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Your Camera: An Easy Way to Save Money

Your Camera: An Easy Way to Save Money

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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