Illustration by Camille.

Illustration by Camille.

It’s 2015, and we’ve survived yet another lazy twirl on our planet’s axis. We’ve aged exactly 365 days, and we know so much more about life than we did last year! Street smarts? We got ’em. School and jobs and relationships? No sweat. We did it! We’re here!

But what’s that? You think there’s more you could learn? You think there’s more to accomplish in life than learning how to fake being sick and fart without detection? Ahhh—you’re probably right. Good thing we’ve updated Rookie’s annual list of Life Skills to master in the coming months of this brand-new year—let’s get to honing these techniques!

1. Breaking Down a Door

Let’s say you’re babysitting a one-year-old by yourself and it’s going really well. After lunch, you notice the trash is full. You lift out the bag and quickly pop from the kitchen to the big garbage cans in the garage while keeping one eye on the kid, who is still strapped in her eatin’ chair. You struggle a bit to get the trash bag into the bin. When you look up, the door leading into the kitchen is swinging shut. You run over, yelling “NONONONO,” but it closes with a gentle click. It’s too late. The door is locked! It locks automatically. Your phone is inside. So is the baby. Not only do you not know where any spare house keys are, but you need to get inside NOW, because you can’t leave a baby alone, even for a very short period of time. Did you check the front and back door? Are they locked? OK. Are there any neighbors really really nearby? No? OK. Deep breaths.

Here we have a it-could-happen-to-anyone situation in which you might need to break down a door. A fire would be another instance—really, any emergency where a door is separating you or another person from getting to safety is a potential breaking-and-entering situation. Screw the expense of the door: You need to get somewhere NOW, so let’s do this.

Is the door made of wood, plastic, laminate, or particle board? That is GREAT NEWS for door-breakers. If it’s metal, that’s less good, but you might still be able to open it if you kick hard enough. Now: Does the door swing away from you when it opens, or towards you? Away from you is good: You can probably break the door open. Towards you is bad: You won’t be able to break the door open, and you need to either figure out another way to get into the house, or run until you find someone who can help you call 911.

If the door swings away from you when it opens, stand a few feet away from the door and brace one of your legs behind you. Pretend it’s a tree—that’s how firmly you need to plant your back heel into the ground.

Locate where the lock is on the door. That’s where the door will most likely break. Putting all your strength into your kicking leg, kick NEXT to the lock as hard as you can with your heel. Don’t kick the actual lock—you’ll just hurt yourself. KICK NEXT TO THE LOCK! Go! Kick it hard! Nothing happened? Do it again, but this time, try kicking directly underneath the doorknob. Where is the door’s weakest spot? FIND AND KICK THAT SPOT. You want the lock to break, or the door itself to splinter and break.

Under no circumstances should you:

  • Try to bust the door open with your shoulder (hello, dislocated shoulder and door that still doesn’t open).
  • Run at the door at top speed, then try to kick it (you’ve seen too many martial arts movies—standing still is way more effective).
  • Use your elbow to wham the door open (you will break your elbow, not the door).

If you can’t kick the door down after say, five attempts, abandon this idea and move on to Plans B and C: finding another way into the house (are there any windows open?) or locating someone else as fast as you can and calling 911 with their phone.

I hope you never have to use this life skill, but now you know what to do just in case! And obvs don’t practice this on the door to your room, ’kay?

2. Eating for a Week on $10

Let’s hope it doesn’t happen, BB (and maybe it already has), but it’s entirely possible that, at some point, you will be broke. Really broke, not like, “Haha, I have to stop eating out so much, I’m so poor,” broke, but, “Oh my god, once my landlord cashes my rent check, I’ll have $12 left and payday isn’t till next Friday,” broke. Broke in a waking-up-in-a-cold-sweat broke. I promise, it happens to the best of us. **Eyes your sandwich hungrily**

Don’t worry! If you are temporarily so broke that you are literally worrying about having enough to eat, and you don’t have any financial help at all, and that includes someone to borrow $$$ from or having access to a credit card (it is OK to use credit cards to feed yourself, my hungry bunnies), there are ways to streeeeeetch $10 into a week’s worth of food. Your menu might be a little boring, but it beats the pants off not eating at all.

First: Stop eating out. No dollar menu at McDonalds, no vending machines, no soda pops, nothing. You must make all your food at home to make it last a week, so take your $10 to the grocery store. Do you have a discount grocery store in your town, or a supermarket generally known to have lower prices than the others? Go there. No Whole Foods, and (sorry) no organic anything, unless you can find organic produce majorly on sale. This is about your survival, and your survival for a week on $10 does not include apples that cost $1 each. Wherever you go, bring coupons—you can print them out, find them at the front of some stores, and cut them out of weekly newspaper inserts.

Head to the produce section, and follow the sale stickers like a moth fluttering towards the light: Is there a shelf where slightly bruised or weird-shaped produce is hanging out? Slightly damaged produce is where it’s at. There’s nothing nutritionally wrong with it, but it’s often discounted by 50 percent or more. This is a great way to add variety to your about-to-be-seriously-limited diet.

Even at full price, bananas are usually really cheap, like 69 cents a pound, and they’re a good, nutritious breakfast food. A pound of bananas will freeze nicely if you want to make smoothies, with, say, a quart of milk or soy that you’ve found a coupon for. Carrots are also usually really cheap, like 60 to 80 cents a pound. Buy the cheapest potatoes you can: Potatoes usually cost between $1 to $3 for a five-pound bag. A boiled potato is full of Vitamin C, potassium, and lots of other trace minerals you need to survive—pop a potato in a pot of water and boil it, then drain, mash, and add anything you can get your hands on to make it as tasty as possible: shredded cheese, butter (if you have these things), salt, pepper…thank you, apple of the earth!

If you’re not vegan, get the cheapest carton of eggs you can find. I know we usually want cage-free and free-range, but not today. Today, we want a dozen eggs for around $1.50. Eggs are little shells full of life-giving protein—in fact, they’re one of the cheapest ways to get enough of it. Fry them in a pan, scramble them, make an omelet with your discount-shelf veggies—eggs are a nutritious meal at any point in your day.

Now: It’s all about beans and rice, baby. Buy a two- or three-pound bag of dried red, pinto, or black beans. They usually cost less than a dollar per pound. Then, get several pounds of rice—a three-pound bag of rice at my local discount supermarket is under $2. At home, soak a pound of beans in a big pot of water overnight—you need to rehydrate them before you cook them into tasty, tender morsels. When you’re ready to eat the next day, boil a cup of rice in two cups of water on your stove, drain and add the beans and any delish spices you might have on hand, like pepper, salt, and/or garlic powder. Cook it until the rice is fluffy (about 20 minutes), and hey: You have yourself a complete meal, with plenty of your ingredients left to make it several times over and get you through the week, no problem. I mean, it’ll be boring, but you won’t starve.

Other super-cheap lifesavers to consider:

  • Plain oatmeal in bulk, $1–$3 for a pound
  • Day-old bread, $0–$1 for a loaf. Sometimes stores will just give it to you if you ask nicely!
  • A large brick of generic or store-brand cheddar cheese bought on sale, $2–$2.50
  • Ramen. Although this is a super salty choice, it is really cheap—like 10-cents-a-serving-cheap.
  • Pasta, $1–$1.50. A one-pound box or package of pasta can last you for several meals, and a package of spaghetti can last daaaays if you stick to the serving suggestion on the package. That’s four to eight servings!
  • Two or three cheap cans of tuna, $1 or less each
  • Generic or off-brand peanut butter bought on sale, $2 or so for an eight-ounce jar
  • Chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes. Use them to make broth, and add your discount-shelf veggies to make soup.

Finally, get creative! Hang out at a less-poor friend’s house and, with their blessing, eat all their snacks. Scrounge for free food: Is anyone giving out free samples? Is the grocery store offering cubes of cheese on a tray? Take a handful. Is there a bakery near you that gets rid of day-old bread or bagels for almost nothing? Is there a classroom or meeting room near you where they’re all having sandwiches or pizza brought in? There will probably be leftovers! GET THEM. You can do this! You can make it through a super lean week, and you’ll come through with the confidence that you can take care of yourself in a financial emergency.

3. Removing Salt Stains on Boots

Isn’t the winter in cold climates beautiful? The fluffy flakes tumbling past your window, the sparkle of ice on the tree branches in the morning….and the inevitable, annual Ruining-of-Your-Shoes Festival, when road salt leaves big white crusty splotches on every pair of leather and fake-leather shoes you own. If you live in the cold, you know: There’s nothing you can really do. The salt stains don’t come off, and you are stuck with wrecked boots and booties and heels forever.

….Or are you?

Guess what? I KNOW AN EASY TRICK TO REMOVE IMPOSSIBLE-TO-REMOVE SALT STAINS AND HOLY COW IT’S SO EASY. It’s so simple that I’m mad I didn’t learn about it until last year. This works for all types of leather and fake leather shoes, including suede and pleather, even on sneakers.

All you need:

  • One cup of cold water
  • One tablespoon (plus a dash more) of regular white vinegar
  • A rag or old towel

How to do it:

1. Pour the water and vinegar in a bowl and stir the mixture with a spoon.

2. Dip the rag into the mixture.

3. Gently rub or buff the salt stains on your shoes until they vanish.

4. Let your shoes air-dry.

Voilà! Perfectly salt-free boots in the dead of winter! Spread the good word and become a hero to your neighbors: I work in a Chicago office with hundreds of people between the ages of 21 and 35, and judging from the sad, salt-encrusted boots on 98 percent of my coworkers, NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT THIS.