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How to make the most of what you have

Updated on January 9, 2016
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Needs often outweigh the cash flow

Most people have found themselves in need of something, like a small storage container, for example. With no empty boxes on hand and no cash to run to the dollar store and buy one, what can they do? Grab an empty coffee can or empty powdered creamer container (be sure to wash and dry thoroughly before reuse)!

Plastic and glass jars can be washed out and reused for many purposes. Bread bags can also be washed (carefully) and reused. It isn't about being cheap, it's about necessity. I know I have found myself in need of something now, not in a couple of weeks when I get paid and can go buy it. My best examples are storage containers. I never seem to have a storage container when I need it.

It can be extremely frustrating to have too much month at the end of the money. That's the expression, anyway. Whether you get paid once a month or once a week, there never seems to be cash when you need it. That is where creatively reusing items you already have, comes in handy.

Who needs a dish drainer?
Who needs a dish drainer? | Source

Desperation leads to inspiration

Starting over can be very difficult both emotionally and financially. Whatever the reasons are for having to move and literally start life over from the ground up, it is not an easy process. Neither is starting life on your own as an adult. In both scenarios you can find yourself without a lot of necessary household items. This situation can be downright depressing if you let it.

The best thing you can do is turn that desperation into inspiration. Look around at what you do have on hand. There is more there than meets the eye, I can almost guarantee it. Moving boxes can become tables for example. Most moving boxes are sturdier than regular boxes. As long as you don't try putting a bowling ball on a moving box, you should have all of the tables you need. Save the packing materials too! Those newspapers and sections of bubble wrap can be reused in a few different ways.

You can turn almost any situation around by reusing items you already have. If you are stumped for ideas then take a walk. When you come back, you might have a fresh perspective and can start seeing the possibilities. Besides, the fresh air will help clear your mind of that pesky frustration and bit of blues.

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What and how to reuse

As mentioned earlier, there are more things you can reuse than you might think. Below are some prime examples of common household and kitchen items that have limitless potential for reuse.

Moving boxes

Sometimes when moving, we find ourselves with a serious lack of furniture. It is not really recommended to try to use moving boxes as chairs. However, they make great temporary tables. Just cover with a cloth (scarves and old towels work great and add a splash of color). No worries if you don't have anything readily available to cover the makeshift table with, that can come later.

Smaller moving boxes make a nice shelves too. Simply fold the flaps inside to add stability and then stack two or three on top of each other. You can place books, movies, CDs and even linens on these shelves. You could also use these shelves to display knick knacks and treasured items like framed photos. Be sure to stack the boxes against a wall for added support. You can place a small board or level stick to support the middle of each box to keep it from slowly giving way over time.

Newspaper

Whether you read the paper, used it for packing material or both, save it! You can use it to wrap gifts. This works especially well with the comics sections and sections that have nice photos in them. Even the circulars and coupons sections can be used for gift wrapping. The idea is to use colorful sections to make the wrapped gift visually appealing.

Newspaper can also be used to clean mirrors and windows and to line the bottom of bird cages. Place newspaper by the front and/or back door for people to put their wet, muddy shoes on.

Plastic containers

This is one of the easiest ways to acquire reusable containers. Almost everything seems to come in a plastic container these days. Especially food items like coffee and powdered creamer. Margarine tubs are another good example. Smaller containers like plastic spice jars can also be reused.

Plastic coffee cans make great kitchen canisters. Store flour, sugar, beans, rice, pastas and other dry foods in them. Be sure to label each one so you know what is in there. Powdered creamer containers work nicely as sugar shakers, storing spices that are sold in bags and for holding packet spices like Parmesan cheese given with pizza deliveries.

Plastic juice containers can be washed out and reused to hold drink mixes like Kool-aid. Pour in the powder, add sugar if desired and then fill halfway with cold water. Put the lid on firmly and then shake until all the powder and sugar have dissolved. Then slowly add water and shake until the bottle is almost full. Voila! No pitcher needed.

It is good to note that some plastic containers retain the scent of the food/spice that was originally in it. This can happen even after thoroughly washing with hot soapy water and allowed to air dry. The scent will go away slowly, over time.

Glass jars

Glass jars are great for holding everything from nails and screws to fresh flowers. They come in so many different shapes, sizes and colors that you can use them for just about anything. Color coat your screws, nails and bolts or use clear jars filled with pretty rocks as a windowsill decoration. Fresh or artificial flowers in a glass jar will brighten any room in your home.

Glass jars are also handy in the bathroom to hold cotton swabs, cotton balls and even toothbrushes. They also are nice for holding and displaying colorful bath beads and soaps.

In the kitchen, glass jars can hold grease from bacon (some people use bacon grease to cook with), homemade foods like jams and applesauce and to hold dry goods. They also make great gift containers for hot chocolate mixes, cookie and cake mixes and homemade candies.

Boxes

The boxes referred to here are the ones that items you buy come in. These can be used as storage containers or saved to wrap gifts in throughout the year. It might be helpful to break the boxes down for ease of storage until needed. Besides, who has the room to have a bunch of boxes sitting around?

Plastic shopping bags

These are the best trash bags ever. They come free every time you buy something at a store. They even make carrying the trash out easier since they have handles. Of course they also make great storage containers for cloth items that you want to store without worrying about dust.

These are just a few examples of things that can be reused in an effort to save money and panic attacks.


Creativity saves the day

There are so many items that can be reused. From mayonnaise jar candle holders to coffee can canisters, all you need is an imagination and some hot soapy water. Frugal living once had a rather negative stigma attached to it. Today it is an accepted, even encouraged, way of life. Some people do it in an effort to save money, some do it because they enjoy being creative and some do it because it is an economic necessity.

I know how hard it was starting over. I only had what I could fit into my two suitcases. That only ended up being some clothes, a couple of bath towels, a four cup coffee maker, a coffee mug, spoon, fork and mini cutting board and a small plate. In other words, not much of anything. I became the queen of improvising and reusing. The suggestions talked about earlier are all ones I used then and still today. When something works, why mess with it?


© 2014 Tammy Cramblett

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    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
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      Tammy Cramblett 2 years ago from United States

      Hi Availiasvision. Thank you! I agree with you, people can be very creative when forced to. Congrats on fixing the charge port on your computer. I'm not afraid to take stuff apart and fix it myself, as you said it saves money. The ice cream container as lunch Tupperware is a great idea! I'm also with you on planting a garden. Think of all of the money and hassle that could be saved if we grow at least some of our own foods. Great ideas :)

    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 2 years ago from California

      Great Hub on making the most of what you have. I think that people are way more creative when the money in tight.

      Just this week my computer's charging port fell into the computer and away from the frame. Best Buy wanted a minimum of $150 to fix it, or my other choice was a new computer for $500+. Instead, I ripped out my Swiss Army Knife and unscrewed the whole thing in order to lodge back in the port. I felt quite accomplished.

      We all really do have more than me need, so long as we use our creativity for what we have. I found that the container my ice cream comes in makes nice tubberwear for lunches.

      What i really want to do is plant a garden in up-cycled containers. Why can't a cracked sand bucket make a great planter box?

    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
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      Tammy Cramblett 2 years ago from United States

      Yes they are. I'm glad too. I never liked the metal cans. It's tricky washing a metal can and reusing it in the kitchen. I'm too afraid of rust contamination. I am glad they are switching to plastic containers for sugar as well. Although as you said, those containers tend to cost more than bags of sugar. I just like containers I can hang onto easier.

    • LindaSmith1 profile image

      LindaSmith1 2 years ago from USA

      I don't drink coffee, but I have noticed coffee companies are doing the same with the use of plastic containers.

    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
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      Tammy Cramblett 2 years ago from United States

      I do the same with my sugar! I actually think my coffee cans make pretty cozy canisters. That's probably just me though. I want to collect some of the green decaf canisters so I can have festive red and green canisters for Christmas time, the only problem is I don't drink decaf.

    • LindaSmith1 profile image

      LindaSmith1 2 years ago from USA

      I do too! Here, unless on sale, they are more expensive when buying sugar in a container than in a bag. So, I have saved mine, and now buy bags of sugar and dump the sugar into the container.

    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
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      Tammy Cramblett 2 years ago from United States

      Hi Linda, Thanks for your comments. At this point, I can't see any reason to go out and buy plastic storage containers. I know I'm going to have an empty coffee can and powdered creamer container every two to three weeks! Plus I love the easy grip most sugar and coffee containers have these days.

    • LindaSmith1 profile image

      LindaSmith1 2 years ago from USA

      Oh, I have several of those containers. Sugar came in mine. Now I use them to save pocket change, tea bags, or even fill them with grease and other things I don't want to clog up my sink with.

      I use newspaper for the bottom of the bird cage.

      Instead of buying small plastic trash bags for the bathroom, I simply use the plastic grocery bags instead, which are also handy for cleaning out and dumping the used kitty litter into.