Waste Not, Want Not

by Kimberly Danger

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Waste not, want not. You may be familiar with this phrase if you had a parent or grandparent who lived through the great depression or experienced war rationing. Prior generations, mainly out of necessity, demonstrated that philosophy numerous ways and learned to be resourceful with what they had. In today's world of abundance, why would anyone choose to live that way? I'll give you a few good reasons.

You tap into your creative side when you have to make do with what you have. It forces you to look at what you have in a new light. You're forced to use your imagination, giving you insight into something's hidden potential. You'll also experience a deeper level of satisfaction when creating something out of nothing. There's another great byproduct: you save lots of money!

Last year, my daughter and I were looking for a fun winter project. We somehow wanted to incorporate her love of Barbie Dolls, yet not spend a lot of money. That led us to the ultimate trash-to-treasure project: A New Barbie House. Keep in mind that her Barbie already had fairly nice accommodations, and we could have afforded to buy her a vacation home if we really wanted to; but that wouldn't have been as much fun, nor would it have given us the chance to hone our creative skills.

Instead, Barbie went "Dumpster Diving" to furnish her home. My daughter and I built Barbie's new house out of cardboard boxes and furnished it with fabric scraps, yogurt containers, and other items that were rescued from the recycling bin. Her couch was a re-designed Kleenex box. Her chairs were lids from old laundry detergent bottles. We began looking at our trash in a different way.

Imagination and creativity are both traits that everyone has, whether they think they do or not. Like with most skills, they get better with practice. Unfortunately, the "quick fix" of being able to run out to the store to buy whatever we need can smother our resourcefulness.

The best way to get back in touch with your creative side is to put it into practice each and every day. Once honed, this skill can apply it to other areas of your life: your career, your hobbies, and even your relationships.

The next time you find yourself running to the store to buy a piece of clothing, a toy to keep your kids entertained or something with which to decorate your home, try re-thinking about using what you already have. Not only will you have extra cash in your wallet, but also you'll be putting that great skill into practice.

Put Resourcefulness to Work for You Today:

  • Instead of spending $4 on a greeting card, make one yourself. You don't have to be especially crafty; print out photos from the Internet or cut up old calendar pages. When you put more of yourself into an endeavor, it means more to the recipient and you as the person giving it.
  • Make this week's meals using only the ingredients that you currently have in your home. Use the "ingredient search" menu on for ideas.
  • Redecorate a room using things you already have, or create new artwork for your walls by painting over an existing canvas or putting new photos in old frames.
  • Get your kids in on the action by making a toy with household items. Chances are you did this as a kid yourself: remember homemade play-dough and paper plate maracas?

Kimberly Danger is the owner and publisher of, a site for moms living well for less. Portions of this article first appeared in her blog, Forget the Joneses, which also appears on her website.

Take the Next Step:

  • For more creative ideas, check out our craft project page
  • Use these thoughts and tips to help you get creative. Have fun with it!
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!

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