Cutting back and spending less doesn't mean sitting at home doing nothing.

Difficult economic times have most everyone looking for ways to reduce costs and make money last a little longer. Many people don't realize there are a number of opportunities in front of them that can help. Here are some places you may want to get to know well in the coming months.


A vegetable garden can be an excellent place to spend your energy when times are tough. Choose easy-to-grow plants such as tomatoes, lettuce and carrots. In addition to providing food on the cheap, gardening is also an inexpensive way to spend your time and will get you outside and give you some exercise. If this inspires you to make other improvements to your landscape, there are a number of


to get plenty of plants for little or no cost.


In an era when everything is premade and going out to eat is normal, learning to love your kitchen and cooking your own meals can save a ton of money. You will also eat more healthy, gaining energy in the process. Once you have created a lineup of meals that you enjoy and know the ingredients you use most often, stock up your


and save even more.

Local library:

If you are looking for quality entertainment for a great price, you'll have a difficult time finding a better deal than a good book from your library. A good book will give you hours of entertainment for absolutely nothing. The


provides far more than books these days: You can rent DVDs, learn a new language or study any number of disciplines for the amount it takes to drive to the library and home.

Used-goods sellers:

When times are tough, it doesn't mean you should stop spending money. Just make sure you get a good value for the money. The best places to find values are used-goods shops like


and the

Salvation Army

, which have greatly improved the quality of the items they stock in many areas.


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can be an excellent place to find what you need for a fraction of the price. Pick up needed items for pennies on the dollar at flea markets, garage sales and moving sales.

The Internet:

If you haven't been saving money until now, you are going to need to make some lifestyle changes. One of the best resources to learn how to do that is the


, which provides a number of opportunities to save money while giving you resources to help get your budget under control.


While a


can certainly ruin a budget, it doesn't have to. In fact, it can be a perfect way to spend hours doing something you enjoy without having to spend a lot of money. Even better, it can actually become a new source of income that can help give you some extra cash during hard times.

Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs