$10 for Peace of Mind

by Pamela Parks

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Sometimes I have to hear something three or four times before it sinks in. On the news, I was watching a tearful woman being interviewed after a house fire. She lamented that everything was gone. "Everything," she sobbed, "even my wedding album!" That's when the message finally clicked with me.

So I checked the garage sales and found an old computer scanner. It cost $5. It was missing the transformer and power cord, so I visited the local used computer store and lucked out. I picked up the power cable and missing parts for another $5. After that, an Internet check with the manufacturer provided the drivers to install. For $10 and some scrounging effort, I had myself a scanner.

I got to work. This project didn't require a lot of money, but I did invest a lot of time. My goal was to scan ten pages of photo albums a day. Snatching this snippet of time was completely doable, even with chasing after five kids, making all our meals from scratch, doing mountains of laundry and, you know, all the other millions of chores we have. Ten pages a day is completely attainable.

The quality isn't as good as the original photos, but I know that if a disaster ever happened it would be good enough.

After scanning the photo albums, I was so flush with success that the next thing I did was to scan those school reports and pictures that were "too precious to throw away." Guess what? Now I've thrown them all away! This is really helping with household clutter!

The same goes for other important papers. These are so much easier to find when they're filed on the computer, instead of crammed unceremoniously into the filing cabinet.

I emptied all the important cards out of my wallet and scanned those, too, both the front and the back of each card. If ever my wallet gets stolen, it'll be easy to find the numbers to call.

Now after a short while, I have nearly five thousand scanned images, sorted into many directories. This is about seven gigabytes of space on my computer, which is an acceptable, manageable amount for a modern computer.

Bonus One: My screen saver has been reset to the simple and common "My Pictures" slideshow. (On a Windows PC, put all your pictures in the same directory, or in a tree under a directory. Use your control panel to adjust the display properties, or right-click on your desktop wallpaper and select "Display Properties." One of the tabs will be "Screen Saver." Scroll through the available choices until you hit "My Pictures Slideshow." Enter the directory or directory tree where your pictures are stored, and you're in business! The same features are available on the Macintosh, too.) Now, if I walk away from the computer to throw a load of laundry in, I often come back to find that all of my kids are crowded into the desk chair, watching the slide show. They can't believe how much they've grown or how young I used to look.

Bonus Two: Now I can back up all of my most important pictures and documents at the same time I back up my computer. I can copy the files to CDs (all of my pictures take nearly a dozen CDs) or I can copy them to a USB memory stick (two gigabytes of storage is available for under $20 these days). Removable hard disks are a cost-effective option, and there are plenty of other possibilities. I keep two computer back-ups. One is in my fire safe, and one is in the safe deposit box at my bank.

Bonus Three: When the kids grow up and move out, I'll be able to hand them a disk with their childhood memories.

Thanks to $10 and a little effort every day, I'll never lose my important memories.

Take the Next Step:

  • Is it time for you to do something to protect your family's important memories? Follow the above example and give yourself a little peace of mind.
  • For more photo ideas, check out Smilebox.

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