7 DIY Recession Busters
By Elizabeth Alexandroff, Heather Georgoudiou, Lee Ann Marcel, Josh Wilson
February 25, 2009
First of all, learn to cook. Eating out for every meal becomes much more expensive than you’d anticipate. If you’re not accustomed to the kitchen, check out EatingWell.com for some easy recipe ideas that even a novice couldn’t screw up too badly. Next, and this is only for those with a sense of adventure, consider dumpster diving. Supermarkets throw out an alarming amount of prepackaged food that has become damaged in some way. The majority of it is still perfectly safe to eat. It may seem a bit dodgy, but it’s either going to end up in your stomach or rotting in a landfill. Plus, your grocery bill can’t get much cheaper than free. You can also check out your local food options with farmers markets. Find one near you.
If you’re anything like us, coffee has a pretty firm hold on your life. But at $3 or more a pop, it can eat up a lot of your budget. Try making yourself some coffee treats at home. If you prefer your coffee to be more of the sweet and blended variety, you are the laughingstock of coffee connoisseurs everywhere. Nevertheless, here’s a recipe for making Frappucinos at home. Try not to spill any on your skirt, Susan:
3/4 cup double-strength coffee, chilled
1 cup milk (use your preferred type)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups ice
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until ice is crushed and drink is smooth. (add ice until right consistency)
Serving Size: 1 large glass 245g
Mocha: Add chocolate syrup
Chocolate Brownie: Add 1 pinch cocoa powder and 2 Tbls. chocolate chips.
Try changing your own oil. It saves you money, and it may redeem you if you’re among the frappucino-drinking set. It’s actually not as difficult as it sounds. Things you’ll need to worry about first are having some flat ground to work on, a cool engine that has been off for a few hours, a good jack, simple tools and a “don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty” mentality. You may also want to have something to catch oil spills, such as a large piece of cardboard. Assuming the process goes smoothly, it should take you no more than 30 minutes. The basic idea is to drain the oil already in the engine through the drain plug, have new oil ready to replace it and recycle the old stuff. You will also need to replace your oil filter. Most estimates say you should change your oil about every 5,000 miles. Here's how to do it.
A trip to the movies can get pretty pricey, especially if you have to pay for concessions. But there are a few ways you can save money and still catch a good flick.
Matinees: Most movie theaters still have cheaper prices in the afternoons. Plus, the cinema isn’t as crowded or noisy. And we all know you need the utmost concentration when you’re watching Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
Dollar Theaters: Find your local dollar theater. Sometimes prices can drop down to 50 cents on special nights.
Skip Blockbuster and hit the library: Don’t waste money on movie rentals. Many libraries have a great selection of DVDs you can check out for free. Find a public library near you.
Find Free Advance Screenings: A lot of theaters have free advance screenings of movies that they don’t advertise. You can check out where advanced screenings are showing here.
Looking to spice up your living room or your dorm, but can’t afford the prices of Urban Outfitters or IKEA? Well, here are a few tips and tricks for you.
Frames: Visit your local dollar store or even your local thrift store and find some older frames. Give them a makeover by painting a fresh, brighter color. Hang them on your wall alone, or add a vintage graphic inside.
Photography: Go out and snap some pictures of friends, family and the world around you. Then print out your photos from your printer at home or get them developed. Then place them in frames and create an interesting collage so you can display them on your walls. Check it out.
Painting: Go to your local arts and crafts store and pick up a few canvases and paints, or just use discarded pieces of cardboard or plywood. Not an artist? Not a problem! Silhouettes of different images can be interesting and simple. Just print out a picture of an image and cut around it. Then trace the outline onto the canvas and paint away. Look at some samples here.
Candles: Maybe you use them to decorate your coffee table, mask that unknown smell residing in your house or just use them to set the mood, but many candles cost way too much just to be lit on fire. So, instead of burning away your hard earned cash, try these tips on creating your own candles. The main ingredient—amazingly enough—is wax, which you can find at your local craft store for close to nothing. Of course, if you’re brave enough, you can steal the wax from bees for free. But the ensuing hospital bills might make it a zero sum gain.
Want a new wardrobe without spending money? Your key is the humble t-shirt. You know you have about a dozen old t-shirts lying around somewhere. They’re are the most basic of all clothing and come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Here are some tips on how to transform those shirts into completely new pieces of your wardrobe:
A dress: You can completely re-invent the shirt by cutting off the sleeves, tearing the shirt apart and then re-assembling it. Sound hard? Just watch this do-it-yourself video for more information. You may not want to do this if you’re a dude. However, you could use a flannel shirt to make a kilt, though we still wouldn’t recommend it.
Iron-Ons: The problem with the ubiquitous witty saying t-shirt is that it’s someone else being witty, not you. Iron-on lettering is an incredibly cheap way to personalize a shirt and display your own wit instead of lines from Will Ferrell movies. You can find iron-on letters in any craft store.
Headbands: For that amazing Bruce Springsteen look, cut the bottom off the sleeves of your old T-shirt to make headbands. The Boss is all about the working class, so he’d appreciate that you made it yourself.
For not only a cheaper way of cleaning your house but also a safer, more natural route, try making your own cleaning supplies. You can make a variety of products by using non-toxic materials you already have in your house. From dish detergent to oven cleaner and furniture polish, here are some ingredients for cleaning materials you can make yourself:
What you will need:
White distilled vinegar
A good liquid soap or detergent
Tea tree oil
6 clean spray bottles
2 glass jars
Here are instructions for putting these ingredients together to create a cleaner, non-toxic household.
Discover Swaptree or Freecycle. Both of these sites allow you to swap things you already have for things you want. Do you have some miscellaneous items lying around the house, taking up space, but not enough for a garage sale? Freecycle is designed to keep stuff out of landfills and help build a sense of community. All you do is pick up the stuff you want. Check out freecycle.org for a group near you. The only requirement is the stuff must be free (of course), legal and appropriate for all ages. Swaptree.com is a book, movie and CD trade site. Members list the items they have to trade and the items they want. Then, when your request becomes available, Swaptree sends you an email. Or, you can choose from a wide variety of books, movies and CDs already available on the site. Bartering can become really addictive, and it’s a perfect way to put your old stuff to good use.