You're going to need plenty of coins to keep things ticking over. Coins are used to buy the Power Pinch, Power Zap and Power Toss power-ups, mainly. Certain levels will also offer you bonus coins, so by all means stick around and grind out a little cash by repeating these levels when you feel like it.
Try to avoid falling back on your lawnmower defenses at all costs. For every lawnmower you have remaining at the end of a level, you'll receive bonus coins. If you're still stuck for the coins you need, there's always the option of turning to the in-app purchase store, but this of course will cost you real world money.
You'll earn a large number of your coins from the bonuses you get after you complete stages. A money bag filled with silver coins will drop at the end of the stage, and for every lawnmower that you have left over (they're right behind the back row of your lawn), you'll earn a silver coin as well.
Getting more coins is fairly easy. Go back to the stages that you can beat easily, and do some coin grinding. Each time you play, zombies that you kill will drop coins. Silver coins are worth 10 coins apiece, while gold coins are worth 100 coins apiece, and blue diamonds are worth 500 coins apiece, so you'll want to go to stages where you tend to earn more gold coins. Level 6 in Ancient Egypt is an excellent example of this. Blue diamonds, though, are totally random.
Stars can be earned by completing mini-games. These Stars are important as these are used to unlock the next world. Mini games include the conveyor belt mini game from the original Plants vs. Zombies, as well as other games specific to a certain world.
Tempting though it is to use all of your juicy power-ups in regular levels, you should really save these up for the far more difficult Brain Busters. With the right power-ups, even these very tricky levels can be beaten comfortably. Hang on to all of your boosts, and you'll bank those precious Stars with ease.
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