frugal living tips from the great depression

22 Frugal Living Tips From the Great Depression That We Can Still Use Today to Save Money

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As inflation continues to grow, most of us feel the impact on our wallets. Our income seems insufficient, and we are forced to get creative in finding ways to save on groceries and other daily living items.

Thankfully, we have our grandparents, who are more than happy to give us advice on how their grandparents and great-grandparents lived during the great depression.

During the great depression, many lived by the motto: “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without” because frugality wasn’t a choice but a mode of survival.  

So, today we will talk about frugal living tips from the great depression that can help us get through the challenging financial situation we are all in.

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Frugal tips from the great depression

Budget your money

Budgeting helps you do more with your money. You are less likely to overspend when you know what is coming in and going out. 

Creating a monthly budget enables you to stay on track to reaching your financial goals. 

Live within your means

Don’t spend money you don’t have. If you don’t have the money to pay cash for it, you don’t need to buy it with a credit card you can’t pay back either.

Instead, use sinking funds to save for big-ticket items so that you can pay cash for them.

Use Cash Envelopes

If you are having a hard time sticking to your budget, try to use cash envelopes.  

Cash envelopes force you to stay on budget because you have a hard limit on the amount you can spend each month.  

You don’t have any more money when you spend all the money allocated for each category. This causes you to be more intentional with your spending.

Meal planning

Plan meals from what you have on hand. Take inventory of what is in your freezer, pantry, and fridge and keep it on hand as you plan out your meals.

Doing this, you only need to shop for the ingredients needed to fill in the gaps.  

Also, when you need to stock up on items for your kitchen, only buy when they are on sale. Learn the circular sale cycle to know when the best time to shop is.

frugal living tips from the great depression

Cook at home

Eating out is expensive! Cooking at home will save you a ton of money.

So, save the restaurants and take out for special occasions or budget a certain amount monthly to eat out.  

Instead, make sure to meal plan and make your dinners at home. Ways to save on food are:

  • Buy store brands rather than the more expensive brands.
  • Have meatless meals to save on meat costs.
  • Stretch your meat by making casseroles, pastas, or soups.
  • Buy bulk meats and repack them into smaller portions.
  • Use cashback apps like Ibotta to stretch your grocery budget.

Grow your own food

Produce can be costly depending on what and when you buy it. Growing your own produce and herbs is simple and can save a lot of money. 

You can plant a raised garden or a container garden to grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs you want to eat.  

If you have the land, you can raise chickens for eggs to eat. 

You could also sell the excess produce you grow as a side stream of income if you wanted.

Learn to Can

Canning is a great way to store food without refrigeration and a great way to stock your pantry with essentials.

Canning is quite simple and can be done for fruits, vegetables, sauces, jellies, and more.  

You can use produce you grow from your own garden or bulk produce from a farmer’s market.  

My favorite thing to can is jelly. It’s so simple and saves us money because jelly is a staple in our house.

Eat leftovers

Never waste food! Eat your leftovers, and if you’re not a leftover kind of person…be one. 

Think of ways to repurpose your leftovers into other meals, so you don’t get too tired of eating the same thing. Or, break the meal into two and freeze one half for a later time.

For example, suppose you roast a whole chicken and serve it with mashed potatoes. In that case, you can repurpose it into Amish chicken and waffles with mashed potatoes, chicken salad, and/or chicken noodle soup.    

A whole chicken is relatively cheaper than buying the cuts separately, and it can stretch for several meals.

Save on laundry

Laundry can be pretty costly, especially if you do what feels like a thousand loads of laundry every week. 

To save money on laundry, you can use some of these tips:

  • use a clothesline to cut down on the amount of energy your dryer consumes.
  • Wash everything in cold water.
  • Use less laundry soap and enhance with vinegar and baking soda.
  • Wear your clothes more than once, if they are not visibly dirty.

Shop used

Kids grow so fast, they are never in one size for very long. Not to mention, they’re hard on clothes (or is this just my kids?)! So, it seems pointless to buy brand new clothes when they’re not going to last very long one way or the other.  

Therefore, buying used from consignment shops, yard sales, and thrift shops can save a great deal of money.

Also, organizing Neighborhood or community swaps is a great way to get new-to-you clothing and toys and not spend anything at all.

Save your scraps

Don’t throw away any scraps! Even things you didn’t think you could use, you can find a purpose for. 

  • Vegetable scraps and meat bones make great stock that can be frozen.
  • Bacon grease can be saved to roast vegetables, pop popcorn, fry stuff, and more.
  • Potato skins can be used to make a delicious snack.
  • Orange Peels can make a great all-purpose cleaner when mixed with vinegar.
  • Apple skin and cores can be used to make DIY apple cider vinegar.

You can use most scraps in a compost bin for your garden, if nothing else.

Be conservative

We’ve all heard the proverb, “waste not, want not .” Have you ever really thought about what it means?  

It means that if you don’t waste, then you’ll never want. Think on that for a moment!

Some ways you can conserve are:

  • Squeeze every last drop from the toothpaste.
  • Use a spatula to get all the yogurt, peanut butter, and Nutella out of their containers.
  • Reuse food containers and boxes as storage instead of buying it.  
  • Limit the time you shower to save water.
  • Save bacon grease to cook with…cheap and delicious!
  • Repair small holes in clothing instead of buying new ones.
  • Wear an apron to bake/cook to save your clothing from stains.
  • Keep the temperature lower in the winter, stay warm by layering your clothing, and do the opposite in summer.
  • Save every last penny.

Learn a new skill

Learning a new skill will help you save on costs that you would usually pay someone to do. Not to mention, these skills could earn you a potential side income if you needed it (just ask a doomsday prepper)!

  • Hunting and fishing
  • Foraging 
  • Gardening and farming
  • Cooking and canning
  • Baking
  • Sewing, knitting, and crocheting
  • Mechanics and engineering
  • Medicinal and natural remedies

Do it yourself

Doing something yourself can save a good bit of money. Youtube is an awesome resource for all the DIY projects you have ever wanted to do.

Some things you can DIY to save money:

  • your own cleaning products
  • gifts for teachers, family, and friends
  • home decor
  • home repairs
  • restaurant quality meals

Learn to barter and bargain

Whether you’re at a flea market or asking for a discount at a store, bargaining is an important skill to learn if you want to save money.

Furthermore, the art of bartering can come in handy if you don’t have money but have goods or services to trade.

Choose quality over quantity

Choose quality items that will last long term instead of buying more of something for cheaper.

For example, one good pair of jeans will last you longer than a couple of cheap ones that will fall apart after a couple of washes.

The same goes for household appliances. You don’t have to get the most expensive item, but do your research and find a good quality appliance within your budget.

frugal living tips from the great depression

Find free entertainment

Try to find things to do as a family that cost little to no money.  

  • Visit local parks 
  • Have a picnic
  • Cook or bake together
  • Have a family game night
  • Have a movie marathon
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Go Hiking

You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a fun time as a family.

Borrow the things you need

If you are friendly with neighbors or live near family, try to borrow something you would usually buy, especially if you’re only using it once.

Furthermore, visit your local library. Every library is different, but they lend out more than just books. For example, some libraries have board games, video games, movies, Chromebooks, and homeschool supplies to check out.

Maintenance

Maintaining your home, cars, and appliances makes them last longer and less likely to have costly repairs or replacements sooner than needed.

Therefore, make sure to keep your maintaining what you want to last. 

Buy reusable instead of disposable

Disposable items are really convenient but a lot more expensive and basically a waste of money. 

Instead of disposable:

Repurpose & Upcycle

Repurpose things you can no longer use for their intended purpose, and upcycle things you have or find for new things you want.

For example, cut up old towels and clothing for rags to clean with, or repaint your bedroom furniture and reupholster your headboard for a cheap room makeover.  

Be Content

Change your mindset to one of being content and thankful. When you shift the way you think, you want less, and therefore you spend less.

Use it up

Lastly, use it ’til you can’t use it no more! Replacing things just for the sake of replacing them is wasteful and expensive.  

So, use what you have until it doesn’t work, and then try to fix it. If it can’t be fixed then, and only then, is it time to buy another one.

Conclusion

If we applied the same “use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without” attitude to our life, we could live within our means and reach our financial goals a little quicker.  

So, choose some of these frugal living tips from the great depression to help save you a bit more money this year.

What is your favorite old-fashioned frugal living tip? Leave a comment below!

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