For all of us attempting to get by on little-to-no money, I've collected some of the best zero-cost how-tos from Apartment Therapy's archives. This way to thrifty tricks:
I did my best to find truly free tutorials, but soap, electricity, and bus tickets still cost money!
5 Chores You Should Never Skip (Even If You're Busy)
Easier said than done if you're working multiple jobs, but these all make a world of difference when it comes to the look and feel of a home.
Costs: Dish soap, rags, vacuum cleaner and electricity (or the more affordable broom if you don't have carpeting)
7 Ways to Enjoy Doing the Dishes
Dishes don't have to just be more drudgery... allegedly...
Costs: Dish soap, water
How To Get Free Furniture: 4 Ideas
I can vouch for the curbside idea (I've scored a storage cabinet, a chest of drawers, and more) and the college campus move-out move. The last college town I lived in had an awesome Couch Lottery, in which I won possibly the largest/best couch I will ever own. See if your town does something similar!
Costs: Transportation (public, your own vehicle, or borrowed), unless you're really strong and have really strong friends.
How To: Make a Floor Plan
Truly small homes need all the help they can get, and a thoughtful floor plan can make any home more efficient and livable.
Costs: Internet access, electricity, paper/pen
How To: Make a Cozy Entryway
This is a simple example of using furniture placement to delineate areas, which can make a huge difference when your entire home is one room.
Costs: Small shelf/bookshelf/table, maybe a lamp (that you found for free?)
How To Prevent Break Ins
Feel safer at home with these six mostly low-tech tips.
Costs: Free, provided your windows and doors already have locks and your windows have coverings; motion-sensitive lights and alarm systems would be cost prohibitive
5 Completely Free Ways to Make Your House a Home
My favorite is Speak Kindly: "tone, attitude, and spirit go a long way to making your environment one that is comforting and a refuge away from everything else."
Costs: Speak Kindly is utterly free. Listening to music, entertaining, baking, and television viewing require electricity, devices, ingredients, etc.
10 Tried & True Tips: How to Make New Friends in a New City
As we've discussed, living in or near poverty can make friendships difficult for a wide variety of reasons—an utter shame, since friendships can be literal lifelines.
Costs: Internet access for emailing/social networks, phone for calls/texts; joining teams costs money, but joining a pickup game in the park is a free substitute
Any totally free tricks you'd like to add?
(Image credits: Mireille and Simon's Unique and Unified Berlin Apartment, photographed by Lydia Brotherton for Apartment Therapy)