37 Frugal Living Tips From the Great Depression That’ll Save You Money (Even in a Pandemic)

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One of life’s biggest challenges when it comes to saving money is during economic hardships or a pandemic.

Businesses going down, pay cuts, and accessing food and other essentials are becoming extremely difficult. What about keeping yourself and kids sane is indeed too much to bear.

I know because I have similar worries, but let’s stay positive and look back at what happened during The Great Depression. People had to adopt new ways of living through the great depression.

Frugal living tips from the great depression will still help you save money no matter your financial status.  

You’ve heard of the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected the whole world. The old fashioned frugal living hacks are still applicable today. 

Despite the hard economic times, life has to go on. You still have to eat, have shelter, access medical care, clothing, and even save for the uncertain future.

In this article, you’ll learn ways to minimize costs during this pandemic while keeping you and your family content.

So let’s get started!

Basic Frugal Living Tips with a Big Impact

We enjoy going out and spending money on things you want, but during hard economic times, you need to take care of your priorities first. 

Maybe you lost your job and have to live on your little savings. And the only way to stretch your savings or income as far as possible is by taking care of your priorities first.

1. Take Care of Your Priorities

According to Dave Ramsey, priorities include food, shelter, clothing, and transport. He calls them “the four walls,” and that’s what you should be budgeting for before anything else.

It’s unrealistic to budget for entertainment when you can hardly afford a meal for your family. Your priority is providing the basic needs for your family and spending time with them.

After determining your priorities, then it’s time to budget.

2. Draw Your Zero-Based Budget

A Zero-Based budget is beneficial if you’re trying to save money. It means budgeting for every dollar coming in and going out.

I know it sounds a lot, but having a strong budget creates the foundation for a successful financial strategy during hard economic times.

That’s why writing down all your basic needs will help you figure out what you can cut or spend less money on.

Now, you have set your priorities and drawn a budget, how do you make payments? 

3. Don’t use credit

Building credit is important, but don’t rely on it too much, especially during a crisis. Stick to your budget and pay with cash only what you can afford.

Also, save for the things you want and pay in cash. 

You will be debt-free and feel pride in what you have.

4. Pay in cash not card

Did you know you spend 15% to 20% more when you use your card to pay? Sounds crazy, right?

Plus, when you pay in cash instead of swiping a card, you tend to be more conscious about how much you’re spending.

Try using the cash envelope system along with your budget, to help you stay on track with your budget.

Up to this point, we have learned the basic frugal living hack to survive in any season. 

Let’s now answer our big question today and draw some depression-era lifestyle tips.

How Did People Survive the Great Depression?

Imagine years of crippling poverty during the great depression. People had to learn financial lessons the hard way, and made a significant impact that stuck with them for life.

The biggest financial lesson from the 1940s frugality was the ability to quickly tell the difference between wants and needs.

We all know this at a basic level but we often forget because we have many extravagant options for even the simplest things.

They learned to make buying decisions after putting their shopping list through their own “frugality filter” to see if it made economic sense.

Let’s look at some resourceful frugal living habits from the great depression they adopted and which frugal hacks we can still apply today. 

Depression Era Money-Saving Tips on Food

Often we’re cautious when making large purchases, but waste a lot of money on unnecessary small purchases.

To live frugally, we must watch every penny by avoiding spending money unless it’s necessary.

Food is one area you have the greatest control of your expenditure. Use shopping and cooking tips from the Great Depression Era to reduce your monthly food budget.

Recipes and ingredients during the Great Depression were also creative and inexpensive.

5. Grow your own garden  Gardens will not only save you money on produce but also a nice way to rejuvenate. Plus it can be a source of a second income if you sell extras to your neighbors.

6. Plant your herbs in pots or on a windowsill. Herbs are so expensive at the store. Plant your own herbs even if you don’t have a yard and create flavourful dishes at home.

7. Plant some fruit trees if your yard allows for it.  Use them in baking or eat them fresh. Alternatively, plant some fruits that do well in pots such as strawberries.

8. Raising your own chickens. It’s a good way to have eggs and control pests in your garden. You can even sell extra eggs if you have good layers.

9.Turn your trash into compost for your garden.  Trash can be nutrient-rich dirt for your garden. It also ensures there is no waste as everything is put to good use. 

10. Learn to preserve food. If you enjoy buying vegetables and fruits in bulk then canning can save you money. When a season is over, you can still get some more through the next season, so you won’t have to buy.

Other Basic Ways to Save on Food

11. Stop eating out. Take breakfast at home, make your own coffee, and pack your lunch

12. Make food from scratch

13. Replace meat with cheaper alternatives like beans.

14. Buy whole chicken or meat, cook at once and create 3 to 4 meals.

15. Buy bones cheaply at the butchery and make broth. It’s like getting something fresh from what you already had.

16. Avoid wasting food and make just enough for the family. Eat leftovers during the next meal so they don’t end up in the trash.

17. It’s cheaper to buy food in bulk, especially those you frequently use, such as flour, sugar, spices, seasonings, and other dry foods.

18. Cook in butches to save money and time in the kitchen.

Depression Era Frugality Tips Around the Home

19. Layer up in winter instead of cranking up that heat.  Weak socks and layers to keep yourself warm.

20. Cut the cable. Choose low price streaming services or free ones if you must watch something. 

21. Downgrade your cell phone and cut your landline. Do you need a landline with all the data your cell phone plan has? If you don’t need it, then try and see how much you will save.

22. Save energy. Always turn off your lights and electronics when not in use. Set a timer on your heater and air conditioner so that it doesn’t run when you are not at home. 

23. Make your cleaning products. It’s now possible for anyone to make things by themselves using the internet. Before buying something new or paying someone to do it for you, search for a DIY version and see if it is possible to make.

24. Make your personal care products. You can make your cosmetics such as shampoo, creams, lotions, and face care. The cosmetic industry is a multi-billion industry, and you can save money by making your products.

25. Make your curtains. Curtains are the easiest items you can make by simply sewing straight lines. You can even use sheets to save money on fabric.

26. Make shelves for your walls. 

Check YouTube videos, and you’ll realize how simple it is to make shelves for your walls. You’ll be surprised at how you can come up with something stylish and sustainable.

27. Make your home decor. If you’re creative, then you will find this a walkover. Find the stuff you need at thrift stores and do some simple makeovers such as adding a coat of paint, or making wall hangings etc.

28. Turn old clothes into cleaning rags. Use stained. T-shirts or unraveled towels as rags. T-shirts are great for dusting surfaces.

Depression Era Frugal Hacks to Save Money on Clothing

29. Make your own accessories. You need basic skills to make jewelry and accessories. It’s possible to turn any outfit in your wardrobe into a dressy one with the right kind of handmade pieces.

30. Fix it instead of replacing it. Learn to mend and sew your clothes. Your clothes will last for years and years.

31. Buy out of fashion clothes. They could be out of date in a year or less. Always lean towards timeless styles that you can wear for years.

32. Wash clothes less often. Frequent washing reduces their life little by little. Consider wearing it another time or two before washing unless it’s soiled or smelly.

33. Dry clothes on the lines. Drying clothes outdoors makes them last longer and saves energy. Plus they smell fresh and the sun is a disinfectant too.

34. Reheel old shoes. We still have cobblers in town who can repair your shoes instead of getting a new pair.

Great Depression Era Hacks for Making Money

It’s easier now to make extra money than it was during the Great Depression. With the robust gig economy, we have free resources available for us to use.

You can make extra money to supplement your budget.

35. Sell stuff you no longer need. Declutter your space and sell everything you don’t need. You can sell online on Etsy or yard sale.

36. Work from home. If you have writing, editing, design, or administrative skills, then you can find many ways to make money online.

Examples are 

  1. Participate in paid surveys and make $300 fast in the comfort of your home
  2. Learn about scoping jobs and make $2000 per month
  3. Become a virtual assistant

37. Provide a service. You can drive people around, clean houses, mow lawns, bake, tutor, teach, baby, sit, or even pet sit. Use your skills and hobbies to make money.

Extreme Frugal Living in 2020

When you have a firm grasp on your financial situation, you can use these 37 frugal living ideas from the depression to help create a wonderful life for your family, even in a pandemic.

Over to you – what is your process for saving money during hard economic times or a pandemic?