Mac for a Monkey

[OK, I realize this is long entry, but please bear with me. I’m hoping to get your input on a crazy idea. Even if you think this is a stupid idea, please post a comment so I know what you think. Thanks.]

The Computer Dilemma
Here’s the deal: my computer is three years old this month and is starting to crap out. I reinstalled Windows a few months back and that helped stabilize things, but it’s still not at 100%. Now I’m beginning to have problems again, and it’s not a pretty picture. When you’re unemployed and subsisting on freelance work, your computer is your livelihood.

So buying a new computer in the very near future is a must. In trying to find the best computer to go with, I think it’s time to switch to a Mac. I’m sick of fighting my computer, and with my recent forays into design and publishing, I think a Mac is the way to go. Unfortunately, that means spending a pretty penny (an equally powerful PC would be pretty expensive too, but my 5+ year old software would help me cut some corners there).

The Replacement
I’m looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,500 for the computer (20″ iMac, extra RAM, a bigger hard drive, AppleCare plan, etc. — maybe I don’t need all of that, but a lot of it seems worthwhile, i.e. larger screen for $300, extra RAM for $100, etc.) and almost $1,500 for the software (Adobe CS Premium, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, GoLive, and Acrobat, as well as Office X Student/Teacher edition which includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Entourage). The fancy design software is the really expensive part, but that enables me to pursue a lot of my business idea dreams. That $1,200 chunk of the puzzle might have to come later.

The Debt
The main obstacle here is that I’m unemployed and already overburdened with debt. I’m giving freelance work a go, and pretty much taking any paying work I can find, and that’s just enough to pay the bills. Trying to squeeze a new computer out my current finances isn’t going to happen.

The Idea
The reason I’m blabbering about all of this is because I’m considering doing something unorthodox, and I want your opinions. I’m thinking about doing some sort of money-raising pledge drive, a psuedo-tongue in cheek, cyber-panhandling sort of thing.

I’d come up with a dollar amount goal and try to reach that goal through the kindness of you folks and whatever bright ideas I can come up with. While straight up donations would be a part of it, I’d hope to rely more on things like referral fees, selling products, even doing a special benefit auction of some of my stuff (photo prints, copies of early and embarrassing writing, etc.). I’d hope to offer lots of options for ways you can help that don’t cost you anything, or at least you get something out of the deal, rather than just giving me money.

At least 100 people read these thoughts a day, so my thought was if lots of people did a little bit, we might be able to reach that goal. If 100 people bought a $15 book as a Christmas present through Amazon, it would bring in $225. If 25 people bought a T-shirt, it would bring in $100. If 100 people donated $5, it would bring in $500. You get the idea.

Doing My Part
In addition to all the ways you could bring in cash, I’d be doing everything possible to liquidate my crap. A number of childhood collections are gathering dust in the basement, just waiting for their moment on eBay. I also have books and CDs I could cast off, and this whole project would be tremendous motivation to actually get rid of this stuff. And of course I’d continue to bust my butt freelancing and provide witty and entertaining tidbits in this blog. I don’t want to be a freeloader — if anyone were to take part in this grand Mac-buying scheme, I’d want them to feel like they’re getting something out of it, that this site continues to be fun and cool and worth their time.

So that’s my grand idea. At this point it’s just an idea because I’m chicken. Sometimes I get these ideas and I jump on them too quickly and suddenly I’ve wasted an afternoon. This time I wanted to hold off and see what other people think. Is this a fun and plausible idea, or am I just a mooch who needs to get a real job? Would you actually participate in something like this, or would you just roll your eyes and move on?

Leave some comments about what you think, yeah or neigh.

More Fun Ideas
I’m already enjoying some of the random ideas I’m coming up with, like auctioning copies of some of my original stories, like FX-77 Spacefighter from third grade, or Fred and I the Spies from fourth grade. Or selling bound volumes of Joe Gentlemen’s Dating Tips for the Truly Romantic Gentlemen (that dates back to high school — Joe and I have kept in touch). Or how about a CD collection of the greatest moments from my college radio show, Mission Control (of course I should probably talk to my co-host first, seeing as he’d be entitled to half the profits and has the actual audio files)? Maybe my nearly 5 months of unemployment is finally catching up to me.

14 thoughts on “Mac for a Monkey”

  1. I’d be happy to donate my half of the profits from the Mission Control CDs to your cause (in addition to donating less-tangible qualities like… discounts…). The truly difficult part is compiling the audio clips. I have to get a tape deck hooked up, find the good clips, put them together, arrange them, and burn them. That takes hours upon hours.

    I’ll see what I can do if you give me the go-ahead, but it’ll be slow moving.

  2. Oh… and free tech support from me for life. :-)

    (May not be as timely as Apple Care, but it’s still pretty high quality)

  3. Heh, as for the computer, I’d agree that the larger screen and RAM will help you: if you’re running design programs, it’ll help to have both.

    The rest is a good start. I would suggest getting a job for the holidays (part time, so you can do the rest of the stuff you want to do), and dedicate those proceeds to the comp. But that might not work because you’ll be out of town.

    At any rate, best of luck. I might be able to buy a t-shirt or something, but money is always tight.

  4. Have you thought of these ideas?\

    *Make a change jar in your house & keep dumping pocket change and any spare mula you find laying around (when you can find some). My mom did this when my family wanted to go on a vacation and we’d all dump money in. (My folks would have to pick a great spot or we wouldn’t pay money…the trip to Nebraska failed). Anyway, it became a sacrifice thing. Like, I’d go to Starbucks and think, “I don’t really need this coffee.” Leave, and dump the four bucks I would have spent into the jar at home. We toured the Western states with this method. My brothers and I probably raised about $500 each just by sacrificing here and there. If we saved money off the grocery budget (going generic, cutting junk food, etc.) we’d put it in the jar. And so on.

    *Take a job that is just for the purpose of the computer. I got my first Mac that way. I picked up a job handing out Oreos and Craisins and Poppycock and Citra (whatever was in that week) on Saturdays. Within a few months, I had saved the needed money. (That was a fun job because a lot of my college friends – Josh & Neal included – would come too and we’d all hand out stuff together).

  5. Thanks for the early thoughts.

    -A change jar would definitely be part of the plan. In fact, last night I snatched a penny off the floor at the mall for that very purpose. I had my eye on a dime, too, but something must have distracted me. Of course in my house we use debit cards more than cash, so the change doesn’t add up as quickly. But you’re right, every bit helps.

    -As far as a part time job, I wish it were that easy. I’m the kind of person who would have taken a part time job months ago, if it would have helped out. Unfortunately, they work unemployment in such a way that it discourages you from taking a part time job. Before you flip out about how dumb that is, the reason behind it is that they want you back in a full time job, so you’re supposed to be spending your time looking for that full time job, not killing yourself with a side job.

    Unemployment pays you a small sum per week, something like two-thirds your former salary. In my case with my wife’s job and insurance, it’s enough to just barely pay the bills. Whatever money I make through freelance or a part time job is subtracted from the unemployment total.

    So let’s say I make $300 a week in unemployment. If I take a $100/week part time job, I’d make that much less in unemployment, and still only get $300/week (the formula is actually more complicated than that, but you get the idea). The only way I make more than $300/week is if I earn more than that, which I sometimes do with freelance.

    To further complicate things, I only qualify for unemployment if I’m actively looking for a job (which includes looking for freelance work) and working less than 32 hours a week. That 32 hours is the sticky part. Lately I’ve been coming pretty close to that with some freelance jobs.

    Finally, the whole reason I’m even concerned about unemployment is because it’s my safety net. Freelance is feast or famine work where you’re either too busy or starving. The goal is to save up on the busy times so you can survive the starving times. Right now I’m figuring out how all that works and hoping unemployment will carry me through the lean times.

    So that (in something much larger than a nut shell) is why I don’t take a part time job. I would if I could, man. In honesty, my biggest fear with this whole idea is coming off as a big freeloader, the unemployed guy who sits around all day watching TV. While I do have unproductive days (not starting until 9:30 yesterday), I am at my computer every day working. Which reminds me, I need to stop doing this and get to work.

  6. Buy and sell stuff on ebay. Seriously. I’ve known quite a few people who routinely go to garage/estate sales with the intent of buying collectibles or what have you that they know would go for something decent on ebay. A lot of people don’t know what they have. Its a little work keeping track of all your auctions and shipping stuff out, but with a little help from the wife you could have a fairly lucrative little side gig.

    Also I’ve got a 1337 ugly green colored 333Mhz iMac formerly located in Bethel’s computer lab you could have. But the CDROM drive is busted… and its five years old… :)

  7. Getting creative on eBay would be kind of fun, but… it might take up more time than you want it to.

    I know you’re trying the whole freelance thing, but two of your options are probably just trying to squeak by and save up for this new comp, or possibly get a full time job that you can hold for a year or two while you get set for the whole freelance thing. Even if it isn’t necessarily in editing or something else, it may get you on track for freelancing and a future editing job, and faster than barely getting by right now. Bummer now, good later.

  8. That’s interesting how unemployment funding works. It’s tough when life is throwing you curve balls all over the place. I worked 40 hours a week in college, took a full load of credits (sometimes up to 18 at a time) and still squeezed in time to date & hang w/ friends. And I left w/ an A average and applied for & found jobs at the end (I say jobs because my first year teaching I actually worked two part time jobs in two school districts plus suplemented by cashiering at Target for part of the year…that’s what it took to get into teaching just out of college for me). Not sure how I did it…I know it included a fair amount of sleep deprivation. Anyway, I know how it is to be working your tail off and feeling like you’re not moving forward. Or at least moving slowly. I pray that God will bless you with a job (or a downfall of freelance jobs & ideas) soon, friend.

  9. Okay – Stop suggesting e-bay. You know who has to spend their lunch hour shipping yo-yo’s to Australia? Me. He’s got a whole table of stuff that needs to be auctioned off. We do not need to add any more to the pile.

    But, I have read FX-77 Spacefighter and it’s worth the money. Everyone should buy a copy of it.

  10. Dude! Get a (refurbished) DELL. Tack on a nice 19/20″ flat panel monitor (from and you’ll have a superior computer that costs less than a 15″ iMac. Oh, and you’ll be able to upgrade it too- and you’ll get free tech support form your geek buddies.

    Just my 2 cents.

  11. I have to admit that I was somewhat incredulous when I read your post. I’ve never been in your exact situation; I certainly don’t know all the details and specifics, so maybe I’m in no position to comment. But, hey, this IS a public forum.

    What blows me away is your willingness to ask for assistance for a computer while at the same time collecting unemployment benefits. There are two ways to look at it. Either a computer is something you want to get for “fun” or it’s a potential business investment. Obviously this machine will be a business investment for you (I hope) with the hopes that in the future it will help you generate income. As a business, you need to do a cost-benefit analysis on the situation. Do you need a 20in monitor? Do you need the latest and greatest equipment? These are the types of questions you should be asking yourself.

    As an independent contractor, I have to make a lot of similar decisions. I recently purchased a laptop. I would have loved to buy a faster machine, but I simply could not justify the extra cost.

    What galls me is you willingness to collect unemployment. I simply do not accept the fact that you cannot find a job that pays a minimum of $10/hr. If you work 40 hours a week, that comes to $400. You can look at it as a mere net gain of $100 or you can look at it as $400 you actually earned. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t work a weekend job as well.

    I understand that this will interfere with your freelance work. But perhaps the value of having a computer will out-weigh the cost of missing some freelance work.

    Sorry if this is harsh. When you ‘work hard for the money,’ it’s hard to put up with people asking for handouts.

  12. Not to change the subject after an intense post, but don’t get me started on Dell. There’s no way you want one of those things. They have one of the highest hardware failure percentages in the entire business. That’s why their computers are so cheap. Because they’re… cheap.

    Apple has the lowest hardware failure percentage in the entire industry, and their tech support is rated the highest, even higher than Dell’s.

  13. While the iMac’s are super sweet machines, I would suggest that you go for a more modular approach. It will allow you to build in steps and spend within your budget. If you are looking for Mac’s, you could look at the G5’s but I might suggest starting with some of the dual G4’s that apple is selling. You get the benefit of dual processors for considerably less than a G5. It is not the sexiest choice, but it would be a solid upgrade over your current computer without spending a large(r) bundle. You could use your current monitor for the time being, not an ideal solution but more financially feasible. Then after a while you could upgrade to a bigger fancier display. If you are deadset on upgrading this might be a different way to go.

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