10 Depression Era Hacks To Save Money Now

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

With a high number of unemployed people right now and a limited budget for many families, it’s time to look for some real ways to save money during tough times.

During the Great Depression, people used 1930s frugality and simple lifestyle tips to save money and survive the lean years. We can take a page from their book and redo it.

Here are 10 Depression Era Tips & Frugal Living Ideas That Will Save You Money Right Now.

1. Grow your own food

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In the 1930s, everyone had a “victory garden” in their backyard, side yard, roof, or patio pots. You can grow staple vegetables, like tomatoes, from seeds or seedlings, to augment the increasingly expensive grocery store items.

You can grow herbs in your kitchen window. If you are new to gardening, you can avail of help from your local garden club, horticultural society, or university extension office.

Also learn to conserve your own food, so that you don’t waste the food you grow (or even the extra produce you buy). When you start canning and drying your own foods, you’ll be the star child of depression-era frugality.

Start with the ultimate guide to starting a garden (on the cheap).

2. Cook your own food

Happy woman preparing dinner at home
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During the Great Depression, people got creative by preparing meals from cheap and available ingredients.

Bean soups were a staple of Depression-era recipes because beans are a cheaper protein than meat, and you can throw whatever leftovers you have on hand in the pot. Rice and potatoes were inexpensive ways to fill hungry bellies.

Even if you don’t like to cook, you’ll save money by concocting simple recipes rather than turning to take-out or meal kits. Look for cheaper cuts of meat or add a few vegetarian dinners for a more frugal menu.

Raid your pantry and freezer to find the ingredients you have on hand, and look for recipes that use what you have to lower your grocery bills. Who knows? These Depression Era tips might lead you to discover new favorite dishes.

3. Go retro over entertainment

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If you’re aiming for an old-fashioned frugal life, ditch the expensive subscriptions and go retro on your entertainment choices.

Ditch extended cable or one of your streaming site subscriptions. Cancel the gym membership you forget to use or the magazine subscription you rarely read.

Instead, dig up old electronics and watch a movie from the library. While you’re at it, discover some new music and some great books. Work out at home with free fitness apps or simple strength training exercises, or go for a run.

Play cards or board games, or listen to a family podcast, like a depression-era family listening to an old-fashioned radio show. Dust off the guitar in the corner or the violin you haven’t touched in years and start playing music again.

Not only will you save money, but you may also be spending more quality time with your family.

Check out our favorite family games that won’t blow the budget.

4. Fix it yourself

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Do you have a leaking faucet? A leaking toilet tank? Some simple home repairs can be done by the less experienced DIYer with instructions included with the repair kit or video tutorials on YouTube.

Or, ask the right guy or girl at your home improvement store for advice. You might not need to shell out hundreds for a handyman to come in for a 15 minute job.

If you embrace the frugality of the 1930s, you know you’re always trying to fix something before buying a new one. Put a fun patch on the hole of your kid’s jeans rather than going to Old Navy for a new pair.

Take your cracked cell phone to a repair shop before looking for another iPhone. Repair costs tend to be much lower than purchasing the latest version of the broken item.

5. Do it yourself

Woman knits yarn that was a comfort buy during coronavirus crisis
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Why buy it when you can? This Depression Era hack isn’t just for the crafty who can sew their own clothes. It’s easy to make your own cleaning supplies that might even work better than store-bought chemicals.

Decorate your home with items you already own or can reuse, or create your own gift wrap for holidays and birthdays. You can even learn how to do a pedicure rather than running to the salon and paying premium prices.

You might even find that you enjoy making things, and all of a sudden you’re knitting crochet sweaters or blankets instead of gorging on Netflix.

6. Use everything

Woman putting toothpaste on a toothbrush
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Make your purchases last longer by using everything to the last drop.

Scrape the very last drop of peanut butter from the jar, squeeze and roll this tube of toothpaste until you are sure nothing more can come out, and use the last traces of makeup before buying another eye shadow. or another mascara. Consider diluting the juice or even cleaning products a bit to make them last longer.

7. Be a good neighbor

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Neighbors who helped each other fared better during the Great Depression. Why not try to build community goodwill now to help everyone save? Don’t go out and buy a chainsaw for a one-off job when your neighbor would gladly lend you his.

If your child is too big for their clothes, see if a local friend has clothes to give you. Use online groups in your community to buy and trade second-hand items or even get things for free.

If you can’t pay, maybe you could go back to the old school and trade or barter; you can still volunteer to babysit the neighbors’ children outside for an hour or collect their leaves.

8. Reuse and reuse

plastic bags
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Embrace your inner grandma and save plastic and glass containers, bread bags and shoe boxes for reuse instead of buying new zipper bags and storage containers.

Turn old clothes and linens into rags or home decor. Before you throw anything away, assess whether you can reuse it into something else that will prevent you from making a purchase. Consider it a fun challenge!

9. Find a job

Woman looking at her insurance policy on a laptop
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People who lived through the Great Depression found work wherever they could. Men may have had to take on jobs that were new to them, while women first sought work outside the home as housekeepers or teachers.

If you’ve been fired from the restaurant, bar, gym, or where you worked, you can get creative to find paid concerts available now, from grocery store to closings to delivery. package for online retailers.

You might even be able to work from home. Check the local employment center for listings. You might be surprised at what is available.

10. Go manual

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You can save on your utility bills by opting for the manual option instead of the electric. Do like the housewives of the depression era and dry your clothes instead of running the dryer and wash the dishes by hand instead of running the dishwasher half empty.

Turn down your heat a degree or two and put on the sweaters and blankets. Walk or cycle to nearby groceries and exercise while saving on gasoline and car maintenance. These small savings will add up.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation for clicking on links in our stories.

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