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Use What You Have


As we’ve been getting settled in this new house, there’s a voice in my head that keeps repeating this sage, money-saving advice: use what you have. It can be so tempting to discover a want or a need, and then jump on Amazon or run to Target to get it. That voice can be a real buzz-kill sometimes, but man it helps cut costs.

Again and again these past few weeks I’m reminded: use what you have. Buying new things is not always the answer.

So I didn’t buy new, matching drawer organizers for our dressers. Instead I’m using shoe boxes and mismatched storage containers that work great. And I didn’t go all Pinterest-perfect to decorate some new built-ins in our family room. Instead I’ve sifted through the excessive amount of home decor items I already own. It doesn’t take splurges to make a house feel like home.

Using What We Have Even When It’s Urgent

Sometimes the things I want to buy aren’t frivolous. The lingering smoke from these wildfires has me wishing we had air purifiers. But I saw a hack where you put a furnace filter behind a box fan. We’ve put one in our family room and kitchen area since Sunday, and it’s made a huge difference. (Plus look how dirty it is. Gross.)

Use What You Have

Using What We Have to Set Up School

Our three kids started distance-learning school this week, and we’ll be doing school from home until at least November (but probably for much, much longer). We needed three work stations, but we only have one desk. I didn’t want them sitting at the kitchen table where distractions abound and the daily supplies might runneth over.

The word on the street was parents like us cleaned out IKEA of all its small desks wand many were building desks for their children. I considered these options until that voice said, “Girl, just use what you have!”

I realized we had a narrow fold-up table AND a small play table available. Then I walked around the house gathering jars and containers. We didn’t even need to buy many school supplies. It’s amazing how many crayons, erasers, glue sticks, and pencils we already had. (I did splurge on some new markers and shiny new notebooks, because I’m only human.) I even found some cute signs and ABC cards from years ago that I plan to hang up.

So now our fifth grader is at the desk, our third grader is using the fold-up table, and our Kindergartener is using the play table. They all have an iPad or Chromebook checked out from the school, and they’re using headphones we’ve had for a long time.

Using What You Have

Of course there are things we just have to end up buying. If possible, I try to check thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist first. And of course I still end up giving Target my money sometimes, but hey, at least I tried.

How do you make do with what you have? Do you have to remind yourself to use what you have?


  • Reply Drmaddog |

    I’m impressed with the fan hack too. I think I’ll dry it next time my dog has an accident after I clean up to see if it removes odors like that too.

    Having downsized from a house to an apartment, I find myself in the same situation. I have stopped myself from purchasing new items by asking myself if I truly need it or do I have anything else that will work. After offloading so much stuff, I do not want to begin accumulating again. It is such an easy habit though to just but another thing.

    • Reply Sara S |

      It is such an easy habit. It’s still a struggle for me, but I’m thankful for the times I catch myself and I realize I already have enough. Good luck with the fan trick!

  • Reply Meghan1227 |

    I applaud your success at fighting the urge to buy new things for your new home. It is such an easy argument to fall for and justify spending and you bypassed it like a pro!

    • Reply Sara S |

      I don’t know that I’m at pro status quite yet because I still feel like I’m buying too much, but I’m definitely trying! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  • Reply Annie |

    I have been using the fan hack for a few years. I need to replace the ones in my house. But, none of the stores in my area have them. That’s what happens when the air quality index is over 500 for 9 days.

So, what do you think ?