Money-Saving Secrets from the Great Depression: Frugal Living Tips from the Great Depression That Are Relevant Today

Trying to be frugal? Maybe try copying some of the habits that people developed during The Great Depression. People during The Great Depression were known to be astoundingly frugal to make ends meet. 

Frugal Living Tips From The Great Depression

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Many families lost their homes or had to live with relatives who could afford to take them in as they struggled to find work.

Here are some frugal living tips from The Great Depression so you can save money now and avoid going broke!

First, let’s talk about some background about The Great Depression and why so many of our frugal living tips come from that era.

How the Great Depression Impacted America

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During The Great Depression, American families made do with much less than we do now! Families often lived out of their cars as they moved from place to place in search of a job.

When frugality was necessary because there wasn’t much money around, it became ingrained into the culture of the American people. A lot of these frugal ways still exist today, and you can use them to save money, too.

What Was Life Like During The Great Depression?

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Life during The Great Depression was difficult. Families often didn’t have enough money to buy food, clothes, or shelter.

Many people were forced to live in poverty, and unemployment was high. Some families even had to sell their possessions to survive.

However, many Americans also found ways to be frugal and make do with less. They frugally reused and recycled their old items, grew their own food in gardens or fruit trees, bought used clothing and furniture instead of new ones they couldn’t afford anyway, and even found ways to entertain themselves without spending money.

Modern Days

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Many frugal living tips from The Great Depression continue to be used today. They have been passed down through generations and are still in use because they work.

Just like during The Great Depression, frugality is necessary for people who can’t afford a lot of things or don’t get paid enough to make ends meet. Many families live frugally without realizing it, and there are many ways to do so.

How To Make Your Own Clothes 

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One frugal way to save money during The Great Depression was by making your own clothes. This not only saved you money on clothing but also allowed you to have unique and stylish clothes that nobody else had.

To make your own clothes, you’ll need some basic supplies like scissors, needles, thread, fabric, measuring tape, and pins. You can find fabric at your local fabric store or online.

Making Clothes

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Once you have your supplies, you can start making clothes. There are many different tutorials online that can show you how to make specific types of clothes. Or, you can just use your imagination and create your own designs.

You can also save money on material costs by making clothes out of old clothes you don’t wear anymore. Instead of throwing them away, use an article of clothing as a pattern and cut around it to make new pieces or even an entire outfit.

Frugal Recipes From The Great Depression 

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During The Great Depression, people had to get creative with their cooking in order to make do with less. They came up with frugal recipes that were easy to recreate and didn’t require a lot of ingredients or money.

Here Are a Few Frugal Recipes From the 1930s

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Potato soup: This frugal recipe is made with potatoes, onions, celery, and chicken broth. It can be served as a side dish, or it can also be used to make potato soup sandwiches.

Fried corn: This frugal recipe involves stirring butter into freshly cooked corn until the kernels are golden brown

Canned Stew: You’ll need a can of beef stew, a can of tomatoes, and some rice to make this frugal recipe

Jello: This is a frugal dessert that requires just three ingredients – gelatin, sugar, and water

Fruit Salad: you’ll need fresh fruit like apples, pears, or oranges for this frugal recipe

How To Entertain Yourself Without Spending Money

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Entertainment was a big expense during The Great Depression. People often had to find ways to entertain themselves without spending any money.

One way to do this is by playing games. There are many different types of games that you can play without spending any money, like card games, board games, or even tag.


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There are also frugal ways to entertain yourself with music. You can make your own instruments from everyday items and play them around the house or in a park.


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Another frugal way to entertain yourself is by watching the clouds or stars in the sky. You can also make your own kites and fly with them, especially near a park or beach.

Read Books

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Lastly, you can read books instead of going out to see movies. You can get free books at the library, and there are so many benefits of reading that it would be a shame not to read!

There are many ways that frugality plays an important role in frugal living. Many frugal living tips from The Great Depression can be used to entertain yourself today.

Wear Layers of Clothing To Stay Warm

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One of these tips is to wear layers of clothing to stay warm. By layering up, you can trap heat and stay cozy without cranking up the thermostat and incurring higher heating costs.

Make Meals From Scratch

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Another frugal living tip is to make meals from scratch instead of buying pre-made items. Cooking at home using basic ingredients is not only cost-effective, but it also allows you to control the quality and nutritional value of your meals.

Borrow or Trade

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Borrowing or trading for goods and services whenever possible was another common practice during The Great Depression. You can apply this tip today by borrowing or trading with friends, family, or neighbors for items or services that you need rather than buying them outright.

Repurpose Old Items Into New Ones

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Repurposing old items into new ones is also a creative way to save money. For example, you can turn an old piece of furniture into something functional and beautiful with a little DIY effort.


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Trying to barter is another frugal living tip from The Great Depression era. By bartering, you can exchange goods or services without using money, which can help you save on expenses.

Shop at Yard Sales and Thrift Stores

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Shopping at yard sales and thrift stores is also a great way to save money. You can find gently used items at a fraction of the cost of new ones, and it’s a sustainable way to shop.

Get Creative

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Get creative in developing new things that you can make or repair yourself instead of purchasing them from a store. Use these skills to help others as well, so they won’t need to purchase the items either. Getting creative in developing new things that you can make or repair yourself instead of purchasing them from a store is another frugal living tip. By honing your DIY skills, you can save money on repairs and maintenance and even create your own unique items. Additionally, using these skills to help others can also save them money and foster a sense of community.

Use Every Part

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Use every part of the animal when cooking, including bones and organs. This will help you make the most out of your money and provide some extra nutrients to your diet. During The Great Depression, using every part of the animal when cooking was a common practice. This not only maximizes the value of the animal but also provided additional nutrients to the diet. You can apply this frugal living tip by incorporating organ meats and bones into your meals, which are often cheaper than other cuts of meat and can be highly nutritious.

Use Less Meat

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Another frugal living tip from The Great Depression is to use less meat. Meat was more expensive during that time, so people relied on beans and vegetables for protein. You can adopt this practice today by incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet, which can be both budget-friendly and healthy.

Make Your Own Homemade Laundry Soap

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Finally, making your own homemade laundry soap is a simple yet effective way to save money on household expenses. With just a few basic ingredients, you can create your own laundry detergent that is just as effective as store-bought ones but at a fraction of the cost.

Frugal Tips That People Used During The Great Depression

Cortez, CO. USA, Sept. 17, 2017: Harvest Time, artist Brad Godell's 2011 mural in Cortez, Colorado, suggesting Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals during the Great Depression
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These are just a few of the many frugal tips that people used during The Great Depression to make ends meet. While some of these tips may seem a little extreme, they can actually help you save money in the long run. So if you’re looking for ways to pinch pennies, here are a few frugal living tips from The Great Depression to get you started.

This post originally appeared on A Dime Saved.

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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.

1 thought on “Money-Saving Secrets from the Great Depression: Frugal Living Tips from the Great Depression That Are Relevant Today”

  1. Enjoying a meatless meal a couple times a week is a solid menu choice. Supplement the meal with homemade bean or lentil soup, both cheap and good sources of protein. Use water that has had pasta cooked in it and add to your cooking water for beans. Cook in 1/2 cup chicken broth, add 1/4 teaspoon of oil, I globe of chopped garlic, 1/4 cup of chopped onion , I sliced carrot. Add dash of
    umin. Add enough water to cover beans for 2 hours. Cook until beans are tender. Add a bit of leftover ham or cooked bacon to the pot while beans cook. Cooked beans keep well in the fridge with a dash of cider vinegar and a quick stir.


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