few of the trademark blue cover CPCU books, whether it's the whole collection or just their favorite tests. When you find a coworker that has any of the books in his bookshelf start by congratulating them for getting their CPCU, tell them that you're really interested in getting started on yours, and ask if you could borrow their books. Chances are they'll be very happy to help you get going and will probably let you keep the books.
6. Other used books resources:
If shaking your own network for books didn't work out, it's time to expand your reach. Start at the "CPCU Candidates" Facebook Group and ask if anyone has the book for the test you're looking for. We've seen hundreds of people successfully buy used books in the group. Also check out Half.com and Ebay, sometimes you can get lucky there. It might also be worth checking in with your local CPCU Society, people who recently got the designation might still have some of the books.
7. Always register early:
Registering for the tests before the opening of the test window is the only way to get a break on the actual cost of testing so always make sure you register early if you're trying to do it on a budget. If your company has an onsite testing center, you'll also get a break in the cost.
8. Get a code for the practice test:
The online practice test is the key to passing tests on the first try, so getting access to those is very important. The code to access the practice test is on the back cover of the white practice guide for each test which costs $50 new from the Institutes. Each code is unique and can only be activated for one person, so don't buy a used practice guide unless you're sure the person selling it to you never activated it. One little known trick is that you can call The Institutes and buy only the access code without the actual practice guide for $25, this is one thing you want to splurge on and get a working access code even if you have to buy one "new". The iPhone/Android app for each test is a great value at $9 per test, but it's not a true replacement for the full practice test. Spending the $34 per test for access to both the online practice test and the practice app is the best way to make sure you pass all tests on the first try.
9. Sell your books once you're finished:
If you bought them used you can probably sell them for close to the same price you paid for them. Post them on the FB group and on Half.
10. Take advantage of having self-funded:
Most of us who had our CPCU paid for by our company agreed to stay for 12-18 months after finishing the designation, since you self-funded you have no such commitments and can immediately use your CPCU to find a better job at another company if that's what you want to do. This is the one advantage of self-funding.
11. Make sure you pass every test on the first try:
Given that taking the test is the most expensive part, you have to make sure you don't have to retake any tests. Read all of our advice on passing CPCU, and do the practice test until your trackpad hand hurts.
Most carriers will pay for CPCU but if yours doesn't here's some ideas to do it on the cheap: 1. There's a scholarship. 2. Buy only the textbook, and old version is fine. 3. Public libraries won't help but you company might have it's own library. 4. Ask your network. 5. Walk around and see if anyone has books on their desk, they're a very easily recognizable shade of blue. 6. Ask at the CPCU Candidates FB group. Check Ebay and Half. 7. Registering early is cheaper. 8. Buy practice code only, without practice guide. 9. Sell them as you finish. 10. Freedom, no payback clause! 11. Never allow yourself a non-pass.