Who says we have to have a poorer life? Who says that suddenly the tap gets turned off and we all have to sit in darkened rooms eating crusts?

The current belt-tightening is just another example of how the economy seems to work. First comes the boom, when people spend more than they should on things that don't make them happy. Then comes the bust, when everyone gets scared, stops spending, and believes the world is ending.

And it doesn't have to impress us. We all have more resources than we realize or use. As the biblical prophet Elijah said to a starving widow, "What hast thou in the house?" We can all create our own micro-economy, irrespective of what is going on in the country, using the proverbial pots of oil we didn't know we had.

For example, do you have a home that is costing you money and, perhaps, reducing in value right now? Make money out of it. Your driveway or garage can be rented out on Web sites such as Craigslist.org or Parkatmyhouse.com. You can rent a room, or rooms, out to students, visiting professors or local business people. In cities where space is scarce, you can even rent out your loft or basement for storage.

What are your hobbies? They could make money for you, too. If you can bake, you could sell cakes at local markets or even over the Internet. If you speak a language you could teach it. If you play an instrument well you could perform for money (hey, even busking can be lucrative!). If you're good at sports you could coach or create a money-making Web site about it or trade memorabilia.

Simply having a lot of spare time on your hands is a valuable, saleable commodity that others would pay for. One of the divisions in Western society now is between the haves and have-nots of spare time. If you are time-rich, then why not offer your services to busy professionals to sit in their home on a weekday waiting for the plumber or for a sofa to be delivered?

You can even make money out of bizarre things such as lost luggage. The Unclaimed Baggage Center in Alabama auctions off lost luggage from around the world every week. Anyone can visit, buy a suitcase, and sell it and its contents on eBay! And what about selling your snapshots online? Various Web photo agencies have sprung up that will take good photos from amateurs. Try the UK-based Picturenation.co.uk, which will sell your photos, or Scoopt.com which will even take on snaps from cell phones if they are of news events.

The Internet has created hundreds more money-making opportunities and there are many more to come. For pocket money you can take part in online surveys such as Toluna.com, get paid to search with sites such as Winzy.com, use cash-back sites such as Ebates.com to get money back when you buy goods online.

You can even make money writing blogs. Blogs are free and very easy to set up. Use Blogger.com to set up your own and start writing. You can immediately make small amounts of money by putting Google Ads on it. Many people make a living selling goods and services from their sites including photos, eBooks, workshops, and instructional DVDs.

Now, admittedly, you can't just jump in to all these money-makers immediately. Often you will have to do some preparation before making real money on the side. You may have to take a course to become proficient at training, or gain a license to sell food regularly, or get official approval to work with children. But these are small hurdles to overcome and certainly worth it for the long-term benefit.

And don't be put off by the extra time and effort you may need to put in to making more of what you've got. Necessity is not only the mother of invention but also of an expanded life. Being forced to be inventive to make some extra cash can have other benefits. It can get you out of the house and into contact with new and interesting people. It can help expand your circle of friends. You could even discover talents you didn't know you had and realize abilities you thought were the preserve of others. Your new activities can take you to places you never had a reason to go to before and, in some cases, put you in touch with cultures you never had contact with in the past.

This is not a time of straitened circumstances. This is a time of awakening, changing and improving. It's a time to find out what we have already and make the most of it.

Jasmine Birtles runs Moneymagpie.com, a Web site that shows you how to save money and make money day-to-day.