Maintaining the Balance: Budgeting for Success

I don’t know anyone who has an endless supply of funds to spend on family history, but like most pursuits, searching for your ancestors costs money. Whether it be in the form of office supplies, subscriptions, books, copies, documents, travel expenses (a major consideration with gas prices where they are!) or technology, we have to budget available funds and pick and choose what will take us furthest. Here are some ideas to help you get the most from your genealogical dollar.

  • Know what you’re buying. Investigate products and services and make sure you know exactly what you are purchasing. If you’re uncertain, call customer service representatives and ask them to explain the product fully. If a free trial is available, take advantage of it and make sure the product is right for you.
  • Start a genealogical slush fund. When I’m saving for a new toy, a conference, or a research trip, I start a kind of slush fund for myself. I cut back on luxuries and put the money I save into a fund to help me meet my goal. For example, I have two large breed dogs who don’t like baths. As a result, it can be a difficult and messy chore. To avoid having to spend an hour mopping the bathroom and wiping fur off the walls (and me), when I have the money, I take them to a local groomer. But by bathing them myself, I can save $30 per dog. Cha-ching! That’s a nice chunk of change towards a new toy. Take the car to the car wash or wash it in the driveway? Cha-ching! Burgers on the grill or take-out from fast food restaurant? Cha-ching! (Plus my burgers are 100 times better!)
  • Keep track. No one likes to be surprised with an unexpected charge on their statement, so keep track of subscription end dates in a notebook or on a calendar.  Renew dates can be posted in Outlook’s calendar and set to remind you up to two weeks in advance. I like to keep the dates in a binder where I keep my passwords. If you use software like Quicken or Microsoft Money to keep track of your finances, you can also schedule them as bill payments. Staying on top of when your subscription expires and auto-renews, can help you plan for it financially and avoid possible overdraft or over-your-credit-limit fees.
  • Look for sales. I don’t know about you, but I go through a whole lot of office supplies. To save money, I check the office supply ads regularly and look for grand opening sales and good deals on the products I use. Back to school sales are a great time to stock up on supplies. Most larger office supply stores offer rewards programs where you can earn a percentage of what you spend in store credit. Registration is typically free for these and you may also get extra members-only coupons.
  • Know your ancestors. When you’re shopping for genealogical publications, whether it be CDs, online data or print publications, know when and where they lived and make sure to learn about the coverage of the publication. Does it include the years in which your ancestor lived? Does it include his location? This is a distinct advantage for those who have their family history available on portable devices like PDAs.

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