With all the economic indicators showing that there is at least a slow down coming our way, we need to start getting ourselves into the mindset that we need to be able to nimbly navigate what is on the horizon. And the only time we have that we can compare the near future to is what is presently called the Great Depression of the 20th Century. This older Great Depression was one of the toughest times in United States history. Beyond the time of the revolution, or Reconstruction after the Civil War and the several other mini depressions since the pioneer days. Following a historic collapse of the stock market wages were low, and jobs were tough to find for just about everyone. The Fed Reserve hadn’t faced anything like this before and were caught without having a plan to tackle what occurred in 1929, as they were designed to do.
However, this is not an economic treatise, per se, but how the American people interacted with their economic circumstances. The saying goes “tough times make tough people”, and the Great Depression was no different. Families, friends, and communities, who had a sense of togetherness banded more closely to support one another, and people got savvy with their savings and spending.
This very real situation, can shed light upon what we and the next generation may be facing even in the slightest. These are the lessons learned by those who lived to tell the tale and what worked to get them through the decade of hardships.
The question was posed to those in the Silent Generation, who were kids at the time and are now slowly dying away, “What did you, or your parents do to get through the Great Depression?” This question was asked to see, if we are wise enough, if we can use and learn from the experiences of those who came before us, then hopefully we are better prepared for the hard times that lay ahead of us.
Here are tips for saving money from real survivors of the Great Depression.
Be Willing To Work
Nothing at that time was easy. To find a paying job, to get food, to getting clothing, and the list goes on and on. You and those around you must be willing to work, no matter the job. During the Depression, paying work was scarce, so people had to take on any job they could find.
Even if it doesn’t pay cash, but something ‘in-kind’ like in a bartering situation, be willing to take it and do your best at it. Whether it was cleaning, running supplies, shoveling manure, or just about anything else, be ready to take on whatever jobs may come your way so you can help support the family.
The economy then may not be in as poor of a state as it will be in the future, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from those who came before who had lived in similar circumstances.
Live As A Larger Family Unit
While it may be customary right now for young adults in today’s world to move out as soon as possible. This, though, was found to be the best way to save money.
During the 1930’s Great Depression families stuck together, and moved together in search of work. Even when the adult children married, at the time they would stay with the parents who had the room to accommodate those additions. Living under one roof cuts down the cost of rent, utilities, food, travel, and more. By living together in this way, one can not only save money but have a trustworthy team around them to work through these hard times.
Learn How To Do With What You Have Now
While this was easier to do back then, when things were made to last a bit longer than they are now, we will need to learn how to keep the things we have and use on the daily, in functional, working order. That may be in just the way we use things, or repair things or even saving things for a more important time of use.
This also means that we cannot just go out and buy what we think we are in need of. Because it both may not be available at that time we think it convenient, but also may not be in the budget that we have to abide by. Work-arounds will need to be used more widely than they are being used now.
Start A Garden
Back in the day, most people who had any stretch of land (even a small backyard) was planting a garden for their use. Vegetables and herbs are great and needed additions to every meal, and herbs in particular were very valuable during the Great Depression as they could add flavor to otherwise bland meals.
The problem was that purchasing these vegetables and herbs was very costly during that period. Again even if they were available in the local market.
This is is why you and your family should consider starting your own garden. Get back into the swing of things, get the tools necessary, the seeds that are essential and the know-how down before the crucial times come along. Just as it did back then, gardening can provide you with cheap, continuous, and sustainable access to vegetables and herbs.
Learn to Cook From Scratch
The convenience of canned and frozen foods were available in the 1930’s however because refrigeration was sketchy and cans were costly, people used to gather what they could to make a meal. Most of the time it was from base ingredients that it was started. Flour, lard, oats, whole foods of some sort like potatoes, tomatoes etc., were the life-blood of the kitchen.
We will not have access to the processed foods that we are now familiar. It will be cost prohibitive to buy them at the store and keep them from spoiling. In addition, we will not have the ability to go and get the fast food that is so quick to be eaten and cheaply bought. Our budgets will shrink even to the point of putting Ol’ McDonalds out of business.
Learn How To Bake
On a similar note to gardening, baking was an easy way that was found to save money. Again with the basics of flour oil eggs and other base ingredients, one can feel like they are eating with the kings. Bread became a staple in family’s homes and even then was found that it can be costly to buy in-store, but it is extremely cheap to make at home.
Find the family’s recipe book and start practicing this skill for keeping your stomach full day to day.
Make More Soups
During the 1930’s Depression, soups became extremely popular. They were warm, filling, and most importantly cheap because the main ingredient is water. More importantly, it could feed many mouths and be reheated at will Almost anything can be made into a soup and it makes great leftovers.
Doing Well with Water
It is a luxury that wasn’t needful in those day, splurging for a bottle of Coke or any other type of flavored drink was a nicety indeed! In the last Depression, it wasn’t often when you could do that. Even when you had the likes of a milk cow on the premise, it was used for butters, creams, and cheeses. If you can do well enough with water, and filtered water at that then you can save a lot per month on what is essentially a luxury.
Buy Produce That Is Close To Spoiling
If you are buying produce in the store, and some things you just cannot grow in a garden in your area, then learn to buy the produce close to it’s date of expiration. During the Depression, stores were closed on Sunday and the produce being sold would spoil in the upcoming following week. So they were often put on sale before they would have to be needed to throw away. They learned back then how to extend the life of a piece of produce to sustain it through the next week for eating.
We, today, can learn the same lessons. Go to your local market and keep an eye on the produce and anything else that has a “Sell By” hard date. And see how you can save money in the long run.
Consider Cheaper Protein Options
Much of the protein we consume today is either beef or chicken, pork or fish of the finest cuts. But during the Great Depression, these types of protein became scarce, rationed and expensive. As a result, people turned to finding cheaper protein options of small game, like rabbits, quail, snakes, and even squirrels on occasion.
And because it can take some time to find those smaller animals, dress and quarter them, it has fallen out of fashion. But when the time comes in the future, all of us may just be looking for Chip and Dale.
Learn To Make Basic Home Repairs
There was no calling the plumber, or the furnace guy, or the handyman to come fix things for you. You had to use your noggin to get it fixed because there was no money for that, and if you couldn’t fix it, it stayed broke. That will be the same thing for us in our day. And if any sign of having a hard time for this next generation, they don’t even know where to put the coolant in cars, let alone fix a faucet leak.
Everything will break at some point, so if you can learn to fix some of these things on your own it will help you and your family become much more self sufficient. And if you know how to do it fast, then you just may be able to switch services for services in the next financial depression that hits us.
Keeping The Heat At The Home
Homes today naturally come with some insulation, but the more you can insulate the better. Especially in the colder months of winter keeping the house heated can be challenging and expensive. Look at the sources that generate that heat as well. Will you be able to afford the natural gas, or electricity to keep your fingers and toes from getting cold? What other alternatives are there? Find out now, so you aren’t scrambling when they shut off your electricity or gas.
Also, having the right type of clothing to keep you warm in inclimate weather is essential. Some may not be thinking about the warmth factor when they are making their clothing buying decisions, but when money is scarce for that type of thing that will definitely be a priority.
Wet Sheets Over Entryways and Windows In The Summer
Air conditioning on the other side was not common in those days, as it is now. Even if it were, the cost wouldn’t have been something that could be afforded. Back then, during the summers of the 1930’s Depression, they would hang wet or damp sheets over the doors and windows.
Now, that seems weird to us in the younger crowd, but this is what it did. The water would evaporate during the day and in doing so it would cool the air inside the home some. Especially if there was a breeze to boot.
When the cost of electricity is sky-high, the less strain you can put on your AC unit means less strain on your wallet.
Create Your Own Cleaning Supplies
It was only in the last 50 years or so that cleaning products around the home became so elaborate and involved. But it doesn’t have to be so, to do the job right.
By creating your own cleaning supplies with things like bleach, vinegar and the like you can save a ton on the more “frilly” and flowery smelling kinds. Rather than spending on costly household cleaners from the store, mixing hot water and vinegar can be highly effective for scrubbing away grime.
Look Into Learning To Sew
Even now we are seeing it on the horizon. That running out and getting a new pair of pants or a jacket is not where people are spending their money. When times get tough, when you get some clothes or eat for a week, it can be very valuable to have some basic sewing skills.
Darning a sock, or crocheting a heating pad is a good start, but mending your shorts, or sewing a shirt is where you will need to be aiming at.
My grandmother learned to sew and patch clothing from her mother and older sisters, and the sewing machine she used is in my family to this day. This doesn’t mean that you need to buy a sewing machine, but if you can patch up clothes rather than taking them to a tailor or buying something new it can make a huge difference.
Hang Onto Scraps or Remnants
A valuable lesson many learned during the Great Depression is that anything has value, everything you can think of. Whether it is an orange peel or a scrap of fabric from clothing repairs, or that scrap metal, or extra screws, each will have a place… eventually.
Peels from citrus fruit can be used in homemade cleaners, and clothing scraps can be used in future repairs. Stockpiling excess supplies and hanging onto scraps can be a very valuable strategy. We can think of our grandparents and great-grandparents never threw anything out and used things down to a nub.
We will need to do the same in the upcoming financial crisis.
Moderation Is Key
Moderation can apply to just about anything in this life, whether it is food, tools, or anything in between. By learning to use everything in moderation you will find that everything you purchase and use lasts significantly longer. Each purchase will become an important acquisition. That each time you expend money you make it work for as long as you can muster.
To keep things going for as long as possible, never use anything to excess.
During the last Depression in the 1930’s, everything was scarce, you had to find value in just about anything, and at the same time know the value of everything.
As you and your family start to feel the pinch of a downward economy, you will be pleased that you started learning the skills to cope with it now, instead of scrambling in a panic.
The economy may not be in as poor of a state right now. However, the sheer amount of debt, and fiscal hazardousness being used in our governments, communities, and even by ourselves it is only a matter of time when (not if) the hard times arrive. Learn from these tips from real survivors of the Great Depression of yesteryear so that you can be resilient in the times to come.