This forum, in one shape or another, has been running for over ten years and I have used numerous hosting companies and configurations. For that reason, it would be useful to explain why the forum uses premium software.
Back in 2011, I registered argentinaexpats.com.ar and had it hosted locally in Buenos Aires, for pennies. That turned into a disaster because it was constantly under attack from hackers and pirates. The hosting company (someone's living room) folded, never to be seen again.
The only reason I used them was because I used to supply them with PCs and fix their hardware issues.
I then registered a new domain - this one - with GoDaddy in the USA and resurrected the forum using SMF which is free of charge forum software.
I also hosted the forum at GoDaddy for many years, but being such a large company meant that the tech support was outsourced to India and I used to spend hours in the chat area waiting for solutions to problems caused by GoDaddy's hosting issues.
I also changed from SMF in 2017 over to WoltLab CMS (Content Management Systems), a German company that produces excellent community software. It's not related to WordPress in any way.
SMF was proving to be too limited, hence the change. The payment for the WoltLab sofware was and remains a one-off payment with the option to renew tech support every year if required.
Two years ago, I migrated the forum to a UK hosting company, Prostack and since then, we haven't experienced any technical issues whatsoever.
Their tech support is the best I have ever experienced and if I raise a tech support ticket about some matter that I may not be too sure about (ie not a hosting problem) it's answered in less than five minutes.
The only fees that I pay are for hosting the forum at ProStack - $34 per month - and an annual domain registration fee of $25. Those are the only fees required to keep the forum running. I should also point out that I fund all these costs from writing online articles, mainly on Dave's Computer Tips and am perfectly happy to do so.
It's important for me to point out that all these decisions were taken by me personally because it's something I enjoy doing. I design websites using WordPress both for my personal pleasure and for others. We all get kicks from our hobbies and this is one of mine.
I quite understand the discussion on free forum software, cheap hosting and the like, but my experience has shown me that you get what you pay for.
Finally, under no circumstances will I ever twist anyone's arm to dig into their pockets and send a donation. That is a personal choice for everyone and I won't be the least offended by any forum member who doesn't contribute.
I have read all the posts about how cheap it is to do that and that, but frankly they don't help me at all because the forum will continue as it is. And let's not forget why we are here:
This forum does not spy on you or read your personal messages or censor posts or ban you for no reason or even delete posts for no reason. Many of us were banned from somewhere else for questioning that very modus operandi. Yes, for simply asking a question, ffs!
That is why I started this forum in the first place. My way of an FU to the other place.
Anyway, I won't be discussing any free or cheaper alternatives to what we currently have, either now or in the future.
Enjoy your beers!