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Monday Q&A | Photo Editing and Budgeting

Megan sent this question to me.

My question is: what photo editing software do you use? My husband and I saved up and recently bought a DSLR camera. I am using Picasa (free from Google!) right now, but I would like to get something that has more features. Photoshop doesn’t seem to be a frugal option! I did see Photoshop Elements on ebay for a more reasonable price. Just wondering what you use/if you are happy with it?

You read my mind, Megan, because I was planning to do a post, or maybe a series of posts on this topic. You’re right, Photoshop is a pretty pricey piece of software. Not only that, but it is not exactly self-explanatory to the average user.

A toddler's navy blue shoes.

I own Photoshop Elements, which is much more reasonably priced, but still pretty intimidating to use. At least, it is to me.

Maybe I’m dull or something.

2021 edit: I now use Adobe Lightroom to edit rather than Elements or Picasa.

For sorting through my photos and doing basic editing, I’m a huge fan of Google’s photo editing software, Picasa. It’s free (big thumbs up to that!), and really user friendly.

While Picasa is pretty simple to use, I’ve definitely gotten better at it since I started. Most of the photos you see on this blog and on my photo blog are edited using just Picasa, so if you like what you see here, stay tuned for some how-to posts.

As a post-script, I think that the most important step to getting a better end-result with your photos is to take better pictures. Editing software can only do so much, so to get the most out of whatever software you use, you’ll want to start with good pictures. There are lots of wonderful books and magazines on photography at the library, and you can find some helpful information online as well. Digital Photography School is a great resource.

This question is from Nancy.

I’m 15 years old and I don’t know how to budget or create a budget. I don’t know where to start. I work off and on for my mother and have other odd jobs like maintaining websites for other people, so I have some money. I’m not able to have a steady job because of school and volleyball club and other classes. I don’t know much about finances and wanted to teach myself, but don’t know where to start.

I think it’s GREAT that you want to start budgeting at a young age…kudos to you!

A lot of other people have written some great info about budgeting, so I’m going to provide you with some links.

Here’s a Basic Budget Worksheet from Dave Ramsey.

Because your income is irregular, this Irregular Income Budget would probably be helpful to you too.

Here’s another budget worksheet from Crown Financial.

From the same website, an income and expense worksheet.

Since you’re 15 and are, I assume, living at home with your parents, these worksheets won’t be a perfect fit for you (I’m guessing you don’t have a mortgage payment yet!) However, reading through the PDFs at those links will give you a basic idea of how you go about setting up a budget plan.

When you create a budget you first need to figure out how much income you have each month (since yours is irregular, you’d want to work with an average, probably). Then you’ll need to add up all your recurring, non-negotiable expenses (like gas, car insurance or your cell phone bill). Subtract those from your average monthly income, and then you’ll know how much you have left to save, or to spend on more nebulous categories like clothing, and eating out with friends.

If I were you, I’d try to save as much as possible after you’ve paid your non-negotiable expenses. It’s tempting to spend money on fun things like clothes and eating out, but one day when you need to buy a car, you’ll be so happy you saved instead of buying that cute new shirt.

Saving doesn’t mean that you can never buy clothes, though, or that you can never have coffee with your friends. You might want to set aside something like $50 a month for clothing, and $30 a month for eating out (or whatever works for you and your income!) so that you can do some of those fun things guilt-free while still saving for your future.

If you’d like to keep educating yourself about financial matters, I highly recommend reading some good personal finance blogs. Get Rich Slowly is a good place to start, and you’ll probably find The Simple Dollar helpful too.

While I’ve never actually read a personal finance book before, I hear really good things about Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. Most libraries have a copy, or you can buy a used copy for $5-$10 at

Readers, if you have any helpful budgeting tips for Nancy, please leave a comment for her!

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Monday 10th of August 2009

I recommend checking out Aurora for photo editing( It's $20 and super-easy to use (virtually no learning curve).

Crystal, thanks for the tip about Phoenix. I had not heard about that yet and will look into it.


Wednesday 29th of July 2009

I second (fourth? fifth?) the GIMP option. You can also, look for old copies of Elements on eBay to save even more.

Plus since you have a DSLR I'd say learn to best use what you have before anyone else tells you that you need to buy more. Sure a good fast lens is great if you shoot low light without flash but you don't *need* it now.


Tuesday 28th of July 2009

For anyone interested, you can download a free trial of Photoshop Elements from Adobe, to try it before you spend the money. I highly recommend it.


Tuesday 28th of July 2009

A comment for Nancy---I second Kristen's comment that it's much better to save your money instead of buying another cute top or whatever. I definitely regret all the money I spent on clothes when I was in high school, and I wasn't even that much of a fashion plate. (I just never felt comfortable in my own skin so I was always looking for the outfit that would make me feel better, aargh! It's so much better and cheaper to just accept yourself, but I digress.) Fortunately, I wised up before I got too much older, and I did manage to save several thousand dollars (even while going to college and paying for tuition, books etc.) So by time I was 23 and out of college, I was able to live and travel in Europe for several months and that experience did so much for me as a human being and was also just a huge blast. So maybe you can pick a goal like that, something fun to do before you become a boring old adult, or buy a car with cash or save for a down payment. If you have something to work toward, it makes saving a lot easier. This is no surprise to any of Kristen's readers, but it can't be said too much, in my opinion. We want to suck you into the frugal world, before the consumer culture gets you first and ruins your life! You are in an excellent position to learn from the mistakes of millions of Americans (myself included, we bought a house that was just too much and are now in the painful process of unloading it), and to choose a better path instead. Good luck to you.


Tuesday 28th of July 2009

I recently bought Photoshop Elements 7 when it was on sale on Amazon. Along with my swagbucks rewards, it cost me somewhere around $30! I just love it!

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