Rest of the Best: The 10 Best Houston Life Hacks

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Sometimes the key to winning at life is finding ways to circumvent the normal method of living. Like an old NES game, you just have to have the cheat code. Today we're going to look at ten things that make living in Houston a little bit easier and more fun.

Star Pizza Do you always take the free cheese and pepper that Star Pizza hands out with their pies even though you don't really put them on the pizza? Save those and add them to a regular old spaghetti dish for some extra style and flavor. It's perfect for someone single looking to spice up a cheap meal.

Oh, and when Thanksgiving rolls around be sure to pick up some barbecue sauce from Goode Co. to apply to your turkey leftovers. You will not regret it.

Whataburger Houston's Medical Center runs 24-hours a day, which means that a lot of people have somewhat loopy schedules. For them, Whataburger is your friend. They start serving breakfast at 11 p.m., and you get you're A-1 Thick and Hearty Burger at the crack of dawn. It definitely makes adjusting to the night shift a little easier.

Avoid the Pierce Elevated Few roads in Houston get more congested than the Pierce Elevated, but if you're just passing through and not actually looking to get into Midtown then there's a handy way around it. Use the 59 to I-10 ramps to make a little triangle route around the congestion. It's a little further, but almost always less crowded at rush hour.

Transtar Speaking of traffic, there is no excuse for not having the Houston Transtar.org map open in Safari on your phone before you ever get on the road. Green means "Go", and red means "Hell no!". You'll save yourself a ton of hassle by checking it at the start of every journey.

Houston Public Library As reported last week, Houston is losing its last full-service sheet music store. Where can you go now for a wide variety of sheet music? The main branch of the Houston Public Library actually has a pretty good selection, plus borrowing is free. On top of that, they even loan out DVDs, CDs, and video games now. Provided you don't mind the drive, the Library is great for tons of free entertainment.

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Houston Zoo Houston is in the running to have the best zoo in America, and with that kind of excellence comes crowds. Big crowds. Anyone that's spent an hour cursing under their breath trying to find a parking space at the zoo knows the feeling. The best way to experience the zoo is to plan on arriving an hour before opening. Take a picnic breakfast and feed the ducks on the edge of the lake or something, then you'll be able to get at least two solid hours in the coolest part of the day experiencing the zoo when it opens, ready to leave just as the bulk of the tourists come in.

Memorial City Mall Playground Another way to beat the coming heat is to look for good indoor playgrounds. If you're on a budget my personal pick is the one inside the Memorial City Mall. It's huge, free, air conditioned, gated, and staffed by a security guard to keep it from getting crowded and to make sure kids don't wander off. Plus, there are plenty of cheap places to eat nearby.

Tin Foil Every summer in Houston is like a punishment from an angry god thanks to the heat, but there's a really simple way to stave off the worst of your air conditioning bills. Tin foil on your windows makes for a perfect black out curtain, and reflects the sunlight right back out of your house on top of that. Make sure you're not annoying your neighbors by shining light in their eyes, though.

Memberships I mentioned the zoo earlier, but Houston is also home to several first-rate museums. They can be a tad on the pricy side though if you're paying one visit at a time. For Christmas, make it a point to get memberships to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the zoo, and the Children's Museum. All of them pay for themselves within three visits. If even that is out of your price range, both the Children's Museum and the HMNS offer free admission on Thursday afternoons.

Meyerland A lot of people really don't want to live outside the 610 Loop, but man rent inside it has gotten up there. Where can you live that's close to everything and not break the bank? Meyerland. It's on the Loop, has quick access to Richmond (Way better for getting in and out of town than Westheimer), and the rent can be half of what you'd pay closer in. Plus, many are utilities included, which can help save a fortune in the long run.

Hopefully a few of these tricks manage to make your stay in H-Town a little easier.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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