12 Depression-era savings tips that work today

If you can’t make heads or tails of your finances, consider going back in time and taking a few helpful and smart tips from the generation that lived (and paid their bills) during the Great Depression.

If you need money advice or a top-notch financial plan, the Internet is full of modern-age tips and downloadable apps and, really, anything else you may need to navigate your personal finances. Perhaps you’ve already tried using only your credit cards for purchases — and found you were just left paying your bills in one big heap at the end of the month. Maybe you’ve created 100 spreadsheets over the past three years, only to find you never, ever glance at them after the first of the month.

The money-saving answers you’re looking for may actually be right under your nose, assuming you’re lucky enough to be able to tap into the wisdom of a grandparent or great-grandparent who lived during the Great Depression. Back in the early ’30s, most folks didn’t have a choice when it came to saving — there simply wasn’t a lot of money to begin with and groceries had to be purchased, clothing needed mending and bills had to be paid on time. “The Greatest Generation” sucked it up and followed these savings tips, which work just as well in modern times.

1. Stop buying everything you want — It’s nice to have 15 shades of red lipstick to match your moods, but those tubes add up — and could be better spent paying off your phone bill. The first step to making sure you’re saving enough money is to ask yourself, with each and every purchase, whether you need it to live (milk for a baby, bread) or whether it’s a beautiful trinket that will add pleasure to your life. Save pleasurable purchases for special occasions.

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2. Learn to fix things when they break — How many times have you thrown out broken household items or clothing because you had no idea how to repair them? The next time a button on your shirt or coat pops off, grab some thread and a needle and try your hand at putting it back on. You’ll save yourself a bundle at the dry cleaner’s and will feel good about your crafty ways.

3. Stop throwing everything out — You know that plastic bag you just chucked out that once contained nothing but a granola bar? In the old days, there’s no way anyone would have done away with a perfectly good and reusable item that could be put to use again (and again and again). If you really want to cut down on costs, stop using plastic plates and cups and wash glasses and china in the sink.

4. Buy secondhand clothing — If you haven’t visited a secondhand shop since you were a teen, you’d be surprised at the amazing deals and cute vintage clothing items you can score. Not only will you save money on a sweet wardrobe, but you’ll also do the environment a big favor.

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5. Wear more sweaters — During the wintertime. Around the house. No one who lived during the Depression heated their homes to 75 degrees in January — they just learned how to wear extra layers and deal with it. You’ll be happier (and maybe even healthier since all of that stale air can’t be good) when you get your heating bill at the end of the month.

6. Grow a garden — Not only is it super healthy and fun to grow your own veggies in your backyard, but it will save you a lot of money at the grocery store.

7. Visit the library — Before you even think of buying another $30 book or DVD, visit your local library and benefit from educational and free entertainment.

8. Use up every last bit of coffee (or lipstick or face cream) — Women who lived during the Great Depression wouldn’t have dreamed of tossing out a tube of lipstick because it had started to become difficult to use. Simply invest in a quality lip brush and you’ll get every last bit of color out of your lipstick before having to buy a new one. The same principle applies to coffee, creams, sugar, etc.

9. Watch less television — There are plenty of reasons why watching less television is a great idea: you’ll likely use your mind in more creative ways and will get to enjoy books and crafts and hobbies that you’ve forgotten you love. But it doesn’t hurt that your bill will be lower each month — cutting down on TV time may even inspire you to cancel cable altogether. Talk about savings.

10. Clean with natural products — Cleaning your home with multipurpose products like baking soda and white vinegar are safer for the environment and your health, and will save you a lot of money in the long run. Your home will even smell fresher and more inviting.

11. Stop using credit cards — Make this your money-saving mantra: If I don’t have cash to spend on xyz, it will have to wait. Of course, in this day and age, it helps to build a credit line — but that doesn’t mean you should use it to pay for everything, or for luxury items that you can’t really afford.

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12. Buy generic over-the-counter drugs — Why spend triple the price for what amounts to the same drug? The ingredients in generic drugs are the same as big-name ones (they have to be — imagine the lawsuits if they weren’t), so don’t buy into the hype when it comes to fancy name-brand items. Now that we think about it, that goes for a lot of purchases: food items, toothpaste, paper goods, you name it.

Depression era savings tips
Image: Terese Condella/SheKnows


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