Ham radio on a budget

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by K8UA, Sep 27, 2019.

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  1. K8UA

    K8UA Ham Member QRZ Page

    There are numerous questions asked, usually by new or aspiring hams, of the type "what can I do for $xxx"? There are also some good resources out there, but it takes time (and, to be honest - some knowledge) to browse and make informed decisions. Thus, I decided to compile "one-stop shop"-type lists to help answering this question. First off - the $100 list!


    I would greatly appreciate suggestions from more experienced radio operators - particularly if you have some interesting practical experience! This will be a live post that I will update periodically.
  2. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    The most dirt-cheap station I have built so far:
    1. RTL-SDR v3 as the receiver.
    2. Second-hand transceiver with broken receiver as the transmitter.
    3. Use separate hand-made wire antennas for TX and RX.
    4. Use a hand-made receiver guard made with Schottky didoes to protect the RTL-SDR when the transmitter was running.
    (3) and (4) eliminate the need for an outboard T/R switch. Sometimes (2) can be had for free or for shipping costs alone.

    I worked a bunch of stations that way over a couple of days. It was a fun experiment.
    AB2YC and K8UA like this.
  3. KF5ONT

    KF5ONT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Used FT-450, AT or D model. Dont pay over $300.
    KG7HVR likes this.
  4. KE0EYJ

    KE0EYJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Wow... $300? For a 450D? Even an AT....
    K4AGO and KC3RN like this.
  5. W2AI

    W2AI QRZ Lifetime Member #240 Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Antenna is everything in radio communications and that, in itself, is your most important investment in amateur radio.:)
    KE0GXN, KE5OFJ, YO3GFH and 4 others like this.
  6. WZ7U

    WZ7U Ham Member QRZ Page

    Don't let you know who hear you say that anything in AR is an investment. You know why.
    W2AI and AC8UN like this.
  7. VK4HAT

    VK4HAT Ham Member QRZ Page

    ^^^THIS. Replace 2 with home brew transmitter. Replace 4 with RF Sensed Tx/Rx switching of a relay. On the air for under 50 bucks with something very usable.
  8. WQ2H

    WQ2H QRZ Lifetime Member #214 Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    For the absolute beginner the rush to get on the air can be overwhelming, but here
    are some early amateur radio expenditures that I would recommend:

    - Licensing fee ($10)
    - Baofeng UV-5R ($26)
    - The ARRL Handbook (used, older 2008-2015 ~$5)
    - The ARRL Antenna Book (used, older ~$10)
    - The Radio Handbook (Orr, 1981) used, IMHO probably the best Radio Book ever written - I got one at a college booksale for $5
    - Save the rest of the money into a radio fund.

    Trust me, if this sticks you'll find plenty of time and resources to acquire additional gear.

    Who knows, maybe one day you'll turn around an there will be a Flex 6700 and PGXL sitting on your desk. :rolleyes:

    Jim, WQ2H / WK2XAH
    K0UO, WN1MB, N3AWS and 1 other person like this.
  9. W4NNF

    W4NNF XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    It depends on the class of license the novice has and his budget.

    In general, I tell new Techs to invest in a rig they can use after they upgrade, something like an IC7100 that has VHF-UHF coverage. They can use the rig to operate on 2-meters/70cm while studying for their General. Which I urge them to do ASAP. Worst way to start a new Tech? With a Bo-funk handheld. If the price MUST be kept rock bottom, a DMR hand held (for under 100 bucks) and some instruction in its use will provide a lot more fun than an analog HT.

    Whether Technician or higher, I encourage novices to invest in a new rig unless there's a good used radio available that someone who knows what they are doing has checked out (and is available for substantially less than a comparable new transceiver).
  10. WQ2H

    WQ2H QRZ Lifetime Member #214 Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    We've had dozens of new hams over the years be very happy with the Baofeng UV-5R ($26), until they find the resources to upgrade.

    We'll be assisting a Marathon this Sunday and I know several will be there.

    Some of them were young people just starting out in their careers, and families, frankly without much extra money.

    I had one, it was a great little radio - and I ultimately gave it away to a new ham. :)
    W7ASA, AJ6LB and K8UA like this.

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