Many of us have a digital camera with us at all times these days, just by virtue of carrying around a cell phone. It’s an unbelievably useful tool: I feel like I find a new use for mine every day. I’ve put just a few of the ways I’ve used my camera to save myself a few bucks, and I hope you’ll add yours in the comments.

1. Protect Your Deposit

I’ve never been the first tenant in a brand new apartment building. Every time I’ve moved into a new rental, I’ve found some damage somewhere in the apartment. As a general rule, the landlord tells me not to worry about it — but when I move out, that same landlord will probably try to keep at least part of my deposit to cover damages. I don’t know about you, but paying to repair damages I didn’t make doesn’t make me happy.

Before I move into a new place, I take my camera and photograph every bit of damage I can find. If it’s something I’m actually worried about, I usually email the photographs to my new landlord. I know plenty of people who make a point of printing out their photos and mailing themselves those prints; as long as they leave the envelope sealed, they have proof that the damage was there at a certain date. Unfortunately, neither technique will do a whole lot of good if you wind up in court down the road — it’s the actual photos that will help you out more.

2. Support Your Insurance Claims

When you file an insurance claim, you’ll probably have a few photos to send along with it — of a car, a house, etc. But there are a few other pictures worth sending, if you had a chance to take them. Insurance agents recommend that you write down the serial number of pretty much everything you buy (computers, televisions, etc.). I’m not particularly good at recording serial numbers, but I have made a habit of photographing the serial numbers of my various electronics. I back up those photos online and, if something ever happens, I can send my insurance agent those photos without having to worry about if I managed to grab my serial numbers or not.

3. Give Emergency Presents

I have a decent enough photo printer, and I’ve found that photo frames and mats just sort of collect in the average household. If I need a birthday present in a hurry, I often print off a photo, put it in a frame and wrap it. I’ve found that a lot of friends and family actually appreciate getting a photo that reminds them of the good times that we’ve had together. I’ve also taken a few photos on my journeys that I think of as artistic and those seem equally well received.

If you don’t have a printer up to handling photographs, don’t worry. Wal-Mart, along with many other companies, allow you upload digital photographs and pick them up in the store. It depends on what photo printer you go with, but many places will have your photos ready the next day — some even sooner. You may even get a better variety of sizes of prints and you can pick up a frame at the same time.

4. Enhance Your Memory

Rather than hauling a PDA or laptop around all the time, you can use your camera to record certain kinds of information. My dad uses this trick to record phone number and other information on bill boards, but you can take it a step further. I was at a hotel, traveling in a city I didn’t know, and was getting directions to somewhere nearby. The clerk had a map — but only one copy; he couldn’t give it to me. I just photographed it and went on my merry way. I doubt the technique works with detailed maps, but I’ve found it pretty useful for short distances and stylized maps. I’ve found all sorts of little things I’d much rather photograph than note down on paper and carry around.

5. Make Money From Your Photos

There are tons of ways to make money off of digital images, although simply uploading your shots to a stock photography site is probably the easiest. Many such sites have quality requirements, but even point-and-shoot cameras offer ever increasing quality. There are literally hundreds of sites that handle the hard parts of selling stock photos. It’s just a matter of uploading your photos. I wouldn’t expect to get rich off of stock imagery but it can pay for the occasional cup of coffee.

And while I haven’t made any money photographing events, I have a standing arrangement with a few friends to photograph their children’s birthday parties in exchange for all the cake I can eat.

Making the most of your camera

Having a photographic record has saved my bacon on more than one occasion. I like to think that I make the most of my camera: I take plenty of photographs and don’t really discriminate between taking ‘artistic’ shots and taking a snapshot of a car’s license plate. You don’t even need a big expensive camera to to do most of these things. Really, the only thing you have to have is a good-sized memory card. And, at the very least, the right photographs can save you enough money to buy a bigger memory card for your favorite camera, if not an entire camera.

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