32 Frugal Living tips from the Great Depression

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Are you looking for awesome frugal living tips from the great depression?

Well then continue reading.

The great depression was the worst downturn in the economic world.

The industrialized world crashed from 1929 to 1939.

People were either starving to death, getting evicted from their homes or both which led to debts piling up.

Farmers who grew their own food were devastated due to the infamous ‘dust bowl’ : dust storms during the severe drought that wiped everything out.

Investors were wiped out, production slowed, shares were overpriced, banks went bankrupt and unemployment rose to such levels that everyone had to then learn how to live creatively to save up.

They came up with thrifty ideas to survive and with minor modifications, they can be applied today.

Things are easier now so committing to these tips is probably the hard part.

But saving up can still save you in case of such a pandemic again and later on to pass down a healthy money mind set.


1. Planting a garden

This is a timeless frugal living tip that people still take up and actually love.

Some people love farming more compared to others so it may be practical to some than others.

There are however, ways to get around that. Farming methods can be switched up so you may choose the one you prefer or, depending on climate, pick easier foods to grow.

This mostly works if you grow foods you use at home to avoid buying all the time.

If you extra space, you might even decide to grow more foods for sale.

This will get you living frugally when it comes to food and making money in the process.


2. DIYs

Making your own things does not just apply to food but almost everything in your home. Think of the things you buy at a regular basis and see if you can make it on your own. There are articles and tutorials on almost everything.

Learn how to do them while you also teach your siblings or children as bonding time.

You can learn a lot from these step-by-step guides.

You do not even need to throw away everything.

Some used items can be transformed or customized to something decorative or useful.

You will be a crafting expert in no time.


3. Upcycling

This is also known as creative reuse. As mentioned above, you do not need to throw away unwanted products.

Give everything a second chance.

A Bit of paint and cutting can change a lot.

From old frames, wine bottles, clothing and containers.

Everything has plenty of purposes beyond their original use covering creative and decorative uses or they can even be customized to be sold.

Which also makes you that extra money.


4. Saving

This might have been incredibly difficult during the great depression but very possible today.

There are so many instances one can save and while the economy is not exactly bad, do it while you can.

Not everyone has the luxury to save up as much but starting small can pay off at the end. Start with a savings plan and a budget for everything.

Set up a savings account specifically for money you out aside so you may not be tempted to use it.

Commit to the 30 day rule. It is really simple; if you see something you want {not urgently}, wait 30 days before buying it.

If you still wish to get the item by then, go ahead and purchase it.

You might have forgotten it by then which means you did not really need it.

Money not spent is money saved.


5. Entertainment

This applies to creating your own entertainment.

Make your own games or come up with other activities you can have fun doing with others at home.

Have your own karaoke nights, get crafty, make collages, riddle/quiz each other and better yet, make new games from scratch instead of purchasing all those family games.

It is both a great way to save money and bond or connect with your family or friends.


6. Eating less meat

This is definitely healthier too. Meat is most people’s favourite and the main ingredient to most meals.

But going vegetarian every now and then would not hurt.

Plan your recipes around vegetables like spinach, broccoli, kale, green peas and high-protein grains more than you do with meat.

Eat beans, and more beans since they are excellent stand-ins for meat.

You might even consider plant-based meats that cost way less than meat.

You can hardly tell the difference when cooked well.

Let meat be the main ingredient rather than just a supporting ingredient so that you know when to save.


7. Eating out

Eating out in hotels and restaurants is by far more expensive than eating at home.

If it is a habit to eat out, develop hacks for quick meals and always make sure there is something you can cook around. Having your garden helps.

While you are at it, remind yourself how much it is saving you.

You can even develop a reward system for those who might find it very hard to commit.

Not one that will cost you though.


8. Canning your foods.

Remember the planting your own produce tip? Having extra space to even grow more will come in handy is so many ways.

You can either sell to make you more money or give away, for the very generous ones who might be making more than they need.

With canning, you can make the most out of your harvest by preserving the extra produce. This is a really popular means of preserving but you can also look more ways to preserve different types of produce.

There are publications on that, tutorials and websites dedicated to preservation and farming.


9. Using everything to depletion

If you are thrifty enough, you will get your money’s worth and save on anything at home.

Use products in tubes like toothpaste to the last bit, get as much out as possible from products in bottles by turning them up and scraping to the last drop if you wish.

Before you throw anything out, make sure you have used everything in it to the last drop.

You might even highly consider looking up strategies to use so you can get the most of anything in the house.

Every little bit counts.


10. Purchasing used items

This is an idea that may not sound appealing to some but quite familiar to many.

There are obviously some items that are better bought as new but those that can be bought second hand, should be; clothes from thrift shops, hand tools, sports gear, toys, books, exercise equipment, and furniture.

Anything can be bought at half the price that you know as long as quality is considered. Low quality will only ask for more money to maintain then you end up using more than you would have purchasing the item new.

It will beat the whole saving idea.


11. Exercising at home

You may already have exercising equipment at home which is much more convenient.

So maybe cut out on that gym membership to cut down on your overall monthly expenses. Cancelling gym member ship can be absurdly difficult but it can save you a lot.

Try cancelling the credit card that is automatically charged or try services like Trim to cancel all your unwanted and forgotten subscriptions.

You can even exercise at home or outside without the equipment and get them as second hand with time. This is way cheaper than paying to use other equipment daily or weekly.


12. Discounts

There are always ways to get discounts. Especially with online shopping, do a search for coupon code sites or promotional codes to get instant discounts.

There are websites that offer cash-backs as well as credit cards.

So use credit cards often for these cash-backs. When you do not have one, just asking for a discount works for often that you think.

Use programs that you can pay with points or rewards too.

This option is starting to get more popular than discounts. Some sites enable you to access the chat box.

It might pop up asking if you need any help or you have to unearth it.

Once you get it, you can have access to an online retailer.

Ask if there are any discounts or free shipping since they do not always announce it out there.


13. Reviewing monthly budgets

Usually tracking where your money is going or how much you are spending and where can help you cut down on expenses you may not necessarily need.

You will find unnecessary purchases and subscriptions.

Knowing how and where you spend helps make changes to how you spend.

Again, employing services like trim saves a lot.

They will track down all your bills and all subscriptions and help you cancel them with your permission.


14. Reusable products

If you can follow through with this one, it can save you a ton. Most fancy products will need to be thrown away since they cannot be reused.

Examples of reusable items are;

  • Reusable shopping bags
  • Food bags
  • Plastic backpacks
  • Reusable beverage containers

Replace all disposable items with reusable items.

Baby diapers can be replaced with baby cloth diapers that you will have to wash to reuse.

It is better your finances and the earth.


15. Leftovers

Do not ever waste food. Even the least leftovers can add up so much to your grocery budget.

Only cook as much as you or your family can eat in a particular meal if you do not wish to have left overs.

When you do have them, plan them in the next meal for a low-effort lunch.



Leftovers can also be cooked or baked into a bunch of new dishes and the internet is filled with such ideas.

You can even freeze them till when you feel like eating that food again.

You will thank yourself when you are too tired to make a whole meal.



There is so much edible stuff grown in nature that you can find and make a meal out of.

This was a necessary skill in the great depression era.

You just need to know what to be on the look out for and the internet has many ideas on that.

Your own back yard is a great place to start. You never know.

Once you walk out of your compound, be aware of other people’s property and poisonous fruits.

The internet will help know what is edible and what is not.

Other times, you will know because edible fruits can grow anywhere like berries.


17. Walking

During the great depression era, walking was not a choice. They had to.

Today, we have so many other means but to save on gas, you can choose to walk if it is a walking distance.

If it is a long distance that you have to walk, ride a bicycle.

Riding a bicycles is even more fun as you get to appreciate more sceneries and breathe the air properly.

There are obviously times when it is inevitable to drive but minimalize it to save up somewhere.


18. Barter trading

It seems like something that belongs to the era of our grandfathers but it still happens. When it cannot be avoided, do it.

Exchange something that you do not even use for something you really need with your family, friends, etc. It is popular in business.

The extra produce you get from the garden can be given out in exchange of anything you might be needing at the moment as per the agreement instead of just giving it away.

This may even be easier compared to selling the surplus from the garden.

Services that you cannot pay for can also be exchanged for other services i.e. with something you are really good at.


19. Simple repairing

Some simple repairs need not cost you. Like fixing broken handles, unblocking a sink, fixing the ac if you can.

You can even learn some simple fixes from someone or tutorials on you tube.

Maintenance is of course one way to avoid these costs but once they do happen, take up the job instead of paying someone to do something you can learn to do.

Chances are, repairs will be needed every now and then.

So it is a great place to start when diving in that frugal life.


20. Lending and borrowing

Common items you can borrow are; ingredients for making food, household items, baby items etc.

It saves you money as well as strengthens the bond with the borrowing and lending relationship.

Of course some people will be stopped by pride but remember you can also offer to help them with anything that they may need.

If you are most likely to not use the item often, it is best to borrow it instead of buying.

Just remember to return it on time, in good shape and be willing to share too.

If you borrow something often, it is probably best you just purchase the said item.


21. Making do

The only way to buy less/spend less is to make do with what you have.

Sometimes we are not happy with what we have and end up buying a lot of unnecessary stuff.

Other times we think we need it, but we just want it without having a valid reason.

So take your 30 days to see if you really need it. If you really need something, there are ways listed above to obtain them without spending much or at all.

To ace this frugal living, you have to sometimes make do or do without.


22. Learning to sew

Learn to sew your own clothes and garments.

Especially if you are a family, learning to sew your own clothes can save up a lot along the way when you can do it for the whole family.

Sew bedspreads too, linen and literally anything in the house that you can manage.

You will most likely fix it the way you wanted it fixed and make it last if you do it yourself. You even get to express your individuality by customizing the garments to fit your style and size


23. Cutting back on habits

Habits like smoking cigarette, alcohol consumption, coffee addiction, junk foods can make you spend a lot.

They eat up on so much of your budget without you even realizing.

Cut back or cut out since some are not exactly doing you good health wise either.

As you try to cut back, try to quit too.

Indulging in them will only hurt you and your finances.


24. Adjusting the thermostat

You can either get a programmable thermostat to adjust itself as per the weather which is probably an extra cost but for a short while, or keep adjusting the one you have.

Our grandfathers survived without one so if you can, the better.

Throw in an extra layer of clothes when it get cold and find other ways to keep you warm without spending.

You can keep the thermostat around for extreme temperatures but lowering it to lower temperatures when you are not around to keep the heating bill low.

Layer your clothes when it is cold and go outside during the day when it is too hot inside.

Other ways to reduce electricity use can be not leaving the PCs running when not in use and doing the dishes sometimes instead of using the dish washer.

When you decide to use the dishwasher, do not run it with a full load.


25. Downsizing to a smaller house

This is probably one of the largest expense.

If you are comfortable in a smaller house, then it can save you so much money in a year. Being able to afford a big fancy apartment in the city does not mean you have to.

Having extra rooms that have no use will probably cost you in one way or another.

You can even consider renting out the extra space or a portion of it for short term.

If it is practical, you could even move with your family to a smaller house with just the space you all need.

If you live alone, you might consider getting a roommate to cost share or just move to cheaper house or at a cheaper location.


26. Ditching the washer

Hand wash your clothes to save money on utilities.

It makes them last longer and preserves their colour. You can never go wrong with hand washing.

The washing machine uses so much power that could get you through a week in your house. Similar to ditching the washer, ditch the dryer.

Dry your clothes the old fashioned way. Why use all that power with an electric dryer when the sun can dry them for free?

This will extend your clothes’ lifespan saving your money yet again.


27. Washing clothes less often

Washing a garment so often will make it wear out fast.

It breaks down the quality of the fabric over time and makes you spend more money repairing them.

While there are some clothes that need washing when you wear them once, others will make it impossible for you to do that.

There is always that fabric or material we all hate washing.

Hang them out to breathe, give them a spot-treat to take care of those clothes with a soil on them that does not need a wash, give other fabrics a single rinse to freshen, and press.


28. Composting

This helps you to not waste anything. It may apply to banana peels, potato peels, fruit scraps, bad vegetables, and so forth but not everything.

This acts as the manure in your garden and adds to the nutrients making the plants healthier and the soil richer. Just make sure it has the right things in it

Turning your trash into nutrients is the ultimate recycling tip.


29. Stocking up

Buy your groceries and anything else you might need in the house in bulk to help cut down some costs.

Some stores even give you discounts for buying in bulk.

Make sure they are mostly non- perishable items.

It will save you up money in the long-run.

That way you can stock up in the house especially in the kitchen to avoid getting tempted to order take outs or going out to eat.

Then make sure you have used every last bit before you ever go bulk shopping again. Clear out everything when you think you are out to see if anything can be cooked together to make a whole meal.


30. Getting creative

Gift giving is most definitely a favourite to most.

Whether you are good or bad at gift giving, this will totally help you out. And save you money.

Get crafty and make something as a gift instead of getting something expensive from the store.

You can even offer to do something for them as a gift, or cook them something.

It is cheaper this way and more thoughtful.

It will mean more when you have put in the effort to make the gift.


31. Personal pampering

It is not bad to treat yourself now and then, but how much do you spend to pamper yourself?

Give yourself that manicure and pedicure unless you are not good at it of which you can still learn from tutorials and then give yourself a day off to be in your warm robe, with hot coffee and relaxed.

There are home remedies to making skin care products if you wish to include that in your day off.

You can make your own spa right at home.

If you still prefer to go out, go to cosmetology schools that will give the same spa services at half the price. Sometimes even less.


32. Embracing odd jobs

In other words, you take up a side hustle to get that extra pay check.

Getting a second job does not have to be draining like our grand fathers’ era.

There are so many side jobs you can take up relevant to your hobbies, skills and talents so you might enjoy doing them.

Today, most of them are available online like, writing, proofreading and editing, coding, etc. and you can work at home.

If they pay well, you can take them full time to cut down on the traveling costs.

This also applies to your main places of work. If you can work from home.


Conclusion: 32 Frugal Living tips from the Great Depression

To choose frugal living does not mean you get to live cheaply but to make reasonable and mindful choices that enable you to save up money.

Being savvy with money never go out of date.

Times may change, technology advance but the principles of saving money remain the same.

Being smart with money will allow you more choices in life, more experiences and healthier ways of living. It will open you up to more choices, both professional and personal

Use it up, wear it out…make it do, or do without.

This slogan was coined during the World War II to encourage the conservation of the scarce resources they had and to keep prices down by keeping demand down. And it worked. If they did then, why not now?



I love everything about saving, investing, earning, and building net worth.

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