45 Frugal Living Tips From The Great Depression

During the Great Depression, every cent counted. People quickly learned how to save as much money as possible and to live on less. There are a lot of frugal living lessons that we can learn from this era so that we can stretch every dollar.

Here are 45 frugal living tips from the Great Depression.

1. Cook From Scratch

Making food at home from scratch instead of buying processed foods or prepared meals is always a good way to save money.

2. Eat at Home

Restaurants are getting more and more expensive, and avoiding them will save you a lot of money. There’s no end to what you can make at home.

3. Grow Your Own Food

You can beat the high cost of produce by growing your own at home. This can also be a fun activity that many people enjoy doing.

4. Preserve Food by Canning, Freezing, or Drying

When you’ve grown some food, you can prepare the extras so that you’ll have these foods ready when it isn’t growing season.

5. Use Leftovers

Are you in the habit of throwing out leftovers? Kick the habit and start serving up leftovers as the next meal.

6. Shop Around for the Best Prices

Not all prices are equal. You can save a lot by shopping around and finding the best prices for the things you buy.

7. Buy In Bulk

When you buy in bulk, you get a bulk discount. Buying in bulk means more money up front, but it can save you a lot in the long run.

8. Use Coupons and Discounts

Coupons and discounts are available for many stores both online and off. Digital coupons are often used at grocery stores to get the best deals.

9. Repair Clothes and Other Items Instead of Replacing Them

During the Depression, items were used for as long as possible. This can include mending your clothes and continuing to use them.

10. Make Your Own Cleaning Products and Other Household Items

It’s less expensive to make a cleaning product using simple ingredients, and it may even be healthier for your household.

11. Barter and Trade With Others

Get things the old-fashioned way by trading with others. You have plenty that you don’t need, and this can be your ticket to the things you do need.

12. Borrow Instead of Buying When Possible

There are many things that you can borrow either from the library or from friends and neighbors. Don’t buy something that you only need for a short time.

13. Take Care of Your Belongings So They Last Longer

To avoid replacement costs, take care of the things you have. Don’t think of your things as being disposable.

14. Turn off Lights and Appliances When You’re Not Using Them

Power bills are going up, and you can combat that by not using any power that you don’t need.

15. Take Shorter Showers

Both water and power are involved in your shower. Keep it short so that you aren’t spending too much to get clean.

16. Hang Clothes to Dry Instead of Using the Dryer

Hanging your clothes to dry saves you money on the use of a dryer, but it also helps save your clothes from unnecessary damage.

17. Weatherize Your Home To Reduce Energy Costs

If your home isn’t weatherized, some of the energy you pay for is simply leaking out. Keep the heat or cooling in with weatherizing.

18. Plant Trees Around Your Home To Provide Shade and Reduce Cooling Costs

Trees cool down the area around them. When your home is in that area, it can keep your home much cooler when it’s hot outside.

19. Find Free or Low-Cost Activities To Enjoy, Such as Going to the Library, Park, or Museum

There are countless things to do that are free. They can be a great way to spend your leisure time without spending your money.

20. Make Your Own Entertainment, Such as Playing Games, Reading, or Writing

These are all fun activities that you can do anywhere for little to no cost. You can do these alone or with others who want to have fun.

21. Volunteer Your Time Instead of Spending Money on Entertainment

Your leisure time is important, and spending it doing volunteer work is a great way to make that time count.

22. Walk, Bike, or Take Public Transportation Instead of Driving

Driving costs can be extremely high. Avoid those expenses as often as possible by seeking out alternative travel methods.

23. Buy Used Items Instead of New

There are many places to find used items that are in great condition. Use a website, an app, or a local group to find used items.

24. Shop at Thrift Stores and Consignment Shops

This is a great way to find used items. These stores sell a wide range of items, and you’ll pay less for them than if the items were new.

25. Sell Unwanted Items at Garage Sales or Online

If you have extra items that you don’t need, selling them is a great way to make some extra money. Use a selling app or have a garage sale to make that cash.

26. Take on a Part-Time Job or Side Hustle to Earn Extra Money

It’s easier to afford your lifestyle if you’re making some extra money on the site. Most businesses are hiring, so see what’s out there.

27. Pay Off Debt as Quickly as Possible

Paying interest is an expense you don’t need. Get your debt paid off as quickly as you can to avoid this charge.

28. Save Money for Emergencies

You need an emergency fund in case the worst should happen. Put away a little money every month to build up those savings.

29. Create a Budget and Stick To It

You need a monthly budget that will keep your spending on track. Remember to budget some money for savings each month.

30. Track Your Spending So You Can See Where Your Money Is Going

There are many ways to track your spending so you can see the bigger picture easily. Every dollar needs to be tracked so you’ll know where you can spend less.

31. Set Financial Goals and Work Towards Them

You should have a range of financial goals such as paying off debt and saving for something specific.

32. Be Mindful of Your Spending and Avoid Impulse Purchases

When you shop, go with a list. Don’t buy anything that isn’t on your list to avoid buying items you don’t need.

33. Live Below Your Means

Your budget should come in below what you make so that there’s money left over. When you live below your means, you can pay down debt and work on your savings.

Here are some additional tips that were specifically used during the Great Depression:

34. Make Your Own Bread and Other Baked Goods

When baking, buying the raw ingredients can save you a lot of money over time over buying items that are already baked.

35. Use Coffee Grounds Twice

There’s still a lot of life in coffee grounds once they’ve been used. Use them twice to save half of what you pay for your coffee.

36. Use Leftover Cooking Water To Make Soup or Broth

Cooking water can have a lot of flavor in it, so don’t let it go to waste. Make something delicious with it.

37. Turn Old Clothes Into Rags or Quilts

Once clothes are finally completely worn out, you can use them as wash rags. For quilters, they’re a great source of fabric.

38. Use a Washboard and Bucket to Wash Clothes Instead of a Washing Machine

This was done for many years, and it can still be done today. It takes some elbow grease, but it can save you money on your power bill.

39. Make Your Own Soap and Other Cleaning Products

These are easy to make at home, and you can customize them to meet your needs and preferences.

40. Raise Chickens for Eggs and Meat

Chickens are inexpensive to keep, and they can give you a lot of food for a long time.

41. Start a Garden To Grow Your Own Fruits and Vegetables

This is a time-honored way to eat healthier and save money on groceries. This can be done even in tight spaces.

42. Barter for Goods and Services With Neighbors and Friends

Your friends and neighbors have many possessions and skills, and so do you. Get together to trade to save everyone money.

43. Make Your Own Toys and Games for Children

Making toys is a fun way to provide your children with a lot of new toys without spending much money, if any.

44. Attend Free Events, Such as Church Socials and Community Gatherings

There are countless free events near you that you can use for a fun few hours out.

45. Help Out Neighbors and Friends in Need

Helping others can be extremely satisfying. It can also mean that you have people who will help you out when you’re in need.


The Great Depression was almost a century ago, but it’s still teaching us lessons. The many ways that people saved money during this desperate time can still be used today to save money, get out of debt, and have enough savings for emergencies.

All of these tips can mean the difference between meeting your financial goals and being left behind financially.

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Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.