Some advice never gets ‘s old. Here are 47 depression-era frugal tips that will help you save money on the everyday little things.
Do you feel that frugality is a dying art?
Or maybe you already put into practice many of the following frugal ideas.
Necessity meant that our grandparents (or great-grandparents, or parents, depending on your age), had to be frugal. And they had to stretch every penny as far as possible.
We rarely have to go to such lengths, but we can learn a thing or two from our older generations about saving money.
There’s one common theme that runs through all of the following depression era frugal tips, and it’s this: waste nothing.
In a time of scarcity, no one could afford to waste a thing.
In some ways it was easier back then: things were built to last, and they were built to be repaired.
Now things are designed to be wasted. But that doesn’t mean we have to buy into the consume-and-waste cycle. It just means we have to be a bit more savvy with how we spend our money and what we do with the things we buy.
The frugal tips from our grandparents are even more relevant than ever.
Depression Era Frugal Tips
1. BUY LESS – Spending begets spending. Sometimes it feels like the more you buy, the more you need. Spending less stops this cycle.
2. MAKE DO – the flip side of buying less is to make do with what you have. That means getting creative with what you have already.
3. DIY – We’ve lost a lot of the skills we used to have. DIYing is a great way to gain back those skills. Learn to lay tiles or pavers, paint, hang pictures or doors.
4. MAKE YOUR OWN – Need a new dining table? Or a new bed frame? Why not try your hand at making your own. Have you seen the Ana White website? Lots of amazing free projects that show a woman is a just as capable with a hammer and saw!
5. REPAIR – It’s too easy (and often cheaper, unfortunately) to toss what’s broken and buy a new one. But if you can, repair instead of replace. It reduces landfill, which is also an important consideration.
6. MAINTAIN WHAT YOU HAVE – One of the most important ways to save money is to maintain what you own so that it lasts as long as possible. A maintenance schedule helps you keep track of maintenance tasks. A stitch in time…
7. REPURPOSE REUSE – In the past, nothing was thrown away, everything had a second or even third life. Bread bags can be used as freezer bags or garbage bags. Old clothes can use cut down into new clothes or used in quilting or in cut into rags (saving the buttons and zips of course). Containers, jars and boxes can be repurposed for storage.
8. DITCH DISPOSABLES – On the other hand, the first ‘R’ in the maxim is reduce, so it’s better to avoid than reuse or repurpose. Disposables force you to spend money on the same thing week in, week out. Reusable alternatives mean you have a once of payment, saving you money over the years.
9. MEND CLOTHING – and make it last as long as possible.
10. SEW YOUR OWN – and if you make your own clothing, linen, bedspreads etc., you’ll be more likely to want to make it last as long as possible after putting in all that work.
11. BUY SECOND HAND – and save you money, reduce consumption and keep things out of landfill.
12. WEAR AN APRON – an apron will protect your clothes from stains, helping them to last longer.
13. LEARN A HANDICRAFT OR TWO – handicrafts make useful hobbies. Avoid boredom and end up with something useful as an end product.
14. INCLUDE HOME REMEDIES – I’m not against modern medicine, it’s a wonderful thing and we use it a lot. But there’s a place for home remedies too, and they can be just as effective as modern medicine or compliment modern medicine when it comes to symptoms management.
15. CLEAN NATURALLY – Natural, homemade cleaners are usually just as effective as chemical cleaners, but they are cheaper and reduce the toxic load in the home.
16. USE A HOT WATER BOTTLE – a cheaper way to warm the bed and stay warm in winter.
17. PUT ON A JUMPER – layer layer layer before turning on the heating.
18. SPEND MORE TIME OUTSIDE – too hot inside? Take your inside work outside and enjoy a cool breeze in the shade.
19. HAND WASH – rather than relying on the washing machine all the time. If you’ve ever wondered how to wash clothes without electricity, here’s how to do it.
20. WEAR CLOTHES MORE THAN ONCE – if the clothes aren’t dirty, wear them again before washing and reduce the number of washes you do.
21. WEEKLY WASH DAY – having a weekly wash day may seem a bit out-dated, but in a time when people wash towels and clothes every single day washing things like towels and linen weekly instead of daily will reduce your number of washes.
22. HANG CLOTHES TO DRY – instead of using the dryer. Raining? Here are some ways to dry clothes without a dryer.
23. BAKE WHEN THE OVEN IS ON – make the most of the oven and throw in a slice or some bickies while you’re baking something else.
24. HAVE A BAKING DAY – Ever read old books and they’ve always got a chocolate cake or some bickies in a tin in the pantry. That’s thanks to the weekly bake day. We have the benefit of being able to freeze our baking for later.
26. SAVE GREASE – and cook your food in the saved fat. Potatoes fried in bacon fat – cheap and delicious.
27. HAND WASH DISHES – washing in a dishwasher saves you water, but it can cost you a fortune in electricity. Instead, hand wash dishes in minimal water to save.
28. FORAGE – an almost forgotten skill, feed yourself for free with plants that grow around your neighbourhood (not the neighbours veggie patch, though). Just make sure you know how to identify plants before eating them.
29. SCRAPE THE LAST FROM THE JAR – a small rubber spatula is the perfect tool for this. Making jam milkshakes with the last bit in the jar is another alternative.
30. HAND MIX – or grate or chop. Use manpower and save.
31. COOK FROM SCRATCH – and eat healthy food that’s cheaper than processed and packaged food.
32. HEAD TO TAIL EATING – The most nutritious part of an animal is the organ meat and it’s cheap, but it’s rarely eaten. In the past, no part of the animal go wasted – from sheep’s head stew to making stock from the bones and sausages from the intestines.
33. DON’T BUY WHAT YOU CAN MAKE – yoghurt is a good example of this. It’s easy to make at home and costs a fraction of the price of store-bought.
34.MAKE SOAP – most soap from the supermarket is stripped of glycerine (the good stuff for your skin) and includes chemicals. Make your own better quality soap. If you use scraps, it will cost you next to nothing.
35. DRY YOUR SOAPS – Soap, whether hand made or purchased, will last longer if it has been dried. Place your soap in your clothes cupboard to dry out, give your clothes a nice smell and to ward of silverfish.
36. REUSE WRAPPING PAPER AND CARDS AND SCRAP PAPER – back to waste nothing. Save on wrapping presents by keeping and reusing wrapping paper and cards. Use junk mail as scrap paper and envelopes for the shopping list.
37. CURL YOUR HAIR WITH RAGS – instead of using a curling iron and save electricity.
38. SQUEEZE OUT THE LAST OF THE TOOTHPASTE – by rolling the tube to use up every last drop. Use a q-tip to get out the last of the lipstick. Cut open the shampoo bottle or add water to use the last drop of shampoo.
39. FLUSH LESS – If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down. Do I need to say more? A brick or a bottle of water in an old fashioned toilet will reduce the amount of water per flush, but if you have a modern toilet, this probably isn’t necessary.
40 SHOWER LESS – eww right? But why shower on days that you’ve spent all day lounging around at home? People haven’t always had (or needed) the luxury of showering every day. A sponge bath will save water and is sufficient to get clean on many days.
41. REUSABLE FEMALE HYGIENE PRODUCTS – thanks to modern updates, this doesn’t mean using rags every month. The Mooncup, for instance, is a better, healthier, more convenient alternative to disposable products and it saves you money.
42. USE THE LOCAL LIBRARY – the local library has so much more than just books. Watch DVDs, use the computers, borrow puzzles and board games, listen to music. And most importantly, use the books to learn new skills.
43. ENTERTAIN YOURSELF IN USEFUL WAYS – Useful hobbies like gardening, sewing, handicraft, woodwork, tinkering, DIY etc. will not only keep you entertained, they will make you happier and save you money.
44. FREE ENTERTAINMENT – Instead of spending time at the shops, cafes, theme parks or even in front of the TV or Xbox, frugal entertainment includes hanging with friends, picnics at the park, a day at the beach, playing board games, reading, telling stories.
45. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT – Getting involved in your local community is a great way to meet new people, be happier, give back to the community and enjoy yourself at the same time, without spending money.
46. GROW YOUR OWN FOOD – Even just a few herbs on a windowsill is a good start towards supplementing your budget with your own fresh produce. Organic food comes at a premium, but homegrown organic food will save you money.
47. COMPOST – In the spirit of waste not, composting scraps to add to your veggie garden is the ultimate in recycling and saving money.
Reducing waste and being savvy with your money never gets old. These frugal tips from our grandparent’s era will never go out of date.
Melissa Goodwin has been writing about frugal living for 10+ year but has been saving her pennies since she first got pocket money. Prior to writing about frugal living, Melissa worked as an accountant. As well as a diploma of accounting, Melissa has an honours degree in humanities including writing and research and she studied to be a teacher and loves sharing the things that she has learned and helping others to achieve their goals. She has been preparing all her life to write about frugal living skills.