How to Make Do with What You Have

how to makek do with what you have

In today’s economy, it only makes sense to learn how to make do with what you have!  When you don’t have the money to spend, learning how to make do is a critical skill set!

Learning to “Make Do” is really about harnessing our personal creativity and resourcefulness to meet a need or to solve a problem.

I think it would be a good idea at this point to unpack this a little word “need”. 

“Need” is a very subjective term that is used incorrectly most of the time.  How many times do you hear that word from others during any given day?

  • I need a new car!
  • I need some new clothes!
  • I need a new phone!
  • I need some new furniture!

I would venture to say that 98% of the time the word “need” is used, it should be more correctly replaced with “I want”. 

There are very few things in life that we truly need, things like love, clothing, housing, food, water and medical care.  The rest falls under the guise of “want”.

15 Things I Refuse to Buy Anymore

Our “wants” are often distorted desires of coveting what others have.  Hard to hear, but true.

I readily admit that when I see my neighbor with that gorgeous ATV, I want one. 

Or a new horse trailer. 

Or a new Chevy Silverado 2500 with a kit (red, by the way).

I don’t need any of these things, although I could certainly make a good argument for any of them! 

I need them for the farm!  But do I really?

red ATV

Absolutely, a new ATV, horse trailer and Chevy (red) would make my job easier and a lot more fun….until I had to pay for them. 

I don’t like that part.

I would also go so far as to say I’m pretty uncomfortable shelling out money for much of anything that isn’t critical these days.

Everything I’ve listed so far, from cars to cell phones to horse trailers, are all depreciating assets. 

But what exactly IS a depreciating asset?

depreciating asset is an asset that has a limited effective life and can reasonably be expected to decline in value over the time it is used.

In real language, a depreciating asset is any product that A) Has a limited lifespan (pretty much everything except precious metals) and B) Will continue to lose value every day until it’s lifespan is complete.

Many people who buy these items will finance them.

Why would someone finance depreciating assets?   

They will always owe more than the item is worth!  All the while, paying high insurance premiums to boot!

This chart is a great visual of why you should never finance a depreciating asset.  I’m picking on cars, but this is how it works for any depreciating asset!

How to Find Extra Money in Your Budget

How to Make it Do


Our philosophy when buying depreciating assets is to shop around for the best price, buy used and pay cash. 

Do your research and don’t get taken.

And if the market isn’t on your side right now (if it’s a seller’s market and you’re the buyer) then wait and use what you have.

Most people don’t want to wait.

11 Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE You Buy Something

They’ve already fallen out of love with the previous car (or whatever) and want the new one now…they’ll deal with the “details” later. 

That is exactly how to get into more debt than you can manage.

Back when my husband and I were still trying to get out of debt, we had a financed vehicle and we were “inside-out”. 

We had three children at the time, ages 9, 2 and 1. 

The car was a sedan, and we had two car seats in the back seat. 

Our poor 9 year old had to sit sideways, between the car seats! 

She was pretty uncomfortable, and fortunately for her, she only had to sit in the backseat when all 5 of us were going to the same place.

Did we need a new car? 



But we still owed on that car. 

Determined to not roll debt over into another car, we kept driving it until we paid it off. 

Then we began saving for a van, as our family continued to grow. 

We scraped up $5,000 and paid cash for an old beater van! 

old ugly van

This van was so ugly, let me tell you, but it ran great and only required liability insurance. 

We still laugh about that van, but it launched us into finally paying cash for cars.

Patience and resourcefulness are in short supply for so many people, but for those seeking a different way of life, sustainable practices and self-reliance bring much more in the way of freedom and joy.

Make Do with What You Have

Just because we are Americans, we have more choices than anyone else on the planet.  It’s true and kind of sad, at the same time.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, Americans were much more resourceful and careful with what they owned. 


Because things were much more expensive (in relation to what they earned) back then! 

Products weren’t mass produced like they are today. 

hand crafted

Nope, craftsmanship was required to produce items! 

It took time to make things and so people had to wait, and there was always a limited supply. 

Replacement of items was very infrequent, due to the cost but also because the higher quality made them last a lifetime!

In today’s culture of cheap goods at cheap prices, it might do us all good to pretend that there are no stores open and no other options available except to make do with what we have on hand, at home.

Personally, I love the challenge!

How many times have you had a problem to solve and found yourself walking around your home, going through junk drawers and the garage in search of a “doo-hicky” to fix it? 

THEN you find it, and it works!!! 

You saved yourself a trip to the store and money as well!  That’s how to make do with what you have!

old computer cords

Have you ever used old computer cords as trellises for blackberry vines? 

Maybe pulled nails out of one project to use for another? 

Yep, that’s what we’re talking about…use what you have on hand!  Use restraint and creativity to make things work!

Here’s how two readers put it:

I call this shopping at home first…what can I use that won’t cost me money or a trip to the store? (15 miles away) – Diana S.

I use my yarn stash up first.  My son is building his closet organizer out of wood we had in the barn, and using the spray paint that the last owner left behind.  We’re using branches from our pine trees that needed to be trimmed for the Christmas greens.  We darn socks and repair clothing instead of buying new.  Reusing containers for holding compost and carrying it out the bin or leftovers in the frig.  We do this a lot.  When you don’t have money for new, you make do! -Carina H.



Use Things More Than Once

Back during the Great Depression, it was very common to use tea bags several times before discarding. 

The same was true for coffee grounds.

Women re-used fabric feed bags to make clothing for their children!  When the feed companies found out this was happening, they deliberately made the feed bags with more attractive fabric!

Today, re-cycling and up-cycling are very popular, and it makes so me so optimistic!  Synthetically-manufactured textiles are a real problem for our environment, but with so many young Americans into “Fast Fashion“, it’s been difficult to deal with the huge amount of “clothes dumping” being done around the world.

We can make a huge difference by purchasing better quality and wearing our clothes until they can’t be worn anymore, and then take the next step to re-cycle or up-cycle!  If more of us did this, demand for “Fast Fashion” would diminish!

Plastic grocery bags are something that I try hard to avoid, but now that I’ve discovered “plarn”, I’m looking for more plastic bags around my house to crochet!  So far, I’ve cut up plastic bags that apples and noodles came in!  I can’t wait to make my first homeless mat!

(Fast forward to 5:00 to get down to business)

Take Excellent Care of What You Have

When we assign value to something, we are more likely to take care of it, and well we should!

Learning to maintain what we already own will most certainly extend the life of those items, keeping us from spending unnecessarily!

Cars, lawn mowers, snow removers, tractors:  Make sure you change oil and get regular maintenance checks!  Keep an eye on your tires, and rotate as needed.

Cell phones:  Buy good cases to protect your phone from water and soil.  Use a dry toothbrush to clean out the charge exchanges, but only while the phone is off.

Household maintenance:  On the first of every month, I have my “To Do” list, so that I can remember to get them done!  I worm the animals who need it, put an enzyme packet down the toilets for the septic tank, clean the furnace filter, check drains, run the dishwasher with vinegar to dissolve lime and spray shower heads with vinegar.  This isn’t a completely comprehensive list, but it keeps me familiar with the systems of my home and allows me to see problems before they start.


try to fix things first

Try to Fix it First

It’s amazing to me how often things can be fixed, even when it looks hopeless.  This is where the internet is awesome, because I can simply type in the name and serial number of just about anything and find it’s maintenance manual and videos to help!

Things wear out, that’s just part of life.  But often, with some time and patience, things can be fixed.

Socks can be darned, patches can be sewn and zippers can be repaired.  Check out this great tutorial about how to repair clothing!

My son works for a company that repairs cell phones, if you can’t figure it out yourself on-line.  I’m so glad these places exist, it keeps me from buying another phone and keeps my current phone out of the landfill.

17 Ways to Save Big Money by Doing Things Yourself!

a cup of sugar

Borrow and Barter

Sometimes you just needs a certain item to fix your issue, and that’s all there is to it.

Before you grab your car keys to head to the store or order on Amazon, wait. 

Who do you know that has one of those “items”?  Could you borrow it?

Many towns have local “Buy Nothing” Facebook pages where you can post for just about anything.  Post that you’re looking to borrow a “such and such” and see what happens.  Maybe ask around your place of worship, or at work.

I borrowed our neighbors rototiller for several summers, until I could get the cash for my own.  The tiller was returned in better condition than I got it and full of fuel.  It was a great deal for both of us.

Someone has what you need!  Yet another way to make do with what you have!

While this thinking is counter-cultural, remember something….going against the grain the best way to save money and to make do with what you have!









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