The best money saving tips we can learn from our grandparents.
I have many fond memories of sitting in my great grandmothers home while she shared stories with my family about living during the great depression. She explained that growing up during this time taught her to always be frugal, even if it isn’t always necessary, it’s still a wonderful way to live. Her example taught me so much about mindful spending, and I think everyone can learn many frugal living tips from the great depression.
I admire everyone who went through the depression, it was such a hard and difficult time for many people. But, through that process they learned how to be creative with the things they owned, resourceful with their belongings, and prudent with their earnings. They learned to never waste, and to always think long and hard before spending any money.
Today I’m sharing a few of their frugal tips, and I hope these tips can help you live frugally and save more money. We can all be a little more frugal…even if it isn’t a necessity!
1. Make Your Own Household Cleaners
It was almost unheard of to buy a household cleaning product at the store during the depression era. Most households knew the basic ingredients to whip up their own cleaning recipe, they saved a lot of money simply by making their own.
The best part is that you probably already have every ingredient you need to make your own household cleaners.
Check out a few of my favorite recipes: Homemade Household Cleaning Recipes.
2. Repurpose Materials
With money scarce during the great depression, most people tried to figure out ways to repurpose items they already owned, rather than tossing them aside.
We can easily repurpose as well! Here are a few suggestions of things in your home you can repurpose to use again:
- Empty Milk Carton: Clean out your milk cartons and reuse them to store water or as a mini garden greenhouse.
- Egg Cartons: Egg cartons are easy to repurpose as a planter for starting seeds, or as a way to organize beads or any other small items in the home.
- Toilet Paper Rolls: Toilet paper rolls make great crafts! Check out these easy toilet paper roll crafts for some great ideas.
- Glass/Plastic Containers: Reuse your sour cream containers, mayo jars, and everything else in between for storing small objects.
- Grocery Bags: Turn your plastic grocery bags into trash liners for the small trash cans in your restroom.
- Clothing/Bedding: Don’t let your worn clothing or bedding to go to waste. All you have to do is cut the cloth into small pieces and use them for rags!
3. Eat At Home
Families rarely, if ever, went out to eat during the depression. Money was just to tight to spend it on a night out. Every meal was spent together, at home, enjoying food made from scratch.
Cooking at home will make a huge difference in your budget each month. Make sure to check out some of my quick, family friendly dinner ideas here.
4. Trade Skills
Another common frugal living tip from the great depression is to trade skills with each other. During the depression era, neighbors, friends and acquaintances were often bartering their skills with each other in an attempt to save money.
We can still follow this example today. If you are great at photography, you could offer to take your neighbors pictures and in return they could donate a service to you, like teaching your kids a musical instrument, cutting your hair, or anything else you need that they can do.
5. Make Do With What You Have
Something breaks? You don’t have the exact ingredient that you need? Make it do!
If you can be content with what you already have, you will be much more likely to make it do, rather than spending on the “next big thing!” I have two personal examples for you.
We spent years watching “everyone” around us switching from flip phones to smart phones. I would be asked regularly why I still used such an “old fashioned phone”. My answer? “Because this one still works fine.”
Of course I would have RATHER of been using a flashy smart phone with all those cool apps and emojis….but I was on a small budget, so the flip phone was all I needed.
Now, I’m not saying that you should get rid of your smart phones. What I am SAYING is that I want you tostart looking at what you have in your home differently.
Last year we wanted to update my 13 year olds bedroom, to give her more of a teenage room, and less of a young girl room. She had requested more coral and less yellow.
Our goal was to only use what we already had around the house all while giving her room a completely new look.
We made a tassel garland out of scrap fabric. She searched through old decorations that we had put in the storage room to find pieces she liked. We decided to paint over a yellow sign, but didn’t have any coral paint. So, we mixed pink with orange and came up with the perfect coral color.
Long story short: we MADE IT WORK! And, she now has a teenage room that she loves.
5 Ways to Make It Do
- Take good care of what you already own. Make rules like no shoes in the house, no jumping on the furniture, etc.
- Rearrange your furniture for a new look. Swap decor amongst different rooms to switch things up!
- Set a grocery budget and stick to it, no matter what. Make whatever you have in your pantry and fridge last for as long as you need to.
- Keep your electronics in good condition and use them until they break, even if they are old and uncool.
- Stretch your meat further by using 1/2 the meat called in your recipe and substituting it with beans.
6. Learn How To Sew
Sewing clothes was very common during the depression. While, I’m not suggesting you need to start making all of your own clothes, I do recommend that everyone learns a few basic sewing skills.
Being able to sew on a button, hem a dress, or mend a rip will save you a lot of money and help you prevent waste.
7. Have Fun For Free
I am so passionate about the ability to enjoy life, have fun, and make memories without spending any money. Our great grandparents were excellent at this skill!
Here are a few ways you can have fun for free:
Remember to be creative when trying to find cheap fun. It’s out there!
- Related: 25 Free Things To Do In Winter
8. Hang Your Laundry To Dry
You will save a lot of money on electricity just by simply using your dryer less and hanging your clothes to dry instead. An outdoor clothes line is the most traditional method to drying clothes. However, you could also dry them in your house. I really like this foldable laundry rack and I personally have this wall mounted drying rack in my laundry room. It works great during the cold winter months.
9. Learn To DIY
Another way to a lot of money is by learning to DIY.
I know the phrase DIY brings out a lot of different feelings to different people. Some feel excited and motivated (yay! hand me a hammer, I’ll show you how it’s done!). Others might feel a sense of panic and worry (what!?!? I’m not handy….I don’t know how to DIY!).
Do you WANT to learn more DIY but feel stuck or confused about where to start??? I understand! And guess what, learning to DIY is actually incredibly easy!
All it takes is a quick search on google, and a few minutes reading blog tutorials and watching YouTube videos. That’s really it! It’s exactly how my husband and I have been able to successfully complete dozens of our very DIY projects.
Start small, go slow, and ask questions. You just might surprise yourself with a few new talents and a big savings in your budget.
10. Grow Your Own Food
During the great depression it was common for everyone to have large gardens. Not only was it necessary to grow your own food, it was also the way of life.
I believe that it is just as important to grow our own food today as it was back then.
We don’t have any control over grocery prices (and they just keeeeep on raising), so the more we can do to save money in the kitchen- the better!
If gardening scares you, don’t worry! You don’t need to grow a lot of food to begin saving money. Even a small window garden will help you lower grocery costs. Here are a few of the easiest things to grow in your first garden.
11. Preserve Garden Produce
Speaking of growing your own food, it’s equally important to understand how to preserve the food that you grow. A freezer/pantry full of preserved garden produce is one of the best ways to save money all year long.
I taught myself everything that I know about canning and preserving using the Ball Book Of Canning and Preserving. It is an amazing guide and resource and recommend it to everyone!
While you will need to spend money to buy canning supplies, this initial investment has paid off over and over for my family.
12. Save Leftovers
I have to admit something to you. I use to throw away all of my leftovers…..every last crumb. When I first started dating my husband he would watch me in complete disbelief as I chucked my uneaten food down the drain. “I don’t like leftovers,” I would casually say to him.
Well, I have learned a lot since then….much to the example of my husband.
Now, when I see leftovers I see the money that I spent buying that food…..and there is no way I am going to throw my hard earned money down the drain.
Be like new me, not old me and save your leftovers to use again!
Leftovers can be:
- Frozen (19 Foods You Didnt Know You Could Freeze)
- Stored in the fridge to eat for lunch or dinner the next day
- Repurposed for dinner the next day
I also love to freeze a lot of my leftovers in an ice cube tray for easy use later. Try it!
13. Cook From Scratch
Our great grandparents cooked almost everything they ate from scratch. They avoided buying preprepared foods as much as possible, because they knew that they could make it for much less money.
We can follow this example by making our own bread, enchilada sauce, taco seasoning, salad dressing, granola, pizza, lasagna, pancakes, tortillas, yogurt, coutons, muffins, BBQ sauce, and so much more! The list is never ending.
If cooking is not something you feel comfortable and confident with, then start small. Making pancakes in the morning is really easy! Then work up to more difficult things….like baking bread.
Also, keep in mind that you do not have to make every single thing from scratch to save money. Choose a few staples you like to make, and be consistent with them. Every little bit of frugal living will add up and save you money.
- Related: 30 Family Friendly Meals On A Budget
14. Stretch Your Meals
Another important frugal living tip from the great depression is to be intentional about stretching your meals. Sometimes all it takes is adding a can of beans to make one meal turn into two meals.
Using simple methods to stretch your meals is a great way to cut your grocery costs. Click here for more easy to follow tips to help your meals stretch further.
15. Be Your Own Handyman
Skip hiring someone to do simple repairs and household maintenance. Watch a few YouTube channels and learn how to fix it yourself!
Keep in mind that you won’t save money if the repair is done wrong, in those circumstances you might end up having to pay more to get it fixed. So, do thorough research before starting any repairs/home maintenance yourself.
Here are a few fairly easy household maintenance ideas that I think *most* people can easily do themselves:
- Paint walls
- Patch drywall holes
- Unclog drains
- Change oil in car
- Fertilize yard
The next time you are tempted to call a handyman, pause and ask yourself if this is something you can learn to fix yourself! I bet you can!
16. Give Something Homemade
During the great depression, most people didn’t have any extra money to spend on birthday or holiday gifts. So, they made most of the gifts they gave to others. I truly believe it is the thought behind a gift that means the most….and homemade gifts are my favorite because they take a lot of thought, time and love.
Check out this list of homemade Christmas gift ideas to help you get started!
17. Ignore Fads
Our grandparents knew to ignore any trends/fads that would cause them to spend unnecessarily. The fads come and go, and once they are gone all you’ll be left with is a pile of stuff you don’t need anymore and less money in your bank account (anyone remember the Beanie Baby era???).
Be mindful when you are spending your money and ask yourself if you are buying something just because everyone else is buying it….or if it’s something you will actually use, love and value for years to come.
18. Use Electricity Sparingly
Did anyone else grow up with parents who were constantly reminding them to turn off the light??? It wasn’t just me was it????
Our parents learned from their parents that the more electricity you use, the more money you will spend.
Turning off unused lights is one way to conserve electricity. You can also:
- Unplug appliances when not in use
- Use LED lightbulbs
- Lower your thermostat
- Seal leaks around windows and doors
There are so many ways to save money simply by changing the way you use electricity. For more ideas check out these two articles: How To Save Money On Electricity During Winter and How To Save Money On Electricity During Summer.
19. Use It up
During the depression families learned to use everything up, rather than letting it go to waste. If they had a small amount of ketchup left in the bottle, they would use a small spatula or knife to get it out and use it.
Be mindful of not throwing away small amounts of condiments, shampoo, soap, milk, etc. Find ways to open up the container and use every last drop.
20. Avoid Disposable Products
Disposable products have become more popular over the years, but they are not great for the wallet (or the environment!).
Try to buy products that can be used over and over again and skip purchasing anything that only has a one time use.
A few examples of this are to buy:
- Hand towels instead of paper towels
- Tupperware instead of sandwich bags
- Dishes instead of paper plates
You will have to spend slightly more money to begin with….but it will save you big over time.
Yes! You read that right, foraging is a great way to save money on food. And, it’s actually really fun too!
Scout out areas in your community or nearby that has wild berries or other plants growing and go forage. Every summer my family drives to a nearby spot and spends a day picking huckleberries. We freeze these huckleberries and use them all year.
- Related: Easy Huckleberry Muffin Recipe
22. Turn Off The Air Conditioner
I know this is a tough one….but most homes did not have air conditioners during the depression years….and they survived. I’m sure it wasn’t easy…but they survived.
Try to keep cool instead by using fans, sitting outside in the shade, using cool washcloths, and keeping blinds closed during the hot part of the day.
If turning the air conditioner off completely feels to much for you, then try to increase the thermostat a few degrees so that you are using it less often.
23. Conserve Water
And my last frugal living tip from the great depression is to conserve water. You can conserve water by:
- Wearing clothes multiple days (as long as they are clean!)
- Follow the mantra: “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”
- Brush your teeth in the shower
- Take short showers
- Fix leaky faucets
Sometimes all it takes is a few simple changes to start saving money.
Who’s ready to implement these frugal tips from the great depression! I know I am! Pick one or two new money saving tips to start saving more money today.