Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Genealogy Lesson 22 - Setting a genealogy budget

In today's economy, budgets are more important than ever.  Genealogy is a great hobby but let's face it, it can get quite expensive.  You pay for memberships to websites; you buy software, you order books and buy copies of documents.  I personally blow about $500 per year on my genealogy.  I say that the money is "blown" because I cannot get it back, there really isn't much of material value to show for it, and it cannot keep my kids from starving if they were hungry.  Money spent on genealogy is pretty much a luxury, rarely a financial investment.

With that said, most of us have to limit the things that we commit to each year.  I always renew my Ancestry.com membership but I might let Footnote or Genealogy Bank lapse...unless they run a really great sale!  I also buy the yearly upgrade for Family Tree Maker and set aside money to make copies at the archives each month.  What I have been unable to budget for are trips to national genealogical conferences.  I would love to go but I cannot justify the financial return.  Sure, I am missing out on a lot of learning opportunities, but I cannot see paying $1500+ for travel expenses.

I know a lot of people would love to have an Ancestry.com membership but cannot afford it.  Well, the grass is not much greener on my side of the fence either!  No matter what we have in life, we always want more.  We have to understand that each of us have means in which we must learn to live.  If you cannot afford an Ancestry membership, go to a local library that provides free access.  It's not that easy for me to attend a conference, but when one comes to my local area, I will eventually be able to attend.  Make lemonade with those lemons!

Decide how much you can afford to spend each year on genealogy and do your best not to go over that amount.  It will cause you to assign value to things and to decide what is really important to your short and long term genealogy goals.  My short term goal is more inline with buying an Ancestry.com membership this year.  My long term goals are more inline with going to conferences.  I can achieve that long term goal, maybe when I retire or pay my house off.  It's not ideal for my wants but it is the most feasible path at this point for my needs.

One way to stretch your genealogy budget is to do what I suggested in a past lesson...get a buddy or join a group.  If two or more people pool their resources, you can gain access to more resources than you could on your own.  A local genealogical society can get group access to online databases.  Your genealogy buddy can go half with you on the cost of a needed book.  Being creative and resourceful can help squeeze more out of the money that you spend, getting you closer to your goals, sooner.

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