The Great Depression (1929 – 1939) was one of history’s most challenging economic times. When people thought things couldn’t get any worse, they kept going downhill.
The period was marked by increased unemployment, declining stock markets and industrial production, and global GDP decline.
With the economic status being in shambles, people had no option but to find ways to survive with the little they could put on the table.
Well, all said and done, people went through that difficult phase using frugal living tips that you could adopt in today’s difficult economic times.
There is no need to look for new ways to save money and survive on as little as possible when you can implement these frugal living tips and save so much.
Looking for some effective frugal living tips? These tips from the great depression will come in handy.
1. Grow Your Own Food
Fresh produce can be costly. Growing your own food can help you cut a huge chunk of your food costs.
To save the most, select your favorite foods, learn to grow them, and get going. For instance, if you are always cooking different potato recipes, growing potatoes can go a long way in helping your budget.
You can grow many other vegetables, fruits, and herbs in your yard or balcony. Find out what does well in your climate and embark on this empowering way to cut food costs.
2. Cook and Eat Simple, Homemade Meals
Almost every grandma I know loves to cook for their family. It is a thing they enjoy doing, and I would like to think it could be something they adopted from the Great Depression era, either by growing up in that period or being raised by parents who grew up in that period.
Talk to any of them, and they would tell you that eating out was only for treats such as on birthdays and not an everyday thing.
Plan simple meals and cook for your family. It will not only save you money. It will go a long way in helping enhance your health because you can monitor the ingredients you use in your meals.
3. Repair and Reuse Clothing and Household Items
Many people who grew up in the Great Depression knew how to sew, knit, and crochet. They would do these simple fixes on their own to save money instead of calling a professional.
To save more money, you could reuse old clothing, but in a different way. For instance, you could transform old vintage tablecloths into clothes, or old vintage blankets into hoodies, etc. It will help you give a new life to items that would have otherwise ended up in dumpsites, all while saving you money.
You also want to learn to fix household appliances to save money when minor problems arise.
4. Make Do With What You Have
You can go a week preparing meals with ingredients sitting in your pantry and freezer without having to buy anything.
When economic times are hard, or when you are trying to save, try making use of what you already have instead of buying new items.
This could go from simple food items to cleaning products, etc.
For instance, instead of buying scouring pads, you could use old aluminum foil to clean your stainless steel pans and pots. You could use vinegar to remove sweat stains. Or a colander to keep your berries fresher for longer.
Many household mishaps can be solved by using the items you already have. You do not need to buy a specific item for everything, especially for cleaning.
5. Practice Minimalism and Declutter
Minimalism is not only a great way to stay organized and stress-free. It will go a long way in helping you save money.
Embracing minimalism means buying and keeping items you cannot do without.
Once you use it, please get rid of it by selling it.
In this age where digital clutter is also a thing, you want to reduce your online footprint, as it can also result in spending your money on things that do not matter to you. This could start from daily social media usage, streaming, and music services.
Watch how much you consume, and customize it to better suit your mental and financial well-being.
6. Save and Reuse Containers and Packaging
Visiting grandma almost always means leaving with well-homemade meals in plastic ice cream containers or smoothies in large yogurt tubs.
Instead of buying disposable food containers now and then, you can use plastic food containers to carry your lunch and snacks, store food in your fridge and freezer, organize your crafts and pantry etc.
This way, you will not only save money used to buy new items, but you will also positively contribute to environmental sustainability.
7. Use Public Transportation or Carpool
Transportation is one of the biggest expenses people have. If you want to save on this cost, you may have to return to public transport like the people in the Great Depression did. During the era, many people could not afford a car. While the 1930s cars are now known for their grandeur, a normal car was an absolute luxury, and many people used public buses and trains to move around.
To begin with, the cost of buying a car today is just so high. If you are in a financial crisis, skip the entire thing and use public transport. The average cost of public transport in the most expensive cities is just above $ 1,500 per year, while the cost of maintaining a car in those cities could easily go above $10,000 per year.
You could also choose to carpool and save a massive chunk of the $10,000 if you share it with your ride mates.
8. DIY Home Repairs and Maintenance
You do not need to call a professional every time something minor happens. In fact, many plumbers and HVAC technicians admit that they sometimes get paid for straightforward fixes that anyone could do by just following simple steps.
We live in an age of information. You could literally learn and execute anything you want. You just have to invest some time and dedication, and you will never have to call in somebody to do the work for you.
Some of the simple fixes you could do include fixing leaky faucets, repairing damaged walls, fixing squeaky doors, mowing your lawns, landscaping, unblocking gutters, and changing air filters.
The national average cost of hiring a plumber is around $100 per hour and may include other charges. You could save this amount if you learned skills such as unclogging a toilet and fixing leaky showers and faucets.
9. Barter and Trade Goods and Services
Bartering goods and services can go a long way in helping you save so much money, all while fostering a great sense of community with friends and neighbors.
You just have to establish a double coincidence of wants and then foster a relationship that will help both parties save money.
For instance, if your friend has a big kitchen garden, they could offer you some surplus products while you offer them agreed hours of childcare. This way, you will spend less on buying food, and they will spend less on hiring a nanny.
It could go from simple household items to home care and maintenance services such as cleaning to professional services such as designing, sewing, accounting, etc.
10. Prioritize Needs Over Wants
The thing with living in an economic crisis is things can quickly worsen when you expect them to start improving. This is why you should always have money for a backup when things go downhill.
To do this, do not spend your money on things you do not need. Plan carefully, and only buy the things you cannot do without.
Consider saving and investing all your money for the unpredictable future.
Some of the wants you want to stop buying include new gadgets every time they are launched, new clothes every other month, expensive coffee and beverages every day, and unnecessary household items and decor typically publicized as “must-haves” on social media,
11. Save and Invest Wisely
Saving and investing your money wisely can help cushion you in the future give you a financially independent life, and a comfortable retirement.
First, learn to save your money before spending the rest on your monthly expenses. It is also recommended to save in accounts that will let you enjoy compound interest in the years to come.
You, however, have to have a clear goal as to why you are saving. Saving with clear goals gives you the motivation and path to keep pushing to achieve your goals.
In investing, you are better off researching well and finding different ways to make your money work for you. Find investment options with a great appreciation history and consult about investing in them. Be sure to diversify your investment portfolio to cushion yourself from depreciation.
12. Embrace a “Waste Not, Want Not” Mindset
Embracing a “Waste Not, Want Not” mindset was an essential survival concept during the Great Depression. This principle still holds immense value today.
It involves minimizing waste by making the most of every resource.
In the 1930s, people reused, repaired, and repurposed items to extend their lifespan. This practice reduces not only waste but also unnecessary spending. People used items such as soap and candles to the last drop. Even more, people used newspapers and any kind of paper as their toilet paper to cut costs.
Modern interpretations include recycling, upcycling, and repairing instead of replacing. By minimizing waste and adopting a sustainable approach, you save money and contribute positively to the environment.
13. Use Coupons and Shop Sales
While coupons have evolved over the years, their usage was just as useful as they are today.
People looked in the newspapers for coupons, often doubling their value.
Today, this practice remains relevant with digital coupons and cashback apps. Smart shoppers watch sales events, utilizing loyalty programs and price-comparison websites to maximize their savings.
The key is planning purchases around these opportunities, ensuring that essential items are bought at reduced prices. Adopting this timeless frugal habit can significantly reduce your grocery bills and household expenses, making every dollar count in challenging economic times.
14. Make Homemade Cleaning Products
People on a budget can have difficulty keeping up with the consumerist society encouraging people to buy a different cleaning product for every house surface.
If you want to cut cleaning product costs, consider making your own at home.
Studies have shown that homemade cleaning products can be as good as commercially made ones if you use the right ingredients and learn the correct process and portions.
In fact, they would be more gentle on your hands and the environment compared to commercial cleaning products.
You can go beyond products like floor and toilet cleaner, bleach, fabric softener, and laundry detergent. Learning to make products such as shampoos, shower gels, and hair conditioners will help you save so much more.
15. Share Resources With Neighbors and Community Members
Whether it is repair tools, camping equipment, or household appliances, sharing items with your neighbors can help everyone save some money.
It could also reduce wastage. For instance, if you have surplus food or have had a bumper harvest from your kitchen garden, sharing it with your neighbor could help you reduce wastage and help the neighbor save some money.
The next time the neighbor extends such a favor to you, it will also help you save some bucks.
Frugal Living Tips From the Great Depression
These frugal living tips will help you save money, go through difficult financial times, or progress toward your financial goals. If they worked for people back then, they would certainly work well for you.
Pick what works well for you, and customize it to suit your needs and goals. While it may mean putting in a little more effort and dedication, the money you save in the process would be worth every minute.
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This article was produced and syndicated by A Dime Saved.