20 unusual ways to save money: Repair, don't repurchase

Once upon a time, America's economic landscape was dotted with repair stores. Whether one needed to adjust a television or re-sole a pair of shoes, there was probably a local professional who specialized in fixing the offending item. Unfortunately, however, as cheaply-priced (and cheaply-made) goods flooded the economy, the prevailing ethos began to shift. Suddenly, it was more economically viable to replace one's torn coat or broken VCR, rather than trying to make the offending item last a few more years. However, the slowing economy has added a new "R" to the mantra of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"; nowadays, intelligent consumers repair.

A few years ago, I got on a furniture-making jag. Tired of having to choose between cheaply mass-produced and outrageously expensive items, I decided to learn how build my own furnishings. Although I am still proud of my "coffee table of death" and my "entertainment center of doom" (my decorating ethos tended toward "Goth Bordello"), I soon discovered that the real savings lay in refinishing old, well-worn pieces of furniture. In fact, for only a couple of hundred dollars, my wife and I were able to decorate our house with a collection of items that were attractive, sturdy, and fun.