Compose Cheaply: Writing on a Budget

Sure, I feel a slight pang of jealousy whenever I see a writer compose his or her work using a sleek MacBook Air, but I do think such a machine is overkill for most writers, especially those who use computers primarily for word processing and surfing  the internet. In fact, did you know you can buy a decent, used computer from DePaul for only $50 or $60? DePaul sells its older computers through its own web store called University Salvage. As of this writing, there are four desktop computers for sale under $50! But there has to be a catch, right? Right: these computers don’t come pre-loaded with operating systems like Windows or Mac OS. However, if you’re feeling adventurous–not to mention budget-conscious–you can install a popular Linux distribution on your system for free. One of the most popular Linux distributions is Ubuntu. (As a matter of fact, Dell just announced it will be bundling Ubuntu with PCs it sells in China). I’ve used Ubuntu myself, and if you’ve ever used a Mac before, you’ll notice a lot of similarities. If you’re ready to take the open-source plunge, you’ll need to download Ubuntu and install it using a CD/DVD or USB thumb drive. Canonical, Ubuntu’s maker, has made this process relatively easy by including how-to guides with screenshots right in the download page. If you get stuck, just click “Show me how” and follow the instructions. For those of you who are a little more tech-savvy, you may want to consider some of the other major Linux distributions.

Regardless of which distribution you choose, you’ll be able to create and edit Microsoft Word-compatible documents by using an open-source word processor like Open Office. By opting for an older $45 computer versus a shiny new one that costs $1,500, you’ll be saving some major money for other things. Like food. And shelter.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • mark_J says:

    Thanks for the tip, Joe. I see that University Salvage also offers some of those slick-looking motivational posters–and for only $10 a pop! How’s that for getting motivated on a budget?

  • David S. says:

    Here’s another way to write on a budget and make big money, too! Step one: Hand write brilliant original passages of poetry or prose on cocktail napkins, dry cleaning receipts and other scraps of seemingly insignificant paper. Step two: Include said passages in brilliant published works that make you internationally famous. Step three: Become a senior citizen. Step four: Leak the scraps of paper onto the rare book/autograph market and auction them for far more money than they deserve. Payoff: Massive. Initial investment: Nothing!

  • mark_J says:

    Maybe I’ll save that $10 I was gonna throw at the motivational posters and put it towards some napkins. What do you think about recyclable paper, David? Do you think the fibers will last as long as freshly chopped tree derived paper? I want to make sure I have something to auction off in 50 or so years.

  • David S. says:

    Conservation is the problem of museums. Fragility is the concern of the collector. You, Mark, are the artist — you do whatever you darn well please, and the rest will love you for it. Go ahead and put that magical haiku on the back of that gum wrapper. After you become a household name, that gum wrapper is going under glass!