great depression

Frugal Living Tips from the Great Depression

This page may contain affiliate links that could result in earning us a commission at no cost to you. See our affiliate disclosure for more information.

Taking a page from the history books, we can learn many important things. During the Great Depression, many people had to learn how to live with very little. They were pros at frugal living and we can learn tips from them on how to save money in our daily lives. 

What is the definition for frugal living?

Frugal living is a term that’s used to describe the act of living within your means and using your money in smart ways. There are trade-offs that one makes in decisions on spending money, but it doesn’t mean that you’re cheap or can’t have the life that you want.

The frugal definition means that you’re happy with living a life with less and having a simple way of living. Frugal living is all about making conscious choices on what you spend your money on and not being wasteful. 

How to be frugal

How do you live a frugal but great life? It certainly takes some time to learn new habits and incorporate them into your life. Here are some of our best frugal living tips that can help you get started on your journey. 

1. Grow Your Own Food

One single tomato plant can grow 8 to 10 pounds of tomatoes! Planting a vegetable garden is a great way to save money on produce. Getting your family involved in a garden can double as a way to spend quality time together. Even if it’s just you tending to it, a garden is a nice hobby or way to spend time by yourself. You might even find yourself making friends with some neighbors and trading food!

2. Make Your Own Cleaning Solutions

It doesn’t cost very much to make your own homemade cleaning products. Lemon juice, castile soap, baking soda, vinegar, and other common pantry staples are all ingredients that can help make cleaning solutions for much less and are more environmentally friendly too. 

3. Strategize your Groceries

Never go to the grocery store without a list of what you need for the week. Going in without one is a surefire way of picking up things you don’t need or could go to waste. Use the weekly grocery ads to see what’s on sale and select meals that utilize those items. 

4. Learn how to Upcycle 

How do you live like it’s the Great Depression? Upcycling is a method that many people during that time used to stretch their dollars. It can get your creative juices flowing to give something a brand new life. 

What is the definition of Upcycle?

According to, the term “upcycling” refers to “The act of taking something no longer in use and giving it a second life and new function. In doing so, the finished product often becomes more practical, valuable, and beautiful than what it previously was.”

Things that can be upcycled are usually items that you have in your home, have been handed down to you, or purchased from an outlet. 

Things you can Upcycle

Here are a few ideas on things that you can upcycle that you may already have on your own:

  • Old dining chairs
  • Mason jars
  • Old or salvaged bookcases

5. Develop New Skills

How did people save money in the Depression? Self-reliance was a huge part of how people were able to successfully navigate during those difficult times. Today, we have a tendency to hire other people to handle tasks that we can do ourselves. Learning how to do those things will not only save you money, but you’ll also feel a level of personal satisfaction.

6. Don’t Use Credit

Credit cards can get you in trouble fast. The high-interest rates mean that you could end up paying a lot more for the items than just the sticker price at the store. Avoid this temptation by eliminating the use of credit. Plus, you’ll actually be spending less – It is easier to swipe a card to pay for something versus using actual cash.

7. Be Conservative with Utilities 

Our utility bills are a significant monthly bill that can fluctuate quite a bit during cold winters and hot summers. Be mindful of the way that you’re utilizing them. Here are a few things that you can do to conserve your energy use:

  • Buy a smart thermostat that adjusts the temperature according to your behaviors
  • Raise or lower the temperature depending on the season
  • Switch to LED bulbs
  • Shorten showers
  • Wash clothes in larger loads
  • Use cold water for showers and laundry

8. Cook Your Own Food

Eating out consistently affects the size of your wallet and your waistline! When you pack your own lunches and cook your dinners at home you save hundreds monthly. You could even turn it into a fun family event where everyone pitches in to cook food and enjoy the time together.

9. Performing your own Repairs and Maintenance

Fixing a running toilet or changing the oil on your car are tasks that you can do on your own. There are plenty of online videos that you can watch to learn how. Learn how to do these easy fixes and maintenance yourself instead of paying a plumber a $75 fee for 10 minutes of their time.

10. Borrowing

Do you need to use something once? Don’t go out and buy it, only to have it sitting in your garage collecting dust for the rest of the year. Use your network of family, friends, and neighbors to borrow the item instead. 

11. Shop Used

Buying used items can provide significant savings over paying the new price. The internet makes it easier than ever to find used items. Look over places like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist to find items cheaper.

12. Utilize your local library

Your local library has a plethora of entertainment options. You can find audiobooks, movies, graphic novels, and of course, books! Libraries also host events that are fun for the whole family. There are book clubs, story readings for children, and many other fun, but free activities that are held on a regular basis. 

13. Control Emotional Impulses

Some people will turn to spending when their emotions are high or to create a distraction. This wasn’t something that people could do during the Great Depression. It isn’t a good strategy in today’s world either. Sleeping on it before making a decision on purchases that are not absolutely necessary helps.

14. Pick up a Side Hustle

Making more money doing our main job isn’t usually possible. But you can turn your spare time into a side hustle to increase our cash flow. There’s an abundance of side hustles that you can start these days. Use your passions and interests to start an Etsy shop, start ride-sharing through apps like Uber, or apply on a job site such as Upwork.

15. Cut back on Bills

Take a look at all your monthly bills like cable, streaming services, and subscriptions and memberships. There’s a good chance that you can find some that you can do without. 

16. Skip the Coffee Shop

Going to the local coffee shop every day for a latte can really add up by the end of the month. Instead, brew your own coffee at home. If you enjoy your iced coffee at the coffee shop, you can still enjoy it every once in a while, as long as you cut down on the trips.

17. Stay Close to Home

Taking trips is expensive these days. An airplane ticket, hotel, and food costs can make a dramatic impact on your bank account. Instead, find things that you want to do that are close to your home. You’ll be sure to find hidden gems nearby that you never even considered that can be enjoyed at a fraction of the cost. 

18. Save your containers

Many products that you buy come in plastic or glass containers that you also gain ownership of. Aside from its original use, there are many other possibilities on how you could use it from storing leftovers to using them for meal prep.

19. Buy in bulk 

There are probably items that you’re constantly buying at the grocery store like cereal, oatmeal, etc. Buying larger quantities at places like Costco, or other warehouse places can save money in the long run. If you have an extra freezer, use it to store bulk items. 

20. Minimize Landscape Expenses

Paying someone to cut your grass or pick weeds regularly is an extra expense that we can easily cut out. Do these tasks yourself to save money and get a little exercise in the process too. 

21. Limit Dishwasher Loads 

Using your dishwasher constantly means you’re using a lot of detergents and hot water. Instead, handwash your dishes by making it a habit to clean them up immediately after use instead of loading them up. 

22. Be Creative with Gifts

Buying gifts for birthdays and other milestones can eat up your budget fast. Get creative and make your gifts. It’s a more meaningful way to show someone how much you care about them. 

23. Make a Trade

You probably have items around the house that you don’t need anymore. Try to see if you can work out trades for other goods that are useful. Try using online marketplaces or talking to friends about making these trades. 

24. Use a Reusable Water Bottle

Single-use water bottles are bad for the environment and cost you more. Instead, get a good usable bottle that you can fill with water or other beverages to sip on. 

25. Embrace Nature 

Going on a walk or hike can be a lot more fun than you might think. Taking advantage of the nature that’s available right outside your home can help your wellbeing.

26. Print on both sides

Use half the amount of paper by utilizing both sides of a piece of paper when printing. It’s also more eco-friendly to use half the amount of paper when you need to print things to reference. 

27. Leverage technology

Buying top-of-the-line tech products cost double if not more to do. With how fast technology changes, you’ll be switching them out in a few years anyway. Instead look for economical, reliable models that have all the features you need. 

28. Cook in batches

Another big purpose of using the Great Depression mindset is to reduce waste. By cooking in batches, you can help do this. Refrigeration these days allows you to make meals for several days at once that will keep fresh and you can reheat when needed in a microwave. 

29. Start a Compost Bin

A compost heap of your food scraps makes an excellent source of nutrients for your garden. Create a compost bin in your kitchen that you and your family can easily toss scraps into when eating or using ingredients for meals. 

30. Collect rainwater for garden

Leverage the weather to help keep your garden hydrated. All you need to do is keep out a few buckets outside to collect rainwater. You’ll use less water and it’s just as easy as turning on the hose. 

31. Always eat leftovers

We tend to forget about the leftovers that we had for dinner the night before. Pack leftovers for lunch the next day or plan to finish off your leftovers before cooking your next meal.                                                                                                                                                                           

32. Consider Downsizing

Having a home that’s bigger than what you need means you’re paying for unused space. It’s also tempting to fill these spaces with more stuff that we could do without. Consider selling your home to get one that fits your needs. You’ll also spend less time upkeep and cleaning your home. 

33. Plan Ahead

“Just wing it” isn’t a very strategic way to save money. Plan ahead for things like vacations, grocery trips, buying clothes, etc. so you know exactly what you’re getting. If you can plan around sales and when certain things are cheaper, you could save hundreds. Outline the things that you want to spend your money on and why it’s important. 

How do you live a frugal but great life?

Using extreme frugality tips doesn’t mean you can’t live a great life. It’s about putting thought into your purchases to ensure that you’re spending them wisely. Making the most out of the resources that are in front of you will create less waste. You’ll enjoy the simpler things and make the most out of your life.  

What was the Great Depression?

The Great Depression happened from 1929 to 1939. Unemployment was at an all-time high, businesses were closing, and banks were going bankrupt. People who had put their money in these banks lost everything. Many were evicted from their homes and were left starving. 

How did people save money during the Great Depression?

People during the Great Depression utilized everything they had to save money and made do with what they had. If they didn’t have something, they tried to make do without it. They lived within their means and utilized a budget to keep them on track with their finances. 

Do people still save money the same way they previously did?

We can still use a lot of the extreme frugality tips of the Great Depression days to save money, though in some different ways. Think about all the things that we outsource today. We go out to eat, get our groceries delivered, hire companies to mow our lawns, etc. These are all things that could be more conscious of spending our money on to save money like those who lived during the Great Depression era had. 

Overall Frugal Living Tips from the Great Depression

Whether you’re looking for frugal living tips for seniors or habits that you and your family can form, we have some guidelines that you can incorporate. Here are a few ways you can save money as people did during the Great Depression:

  • Find free entertainment
  • Sell items you don’t need
  • Be more self-reliant by growing herbs, vegetables, etc.
  • Learn to go without sometimes
  • Make do with less
  • Save for things you want instead of using a credit card

Similar Posts