Cut Spending With Flickr And A Cameraphone

Here’s an idea for people trying to get a lock on their spending but find writing down everything too fascist. What about taking a picture of everything you buy with your cameraphone and uploading it to Flickr?

Put the name of the item and its price in the subject line. Email it to your Flickr email upload address. Then, at least once a week, go back copy and paste the names of the items and their prices into a typical budget-managing system. Combine with sound budgeting principles, and you could have a fun way to manage your personal finances.

Cameraphones and Flickr are fun. Posting the pictures online makes you publicly accountable for your financial deeds. A tracking process forces you to be more aware of your spending. A built-in review process makes you revisit your purchases, and go, “oh dear, did I really buy that?”

Of course, you’ll want to make sure you have an unlimited text-messaging / photo-sending package attached to your phone or otherwise you could end up three steps forward and two steps back. And if you don’t have a cameraphone, buying one to curb spending may not make much sense.

The idea is hardly novel, artist Kate Bingaman did a project, except she drew pictures of all her credit card bills and everything she bought. Similarly, we just started taking cameraphone pictures of the food we eat and ourselves after every workout, and uploading it to Flickr, along with their caloric count. So far, posting the pictures seems to function as a reward for good behavior. IF we workout/monitor our caloric intake THEN we get to put something on Flickr. We’ll see if it result in weight loss.

Some people might find this annoying, or a waste of time, or ineffective compared to their established method of expense tracking. That’s fine, this isn’t for everyone. It could be, however, for people who like pictures and Flickr and find the prospect of writing everything down too daunting. It doesn’t matter what system you use, the essential thing is its underlying discipline. If it takes a social photo site and a gadget to gets you there, then that’s what it takes.

(Photo: Ben Popken)