10 Great Depression Era Savings Tips

Last Updated on February 19, 2016


10 Great Depression Era Savings Tips
The Great Depression was a financially difficult time. However, many people who lived during this era developed savings skills that allowed them to be financially successful after the Great Depression ended. Other savings skills resulted in traits like my grandmothers hatred of anything to do with soggy bread. Bread soaked in milk for dinner anyone?

Of course these tips are perfect combined with modern money saving tactics like saving on meat, saving electricity and other basic, everyday costs.

Do you want to save money like Great Depression survivors (without resorting to meals of soggy bread)? Then follow these Great Depression Era Savings Tips.


Do Without

One of the best savings tips for the Great Depression era was to go without. If you don’t need cable or if you don’t need to buy that new outfit, then do without. By eliminating the extras, you’ll be saving a lot of money that would otherwise be wasted. The mantra of the era was “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!”  When you do shop think about what you actually need vs. what you just want and can do without. 

Grow a Garden

Many people grew their own garden during the Great Depression. This allowed them to feed their families without breaking the bank. If you want to save money, then make the investment of planting your own garden. Plant your favorite vegetables and fruits that you know your family will eat and then bask in the savings since you won’t be buying those items at the grocery store!

Everyone Contributes

If you really want to save money as in the Great Depression era, then everyone needs to contribute. Obviously your young kids won’t be able to, but you and your spouse will need to be on the same page when it comes to savings contributions. If both of you are contributing from your paychecks, as well as being frugal with your remaining money, then you will quickly build up your savings nest egg.

Use a Clothes Line to Dry Your Clothes

One habit my mom kept on from my grandparents is avoiding using the clothes dryer, especially during the summer.  Instead she hangs her laundry out in the backyard in the summer and in the winter she has a lines running across the ceiling in the laundry room.  If you still want that out of the dryer softness, just throw them in the dryer for 5-10 minutes to soften them up!


Good to the Very Last Drop

Women in the great depression era would never throw out a tube of lipstick, toothpaste or even ketchup without scraping out every last bit.  It may be more convenient to just throw it out, but you can save plenty just by using your products until the very last drop.

Do it Yourself

In the great depression people couldn’t just afford to go get their oil changed or call a plumber for a stuck drain.  Learn how to take care of easy tasks yourself.  Google is a great tool for the wannabe handyman (handy-woman). 

You can also cut down on grocery costs by making food from scratch.  Buying bread from a bakery was a luxury and bread can be easy to make and will save you a bundle.

Find Free Entertainment

If you live in a city the chances are you are surrounded with free activities around your community. Just check out this list of free activities in Toronto. The library is a great choice too.  Borrow movies, books, music and even attend free classes.  There is no reason to spend money on entertainment when there is so much around you to do for free.

Make Do with What you Have

During the great depression, people were not able to just go out and grab a new outfit on a whim.  They often had to make do with only a couple of outfits and this meant patching tears, sewing buttons back on and other repairs to extend the life of their clothing.

Instead of simply throwing away broken or torn items or handing them off to a professional, fix them yourself.  This goes back to google again. You can do it!

Make your Own Cleaning Supplies

Vinegar and baking soda will do most cleaning jobs around your home just as well as store bought. The best part is that they are both very low cost.

Bulk up Your Meat

When making a meal with ground beef, replace some of the beef with lentils. You can substitute up to half the amount of beef with cooked lentils. Our family favourite is to use oatmeal as a (gluten-free!) meat extender.



What are your best Great Depression era savings tips?


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12 thoughts on “10 Great Depression Era Savings Tips

  1. My mom still put a bit of water in the ketchup bottle and shakes it to get that last bit, At 85 she still makes her own bread. Great tips.

  2. Great list! The garden one is huge to me. You learn what works and what doesn’t along the way and are able to have the satisfaction of making something from scratch. No matter what your situation is (in terms of cash or space) try a garden!

  3. My parents were raised in the Depression, so I grew up reusing the paper lunch bags until they fell apart and washing out sandwich bags, saving grocery bags, shoeboxes, etc. We also fixed things like TVs when they broke, which isn’t even an option anymore.

  4. I can’t agree with investing in gold, I’ve done that and lost money by doing it! I also don’t agree that baking your own bread can save you a bundle. I made my own bread for a long time since I couldn’t get decent white bread where I lived. However if you factor in all the ingredients, the electricity needed to bake the bread not to mention the time and energy you expend, then it really is just pennies that you save if that.
    I still use a few of these tips, there wasn’t much money around when I was young, my twin and I were born 6 years after the war and things were getting better but slowly. I reuse freezer bags if they’re still in good shape, I reuse plastic shopping bags for garbage, mend clothes etc. I do wish that I could change my oil and change my tires but I’m afraid that’s beyond me.

  5. I use most of the above tips. I hang my clothes outside, except in winter. I do most of our baking and enjoy it. I sew and do my own mending and, sometimes, for other family members. I enjoy all your tips. You are a very savvy young Mother, in my opinion. Kudos.

  6. Honestly ,i need to be following these tips daily many times we buy just because we WANT not because we NEED it.

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