Creative Thrift

So, those of you “in the know” are aware that I’m paying off my student loan debt.  In order to send those big, fat checks to Sallie Mae; I have to not spend money on other things I would like (but not so much as being student loan debt free.)  This creates a little conflict in my budget.  How do I resolve that conflict?  Creative thrift.

Let me share a couple of examples with you, and inspire you to enjoy some creative thrift in your life.

First, my computer was largely obsolete.  I had a lot of data tucked away on flash drives and various nooks and crannies of my hard drive.  So, I needed a new computer, but I didn’t want to spend the money on one.  What to do?  Get creative.  Instead of buying a reasonably up-to-date computer for $400-600+ dollars, I instead bought a 500GB external hard drive ($55) and a tremendously powerful WiFi antenna ($45).

With this equipment I: backed up my 20GB hard drive, installed an updates version of my operating system (Ubuntu (10.10 Maverick Meerkat) – free!), and installed my WiFi.  Now, for about $106 (including shipping) and eight hours of work, I’ve solved most of my computer’s inadequacies.  Not only that, but I’ve also got equipment that I will need when I buy a new computer (probably a year from now.)

Secondly, I had no internet.  Naturally, I wanted to get some internet (ethically!) without paying for it, or for very low price.  What to do?  Get creative.  First, I checked to see what networks were available near me, and there were lots!  I wanted to check and see if my apartment complex’s free WiFi would reach my apartment.  It did, but it kept dropping the internet.  Next, I ran into one of my neighbors and asked if they would like to get an extra ten dollars a month.  Of course, she was interested.  I asked if she had WiFi and high speed internet access.  She did.  So, I proposed that, if she was amenable, I trade her $10 per month for use of some of her WiFi.  My wonderful neighbor (may she live long and prosper!) wouldn’t hear of taking the money, and instead offered to let me use her network for free.*  Problem: solved.

Now imagine if I would’ve not taken the time to get creative!  I would’ve spent, let’s say $400 on a computer, $55 on a backup drive (I would’ve bought it any way since one should always have offsite backup), $45 WiFi antenna (for forward compatibility with future electronic purchases), and, let’s say $90 for a Wireless DSL modem and $15 to $20 a month for access.  Five hundred plus dollars more and I would’ve had virtually the same performance I have now.**

*  Of course I’m going to send her a thank you note and a gift card to express my gratitude.  This is a guide to creative thrift, not cheap miserly jerkitude.

** Yes, my computers still slow, and I can’t watch videos online.  Nevertheless, I’m willing to take the trade-off for the savings.  Remember, that’s a pretty big check for Sallie Mae.

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