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. 

Continue reading

Zombie Burger: Burgers (and Brains) on a Budget

ImageDuring my three week hiatus from writing on this blog, I spent a weekend at home, completed a three-week online class, moved into a new apartment above the edgy and wonderful Mars Cafe [2318 University Ave], and started a new full-time internship at Meredith Corporation. As crazy as that was, I also made the transition from Drake University hall resident to crap-I-have-to-pay-for-this-apartment tenant, which means money is even tighter than usual. So I’ve tightened my belt and hunted down some cheap joints for lunch and dinner, giving me a break from my EasyMac, Ramen and omelet diet.

This past Saturday, my new roommate, ex-roommate and I headed to Zombie Burger and Drink Lab [300 E. Grand Ave.], a zombie-themed restaurant in downtown DSM. Remembering my last trip, I was careful to wear clothing that would disguise an inevitable “food baby.”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

5 Easy Money-Saving Tips

Saving money is not as exhausting as it is made out to be. Sometimes it is the little change in lifestyle that can help the most. Here are 5 easy money-saving techniques that you can start today:

1. Collect change. Its easy, its smart, its practically free money. A few months worth of change can add up to big bucks. I like to keep one jar in the laundry room, to empty jingling pockets, but the kitchen and bedrooms are good places too.

2. Avoid impulse purchases Using the 30 Day Rule, consider a purchase for 30 days, if you still want it after that time then it is worth the cost. Or, if you are pressed for time, the 10 Second Rule often works just as well, look at it for 10 seconds and evaluate the price and its usefulness. Decide for yourself if it is worth the money.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading