Frugal Living Tips from the Great Depression

Tips from Great Depression

16 Tips from the Great Depression that will help you be more Frugal!

The Great Depression taught our grandparents so much about being frugal and making a dollar stretch. The money saving lessons they learned during that time changed the way they lived their lives forever.

In the world we live today, it is hard to imagine the dire poverty so many of our ancestors faced during the great depression. The lines of people standing, waiting, in soup lines for their one meal of the day almost seem foreign to our booming economy and high consuming society.

Yet, it happened, as we all know. And the people who lived during that time had to make every dollar, every penny, stretch as far as it could go.

I know the slogan “Use It Up, Wear It out, Make it do, or do without” actually came to being during World War 2. But I can’t help but feel that the people who lived in the great depression would agree with that sentiment.

“Use It Up, Wear It out, Make it do, or do without”

And even though we live in a different time, we can definitely take the frugal tips and lessons learned from those who lived in the great depression, and apply them today. Doing so will go a long ways in helping us to save money and reach our financial goals overall.

So what are some of the best frugal living tips from the great depression? Well, I am glad you asked!

Turn Off the Lights

I am getting after my kids all the time to turn off the light when their leave their rooms. Even the simple act of turning off lights in rooms you aren’t using will help the save energy, and your electric bill.

Put on a Sweater

I know it is so tempting to turn up the heater when it gets cold. But growing up we were told to put on a sweater to help us stay warmer, rather than use more fuel in the furnace. I still use this mentality in my home to save on our natural gas bill from heating the house. And when we had electric heating it was a huge money saver.

Learn to Cook At Home

You can bet that during the great depression, they weren’t eating out a lot. Learning how to meal plan, grocery shop, and cook at home can save so much on your monthly food bill.

Yes, cooking at home takes time and planning, but it is a relatively easy way to cut expenses and save money.

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Learn to Sew and Mend Clothing

When a piece of clothing pops a seam, or loses a button, it can be tempting to toss it and buy something new. But if it is a simple mending issue, learn to fix it yourself.

A needle and thread and a small lesson from a friend or family member is a lot cheaper than a whole new item. I can’t tell you how many of my husband’s dress shirts I have revived by simply sewing on a button again.

Don’t Buy New

In the great depression, there was no money to purchase new clothing. And even today, new doesn’t mean better. Look for ways to purchase clothing that is good quality but not necessarily new–garage sales, thrift stores, facebook marketplace are just some examples.

We also do not purchase name brand clothing–I’m not willing to pay extra for a logo if it isn’t necessary.

Learn to Fix small things yourself.

I recently attended a Youth Group Acitivity where a plumber came and talked about what he does. He said that sometimes he will spend 10 seconds in a customer’s house–walk in, fix the small issue with the toilet and walk out. But those 10 seconds counts as a house call. And each house call cost $135 to the home owner!!!

Can you imagine the hundreds, even thousands, of dollars you can save by learning to do some easy home repairs yourself?! And where can you learn this stuff? Family and friends.

And if that doesn’t work? YouTube is a wealth of information for DIY fixing. I learned how to switch out a bathroom sink faucet, and how to rewire a chandelier, by watching YouTube. 

Seriously, make use of the information so available on the internet and learn some basic house maintenance. You will save so much money!

Wash clothing less often

Washing your clothing too often actually contributes to them getting worn out more quickly.

So don’t automatically toss your clothing in the dirty laundry after the first use. Is it really dirty? Does it still look/smell clean? If so, stick it back in the drawer for another day’s use.

Wash Laundry in Cold Water

I have a confession–I pretty much wash EVERYTHING in cold water. Except our towels. Those get the hot water.

Cold water helps prevent clothing from shrinking and it uses less energy to run a load in cold water. Less energy used is less money spent. And less money spent is more money saved.

Stop using Disposables

During the great depression, they did not get rid of anything! Remember grandma saving that tin foil? Or grandpa saving used nails from wood boards? Save and reuse was the name of the game.

There are lots of items that could fall into this disposable category, that aren’t truly necessary.

For example, I don’t purchase paper towels, or dish sponges. I use crocheted dish cloths for hand washing dishes, and wiping down my kitchen, which I then toss in the washing machine and use until they are basically in shreds.

I also store leftover food in quality food storage containers so they stay fresh as long as possible. This all saves money in the long run.

Eat those leftovers

Speaking of leftovers…Do you have some dinner that didn’t get all eaten? Don’t just throw it out.

In the great depression everything that was available to eat was eaten! Save your leftovers and use it as lunch for the next day. Or have one night a week where you eat leftovers for dinner.

Food that is just thrown away is wasted and you may as well be throwing money away.

Wear An Apron

I always forget this when working with pasta sauce, and then always regret it! Aprons really do protect your clothing, and help keep you from needing to wash your clothing as often.

There are so many cute aprons available these days. Do yourself, and your clothing, a favor–find a cute apron and wear it!

Grow Your own food

Starting a garden and learning to grow your own food is an amazing way to save on produce.

Even if you have a small area, so many vegetables and herbs can be grown in small pots on a balcony or in a kitchen window. 

And food grown in your own garden area is so fresh and flavorful! Starting does not have to be hard, and there are so many resources now to help you get started!

Make Your Own Cleaning Products

There has been a big push lately on more natural, safer, cleaning products. Using vinegar, hot water, and a splash of lemon can work just as effectively as the more chemical products for cleaning.

And I do know that baking soda and water make an amazing scrubbing paste for difficult stains. Plus these options are so much nicer to your wallet!

Be content with what you have

Honestly, one of the best ways to be frugal and save money is to learn to be content, and grateful, for what you have.

Having this mentality will help you better realize wants vs needs. So much of what we spend money on in our society is really based on “wants”, not true needs.

When you appreciate what you have you will be less tempted to spend so much on the wants.

Save For It

Is it time for a larger purchase? Take your time and save for it to pay for it in cash. Why?

Well, when you buy it on credit, you are paying interest. Which means you are paying MORE for the item than it is actually worth (sometimes 2-3x times what the item is actually worth).

Plus, when you take the time to save up, you have the time to evaluate all the options and get the best deal and option for you. There is no rush to make a choice in the moment.

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Let Your Clothes Air Dry

Growing up, my grandma had a clothes line outside. Today, I have a bunch of hangers on a rod in my laundry room.

I don’t air dry everything–socks, underwear and towels feel too stiff when air dried. But shirts, pants, dresses–they all get hung up to dry. Why?

This helps to use less energy with the Dryer. Also, I have had too many clothes get shrunk in the dryer! It is so frustrating! So eventually I started air drying most of my clothes, and my kids pants too. It saves energy, money, and frustration.

Final Thoughts on Frugal Lessons from the Great Depression

There you are! 16 great frugal tips that are great grandparents learned from the Great Depression, which we can still use today.

Applying even just a few of these tips will really help in your frugal journey, and in working to save more money.

Do you have any other tips from the Great Depression you would like to share? Or do you have a favorite from this list? Let me know in the comments!

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Frugal Living Tips from the Great Depression

Frugal Living Tips from the great depression