A few months ago, I experienced something I only can describe as humiliating and utterly anxiety-inducing. I ran out of money for the month. When I say ran out of money, let me be clear. I know that for some people ‘running out of money’ means they just have to cut back on luxuries or dip into their savings. I was truly out of money.
Fortunately, my husband and I were able to get some extensions on a few bills, and we got a bit of help from a local food bank for a few weeks. Still, the experience left me reeling. Then I wondered, how did my great- grandmother, who had a much larger household than I, manage to survive the Great Depression, while I barely was able to get my head above water? I spoke with some older family members and got some insights. Here are eight tips that my great-grandmother would endorse wholeheartedly.
8 Depression Era Money-Saving Tips …
1. Rethink The Place of Meat in Your Meals
Overall, meat is a much more expensive source of protein than eggs, dairy or vegetable-based proteins such as beans. Because of this, people who lived through the Great Depression often omitted meat from many of their meals, used it for flavoring and seasoning or found ways to stretch it. For example, I learned I could make sloppy joes very inexpensively by using ½ meat and ½ cooked lentils.
2. Look For Free or Used Items First
Sometimes I wonder what my great-grandmother would have done if she could have combined her frugal ways with modern technology. I’d like to think she would fall in love with Freecycle and other similar groups. I know I am now a member of several Facebook groups that specialize in giving away, trading or selling used items at a deep discount. My favorites are The Freecycle Network, Food is Free Project, Do the Green Thing, and Free Stuff World.
3. Learn to Repair Things
During the Great Depression, throwing things away and buying something new simply wasn’t an option. People learned to mend and repair things, or they did without. So far, I have learned to restitch seams by hand, replace the belt on my washing machine and replace a worn-out hard drive on my daughter’s laptop. Thanks, YouTube! Hopefully, I will find more ways to save around the house soon.
4. Watch Your Waste
How often do you eyeball things? Whether it was dish detergent, laundry soap or cereal, I used to simply pour out whatever I thought looked right. Inevitably that was more than I needed, so I threw a lot of it away. Now I pay attention to serving sizes and I follow instructions regarding the amount of household products that I use. As a result, I go through a lot less and save money.
5. Become a Seasonal And Local Consumer
If you buy food locally and in season, you will save money. This is because vendors spend less money transporting those items. Go to farmers markets before they are closing and you can get even better deals. In addition to this, I once assumed that the big, national chains were the cheapest when it comes to products and services. However, I did some comparison shopping and learned that many local stores were better priced, and were willing to haggle.
6. Replace Paid Entertainment With Free Entertainment
One specific question I posed to my older relatives was, “What did great-grandmother and her family do for fun?” Well, I can’t say we play marbles and I haven’t gifted my children a slingshot. What we have done is trade in some paid entertainment for free or cheap entertainment. For example, the $200-a-month phone, cable and internet has been replaced with a cheap cellular plan and a Netflix subscription. We also go the library more often, attend free concerts scheduled in our town square, hold cook-offs in our local parks instead of going out to eat and attend free events at the local zoo. We’ve also been able to make new friends by doing these things.
7. Preserve Reuse And Repurpose
I now think before throwing things out. The chili I made tonight can become cornbread casserole tomorrow and it can be frozen and used for nachos next week. Grocery bags can line old trash cans, and then be dumped out and taken in for recycling.
8. Grow Your Own
I am by no means a full-fledged gardener, but I am getting there. I grow enough tomatoes in containers to make several pints of salsa and spaghetti sauce. I also have a window box of herbs. Hopefully, as time goes on I will be able to feed my family almost completely from the food that I grow.
What about you? Do you have any other depression era money-saving tips?
Patrick Cole is an entrepreneur and freelancer. He is also a contributing blogger for several websites. Patrick loves self-education and rock music. You can connect with Patrick on Facebook and Twitter.
P.S. Ready to get out of debt ASAP? Check out the Spending Fast Bootcamp! SpendingFastBootcamp.com
Hi! In the summer when using the air conditioner, we are sure to keep the doors closed, especially if you have kids that go in and out constantly. Shade the windows, especially on west side. I also try not to use the stove and dryer as much, and we replaced all of our incandescent light bulbs with the curly fluorescent ones. Insulate or caulk any areas where outside air may be getting in. We also turn our water heater one or two notches colder. Our electric bill stays pretty reasonable now, even in the hottest part of the summer.
The tip about the lentils is great! I’m gonna try that… I actually hosted Thanksgiving last year for my vegetarian parents and we had a beautiful lentil/mushroom loaf that was wrapped in a pastry crust. It was so good and my meat-lover husband never missed the turkey! I can totally see where it would work in meatloaf or other dishes…
Learning how to fix things on my own has helped in so many ways not just financially. Nothing like saying ” yeah, I fixed that!” But there are somethings I can’t fix so the emergency fund comes in handy.
I want to try the grow your own food but watching my sister do it – it seems to be somewhat of an expense since we live in Florida and what we have is sand not dirt.
I think the best way I have saved money is by automating my finances. It has helped me keep everything in check. No late fee, bounce check or even bank fees. Puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.