One of the most-powerful pieces of advice that Dwight R. Lee and Richard B. McKenzie give in their book, Getting Rich in America: 8 Simple Rules for Building a Fortune and a Satisfying Life, is: Don’t Let Your Boss Hold You Back.

I reviewed their book positively in the Wall Street Journal in 1999, but didn’t have room to cover this. They give an example of Richard McKenzie buying his own PC in 1980–he was one of the first. The price, in 1999 $, was $12,000. But McKenzie calculated that his added productivity, in books and articles written, would be well in excess of $12K. McKenzie, by the way, has always been an early adopter of technology. I remember seeing him at a Liberty Fund conference in Charlotte in about 1988 and he had one of the latest laptops. He was getting a lot of work done on airplanes. I’m guessing that he bought that himself too.

I have my own story, much less dramatic, because the dollars were much less, but, still, a story that makes the point.

In about August 1985, my employer-bought computer broke down. The reason wasn’t a mystery: its power supply failed. A new one would cost about $130. The problem: under the federal government’s budget rules, I had passed the deadline to buy a power supply that fiscal year. I would have to wait until October 1. That would have meant over 6 weeks of much less output. I went to the computer store immediately and bought my own.

So my suggestion: look around your workplace and figure out items that would raise your productivity. After you have asked your boss to fund them, if the boss says no, then do a cost/benefit analysis: are the rewards to you greater than the cost to you. You might be surprised about how often the answer is “Yes.”

UPDATE: There’s a way I follow this advice now that I didn’t even think to mention because it has become so second-nature. When I want a book for something I’m writing on, which happens a lot, I can often get it through Interlibrary Loan. But that takes a few days and I can’t mark it up. So I often get on Amazon and find a used copy, order it, and get it in a few days. Sometimes I even get it faster than with Interlibrary Loan. And, with shipping, I’ve usually paid under $10. I probably spend $200 or $300 a year this way.