The Art of Improvising: Alternatives to Buying New

When you have a need or a problem, there’s usually a solution that can be bought. Buying a solution is often the easiest and fastest way to solve a problem — but it also can be the most expensive.

When my husband and I were in debt-repayment mode and had our discretionary spending locked down, I began to see that there are alternative solutions to problems that I once thought could only be solved by buying something. Sometimes quality counts, but more often than not, I would choose a solution that required spending more than necessary, when some forethought might have yielded a solution that was less expensive (or even free). Or maybe if I had stopped to think about it, I’d have realized it wasn’t a critical problem, and I could just choose to do nothing about it.

We set a strict budget while we were paying off our debt, so it was necessary to think about alternatives before every purchase to meet our payment goals. The great thing is that it became ingrained in me, and it’s something I continue to try to do. Here are some of the techniques I use.

Repair what you can
Repair what you have instead of replacing it. You can do this with clothes, appliances, furniture, and cars. I know someone who used throw away a shirt when it was missing a button rather than paying to have it mended, or learning how to sew on a button himself.

But even if you’re not apt to go the do-it-yourself route, sometimes paying for a repair is worth it when it’s something that is expensive or difficult to replace. Last year I took my boots to a shoe doctor for the first time. I was ready to replace them, but I thought I’d try a repair shop first, and I was pleasantly surprised. The boots were re-heeled, the leather was conditioned, and they looked good-as-new. It would have been much more costly to replace them.

Delay spending
Put off the purchase. People do this if they lose their jobs or if they live paycheck-to-paycheck and run out of money at the end of the month. I do it as a game when the credit card closing date is coming up, just to keep the number as low as possible.

Simply shelf the issue for the time being. Give it a week or two. (Or 30 days.) You might even think of a better solution during that period.

You also can do this with regular services. See how long you can stretch out time in between haircuts, for example, especially if your cut is low-maintenance to start. Stretching it out just four more weeks in between appointments reduced what I spend in a year by one-third. And you know, so far my hair is just fine.

Rent, trade, borrow, or take
Can you borrow or trade for a solution? If you want a book or a DVD, try out a service like Book Mooch or Swaptree. Try renting tools if you won’t use them enough to warrant owning them. See if friends or family members will let you borrow a tool or appliance (just be sure to send a lovely thank-you note).

Also, don’t forget to check out sites like Freecycle for furniture, appliances, toys, and more. Items are given away for free; you just pay for the gas to pick up your stuff.

Plan ahead
Many times we overspend because we’re pressed for time. Maybe you have to get a last-minute Christmas gift for a picky relative. The mall is typically where we end up in that kind of situation, and it’s not likely that you’ll find the perfect gift at a killer price when you’re in a hurry.

Planning ahead gives you the time to find the perfect gift at a great price, or maybe even free if you’re really creative.

Planning ahead isn’t limited to gifts. You can plan ahead for travel, social events, house guests, and more. You can plan your expenditures for any situation that you know about ahead of time.

Find creative solutions to achieve your goal
There’s usually more than one way to solve a problem or reach a goal. Craving Chinese take-out? Try making stir-fry at home. Want to have a fun Saturday night with your friends? Throw a potluck or host a game night instead of meeting at a restaurant. Bored and feeling the urge to shop? Try reading a book, going for a walk, or doing something creative.

I’ve found the most inspiration from fellow bloggers:

  • Instead of completely redecorating a room, try a bit of wallpaper and a fresh coat of paint.
  • Rather than buying new furniture, consider how a few yards of fabric might breathe new life into the furniture you already own.
  • Hate the fit of a dress, but love the fabric? Consider a refashion.
  • Overwhelmed by the expense of baby gear? Find frugal ways to make it yourself.

A quick Google search usually provides new solutions I might not have thought of on my own.

Do nothing
Just ignore the need and try to do without. A lot of times if you simply do nothing, you find it’s not as bad as you thought. The best personal example of this was our decision to do nothing about replacing our second car. We also do this when we’re swept off our feet by fancy kitchen gear, and then realize that our cast iron Dutch oven may not be as gorgeous as a porcelain enamel Le Creuset, but it gets the job done.

Make a habit out of questioning your purchases, and try a quick Internet search to see if there’s a less expensive solution out there.

What about you? What have you done lately to improvise, get by with what you have, or find a cheap solution, instead of buying something new? Share your tips!

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There are 53 comments to "The Art of Improvising: Alternatives to Buying New".

  1. Sam says 30 October 2009 at 05:03

    We are fans of the $100 rule, for every $100 a item costs we have to wait one day, so a $500 purchase requires a 5 day wait etc.

    Anything over $300 has to be discussed between us and agreed upon even if it comes out of our allowance monies.

  2. Holly says 30 October 2009 at 05:32

    Halloween is often more fun when you plan ahead and use your talents and/or creativity; My son says his favorite costume started with a t-shirt cut to the shape of a vest; we dyed it w/brown Rit dye, and laced the front with brown leather shoelaces. We bought a piece of bright breen posterboard and made a mask. A blue l/s shirt and old, beat-up pants and he was ready to play Shrek! Cost < $4.00. Happy Halloween!

  3. Roxanne says 30 October 2009 at 05:43

    We have a phrase that we use to great dramatic effect when we’re brainstorming lower-cost solutions:

    We could buy something new … OR … USE WHAT WE HAVE!

  4. Ben says 30 October 2009 at 06:17

    use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without… oldie but a goodie

  5. Alexandra says 30 October 2009 at 06:29

    Intead of buying new, I try to keep expensive things in an excellent state of repair.

    For example, today the AC guy is coming in to inspect our AC unit. In my annual fall inspection, I noticed that some of the insulation covering the wires of the unit had worn down. He is coming to see if the insulation needs to be replaced or repaired. Although I may be spending about a hundred bucks to keep the AC unit in good repair, that hundred bucks could save me several thousand if the snow and salt from the winter ruins the wiring and forces me to replace the whole unit next summer.

    Same thing for other things. I re-spray my suede boots every couple of weeks, and brush them frequently to increase their life span. I inspect my furnance and regularly clean the filters. My car gets a regular oil change on the schedule dictated by the manual.

    Spending a little time, effort, and even some money will help high cost items last much, much longer and will save you money in the long run.

  6. Dustin | Engaged Marriage says 30 October 2009 at 06:29

    I definitely agree with your pointers on “Delaying” and “Planning Ahead” which often go hand-in-hand. The great thing about delaying purchases is that you often realize that you don’t even “need” the item at all after a cooling off period.

    And, of course, any successful financial life involves planning long-term for your future. I believe the make-or-break decisions often involve the big intermediate purchase decisions, like vehicles, major appliances, home remodels, home purchases, etc. Plan ahead and do these things wisely, and it sets the stage for lifelong success.

    Even after all of financial chaos of the the past year or so, I am surprised by how anxious young couples remain to buy a house. I recently wrote a post on my marriage site giving my thoughts on “When Should Newlyweds Buy Their First House?”. The comments on-site were benign, but I received a few heated emails in response to that post from young couples who thought I was unrealistic and wrong. I suppose time will tell!

  7. Little House says 30 October 2009 at 06:35

    I recently mended some of my favorite cargo pants, and they came out really cute. They are accruing more holes, since I wear them so often, but I love the patch job I did the first time so much, that I’ve decided to patch the new holes as well.

    Also, for Halloween, the theme at work was cowboys/cowgirls. I ran into a thrift store for a cowboy hat and purchased one for $2.00!

    Planning ahead and delaying purchases works wonders toward saving money, I completely agree.

  8. Lesley says 30 October 2009 at 06:39

    Related to the “creative solutions”, ask people who have faced similar-ish problems to the one you are trying to solve.

    Example: My DH has a pricy effects pedal for his guitar that he needs to take with him to practices and such, but it needs to be handled gently. For a long time, he kept it in the original packaging, but eventually that fell apart. Music stores sell specialty boxes that run hundreds of dollars… way too much!

    So, he asked some other musicians, and finally one of them told him about a type of tool/hardware box that works perfectly for that type of use, and can also hold some other odds and ends. Cost? $20.

  9. No Debt Plan says 30 October 2009 at 06:43

    Don’t forget Craigslist. I wrote something today on not only finding bargains on Craigslist, but using negotiation tactics to save even more money. I haven’t found FreeCycle to be of any value for anything I would want to buy, unfortunately.

  10. Tyler Tervooren says 30 October 2009 at 06:43

    I’ve been “making do” with a 20-year-old pickup for 6 years. It’s broken down a few times, but the repairs have always been minor and I’ve been able to fix them myself.

    When I was interning at my job, I secretly dreamed of finally getting something new when I was hired on.

    Just before I received my offer, I was talking to my boss. He looked me square in the eyes and said, “Whatever you do, DO NOT buy a new car.”

    Something about the way he said it really stuck, and I found that giving up that “dream” was actually really easy once I realized that I still had reliable transportation and could focus my money on bigger, more important goals.

    All my co-workers my age drive Infinitis and BMWs. I pull into the office every day in a 20-year-old Ford Ranger.

    I’m so glad I didn’t buy a car.


    I think that’s a pretty good rule of thumb. Not every decision needs 30 days and that seems like an easy enough way to break it up.

  11. Oleg Mokhov says 30 October 2009 at 07:03

    Hey April,

    By using less items–as well as re-using–we simplify and improve our lives. And by repairing things, we become empowered and less reliant on others.

    Not only do we save money, we exercise our inventiveness when we re-use items. It’s fun. It doesn’t mean we don’t buy new things when they’re clearly more effective, but when we find new ways to use existing stuff–or prolong its use–we work out our brains while fattening up our wallets.

    Life is also simpler, since we stop becoming as addicted to new gadgets and other shiny toys. We see items as tools to get things done, rather than the end goal being owning the item itself.

    I have an iBook G4 from ’05. It was practically giving up the ghost mid-’09, and I was ready to buy a new one. But then I thought, y’know, I don’t NEED a faster processor. It just seems sexier. I looked up how to analyze and repair the iBook on Less than $200 and a day of mucking about later, I had not only a running iBook, but one with a quieter fan and faster, bigger hard drive.

    Not only did I save money, and psychologically become relaxed by not having gear lust, I actually felt proud of myself for breaking apart the laptop. The computer was demystified, and I felt empowered. I’m not at the mercy of a computer company – I’m in control of my computer, how it works, and what I put into it.

    Great reminder to not buy new when we don’t HAVE to,

  12. Valerie says 30 October 2009 at 07:13

    Eat it up,
    Wear it Out,
    Make it Do,
    Do without.

    Never fails to save money.

  13. Jackie says 30 October 2009 at 07:15

    I use delay tactics most often, sometimes even accidentally because I just run out if time. But I also love wandering through the house if I need something and thinking, “Ok, what could I use instead?” That’s my favorite because it usually also gets an item I hadn’t been using back in use, plus I almost always end up decluttering in the process. It’s a win-win-win.

  14. April Dykman says 30 October 2009 at 07:23

    @Oleg–What a timely comment! I’ve been considering a new Mac laptop, too, as mine is even older than yours. I’m scared that I’ll put money into upgrading and adding wireless (yeah, no wireless, it’s that old), and something major will fail on it, so I’ve elected to do nothing for now. The problem is that I need to be more portable with the freelance work I’m doing. Your comment gave me some more food for thought!

  15. Craig says 30 October 2009 at 08:15

    A lot of times doing nothing really is the best option. Depending on what the situation is you find that there really is no need to spend time and money getting something new.

  16. Karen says 30 October 2009 at 08:27

    For when you’re craving an updated look for your home….besides painting as mentioned above, I have found that some other cheap things can help your place feel new:

    1) De-cluttering and cleaning. I can’t emphasize this enough! Having new empty space and open space on your bookshelves–it feels just like new.

    2) Rearrange the furniture you already have. Paint old wood furniture either pure black or pure white–it will instantly look chic.

    3) Take down your current window treatments and toss them. Unless it’s your bedroom you probably don’t need them, and it will make your place look brighter and more modern in an instant. If you absolutely have to have window coverings, try some cheap tension rods inside the window frame with sheer white curtains from target or even old (white) sheets.

    4) White sheets, pinned in strategic places, make great modern-looking slipcovers for upholstered furniture.

  17. Karen says 30 October 2009 at 08:28

    Use up your travel size toiletries before you buy new bottles of shampoo and bars of soap to use at home. And pick up new stuff from the hotel every time you travel!

  18. partgypsy says 30 October 2009 at 08:29

    My husband is a genius at this. My 3 year old is moving into our daughter bedroom. For our first child my husband build a wood changing table with shelves for our first kid, which also holds baby clothes and accessories in baskets. In the big kid’s room a big drawer previously holding doll clothes was emptied out and put into now empty basket, her clothes moved in.

    The empty changing table/baby-clothes-holder was moved into the kid’s room. We were able to fit all the various children’s books spread all over the house into it. With a table lamp on top, and an ottoman and throw rug borrowed from the back porch placed next to it, it is now a “book nook” that our older child loves.

    Me? I was looking at $70-100 upholstered children’s chairs on the internet before the ottoman solution.

  19. John Steed says 30 October 2009 at 08:39

    April – great post!

    We recently had a problem with our PC – the operating system (Windows XP) would not boot up. Since it is a pretty old computer (as you could guess from the o/s!), we considered replacing it. However, it’s mostly just used for surfing the internet and doing household finances on a spreadsheet. Like Oleg, we concluded that we didn’t need a new machine with a faster processor. So we took it to a great computer repair shop, and they revived it – and threw in some extra RAM – all for less than $200. Should work fine for a few more years.

    We do the same for lots of other things – shoes, food processors, TVs, furniture. We resist the idea of throwing something out until it is truly worn out, or if the cost of repairs approaches the cost of a new, high-quality replacement.

    Waste not, want not, as the old saying goes.


  20. RichHabits says 30 October 2009 at 08:41

    Well said in this article. We must try to see if we can save money by fixing than buying.

  21. bethh says 30 October 2009 at 08:46

    I’ve been sort of wanting a crock pot for a year but never got around to buying one. I mentioned to a coworker that I might like to borrow hers, and another heard and gave me one that was headed to her garage sale!

    Now if only that would happen with a food processor!

  22. Tyler Karaszewski says 30 October 2009 at 08:49

    I recently repaired a damaged surfboard. I could have taken it to a professional, and the repair would have cost about $50. Instead, I opted to repair it myself. Getting all the supplies requires to do this cost me about $170. The board has now been repaired, and I have enough supplies left for probably 50 more repairs, each of which will have no additional cost.

    But this is common — if you’re short on cash, it may be cheaper to pay a pro once than it is to equip yourself as necessary to do the repair yourself. Bikes and cars are the same: Tools can easily cost hundreds of dollars. A decent torque wrench is over $100 by itself, and is required for most non-trivial car repairs.

    I love being able to repair things myself, but it does require an upfront investment. Not only in tools, but also in skills. The first time you repair a surfboard, it’s not likely to come out quite as well as it would have if you’d taken it to a pro. And a surfboard costs $500-$1000, so you may be nervous about trying to do it yourself and risk messing it up (people do this with computers *all the time*, but they’re really much easier to work on than surfboards).

  23. elisabeth says 30 October 2009 at 09:07

    deciding when delay is a positive step can be tricky. For example, the car guys sometimes tell people, “you can live with that situation” and sometimes say “you have to get that problem fixed immediately!”
    Certainly, one time not to delay or put off is health care — including dentist and eye exams. Even if you don’t have dental insurance, it is a lot easier to afford a filling than a root canal. And yet lots of people think regular dental appointments are optional… I’m not a dentist, nor related to any, but I’m convinced that over the years I’ve saved money and improved my overall health by taking care of my teeth.

  24. Magda says 30 October 2009 at 09:10

    “If you want a book or a DVD,” … try your local library. You don’t have to pay for shipping, and you may even find out about other services they offer (public movies, computers with internet, printing, classes). Also, you reduce clutter in your home because the books and DVDs get to go out again.

    (Except for those library sales with their take home more books than I could physically carry for under $20. Currently, we’re “doing without” enough bookcases.)

  25. Jay says 30 October 2009 at 09:19

    Another way to keep expenses down is to keep organized. Just this morning I put bathroom cleaner on my grocery list for the week. I then thought to look in the collection of household cleaners I already had. Low and behold a brand new bottle was already down there, probably left by my last roommate.

    Often times we have to go out and make impulse of quick purchases because we forget we already have the tool to get the job done. This is why I have 12 putty knives and 50 paint brushes. =cD

  26. Dlyn says 30 October 2009 at 09:22

    One of my biggest cost savers is that I work for a community college where I can take classes for almost free (fees & books not included). So now I get to upgrade my job skills and next semester I’m taking computer repair classes to update our old computers.

    But when craving Chinese, most times I have to have take out. I CANNOT make it like my favorite restaurant and feel like I’ve wasted food trying and I still end up craving it.

  27. retired says 30 October 2009 at 09:57

    Look for someone down sizing they will get rid of items,deal for item you want you never know when someone will take you offer.

    I am paying off medical bills
    I am now working on supplementing my retirement.
    For those who read this site which has given me great encouragement. I am leaving a Google check out coupon code. Guess where I got the name for the code.
    This code will be good from 10/24/09 -11/15/09
Discount: 5.0%
    Restrictions: Purchase over $20.00.
Limit 1 per customer.
while supplies last!

  28. Erica Douglass says 30 October 2009 at 10:56

    Hey April,

    If your laptop has a PC Card slot, I have a new, never-opened wireless card that I could ship you for the cost of shipping. I bought it for my mom’s laptop and we ended up just replacing the internal wireless card. Email me at erica at erica dot biz for details.

    If I have to buy new, I like shopping at discount stores. We’ve saved a ton on new kitchen gear by shopping at Homegoods. Even those 20% off coupons at BB&B don’t compare. We just bought a wok for $10!

    For big items, I pretty much try to buy used. My exceptions: computer gear (I built my desktop myself and bought a new Lenovo laptop with a huge discount); mattresses (bought ours online and it’s awesome!); kitchen appliances (I shop around for the best price.)


  29. David/Yourfinances101 says 30 October 2009 at 11:08

    When faced with this situation, a became a do-it-yourself-er, to an extent. Started fixing lots of stuff around the house.

    There are also other alternatives to buying new. With repsect to tools, I now rent a lot (mostly at Home Depot) and I buy used a lot as well (garage sales, pawn shops etc).

    Put your mind to it and you’d be surprised how many different ways you can pare down your spending.

  30. chacha1 says 30 October 2009 at 11:24

    @ Jay, keeping track of tools is key! My DH and I both had certain tools when we combined households. Since then we’ve accumulated more. We have several duplicates in the cheap-screwdriver class. We have way too many paintbrushes! All because we used to not store everything together in a designated place. Now we are organized and know exactly what we have (i.e., too much).

    Improvising and DIY can mean big dollars spent on grooming. I do my own nails, haircuts, and hair color. With long hair in my city, a cut and color was upwards of $200! Doing it myself, it’s $10.

    @ Karen, you are so right – decluttering, cleaning, and rearranging can make a room look fresh and new. We’re about to re-do our dining room on that basis. Even though I know I will still want a bar cabinet from C&B, the re-do fix will suffice.

  31. atexasgirl says 30 October 2009 at 11:48

    What you already own is always cheaper than what you want to buy. Always.

  32. Debi says 30 October 2009 at 11:57

    A great place to find used items is at estate auctions. Be prepared to spend some time, and be prepared with a “do not bid over this price” in your head. I found a $650 snowblower which looked brand new for $70. A leaf blower for $2. Dishes and pots and pans can oftentimes be found in “box lots” for under $5 for everything in the box. Great for dorms, first apartments, bargain hunters. Our best money saving tricks: Do it yourself repairs and building projects. Repurposing items for new use.

  33. Andrea says 30 October 2009 at 13:00

    My husband wanted a footstool/ottoman. I was looking around at thrift stores and regular stores. And then I looked in my basement. We had an old footstool with a torn cushion(the cushion is separate from the stool part. I sewed the cushion up and then covered it with a piece of very discounted($5.62) “decorator” fabric that coordinated with our sofa(it’s solid dark blue, the fabric is patterned dark blue). I’m looking for some furniture for a home office-hoping to turn up an old table as the basis for a desk on freecycle or at a yard sale.

  34. Marie says 30 October 2009 at 13:23

    Building is the sister cheap behavior to fixing. If you build your computer, you’ll be able to cherry pick the high-end parts you need and go cheaper on the not-important parts. Plus, you’ll be able to repair and upgrade it cheaper every after.

    I just blew up a $90 power supply, but because I built the machine I knew how to take it apart. Diagnosis: it needs a ten-cent fuse.

    My next project is to repair a 2003 Powerbook with a jumpy screen.

  35. Golfing Girl says 30 October 2009 at 14:11

    With Baby #2 on the way, we thought we NEEDED a minivan. Turns out we only “needed” it since the dog wouldn’t fit between the two carseats in our Honda Accord. Since we only take the dog on monthly trips to Grandparents, we’ll just fit everyone in our paid for ’95 Jeep (including the dog) as long as the Jeep runs fine. That would have been an expensive ride for a dog!

  36. Rose says 30 October 2009 at 14:18

    I wanted a new look for our not so old bathroom, the oak vanity was bland, but still as solid as a rock. My goal was to have it look like a peice of built in furniture. I painted the vanity white, and applied small, painted wood appliques on the fixed top panels, painted the existing brass pulls with a metal, nickel colored, paint pen. Then, in a move that I am STILL patting myself on the back for….I wanted ‘feet’ to complete the illusion of furniture, but found that these unfinished feet could cost anywhere from $12 to $30+ EACH. So, I happened to see deck post finials (fat and chunky, just like I wanted) on sale at the local big box store. I bought 3 for around $15 and painted them white. The vanity does truly look like a repurposed dresser, and more importantly, gave me the look I wanted for around $30 total.

  37. Rosa Rugosa says 30 October 2009 at 17:17

    I’ve come to place more value on waiting as a strategy (I was always into immediate gratification) because it has some real benefits: the pleasure of anticipation, the opportunity to research and find what you really want, the chance to save more money to get the best, instead of settling for a less satisfactory model, and yes, sometimes the realization that you don’t really need the item in question at all.

  38. Steve Roehling says 30 October 2009 at 17:25

    Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate that “frequency of use”, not just cost is a good way to determine the value/ROI for something. This helps me weigh whether to purchase new, purchase used, or perhaps a cheaper new alternative.

    For example, one of my hobbies is woodworking, and I used to buy expensive tools from Bosch, Porter Cable, etc. However, these tools would often sit in my garage for months or years between uses. I’m now just as likely to buy a cheap alternative from Harbor Freight, improvise with another tool, or change my plans to accommodate the tools I already have.

    However, I try not to be too cost sensitive on the things I use very frequently, such as my 2 year old MacBook. Being that I use this computer 8-10 hours/day, and will get about 4 years use from it, I find it easy to rationalize the purchase of a new MacBook every 3-4 years (BTW – I’ve gotten pretty good resale prices on my previous MacBooks).

  39. Chiot's Run says 30 October 2009 at 22:29

    Buying used is also another option. I just blogged about our new love of local auctions. I’ve seen people buy boxes of towels for $2, etc. You have to learn to love the hunt and to be patient till you find what you’re looking for!

  40. Becky says 31 October 2009 at 02:29

    I recently gave my husband’s Levi’s 501 jeans new fronts. I live in a country where new ones cost close to $100/pair and we’re not planning a trip to the states til Feb. (He only likes this brand and style–not a thrifty move on his part, but he was that way when I married him).

    Anyway, I spent a couple of hours putting in “big” patches on three pairs of his pants. He now can wear them for work til these patches tear out.

  41. JC says 31 October 2009 at 03:11

    I’m playing around a with a storage solution at the moment – using the bags from a number of bag-with-magazine offers to use as storage. One reason I do this is that I have tried boxes, drawers, cupboards, hanging shelves to store clothes, spare bathstuff, sheets etc. It never works out properly, partly because of the layout of my cupboards and space. I often buy bags for little cost at op shops, thrift stores etc, but there are seldom large numbers of the same kind available.

    I have found that zippered “storage solutions” bags cost 10-20 dollars at the supermarket, and there are only one or two available when I look. A couple when i filled them were too heavy to move! Not good, as I’m not always well.

    My solution is a mix of improvisation and buying.

    I am using some of my existing bags for storage. I will buy more closed, zippered storage bags for ten dollars each, BUT they are in the form of bags that come with magazine promotions.

    These bags are zippered travel bags, capacious enough to take a quite a few articles, sheets etc, will not be too heavy to move – i have tried a couple already – have nice big stiff handles that let you lift the bag easily, they look stylish sitting at the bottom of my cupboard.

    They are travel bags so if I need to go somewhere I can use them for travel or sport, and replace the items when I return. They can fold flat, so when I don’t use them they don’t take up a lot of space.

    I already have a couple of bags like this, similar enough to achieve some uniformity. (I found if my storage bags are too different I get confused, whereas in other contexts container variety works well).

    I have already used some other, currently unused bags for storage, but they are open, not zippered.

    This is an ongoing experiment for me. If I move I do not like using boxes, and it’s a lot easier to put a bunch of bags in a car than to move large or even medium boxes. This is mainly for soft items like sheets and clothes and shoes.

    It sounds expensive and I guess it is, really,(about $70) but I have seen far less durable storage “solutions” for more money which are unsuitable.
    The peace of mind I achieve from the simplicity of this is worth it to me.

    And of course I am giving away and selling other items/bags that I no longer need…

  42. JC says 31 October 2009 at 03:50

    1)I have a sponge/squeegee which had a short handle, too short for washing the kitchen floor, which I wanted to to with this as I could get into small spaces with it. I unscrewed the head and rescrewed it onto a long broom handle in the cupboard. With this new long-handled squeegee/sponge, I washed my kitchen floor.

    2)I had a microfibre sponge floor “broom”, bigger than I needed. It consists of a microfibre pocket that fits over a plastic base. Since I like gloves for dusting I’m cutting up the microfibre broom pocket, plus a couple of new spares I bought on sale ages ago.

    Each pocket yields two gloves, so I already have four new dusting gloves and a long-handled squeegee/sponge broom – all from rearranging a few things i already have in my cupboard.

  43. Rob Bennett says 31 October 2009 at 05:03

    “Delay spending” is the one that works best for me. The people who sell us stuff spend millions developing advertising campaigns aimed at generating within us an emotional desire for stuff we don’t need. The result is that a high percentage of stuff we buy offers no real satisfaction. We are scratching an imaginary itch with a high percentage of purchases.

    I’m not so hot on self-denial, however. So I need an alternative itch to scratch to take my attention away from the phony one. So my trick is to create Advertisements for Saving. I create a specific saving goal that can be attained within five years and I compare the satisfaction I would feel from achieving that goal a bit sooner with the satisfaction I would feel scratching the imaginary itch. This helps me enjoy the “Delay Spending” option.

    I try to be aware of what I am doing. I don’t try to “forget” the temptation to spend. I keep it in mind as time passes and check in to see if I feel any loss from not having spent the money. Each time I conclude that I feel more fulfilled as a result of not spending, I feel more confident that I am on the right track listening to Advertisements for Saving.

    It’s a self-reinforcing circle of actions and feelings. The more you Delay Spending, the more you enjoy Delaying Spending. The more you enjoy Delaying Spending, the more you Delay Spending. It gets better and better and better (just as when you were listening to the other form of advertisements, your enslavement to what Madison Avenue wants you to do with your money got more and more desperate).


  44. JEM says 31 October 2009 at 14:55

    For us it comes down to that concept of treating your belongings as if you wouldn’t be able to replace them to begin with. It has changed how we view our stuff. Just think about what you would do with that pair of pants if you knew you could not replace them. It’s an alien concept in our society. It motivates us to plan ahead to learn a new skill set so we can fix that computer or couch. We try to learn something new every six months. It not only keeps our brains active but we try to learn something that could either earn us more income or fix something we already have.

  45. busymom says 31 October 2009 at 15:49

    I am very careful to buy clothes for our family only on sale; we were recently at Macy’s and my seven year old saw a winter coat she loved and wanted, but the price tag was $80 — way out of budget for us (although I got a great deal of jeans for my older girl.) Yesterday we were at Kohl’s and lo and behold that exact same coat we saw several weeks ago was on sale for $29 — we were both ecstatic.

    I also recently got a pair of pants from a thrift store for $1 — can you believe it?

    We also love craigslist — we have gotten some great furniture that is affordable for us.

  46. Tansy says 31 October 2009 at 16:46

    I enjoy the challenge of using creativity to improvise. Much more fun than shopping…

    Older, secondhand items are more likely to be repairable than newer ones which are sometimes designed to be unrepairable:(planned obsolescence). It’s ironic that older, quality items are cheaper than shiny new low-quality stuff.

    In your tip on planning, I’d add that if you do decide to buy a brand-new item, be sure it IS repairable. I think paying a bit more up front saves money in the long run, if you must buy new. An example of this would be cheap furniture made of particle board, which can never be refinished.

    We have fixed and refinished quite a few sturdy old machines and pieces of furniture, rescued from curbsides or bought at flea markets. Sometimes we save hardware and parts off broken items, and use them to fix other things. (We live in the country, where this sort of thing is common). D-I-Y is a way of life.

    Delaying buying is an excellent idea. I find that if we wait long enough, the right thing (at a very good price, or else free) will come along. Or else we will finally realize that we neither need nor want it after all.

    Great article, April.

  47. Tenbat says 31 October 2009 at 17:52

    I saw this same post more than a week ago on mnmlist:

  48. Leah says 31 October 2009 at 18:38

    Definitely love this list! I usually live by this but forget about it for some big stuff. Last year, the vacuum at my house wasn’t working. The house (and stuff in it) was provided by work, but I had a vacuum and used my vacuum all year instead of worrying about the work one. Around the end of the year, when I had to move out, I let work know that they’d need a new vacuum. Someone suggested that I bring it in for the maintenance guy to look at. He took it to a repair shop, got it fixed, and it worked great!

  49. Andrew says 01 November 2009 at 05:53

    Defintely agree with the “delay purchase” theory. 9 times out of 10 you’ll decide you really don’t need to make the purchase if you just stop and think about it for a little bit. Great list!

  50. Ralph says 02 November 2009 at 01:47

    I used to be an impulse shopper. Learning to delay purchases has done wonders for me.

  51. David says 03 November 2009 at 10:50

    Be cautious of renting. For tools it is a money waster. Renting a steamer to remove wallpaper twice in one year cost me more than if I’d bought the same model outright. Same thing goes for renting a rug doctor steam cleaner. The best bet is to do your price comparison research before renting.

  52. Sheila says 05 November 2009 at 16:42

    Wow what great ideas. the picture of the shoe repair shop takes me way back! We used to have ‘the shoe man’ who did our shoes. He was amazing to watch. He was missing half of his right arm, but he could whip those shoes and boots around like nobodies business! I also loved the smell of his shop.

  53. brass bed says 19 March 2013 at 05:57

    where can i sell all my antique furniture? besides craigslist
    and ebay.?

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