Frugal Living Tips from the Great Depression
If there’s one era in human history that people could take so many lessons from, especially when it comes to frugality, it would probably be the Great Depression.
The Great Depression took place between late 1929 to early 1933. It started off with a crash of the stock market and was followed by massive unemployment in the US and around the world.
But hey, I’m not here to talk about history per se, but what history has taught us. It is likely that your grandparents or grandparents have lived during this turbulent period, and they saw firsthand how helpful it was to follow frugal living tips from the Great Depression.
You might think that frugal living tips from the Great Depression are a bit too extreme and do not fit the modern lifestyle. But with what’s happening in the world right now, it seems that history is repeating itself. A lot of people are struggling financially due to the pandemic, so if there’s a better time to use frugality to save money, it would be NOW.
I hope that you’ll learn a thing or two from this post that you can incorporate into your daily life to save money. We never know what the future holds so it’s better that we prepare ourselves for another economic crisis like the Great Depression.
If you want to learn more about my favorite frugal living tips, head over to this post: How to Live Frugally: 50 Best Frugal Living Tips for 2021.
Top Frugal Living Tips From The Great Depression
Table of Contents
People who have lived through the Great Depression have some important money lessons to teach us. Although they lived in a very different time, these financial hacks will teach us how to be frugal especially when income is limited.
1. Cook your own food
It’s so easy nowadays to order take-out and have ready-cooked meals. But this convenience comes with a price. Our grandparents and great-grandparents weren’t very big about eating out.
Instead, they make their own meals at home. After all, cooking food from scratch allows us to control our ingredients and portions. This helps them save more money and put those savings into other necessities.
2. They didn’t buy with credit
Credit wasn’t very popular in the Great Depression. People paid with cash, so they are only limited to purchases that their money could buy. With that, they also learned to live within their means. They didn’t spend more than they can afford and avoided debts at all costs.
3. Keep a garden
Gardening was common in the times of the Great Depression. Since a lot of people weren’t making much money, they needed to put food on the table using inexpensive means, and gardening was the best solution. People were able to eat fresh produce and which was also nutritious too. Today, you can still keep a garden and grow your own food even with limited space by growing them in small pots and containers.
4. Learn how to sew
When clothes get torn or ripped, our grandparents don’t automatically toss them into the trash can. Instead, they take their thread and needle and then start mending the clothing. Learning how to sew is a practical life skill all of us can use. If you have no idea how to do it, you can take a look at the basic sewing tutorials on the internet.
5. Do it yourself
Our grandparents were keen on learning everything so they wouldn’t have to buy everything brand new. When something was broken, they didn’t throw it away. They would fix it. That’s probably why a lot of old people would prefer to drive their cars to the ground or wait until their couch gives up before replacing them. They also didn’t spend on labor. Whatever they can do themselves, whether that’s painting the walls, paving the tiles, or fixing the doors — they did it.
6. Don’t waste anything
People who lived during the Great Depression knew how to save everything and not waste anything. They recycled things instead of throwing them away. Even biodegradable materials went straight to compost to beef up their garden soil. These people made sure to consume everything up to the last drop and never threw anything away.
7. Make crafts
Instead of buying ready-made, a lot of our grandparents were into crafts. Apart from the personal touch, making crafts proved to be a lot cheaper. It helped ease their boredom away as well at a time when entertainment was somewhat limited.
8. Layering to keep warm
You know how much heating can add up to your utility bills, so our grandparents were wise enough to bundle up their clothing during the cold months to keep themselves warm. They even used chicken feathers to keep their bodies warm. While we won’t have to go to that extent to survive the cold winter days, it helps to wear a pair of fuzzy socks, a few layers of jacket, and hide under a thick blanket during nighttime.
9. Reduce meat consumption
Meat is expensive, so our older folks knew how to make healthy and delicious meals with little to no meat. Instead, they put in meat substitutes like tofu and used filling ingredients like oats. You may also want to go meatless some days of the week.
10. Freeze or can extra food
Look out whenever your favorite fruits and vegetables go in season and buy a lot of them. While you may not be able to use them all fresh, you can freeze or can some of them for future use. Having enough supply of fruits and vegetables, even when they’re frozen or preserved can be a great way to save money on food.
11. Use rainwater
You can conserve water by saving rainwater into a barrel. Although this may not be used to cook, rainwater is good enough to water plants or wash your car.
12. Line-dry your clothes
Our grandparents didn’t have a washer and dryer, so they washed their clothes manually. Right now, we have the luxury to use a dryer to dry clothes quickly, but that’s at the expense of the increased utility bill. You can reduce energy consumption by drying your clothes on the line during a warm day. Plus, your clothes will smell fantastic!
13. Find free hobbies
We are now bombarded with different hobbies that require some money to partake in. Pasttimes like Netflix require a subscription. However, our grandparents didn’t have to pay for their hobbies. You can consider free activities like hiking, walking, and camping instead. If you like to entertain, you can go to a local library, watch a free movie or enjoy a potluck with friends instead of eating out.
14. Rent it out
In the old days, people rented out spare bedrooms to make some money. Yes, renting is popular even before Airbnb came into the picture. So, if you have an extra bedroom at home, consider getting tenants. Or, you could take in a roommate so you could split the costs of your rent.
Another thing you can consider renting out is your car. Luckily, there are now a number of apps where you can list your car for rent.
15. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk is an old-age money-saving hack that still works today. You can do the same too, for things like rice, pasta, flour, and other food staples that you use often and don’t spoil right away.
16. Bring lunch
Eating lunch outside can be a huge budget-breaker, so our grandparents brought lunch to work to save some money. You can make easy and cheap lunches and bring them to work or school so you don’t have to spend on over-expensive cafeteria meals.
17. Cook in batches
Cooking in batches is not just a huge money saver, but also saves you time in the kitchen. A lot of people practiced batch cooking during the Great Depression as well, especially those who have larger families. You can assign a day on the weekend to prepare meals for the entire week, so you only need to thaw and heat during mealtimes.
18. Make your things last
Taking care of your things means they’ll last longer, and they wouldn’t require the extra expense of repairing or replacing. Remember to wipe your shoes right away so that dirt and dust wouldn’t accumulate. Store your bags in safe places to prevent them from fading or getting dusty. Keep your valuables away from conspicuous places to avoid them getting stolen.
19. Opt for reusable products
Disposable things are very convenient nowadays. But our grandparents have always used reusable ones because they can keep using the same thing over and over again, which helps them save money. Instead of consuming loads of paper towels which ultimately get thrown away after one use, you can use cleaning cloths as well.
Also consider using cloth diapers in lieu of disposable diapers, and refilling water tumblers instead of buying bottled water.
20. Take advantage of hand-me-downs
Our grandparents were very excellent at taking care of their stuff that they get handed down from one sibling to the next. Clothes, shoes, toys and other things are just some of the things you can get as a hand-me-down from other family members. But you can explore other options as well, such as a baby stroller from a friend, a decent couch from a cousin or kitchen cookware from your mother.
Old-fashioned Frugal Living in the Modern Times
These frugal living tips from the Great Depression may seem old-fashioned, but they are truly golden nuggets of wisdom that allow us to find contentment in what we have. These personal finance hacks may seem like extreme frugal living tips, but they have helped people get through tough economic times.
They can still very well apply today, whether you’re looking to save more money, increase your household income, pay down debt, or more. So if you want to find more of these frugality hacks, go ask your grandparents and other old folks! They’ll surely have something valuable to share with you.
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