Frugal Uses for a Camera


If you don't already have one, buy yourself a camera. Buy your mom a camera. Buy your kid a camera.

I know that writing on a frugal living website, I can receive a lot of flack for encouraging you to buy something, especially something as potentially expensive as a camera. But more and more, cameras (by which, these days, I mean digital cameras) are one of those tools that easily pay for themselves by helping you achieve other frugal goals. (See also: How to Really Save Money When You Shop)

Here's how a camera fits in with other common frugal advice.

Valuing Experiences Over Stuff

From birthdays to vacations, one of the most common frugal tips is to spend money on experiences instead of things. But, that said, if I travel somewhere amazing, I want something to remember it by. Photographs can provide more vivid, lasting memories than any t-shirts or tchotchkes, and they can always be printed and displayed.

Generating Side Income

Not every source of side income is going to require photographs, but if you're making something for sale on Etsy, reviewing local restaurants, or finding antiques at yard sales to sell on eBay, a decent camera can easily pay for itself.

Teaching Kids Financial Values

When I was young, a simple point-and-shoot camera was the first "big ticket" item I owned. Giving a kid a camera can be a great way to teach about taking care of things so they last, as well as valuing experiences over stuff. If you feel like getting your kid a film camera, only having 24 or 36 shots on a roll of film can also provide a great lesson about conserving what you have (as 11-year-old Meg could tell you with her several photographs of squirrels at the Grand Canyon).

Making Informed Purchases

Taking a picture of a product and showing it to your significant other or someone else for feedback can help your decision-making process. Cameras are also great for protecting yourself in the case of pre-existing damage to something you've bought. Check out Julie's article on more practical uses for a digital camera.

Do you use a camera to save you money? If so, share how in the comments! Don't have a camera, and have no idea what to look for in one? Check out our digital camera buying guide.

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Guest's picture

I also use my camera to create frugal, personal gifts and greeting cards and to document valuable items in my house for insurance purposes (with storage off-site).

I also use my camera to take photos of things before I take them apart. There's nothing worse than trying to fix something and then not be able to because you can't remember how it went together!

Meg Favreau's picture

Great idea to take pictures before you take things apart! That would have save me a lot of grief moving some Ikea furniture...

Guest's picture

We use a digital camera all the time.
1) Whenever we have a house or equipment repair (we live in an old farmhouse and have old machinery) we not only measure the broken part/area, we take digital photos of it. Then we take the camera with us to the hardware store to show the photo to the hardware store employees. This ensures we come back with the best possible part for fixing the problem. (The best part is not always identical to the old part that broke--there are often newer, better solutions.)
2) We live far away from my mother-in-law who suffers from Alzheimer's. To keep in touch, I take digital photos throughout the month and compile them in a sort of photo journal of what we are doing/what is happening here. That way, even though her reading skills are declining, she can still know what is going on in our lives. Even better, she can revisit the journals whenever she wants (which is better than phone calls she forgets almost instantly).

Guest's picture
Dom Ali

I use my digital camera as a cheap photocopier. For example, I've taken a photo of all the cards in my wallet—front and back—in case it ever gets stolen. You can accomplish the same with a photocopy of course, but then you'd have to pay! If I come across a humorous cartoon, I also take a photo instead of tearing it out of the magazine I'm reading. This way I can give away the intact magazine to a friend after reading it.

Guest's picture

I also do this. My sister, a professor, reports that her students photograph notes from the board at the end of class. Finally, I'm a blogger so I keep my camera handy for blog-worthy material, like signs and posters
Another camera tip--mine came with a rechargeable battery. I bought an extra battery and keep one in the camera and the second fully charged in my purse. This way I can let the battery run out completely before recharging, saving time and (I believe) battery life. And I never get caught with a dead camera.

Guest's picture

When the fish shop near me posts their prices on a chalkboard outside their shop, I snap a photo and add those prices to my price book spreadsheet so I can make comparisons with other sources of fish. I do the same with the marker board showing prices at the green market I frequent.

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