“365 Ways to Live Cheap Revisited”

365In 2008, I published a book entitled 365 Ways to Live Cheap. The book itself is pretty straightforward. It’s a collection of 365 specific tactics for saving money. The experience writing the book was an interesting process, however.

I had the genesis of the idea not too long after I started The Simple Dollar. I had originally been thinking of using the “365 Ways to Live Cheap” idea as a yearlong series of posts in 2008 and so I started on the project in early 2007, compiling a list of tactics and researching each one a little.

I kept this as a folder on my computer desktop for two years, as the project moved from a post series to a long book to a much shorter book. I tossed in little facts, some anecdotes, and other materials for each entry.

When the book actually came together, I condensed most of the material I had accumulated down to a paragraph or two for each entry on the list – and the rest of the material just sat there, unused.

Flash forward to late 2010. I started looking through those folders of material and began to realize that there was a lot of good stuff there. I considered making an “expanded” version of the original book, but eventually I decided that it might be more fun if I just revisited each entry in a new series of posts on The Simple Dollar made up of all of this unused material.

I won’t be reprinting the material in 365 Ways to Live Cheap as I view that as a wonderful concise handbook on frugality tactics. Instead, I’m just going to use each of those entries as a starting point and riff on each topic, using the material I had saved for the book and my own thoughts over the years since writing the original book.

Each remaining day in 2012, there will be a new post discussing one of the entries from 365 Ways to Live Cheap. I’ll label them with an “(X/365)” after the post title. Consider it a year of frugality basics.

I think you’ll find the journey enjoyable.

Oh, and there’s one more thing…

Mentorship and Photography
Several years ago, I started to mentor a young woman named Brittany who’s passionate about photography. She grew up in a rural background much like my own. Like me, she’s the first in her family to go to college. I’ve known her and her family for a very long time.

All along, she’s harbored a real dream of having her own photography business, and she’s been taking active steps to make it happen. She’s taken some significant training in photography while majoring in business in college.

Time and time again over the last several years, she’s come to me for advice on what the next step should be, and she’s constantly impressed me with her diligence and work ethic toward her goals. Right now, for instance, she’s knocking down good grades in college while keeping a part-time job and spending time establishing her photography business and growing her skills. She’s building a foundation for the rest of her life in a very smart way.

I have consistently been impressed with the life choices and the professional choices she has made. She’s far more entrepreneurial and has a harder work ethic than I ever had at her age.

I’m also a big believer in doing everything I can to give opportunities to people who are working to create a better future for themselves, which is exactly what she’s doing.

So, this past fall, I made Brittany an offer. She became an intern for The Simple Dollar with a very specific mission. I wanted her to take a single photograph for each of the entries in 365 Ways to Live Cheap and allow me to use them on The Simple Dollar.

Each entry in the post series this year will feature an image from Brittany Lynne Photography (her budding business) that matches the content of that particular “way to live cheap.” Hopefully, these images will visually illustrate the beauty of frugality in everyday life.

Naturally, she’s still at a point where she’s learning about photography and production techniques and growing in her skill set with every image. I don’t expect the images in this project to look like the finished product of a truly great professional photographer with years of experience.

Instead, what I see in these images (of what I’ve seen so far) is a young woman with a bright future taking advantage of an opportunity. I see her learning and growing with every click. I see someone who’s hungry for a chance.

That, to me, is beautiful in and of itself, and I think it perfectly complements the “do it yourself and improve yourself” nature of 365 Ways to Live Cheap.

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  1. Sassy says:

    Good for Brittany: I’m looking forward to see her pictures and her progress.

  2. K Ann says:

    This sounds like a fabulous opportunity for Brittany and a well thought out way to significantly impove The Simple Dollar as well. Bravo!

  3. Nick says:

    Great idea Trent and props to you for helping out someone who is following their passion.

  4. Matt says:

    Love the idea to revisit “365 Ways to Live Cheap”. I also think it’s great that you’re mentoring Brittany and giving her a chance to show off some of her work here on your site. Looking forward to the upcoming posts and seeing Brittany’s photography.

  5. Amyk says:

    I am curious about why you use “cheap,” which is grammatically incorrect, instead of “cheaply.” i

  6. valleycat1 says:

    And after the ‘extreme’ post a few days ago, why ‘cheap’ instead of ‘frugally’?

  7. Johanna says:

    Are you paying Brittany for the work she’s doing for you? Or are we back to the idea you had a few years ago, that it’s a fantastic opportunity for an artist to work for you for free?

  8. Trent Trent says:

    Brittany is being compensated for her images. “Cheap” was chosen by the publisher as it stands out and attracts attention on the shelf better than “Frugal” or “Cheaply” (according to them).

  9. JW says:

    Very excited for this young lady! I just left a 13 year career in education to start my own photography business as well. Looking forward to your posts as well. A cheap, minimalist photography blog is a great way to start 2012! Well done-

  10. Trent Trent says:

    Also, I never asked for free images. I offered links and exposure to any readers who wanted it. If they had images in any way related to finance and wanted exposure, I stated I would be willing to use them in posts and link back to their websites or portfolios. Multiple people (Daizy, David, and several people who just anonymously gave images) were interested.

    If I have specific image needs, I have no problem paying for those images. I didn’t have specific image needs – I was simply offering exposure to anyone who wanted it. (And, no, I’m no longer doing it.)

  11. Riki says:

    The problem, Trent, is that artists are constantly hit up for their work in exchange for “exposure” — can’t you see how your offer would be interpreted in a negative light no matter what your intentions were?

  12. Trent Trent says:

    I am constantly offered guest posts – free content – from writers looking for “exposure.” How am I to interpret that?

  13. Johanna says:

    Very happy to hear that Brittany will be paid for her work.

    Did you ever credit the specific pieces you used from Daizy and David, in the posts where you used them?

  14. Riki says:

    Because the guest posters are approaching you and that is entirely different from putting out a general call for art that may or may not be good enough to include on your site.

    Again, I recognize that your intentions were good; your refusal to even listen to other side of the argument was (and is, apparently) the real issue. Also, I will also say that writing a guest post for a popular blog is much more relevant to another writer/blogger than it is for an artist. There are times when doing work for practice or for a portfolio-building strategy is a good one for an artist but having the author of a popular blog asking for work in exchange for “exposure” is not the same thing. I’m sorry you can’t see the difference.

    I’m pleased that you and Brittany have worked out an arrangement that is agreeable to you both. You mention that she is being compensated so I hope that means a financial compensation package. I’m a photographer myself so I look forward to seeing some of her images.

    Brittany, good for you for seeking out mentorship. I encourage you to make friends with experienced photographers and constantly seek out critique of your images. And I mean real, no-holds-barred, ruthless critique because that’s the best way to improve. There were times when good photographers ripped my precious images to shreds and made me cry but now, a couple of years later, I look back and wonder how I ever considered that work to be my best. Real improvement comes from looking for every possible flaw and then trying to improve next time without taking it too personally.

  15. Vanessa says:

    @ Riki

    Are you the one who linked to your Flickr here recently? I really enjoyed looking through them. You are very talented and thank you for sharing.

  16. Kai says:

    When two adults make a deal that both consider to be sufficiently beneficial, it’s absurd for outsiders to declare it a problem.
    So what if she wasn’t being paid? If she was sufficiently interested in providing her images solely for some exposure, that’s up to her. If Trent wants to see if someone will guest-post solely for exposure, that’s up to him. If you are a person who will work only for money, you don’t have to accept such offers, and can name your price, and if someone values your work as highly as you do, they’ll pay for it.

    So what if someone hits you up with an unacceptable offer? You can reply “No thanks, I don’t need to give stuff away for ‘exposure’ – my price is $x”. How horrible is it to do that?

    People freaking out about others choosing to give away what they do, or trade it for a lower price are just complaining that the market is no longer in their favour.

  17. Julia says:

    Well said, Kai.

    You can ask for anything. And when asked, you can always say no. So what’s the problem?

  18. E.J. says:

    Another innovative idea that keeps this material fresh and interesting. I have been reading daily for a few years and I am constantly amazed at your efforts. Kudos. Good Luck to Brittany and “365”

  19. Johanna says:

    @Kai: “So what if someone hits you up with an unacceptable offer? You can reply “No thanks, I don’t need to give stuff away for ‘exposure’ – my price is $x”. How horrible is it to do that?”

    How horrible is it to add “By the way, people in my line of work are presented with ‘great opportunities’ like this all the time, but they’re not really that great from my perspective. ‘Exposure’ isn’t nearly as valuable to an artist as you and a lot of other people think it is”? You could, potentially, educate some people about an issue they might not have known about before.

    “People freaking out about others choosing to give away what they do”

    To whom are you referring?

  20. marta says:

    I agree with Johanna and Riki, and I’ll add my two cents…

    It’s tough enough to be a professional artist and it’s an issue when some artists (especially beginners or people who do that as a second job/hobby) do their work for peanuts (or even for free), because it drives market prices down — and they are already low for commercial art — and devaluates the whole thing. Many people have this attitude that artists should be oh so grateful for the chance of displaying their work, why should they pay them on top of exposure?

    That post of Trent from a few years ago rubbed me the wrong way but what was more infuriating was his refusal to understand where people were coming from.

  21. kc says:

    I’ll cast a dissenting vote on the concept for this new series. My fear is that this will end up being a rehashing of previous posts, and there’s already been way too much of that on TSD.

  22. Kai says:

    My line was general, as I’ve heard that “How dare other people give away what I want them to pay for” many times.
    But it’s also referencing Riki, you to a lesser extent, and now Marta.
    Art is as valuable as buyers think it is, and artists complaining that others do not participate in a cartel to keep prices high, or complain that hobbyists can these days do good enough work that it’s not always worth it to pay professional prices anymore happen to be on the losing side of market economics, and can’t seem to handle that.

    I am a hobbyist photographer, and while I make no effort to sell my work, I have allowed people to use my photos for free in non-profit works. I take them because I enjoy doing so, and I don’t mind giving away as long as someone else isn’t making money off it.
    Someone else complaining that by not charging I’m failing to keep their prices up apparently has an issue with capitalism, and I don’t care for artists who expect to make a living off it just because they want to.
    I was in Hawaii last year, and ran across some gorgeous photos of the islands. We considered buying a print to hang, but then looked at the prices. Their photos were definitely better than mine, but they weren’t hundreds of dollars better. Others might be willing to pay the cost. If no-one is willing to pay the asking price, they’ll have to lower them. That’s a free market.

  23. Kai says:

    “How horrible is it to add “By the way, people in my line of work are presented with ‘great opportunities’ like this all the time, but they’re not really that great from my perspective. ‘Exposure’ isn’t nearly as valuable to an artist as you and a lot of other people think it is”? You could, potentially, educate some people about an issue they might not have known about before.”

    This phrasing comes across much more educating than offended, as the previous such statement did.

  24. Johanna says:

    You have a very strange notion of what “freaking out” means. Riki and Marta both presented their opinions quite calmly, as far as I can tell.

    Anyway, I’m not even a visual artist, so I don’t know why you think I’m “complaining that the market is no longer in [my] favor.”

    But I am a musician, and I’ve performed for free many times. Like you, I do it for fun – the rush of being on stage, the satisfaction of a job well done, and the praise from an occasional audience member are all the compensation I am looking for.

    There’s a difference between making art and giving it away purely for fun, and making art and giving it away in the hope that it will lead to a paying gig. There’s also a difference between me – an amateur with no great innate talent, who noodles around on a guitar for a few hours a week with no particular goals in mind – and someone who devotes a big chunk of their life to honing their creative and technical skills.

    Those differences are why I don’t mind not getting paid, but I’m glad that Brittany is (if in fact “compensated” means paid).

  25. Johanna says:

    “This phrasing comes across much more educating than offended, as the previous such statement did.”

    A valid point is a valid point, whether its tone is “educating,” “offended,” or somewhere in between.

  26. Kai says:

    Again, I made that primarily as a general remark.

    Is there a difference between someone who noodles around and someone who devotes a bug chunk of their life to it? The only real difference is in the product produced, and that’s up to the listener. In music, it seems there is considered to be a big gap between an amateur and a professional, though I suspect the average listener might notice little difference.
    In photography, there *used* to be a big gap, because darkroom techniques took a ton of work, and the difference between amateur and professional equipment was huge.
    Since the popularisation of digital photography, that gap has closed a lot, so that while there may still be a difference between a photo taken by an amateur and one taken by a professional, the difference might be small enough to not warrant a bit price difference. And the amateur with great photos may now undercut the market, if people consider their photos ‘good enough’ to purchase, leaving professionals who want hundreds for a shot in trouble. This seems to rankle a lot of professional photographers I’ve heard from lately, and instead of trying to demonstrate why their work is worth the money they ask, they complain that others are betraying the cartel. Whether calmly or angrily, it’s an absurd position that reeks of entitlement.

    As for Brittany, she may desire to be a professional, but that doesn’t mean her photos are currently good enough to warrant being paid, or being paid much.
    And if she thinks exposure is enough reward *for her*, it’s really not anyone else’s business.

  27. Johanna says:

    Trent says he believes in Brittany’s dream of being a professional photographer and wants to help her achieve it. He’s not making money directly from her photographs, but he is using them on his site that makes money for himself. And he describes the arrangement with her as an “offer” he made to her.

    All those things together mean that I would have been disappointed if Trent hadn’t been willing to pay Brittany at least something, regardless of what reward Brittany would have been willing to accept.

  28. Johanna says:

    Also, @Brittany: There seem to be at least two businesses called “Brittany Lynn Photography,” and I can’t tell whether all the hits for “Brittany Lynne Photography” are you or not. Maybe consider changing the name of your business to something more distinctive?

  29. Riki says:

    Artists can set their own prices. The recent (say, within the last decade) availability of digital media – in particular digital cameras – has absolutely changed the face of photography and other visual arts. For the better? I don’t know.

    I take offense to the idea that artists are conspiring to keep prices high. The costs that go into running a professional photography business are real and significant. And the time spent working on images behind the scenes far exceeds the time spent on a shoot. Just as an example, at a full day wedding I usually spent 9+ hours with the bride and groom. Then I can easily spend 35 or more hours sorting, finishing, printing, and packaging their images. Then I have to cover the cost of my professional gear, insurance, travel, printing, etc. It’s a very difficult job, actually and I have complete respect for people who do it full time.

    So when a unskilled photographer offers to do that same shoot for a couple hundred dollars but then provides crappy images, yeah, it frustrates me. Personally, I don’t worry about losing the job because my personal calendar is completely full — I do, however, hate to see the sweat, tears, and hard work I’ve poured into honing my craft diluted.

    But, as I said earlier, artists are free to set their own prices.

    My issue comes from bloggers, businesses, and other entities soliciting free art in exchange for “exposure” or the “honour of being chosen.” Exposure doesn’t mean much, to be honest, and Trent has been consistently over-valuing the exposure that his blog would generate. It’s an easy mistake and lots of people make it. But in terms of actual value to an artist? Exposure doesn’t have as much value as he thinks it does.

    That attitude is not fair and it does contribute to a devaluation of the entire industry. So go ahead and think of photographers as “entitled” all you want . . . but that doesn’t change the real challenges that artists face every day.

  30. Kai says:

    If an unskilled photographer provides poor photos for a small amount of money, then the person is getting what they paid for, and that’s their problem.
    But often it means that they get photos for maybe half the price, that are 90% as good – and for a lot of people, that’s just fine. And complaining that those amateurs giving 90% as good photography are pulling down the prices *is* to suggest a desire for a cartel.
    And that’s a typical. I know some people who fancy themselves ‘photographers’ who take terrible images – on expensive, professional equipment.
    I also have one friend who takes photos as good as any professional I’ve seen. I know he’s sold the odd image, but not for much, and if he wanted in to the wedding business, he’d probably be starting with very low prices since his only portfolio is two weddings he shot for friends. But a customer would be getting photos that they wouldn’t be able to tell apart from a professional.

    If a professional wants to compare their photos to that of an amateur, and explain why it’s worth the money *to the customer*, they may well get their business – but if the customer doesn’t see enough of a difference, the artist has to deal with the fact that others don’t value their work as highly as they do.

    I don’t see anything wrong with turning someone down who requests work for ‘exposure’, and I see nothing wrong with telling the requester that their exposure is nowhere near what you can otherwise get for your work. But if someone else values their work lower, and they make a mutually agreeable decision of work for exposure, it’s not for anyone else to say they shouldn’t be giving it away at their own price.

  31. Kai says:

    Of course artists face challenges. They are producing a luxury good with no intrinsic value. I work in a non-artistic luxury good industry, and I recognise that the services my company offers won’t be valued the same by everyone. We try to market not by insisting that cheaper (whether lower quality or not) competitors raise their prices so we all get paid what we want (wouldn’t that be nice!), but by showing potential customers what we have to offer, and why it is as worth the prices we offer.
    I also recognise that in the event of a severe economic downturn, people stop paying for luxuries. They stop paying for art, and they would stop keeping my company in business. What we sell would no longer be sufficiently worthwhile to people enough to pay a salary, and we’d either have to work for much less, or we’d have to shut down, and go find jobs that *are* in demand. That’s how the economy works.

    I’m not saying that artists are entitled. I am saying that artists who expect to be paid whatever they want to be paid, and complain when the market isn’t in their favour (just as happens in all jobs) are entitled.

  32. Kai says:

    or rather, not entitled to what they feel entitled to.

  33. Johanna says:

    Are these professional photographers threatening to break the amateurs’ legs or something, or are they just complaining? Are you saying they should be *happy* that changes in technology have made it harder for them to make a living?

    It seems like you’re trying to argue with a bunch of people who aren’t here, and to have the rest of us argue on their behalf. I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.

  34. Michael says:

    Why don’t you just say Brittany is your cousin, Trent? You use a lot of contorted language to avoid saying something that would endear people to this project more and clear up misunderstandings.

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