As a Dave Ramsey acolyte, I have a rule – If I cannot pay cash for something, I do not buy it. Period.
Like all rules there are times when they have to get bent or broken and I’m not so hard core that I’d tell my daughter “Sorry, you can’t have a life saving operation because we don’t have the cash for it”, but I am pretty adamant that I will not go into debt for basic wants.
This system has actually increased my cash flow as my wife & I no longer impulse buy, thus we only buy things we absolutely want or need. I highly suggest checking out Financial Peace University . However that’s not the thrust of this post, merely a preface.
I love woodworking. I am having a blast making really nice pens for people and I’ve slacked at putting them up here. I also have requests to do other things like bandsaw boxes, a combination barstool / cajón, a challenge coin holder, etc.
The great thing is this actually makes money to cover the hobby. As long as I have cash in hand, I can buy stuff to do more woodworking.
Enter the CNC.
I can think of a billion things to do with a CNC and I’ve not even scratched the surface. From jigs to templates to extremely detailed cuts that there would be no way I could do with a coping saw and my giant, steam shovel sized hands, I could find enough to do with a CNC to let me learn how they work and then expand.
Between Shapeoko and X-Carve, the two major hobby-level CNCs, we’re talking about $1500 to get into it, fully loaded. For about a grand, I could get the entry-level system but would probably spend a lot more time trying to get them to work. Or, I could spend around $500, buy all the parts and build the rest. But that butts up against the one currency I do not possess – Time.
I’m out of time. Completely and utterly. Both my girls have music lessons, Girl Scouts, youth group, friends’ parties, etc. etc. The house needs the gutters cleaned out, the fence needs pressure washing, how the hell are weeds growing out of the side of the house, yadda yadda yadda. The woodworking takes a lot of time, and it’s not something I can genearlly just walk out to the shop, spend 15 minutes, and come back later. Plus, in between all those times, I need to socialize with my kids & my wife.
The last thing I can do is spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to build a CNC machine. I prefer one that all the parts are basically ready to put together and viola! My time is spent learning how to use, not how to build.
Oh, also – I’m in the church praise band & play on Sunday. I have to practice for that, but I’m also trying to expand beyond just guitar. I want to be able to do some keyboard work as well as being able to provide backing tracks. We’re also moving into using in ear monitors vs. the stage monitors so we can control our sound better. We’re a really small church, so all those things are items we are buying ourselves.
Yesterday, I found someone on Craigslist selling a 1000mm x 10000mm X-Carve for about half price. Doesn’t have all the bells & whistles, but it would carve stuff for me, and bells & whistles can easily be added on as we go.
The problem is, he’s young, bought this not realizing how complex it is, then realized he didn’t really have the money for it (see first few paragraphs) and is wanting to offload it to cut his losses. It doesn’t work, per se, and needs a few repairs to get it running and my gut instinct is he didn’t connect Part A to Slot B correctly. If that’s the case, it’s a good deal. If not, and he shoehorned in Part C into Slot P using a Dremel, then getting it back into working order may be that same amount of effort that I literally cannot afford.
Financially, it would completely suck up every last cent of my funding (in fact, I’d have to borrow against some other funds I’ve got set aside). And that means the audio equipment I need for church wouldn’t get purchased for a few months. None of these funds are family-funds, I consider those untouchable for crap that only benefits me. I do have some orders that I need to finish up & the payments from those would help, but not completely cover. AND, I have materials I have to buy anyway which limit that pool even more.
Options - I can stretch my rules, risk buying something that might take more time than I have AND possibly require more $$$ to get completed, especially if it’s messed up vs. not put together correctly. The payoff though could be a CNC which could honestly free up a lot of time once I get it working PLUS open up a lot of opportunities for new products. That, and it’s computers AND woodworking, which combines my hobby with my profession. Cons – No gear for church for several months.
Or, buy the gear I need for Church. There’s no deadline, it’s not like I have to do it to continue playing, it’s just that we’re trying to be better and that requires some equipment upgrades. Our lead guy just got his gear yesterday & we’ll be trying it out tomorrow after Ash Wednesday service. The drawback here is that by the time I recoup the funds, the 1/2 price unit may be gone and I’d need to save up a considerable amount more than I think I can within a year. Big drawback – this gear is only for church. I don’t need in-ear-monitors or DI boxes at home. I’m more than happy to buy it myself and there’s no complaint about it, but it’ll only be used at church. I might be able to budget for this using family funds because it isn’t a toy for me and it can just be part of our normal giving (in addition to, not replacing), but that’s a harder sell to the Mrs.
So I have a dilemma. Time, money, and responsibilities.