Creative Living Under Budget

by Kenneth Hess

Cover Your Assets: Does your 2010 budget have you seeing red? Living creatively under budget takes patience and creativity. Upgrading wisely, budgeting monthly and recycling willfully is one way to achieve this and find temporary refuge from this economic slump.

I hope you're well on your way to having a 2010 budget framework completed by now. Have you drained your creative juices or just a bottle of wine or two for the effort? It's probably just about time for a technology refresh, too, but from where you're sitting, it could be another year or two before that dream becomes a reality. You know you need to stop dreaming and find novel solutions to your problems, but that's easy for me to say, right?

It would be easy enough to say it without offering any solutions; however, there are ways to combat the budget blues and keep you from seeing red.

Budget time doesn't have to send you reaching for a daily aspirin or require you to visit your cardiologist. A tight budget can make you a shining beacon in a sea of indelible darkness by getting creative. A little creative thinking can save your heart, your sanity and your job. To assist, here are three paths to set you in the right direction: Upgrade wisely, budget monthly and recycle willfully.

Upgrade Wisely

You're licking your chops at the thought of upgrading to Windows 7, but now you realize you must wait for a while. What a disappointment it is to know there's a fix for the systemic problems that plague you, but your budget just won't allow it. Upgrade the troublemakers first and as soon as possible. It's more expensive to keep fixing the same problems than to upgrade and fix them all at once.

Upgrading doesn't stop at operating systems. You should also give a hardware boost to any systems suffering shortness of breath. A new CPU, more RAM and faster disks are all inexpensive upgrades that make big differences in performance. The point to remember, in good or bad economic times, is that you should upgrade only when necessary to relieve a performance bottleneck or alleviate a nagging support issue.

Budget Monthly

I know this sounds a bit strange, but if you allot money for each month before spending any, your money will stretch further than you thought possible.

I'm not suggesting each month receive an equal share of the year's budget. Instead, divvy up the dollars based on seasonal needs. For example, if most of your employees take vacation during the summer, your budget needs will likely decrease for those months. The same is true for December when most non-retail business wanes for the holidays.

You'll have to learn the ebb and flow of your business to project budget needs for each month. Always keep a percentage of your budget in reserve for those unexpected expenditures and emergency purchases.

Recycle Willfully

I'm not talking about taking your computers to a qualified technology recycler or placing cans in one bin and bottles in another for curbside pickup, although both are good ideas. I'm talking about recycling your own hardware within your company. Companies of almost any size have broken computers in various states of death and dying sitting about in corners or in storage. Drag those dust collectors out of the dark, remove the cobwebs and remove all the recyclable parts from them. You'll surprise yourself at how much usable hardware you have that's ready to upgrade existing systems or perhaps create a few working ones from the scraps.

Recycled computers find new life as network-attached storage systems where raw front-end performance isn't necessary. Recovered systems work well for testing software or services, and they make excellent choices for "jump" boxes. Jump boxes are systems that provide access into the local network from remote locations.

Keep track of your assets and unused inventory so you don't purchase what you already have on hand.

Living creatively under budget takes patience and creativity. Sometimes neither is enough to make a difference when budgets have the pallid complexion of an anorexic runway model. But learn to upgrade wisely, budget monthly and recycle willfully, and even the most emaciated coffers may find temporary refuge from this economic slump.

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which is scheduled for publication in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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This article was originally published on Thursday Nov 12th 2009
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