Updated on 07.31.14

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Family Pictures Edition

Trent Hamm

Over the last several months, I’ve been creating a huge digital archive of personally important pictures – pictures of me throughout my life, my wife throughout her life, ancestors, relatives, children, and so on. This has been a long, ongoing process, done exclusively on equipment I already owned, meaning it’s been basically a free project except for a bit of electricity and the time involved.

I’ve smiled hundreds of times during this project. I’ve cried more than a few times, too. I’ve been compelled to get in touch with relatives I haven’t seen in years.

Best of all, I now have them all on a rotating picture on my workstation’s screensaver in the office in my home. That office is also home to a rocking chair, and there are many times when my son is waking up from his nap or my daughter is taking a bottle that we’ll kick back in that chair and watch the pictures float by on the screensaver. I’ll tell my son who the people in the picture are, and he’ll always not believe that Grandma was ever that young. And my daughter will lay back with her head against my chest and just watch the pictures of her brother and her mother and her father flicker by as she drifts off to sleep.

A frugal project well worth doing, indeed.

Is Your Gift Card Worthless Because the Company Went Bankrupt? This happened to me a while back, actually – no recourse at all. That’s why I think gift certificates to individual shops (non-chains) are a very risky proposition. (@ queercents)

The Dollar Dance This is something of an expected cultural thing at Midwestern weddings – the bride and groom each dance with most of the adult guests for about ten to fifteen seconds in exchange for a dollar. Unfortunately, it can seem socially awkward to people not expecting it. My solution? If one family is unfamiliar with it, explain it as a cultural thing and tell them they can participate if they want to, but they’re not expected to, but you’re participating in cultural solidarity with your spouse. (@ make love, not debt)

How America’s Thriftiest Families Save Money This was actually a pretty humorous article. I liked “barbecue noodle night” myself. (@ parade via frugal dad)

Are Some Lives So Empty That an iPhone 3G Will Fill the Void? In short, yes. If your emotional core is centered around having the coolest cutting edge gadgets, you’re content to keep working for the rest of your life to afford this stuff, and the outrageous costs don’t really mean much to you, then an iPhone 3G probably can help you keep warm at night (@ wise bread)

12 Things to Ask Before the Wedding I think the real key is simply to communicate about financial issues – most of these are great icebreakers. (@ master your card)

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  1. Meg says:

    I have my pictures as a screen saver as well. I have many recent family photos on but no old ones. It would be nice to scan those in sometime. Kudos to you for actually doing it.

  2. Brent says:

    Here is an idea. How about an article on how you scanned all the pictures? I’ve tried to do this before but gave up after a bit because I found it rather complicated.

  3. Frugal Dad says:

    Enjoyed the roundup this week – especially the “dollar dance” article. I had a friend from Poland who told me about this tradition, but I didn’t know it happened here, too. If done in a classy way I could see the dollar dance being a nice way to meet and greet the adult guests and thank them for coming. Might be a nice touch to use the money to tip a piano player, singer, band, etc.

  4. Nick says:

    I picked up an iPhone 3G last friday. My business has been going well and this is my only big purchase for the year. I have to say, this device has put my productivity through the roof. I can answer a clients email anywhere and provide fast turnaround on questions and inquiries. I have a synced to-do list that I can update from any computer. I also have an application on it to track my gas spending and determine my gas milage and graph it. It also has real time weather alerts and an app that helps me track my spending. Hardest part of actually having a budget is tracking purchases. Entering a purchase right after you buy something instead of doing it when you get home means there are no missed entries. You tend not to enter things or forget to when you do it at home. All in all, a great device for the money.

  5. Ryan says:

    I disagree that the iPhone cost is outrageous. Many people already buy an iPod every couple of years anyway, so the $200 is nothing new. And the monthly service cost, added up over 2 years, is in the thousands. But people are paying for that already. Anybody with a Treo, Blackberry, or other smart phone has been paying $70.00 a month or more for a while now.

  6. Nick says:

    Ryan, the only time your going to be paying $70 with a data plan is if your locked in. The monthly plan for an iPhone is no different than any other smart phone with data at AT&T and is cheaper compared to verizon’s data plans.

  7. Emily says:

    Being from the mid-west, my (now) husband was all for doing the dollar dance. I was less than excited. But it turned out to be great fun and got some people out on the dance floor who wouldn’t have been otherwise because they felt like they were helping us out. We ended up making $120 between the two of us which we used as spending money on our honeymoon.

  8. silver says:

    “The 20 Healthiest Foods for Under $1 And no beans? Amazing!”

    Actually, beans are number 8. The title specifically mentions garbanzo beans, but in the text it says, “And if you don’t like one type, try another—black, lima, lentils … the varieties are endless.”

  9. tambo says:

    Beans were #8 ;)

    Started with garbanzos and went on to the others.

    Dollar dances are great!

  10. stephen says:

    That’s an awesome thing — my wife and I are building up a “picture slideshow”. Seeing the pictures is a lot of fun, but don’t forget to back it all up! The phrase “done exclusively on equipment I already owned” is a bit disturbing! Don’t forget to consider not only a computer failure, but a fire as well. If you’ve got a dvd burner, a cheap way of backing your pictures up is to burn them all to a few dvds and then send those dvds to a friend or family member (ie: someone who won’t lose them but doesn’t live in the same house).
    This way you’ve got a back-up copy in a different geographical location which is always a good idea, but haven’t spent more than a few dollars doing it (the cost of a few dvd-r discs & postage). Of course, this isn’t good for things you wouldn’t want others to see, but pictures should be fine :)

  11. Mike says:

    I bought an external hard drive (500MB) at an insane sale price. I use it to back up all my photos. I keep it unplugged and tucked away after each periodic backup session. Just a thought.

  12. The picture idea sounds awesome! Now if I could only get my scanner to work properly(it scans everything with a bluish tone).

  13. Dave says:

    Could you give us a quick lesson on putting pictures on disc. Thanks

  14. MN Scout says:

    Mike’s idea of using an external drive to back-up your digital photos is excellent. I’m an IT guy and it is always sad when I hear of people losing all their digital photos. It must feel similar to losing all your photos in a flood or fire. Once you back-up your photos, bring the external drive to work, or another familie’s house, so that if something happens to your house/apartment you won’t lose BUs and the original copies.

  15. Sophia says:

    Did anyone read that Parade article and notice the guy who commented at the bottom that it was “pretty goofy” to feed a family of six on a pound of meat and some “pasta and other stuff”. He was referring the the BBQ noodle night recipe- which has tomatoes, milk, cheese, pasta, meat, and BBQ sauce. He ends with a snide comment about the medical bills they will be having in a few years, the implication being that it will be because they are eating so horribly.

  16. momof4 says:

    The iphones outrageous costs are relative. We are replacing an existing phone plan with one. It is $25 more per month plus the price of the device. It will be a gift for my husband who doesn’t drink, go out for lunch, golf, fish or own a wii. Just because it’s not what you want to spend your money on is no reason to be snarky Trent : )

  17. Mar says:

    I never thought to use my cell phone to record my daily spending – thanks for the idea, Nick! I don’t have the Iphone and don’t plan to get one ever, but the notepad feature on my cell phone is actually going to be used for this from now on.

    I remember the dollar dances from small town Pennsylvania weddings, but I haven’t seen one in our more metropolitan area in a long time. The last one I did see, people were expected to pay $5! Maybe that’s why they are going out of style around here?

    If you have one, your bank safety deposit box is another good place to store your photo backups.

  18. Jessica says:

    Like the wisebread article mentions, what gets me is that people will camp out overnight for this phone. That I don’t understand-camping out to purchase something. This goes for the day after Thanksgiving too. You rarely see people going to these lengths for more altruistic purposes, and that’s kinda sad.

  19. Sarah says:

    Like others, I think the iPhone can be cool and can be a justifiable purchase (depending on your income)…it’s the standing in line that I don’t get. At least not for adults with jobs. If I was a student still, I could almost see camping out for the experience (the goal of said line being less central than the fun of spending a night out on the sidewalk).

  20. ConnieB says:

    LOL @ the dollar dance. That was something we decided not to do at our wedding!

    I have my photos on screensaver as well, and I would not trade them for anything. They also help my daughter learn who family members are. Especially the ones she does not see as much!

  21. guinness416 says:

    I certainly share “remember that time we started queuing at 2am for world series tickets!” type stories with friends. And they’re almost more memorable than the games/concerts. We can’t be tucked in at 10pm every night! Gadgets aren’t really my thing and I don’t intend to buy an iphone, but snotty “Aren’t those hipsters so wasteful and isn’t our ramen for dinner lifestyle far superior” don’t paint their authors in a very flattering light.

  22. Family Man says:

    Good stuff! I like the post about the dollar Dance. (I follow That blog.) I have been digitizing all of my family pictures as well. It brings back memories each and everytime.

    no iphone for me.

    ~BTW congrats on the book!

  23. j diggs says:

    I don’t have an iphone. I think they are super cool and very useful. I would say if you have a cell phone and can pick your plan it would be worth it. Guinness416 has a great point. Although we are all guilty of it, I don’t like justifying a choice that you make by riduculing others. I grew up with parents who painted “rich” people in that light. As I’ve gotten older, I strive not to judge people (in general &) for the way they spend their money, some can afford it, some can’t. At the end of the day they have to deal with those choices. I think it’s great to teach your kids and yourself to realize you don’t have to have “things” to make you happy, just not at the expense of belittling others.

  24. Collision says:

    I do have to also object to the implication that people queuing for an iphone (or to see a Harry Potter movie, or to get an autograph of their favorite ball player) are only doing to fill an empty life. The opposite is true. They do it because they are part of a social group that enjoys a common interest. They want to be the first to show their friends a new toy. It’s no different in practice than a social group built around frugality.

    Also celebrating a phone is no different at its core than celebrating a family photo. A photo is certainly more personal, but it still just the process of assigning an emotional value to an object. All human beings do that all the time.

    People who queue for an iphone are no more “all about” a phone than people here are “all about” saving a penny. It’s just a part of them. They aren’t asking you to queue with them, they don’t require you as an outsider to value their phone as they do, so it doesn’t seem necessary to judge them for it.

  25. Shevy says:

    I know certain cultures give an envelope containing money at the wedding but I hadn’t heard of the Dollar Dance.

    At Jewish weddings the bride dances (or tries to dance) with every woman there while all the other women dance around in a big circle. Since we don’t have mixed dancing I’m not really sure if the guys do the same thing on their side but they often do really wild stuff like have someone who juggles fire or does acrobatics or something. But we don’t give money for the dances and boy, does the bride get tired and hot! It’s a lot of fun though.

    As for paying $70/mo for a BlackBerry, I’ve been paying over $80/mo all along for my plain old cell phone with no data capability. I’m excited to have a BlackBerry now for about the same monthly cost and to be able to do so much more. (You are so lucky to have cheap cell phone plans in the US.) But I have no urge for an iPhone.

  26. I fricking love garbanzo beans. Isn’t that what they make hummus out of too? Man, that stuff is amazing.

  27. Ryan McLean says:

    It has been a great week at thesimpledollar.com
    I have loved all your posts (and tried to comment as many as I could to show my support).
    Your posts have inspired me a lot. I run my own financial blog, I have used a couple of your posts on there (generally linking back to you) but I try my best to write my own great content.
    Your content sparks ideas which I can write about and present to my readers. So thankyou

  28. Laura says:

    Just one comment. A digital slide show of your pictures is great and we do that, too, but there is nothing like getting those pictures printed and stored safely in an album with the story written, either in a hard copy digital storybook or a traditional scrapbook album. Hard drives and computers crash!

  29. jean says:

    I would like to see much written about how to preserve fresh foods until we can consume them.
    I purchase small amounts at a time but wihout fail, end up discarding some

  30. Kate says:

    You will be very glad someday you went through all this effort to archive your photos.

    I just returned from a family reunion where we watched a “movie” made of photos and (I think) Super 8 film, with a musical soundtrack added.

    Watching some of those almost tore me up, but I was glad we had that digital record for our family.

  31. Mary says:

    Trent, I would love to know more about your picture archive. Did you use any particulare software? I keep saying I’m going to do all of my Dad’s families pictures before everyone dies off and nobody knows who the people are anymore! One of my husband’s cousins did theirs in a geneology format and printed out books for everyone for Christmas! Enjoy your work.

  32. Kat says:

    Oh my the dollar dance isn’t just in the Midwest. It is in the West as well. Only here it is not a dollar, it is more like $20 to $50. I don’t mind this dance, if and only if, the couple hasn’t registered for gifts.

  33. Lindsay says:

    I have done this with a bunch of pictures also, and love geni.com for sharing and tagging them for family members. It’s free, you should def check it out if you aren’t on it already.

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