Making Do - How have folks gotten by on a tight budget?

#1
How do you do - I'm Pól and this is my first post...

Struggling for a while after redundancy, burnout and depression, I decided to try learning the guitar again as a 'cheap' pastime and as an aid to putting Humpty back together. Wondering if anyone else here is also getting by with practically zero budget?

Here's how I got started.

£0.00 - I picked up an old Stagg Strat for nothing on the UK's FreeCycle website - previous owner was off to Australia
£5.00 - YouTubed how to adjust the action, pups and intonation + a set of "No Bull" brand strings which transformed it into a new instrument! - very gratifying!
(£30.00) - Behringer GDI21 V-Tone amp modelling stompbox: A birthday present from my Dad so technically it cost nothing :) Even If I'd paid for it the pedal emulates a Sansamp 8x the price which in turn emulates amps 8x its price... kinda - good enough for my budget and expectations!
£5.00 - cable: I already had a cable and a couple of plugs as well as a little Pignose 7-100 which was my portable harmonica rig, However the cables and Behringer enabled me to emulate a bigger 'proper' amp through my home HiFi auxiliary channel.
£60.00 - The most expensive purchase by far has been getting Rocksmith 2014 + its 'special cable' but it motivated me to learn and practice while paying for lessons was not an option. I could've made do with YouTube and Yousician but the Rocksmith game has really kept me engaged - I had tried and failed to teach myself guitar once before in pre-internet days but without tuition I quickly got lost and frustrated; I discovered blues harmonica instead which took me in a different direction. - The game also provides plenty of practice exercises as well as tone design projects using virtual amps and pedals; lots of ways to keep engaged and interested.

So that's basically how I restarted my guitar journey and made it through the first year.
I've since found an acoustic guitar on Freecycle and found a few additions but I'll list those in a bit.

Has anyone else here been making do on a lean budget? - What finds or compromises have been particularly effective and satisfying?
 
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#2
I don't have your budget problem but it sounds like you've done really well on a very limited budget. I learnt with Rocksmith too and I think it's fantastic value for money for that purpose.

We all get very excited about sexy guitars and gear here, but at the end of the day it's chasing very rapidly diminishing circles. If your Stagg strat plays decently enough, and you have Rocksmith with its song tones and amp emulators etc., anything else is just going to be slightly different (and *maybe* slightly better if you're lucky). Those of us who have multiple guitars and amps etc. have completely disappeared down the rabbit hole!

The most important thing is to play and have fun, and if you're doing those then you're already winning. Anything else is just a bit of extra confetti!
 

ed lespaul

Well-Known Member
#4
I had a tight budget for years. It's simple: You make due with what you have. There is no "I want that" purchases. You take care of what NEEDS to be taken care of long before thinking of frivolous spending.
 
#5
I'm curious to learn about beloved bits of gear that got folks through the lean times. I'm thinking of those hidden gems or guilty secrets that keep us moist despite the sneers.

Way back in the 90's a roommate gave me an fugly looking (cool at the time) ibanez Soundtank 60's fuzz pedal. I don't know why; I couldn't play guitar, but then again neither could he! Fuzz harmonica didn't really work and so it fell into the back of a drawer for 20 years 'til I found it again recently. It's a reasonably presentable Big Muff/OD850 knockoff, as used by Mudhoney's Mark Arm.
Love it now! Just wish I was still in touch with my old bud to thank him.
 

ten-foot-tryptych

half rock, half gas
#6
Back in 2006 or thereabouts I found a Fernandes strat in a junk shop for £20.

This got me back into playing electric guitar and to this date is the only strat type guitar I have got along with. My greatest gear regret is selling it on a couple of years later.
 

everfreetree

I... I like trees.
#7
Cheap gear isn't always bad gear, for sure.
My first "rig" ran me a grand total of... well, I think the strings were $5, and I got a stand for $10. The guitar, amp, cables, and picks were all $0. I might've bought some better picks, later, for like $1, total.

I still play an Epiphone SG Special that was dirt cheap ($80), and it had a nice setup done to it before I bought it, and the worst part of the whole guitar was the tuning machines, which I eventually replaced for about $40. It was great then and still stands strong enough now.
I was also a kinda "lord of the $100 and under guitars", for a bit, with 4-5 guitars (too many, at the time) to my name, the most expensive of which was $100+ Tax from Guitar Center (used), and was a basically brand new Squier Affinity Strat, that just needed a setup (that I did myself) and some "gentle modification" to be a good friend to me for quite some time (I was forced to sell it, eventually, and got more than I paid for it. I miss it). And then that SG I mentioned [$80], a Stellar (knockoff brand) Les Paul knockoff (relatively modified, and decently playable, but also broken in 10 ways, heh) [Free], and an Ibanez Gio RG shape of some form that I snagged off Craigslist for $65 including a cheap Ibanez amp, though I eventually sold the guitar (for $65, no less) and kept the amp (Free amp!).
Cheap and free gear can be good, but it's always better when you have nothing else, and you just really need SOMETHING to get going with.

The SG Specials and Squire's Affinity and Bullet Strats/Teles, with good setups, some love, attention, time and effort put into them, etc, can make for great guitars that will last beyond the "learner" phase, and, for me at least, stick around even longer, even if/when you get a nicer guitar down the road.
Their resale value is low (and mine are so beaten up and "lovingly modified" that the value is basically half what it should be anyways), you'll likely never sell them, or even feel the need to, as long as you still play at all.

I have an expensive enough ESP E-II that I got recently, and in the past I had a lovely, beautiful Gretsch G5420T, but the Gretsch had to go when I had bills and no income, and if things ever go too far south for me now, I'm sure the E-II will have to leave me (not any time soon, for sure), but I STILL have my little Epiphone SG and my HEAVILY modified "Starcaster" (lower quality than a Squire Bullet...), and they will pretty much always be with me, even if I use them as loaner guitars for friends/students, or the learner guitars for friends or friends' kids, or whatever.
They ain't worth sellin', but they'll always be worth keepin'.
 
#9
...even if I use them as loaner guitars for friends/students, or the learner guitars for friends or friends' kids, or whatever.
Yeah I've done just that with the Stagg; 'paid it forward' to a friend so that he could have as much fun with Rocksmith as me.

So, after my dad died I felt able to indulge in a new(ish) guitar (especially since he'd been so uncharacteristically encouraging).
I waited and waited for a Fender Mustang Pawn Shop Special to come up on Ebay; reason being, the tonal versatility of its splittable twin humbuckers. I'm reasoning that with such a swiss army knife of a guitar (15 pickup configurations!) it'll be my "one axe to rule them all!" and so head off any future guitar GAS at the pass... What do you reckon? Those Pawn Shop Specials are rare as hens teeth in the UK but I managed to bag one for £500 inc a hard case (not that that sees much use). I'm surprised they weren't more in demand. I like being able to configure it like Keith Richard's 'Micawber' Telecaster: bridge single coil and humbucker neck. That's been my sole indulgence though - I still have to watch the pennies!
 

mirage2101

Well-Known Member
#11
I started out with a peavey starter kit in the late 90s. The amp was.. not horrible and the guitar wasn't great.
I kept that gear for over 10 years. Learning from tabs and books in the pre-youtube age. At first I was in school, and then I had to pay for my house and had trouble enough to come by as it was.
Honestly the gear never stopped me from playing. I've learned a lot since then and I could've gotten a lot more out of it if somebody had shown me how.

We live in a great age for gear quality. There's a large second hand market for used guitars. People who started to play but gave up sell their guitar for good prices. There are great affordable amps these days that are slowly starting to get into the used market too.
 

Tankman

Subtly not giving a F*ck
#12
My parents bought me my first classical guitar and got me classical lessons.
My aunt bought me my first electric guitar and amp which was also a Peavey Starter kit. (Did you buy it at Dirk Witte by any chance as well @mirage2101 ? Mine is a Peavey Raptor Special with a Peavey Rage 158 pack.)
Then, as a gift for graduating high school, my dad got me my PRS Tremonti SE.

So starting out, I had no issues with budget, because they were all gifts. Afterwars I got jobs and kind got good deals and trades to get the gear that I wanted. I ended up working in a guitar store for about 6 years. Empoyee Discount is a wonderful and dangerous thing.

Besides working for everything I have, I've also been lucky enough to be gifted some nice pieces of gear. Besides the ones in the beginning, I also was gifted a Fender Strat this year by a colleague.

My main issue is that I have the budget to buy gear, I just don't want to spend too much money on it.
 

ed lespaul

Well-Known Member
#13
For many years, I had one guitar, my Charvel Model 4. I traded a Hondo strat for a Kramer with some cash added. I then sold the Kramer to a friend, and purchased the Charvel, which was being blown out at Sam Ash. It was the last Model 4 they had.

I use to play out with that one guitar. I didn’t have a backup. Looking back, it was just crazy, but it worked for me...at the time.

I still have that guitar, and it is still spectacular. I go back to it from time to time and it feels like a part of my body, probably because it basically was for many years.
 

mirage2101

Well-Known Member
#14
My aunt bought me my first electric guitar and amp which was also a Peavey Starter kit. (Did you buy it at Dirk Witte by any chance as well @mirage2101 ? Mine is a Peavey Raptor Special with a Peavey Rage 158 pack.)
Exactly that one. The neck on the first one was really warped. When I went back with it the guy was surprised they'd let me walk out of the store with it.
 

Tankman

Subtly not giving a F*ck
#15
Exactly that one. The neck on the first one was really warped. When I went back with it the guy was surprised they'd let me walk out of the store with it.
I actually still have both. The neck on mine is surprisingly good! It's currently completely torn apart and will be rebuilt so I can replace all the rusty parts and pickups etc. Nothing special. The amp still works. Sounds like crap. But it works. I bought mine in 2002.
 

mirage2101

Well-Known Member
#16
I actually still have both. The neck on mine is surprisingly good! It's currently completely torn apart and will be rebuilt so I can replace all the rusty parts and pickups etc. Nothing special. The amp still works. Sounds like crap. But it works. I bought mine in 2002.
I gave both a good home after buying a mim strat and blackstar ht5. They're currently in a stoner shed being played weekly.
 

Tankman

Subtly not giving a F*ck
#17
I gave both a good home after buying a mim strat and blackstar ht5. They're currently in a stoner shed being played weekly.
I used to live in a different country. The guitar stayed at my parent's house for years, until last year, when I visited and took it back with me. The amp was shipped to me soon after I moved the the Netherlands. It's been mostly used as a footstool, but every now and then I jam on it, just to check if it still works.
 

Magnus Pym

Grudges rot the soul
#18
For the first 35 years of my guitar playing I only had an old EKO jumbo accoustic with a slightly warped neck. It had belonged to my guitar teacher/youth club leader and he sold to me for £40 to learn on. The youth club had a band which I played in on a borrowed bass+amp - I'm not sure how I did that as I didn't have it practice on only for reahearsal. As a kid I didn't practise guitar as much as I should have done and I've realised lately that the problem was it was too bloody loud. I'm shy and didn't want my awful practice efforts to be heard throughout the house. I kept it for so long because pubs, motor bikes, girls, houses and kids keep you skint. I still have the guitar.

At fifty my kids suggested I get back into playing properly and I get an Epiphone Special II and a second hand Orange Crush15r. That kept me going for quite a while. I've got more money and more time these days so I've gotten a few guitars, a couple of amps and some pedals but I can't justify buying very much gear for myself. Looking back I wish I'd have got a half decent electric (even without an amp) all those years ago as I my introvert self might have practised more and be a better player now.
 
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Sustainerplayer

On the edge of breakup
#19
For most of my band playing time - way back when - I played my Aria II TA-40:

aria_04.jpg

I really knew nothing about guitars back then. So I researched as good as I could (these were the pre-internet days). I read about pickups, scale length and whatnot ... and ended up buying this because I thought it looked cool (I still think that).

I used to belong to a forum for frugal guitarists. But I was kicked off cause I wasn't frugal enough! I guess my frugal days ended there.
 
#20
Looking back I wish I'd have got a half decent electric (even without an amp) all those years ago as I my introvert self might have practised more and be a better player now.
Heh! Looking back I wish I'd got a half decent acoustic for pretty much the same reason!

My first Air Force posting was to RAF Northolt (1989!) and with London and Denmark Street on my doorstep and money in my pocket it wasn't long before I found myself with a Columbus Les Paul and Peavey Rage amp (a great recommendation from the guys at Rose Morris, I think). They looked great in the corner of my barrack room but it all felt too loud even with the volume all the way back and like you I felt extremely self conscious, especially as a rank beginner and a corridor of lads all within earshot. Wearing headphones, plugging in switching on, adjusting settings, all got in the way of just picking up and playing. I had a friend there with Yamaha acoustic and a great teacher who got had him playing fingerstyle blues right from the off! By this time I was progressing faster with my harmonica and the old country blues artists his teacher introduced him to inspired us both to jam together acoustically. I stuck with the harmonica and part-exchanged the guitar rig for a decrepit black VW Beetle; my first car. He later upgraded his Yamaha to a gorgeous green stained Louden cutaway. I think he paid about £700-£800 but It sounded truly heavenly compared to his Yamaha.

I have a cheap little Gretsch Jim Dandy now. It's short-scale and tiny! I keep it by my armchair so I can just snatch it up whenever I get the urge and it just disappears into me when I'm crouching over youtube videos on my laptop. It's quite quiet but with a pleasing vintage tone that's straight away got me into fingerstyle like my old buddy (especially having seen him do it from the start!).
I play the acoustic 3x more than my electric which cost 3x as much! - Oh man, if I'd had this guitar 30 years ago...
 
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