Americana: Lunch on a Budget

ImageBear with me, I’m going to tell a brief story.

Once upon a time there was a poor college student. Let’s call her Wachel. Wachel was lucky enough to land a full-time, paid design internship in the great city of Des Moines. She was thrilled. Of course, this internship meant that Wachel now had to pay for her own rent, utilities, food, gas and clothing. This left Wachel with very little money. 

But she took the internship, arriving each morning at 8 a.m. with a computer bag over her shoulder and a sack lunch in her hand. And each day at noon, she would enjoy a Lean Cuisine or chicken sandwich. Still, Wachel longed for a day when she could afford one of the magnificent restaurants surrounding her office. 

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Drake Diner: School Spirit on a Budget

With Drake Relays getting into full swing, Drake spirit is through the roof. And what better place to celebrate our Drakehood than in the Drake ‘hood? So my roommate and I dropped by Drake Diner for a bite before sitting down to watch the men’s and women’s 10K. Nothing like a burger and fries before watching other people run their tails off for 10,000 meters.

But Drake Diner [1111 25th Street] is the place to go for burgers and fries or pancakes and hash browns year round. Even when the Drake spirit isn’t at its annual peak, the diner has cheap, tasty, Iowan food.

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iTunes, Amazon and Spotify: Music on a Budget

If you are like me, you like music and lots of it. But, like most things to a poor college student, music is expensive. Luckily, free music is not that difficult to find when you know where to look online.

A quick tip before we get started: Keep an open mind when you are browsing. Free music is free, so go ahead and download it, give it a spin and delete it if you don’t like it. You may find something new and fabulous a little bit off the beaten path.

A few of my favorite free or discounted music sources:

Twitter is an excellent resource for finding new music. Follow @Urban Outfitters for a set of free songs every Monday. Their music tends to be from independent artists, but varies in style. If you don’t have a Twitter account, Urban Outfitters posts every Music Monday to a blog. From there, you can access and download all of their previous songs. Follow @amazonmp3 for updates on new album releases, deals and give-aways. Their 25 Days of Free Holiday Music was a blast this past December.

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DIY Tank Top: Fashion on a Budget

Like the rest of the female college world, I have been swept up in the Pinterest craze. The information sharing site allows users to “pin” things they enjoy to categorized boards for users who follow to see. The other day, a friend pinned a link to instructions to make these tanks from t-shirts. Being in a sorority, I have an inordinate amount of t-shirts that could use some remodeling, so I decided to give it a try. Now I have turned two t-shirts that I never wear into cute new tank tops.

Although there is already a set of instructions, I  came up with my own to help you avoid a few of the problems that I ran into along the way. Transform your old T’s into tanks by following the instructions below.

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Orange Leaf: Froyo on a Budget

The frozen yogurt (also called froyo or frogurt) phenomenon is sweeping the nation. Offering froyo as a low-fat alternative to ice cream, froyo shops are becoming popular hangout spots in Des Moines and in major cities nationwide. But who doesn’t like frozen yogurt when there is an accompanying topping bar?

West Des Moines, home to Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt and Orange Leaf, has jumped on the froyo bandwagon. You can also find frozen yogurt nearby at TCBY Yogurt in Clive, Lemon Tree Frozen Yogurt in Ankeny and Yo2Go in Urbandale. But with so many options, I never quite knew where to go. So with the help of my roommate (a self-proclaimed froyo expert), I set out to find my favorite frozen yogurt spot.

After visiting Menchie’s (4825 EP True Pkwy) and Orange Leaf (6630 Mills Civic Parkway), I decided that I much prefer Orange Leaf.

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Paper Bows: Gift-Giving on a Budget

Birthdays are tricky holidays for gift-giving. A gift depends on how close you are to the gift-receiver, how long you’ve been close, how close they think you are, how much money you have, how much they expect, etc. Bad gifts can have awkward consequences. But bad gift-giving can be avoided with a little bit of paper, glue and crafty love.

I added a hand-made neon bow to an old salsa jar full of wint-o-green mints to make a cute study gift for any friend, roommate or significant other. Dress up your gifts without having to use another store-bought bow. Make your own by following the instructions below.

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Half Price Books: Books on a Budget

It doesn’t seem too original to hunt for deals on books in a store called Half Price Books (10201 University Ave.), but I had been by a hundred times and never seemed to make the stop. So, I finally took an hour to drop in and check it out.

The store is bigger than it looks from the outside. Long wooden shelves of books extend way back into the store, organized in the typical genres: horror, science fiction, humor, art, etc. Because it was organized well, much like a full-priced bookstore, it was easy to find the books that I was looking for. Often in discounted stores the organization is terrible and it is difficult to find anything specific, although I do love the hunt.

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Varsity Theatre: Movie on a Budget

Going to see a movie is no longer a cheap endeavor. Ticket prices always seem to be on the rise and concessions are ungodly expensive. Of course, your $5 to $10 popcorn is often over-buttered, under-salted and generally cold. So, in order to preserve the honor of the movie theatre industry and bring you the best and cheapest movie-going experience in Des Moines, this week I visited Varsity Theatre (1207 25th St.), a local, single-screen theatre.

Varsity Theatre’s low-priced, high quality, independent films and self-proclaimed “Best Concession Prices in Town” have become a tradition since the theater opened its doors in 1939. So naturally, being the bargain-hunter that I am, I decided to partake and went to check out the Academy-Award-nominated, Golden-Globe-winning, Critics’-Choice-Award-winning, BAFTA-award-winning, overwhelmingly fabulous film, The Artist.

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DSM: Dollars, Sense & More

My lifestyle is a humble one. My clothes are primarily purchased at Target and TJ Maxx. I thrive on coffee, mediocre dining hall food and ramen. I live in a dorm room with three other women and share a bathroom with 15 more. While I would hardly consider myself the expert on coupon clipping and bargain shopping, discount prices get me through the week. I am an unemployed college student, I am practically penniless.

But discounted living is not just for the… financially challenged. We could all stand to save a buck here and there. So I, a thrifty-by-necessity college student, am offering my penny-hoarding services to you. I will be scouring the web and the great city of Des Moines, IA for the best prices, sales, and hole-in-the-wall places that will keep money in your pocket and a smile on your face. Because we both know that saving money is not just about locking money in the bank, it is about spending on worthwhile things.

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