Smart Money

Old Fashioned Frugal Tips For Modern Times

By  | 

This Article first appeared on
12 Old Fashioned Frugal Tips for Modern Times

Have you ever taken a look at how your grandparents or great-grandparents lived?  Chances are, they were really, really good with their money.  Why do you think that is?  Basically: they lived through times when things were hard…and I mean harder than you have (hopefully) ever experienced.  They may have lived through the Great Depression.  The Dust Bowl. World Wars.  Been immigrants.  Been part of big families with not enough for everyone.  They may have been poorer than you can imagine.  Because of that, they learned to do things differently than you and I have.  I remember many stories told to me by my grandparents and great aunts and uncles, fascinated by stories of no running water and no electricity.  Nothing compares to the life of comparable luxury we enjoy today — some of which is in part to their hard work and sacrifices to make future generations of the family successful.  Here are some of the best lessons I learned from the “Olden Days” that still apply today.  I try to incorporate these into our life and am teaching my daughter the same.

  1. Waste Not Want Not – Your grandparents learned to use everything until they couldn’t use it anymore, and most of us could take a hint from them. Are you using everything in your life until you no longer can?  For example, using chicken or beef bones until they’re mush to make stock then using the mush to make pet food, or keeping a bag in the freezer for vegetable scraps to use for stock or soup.  Make sure you extend this to every single area of your life and use the last of your makeup, toilet paper, ink in a pen and more.  My grandma always saved the last slivers of a bar of soap in a jar, and she added a little water to make her own Soft Soap.
  1. Save every dime (0r penny) you can – Savings account looking a little bare?  Or  is it non-existent?   Take a tip from your elders and save every penny you can.  A penny saved really is a penny earned.  In fact, a lot of people who were kids during the depression later invested those pennies and are living quite comfortably now thanks to that smart thinking.  In that vein, try to use coupons and shop sales.  Saving a few dollars (to a few hundred a month) just by using coupons really does add up.
  1. Let go of your pride – Ask anyone who grew up in that time period and they will tell you that they were willing to do any job at all to help take care of their families. In today’s world, it’s common to think that we’re above a certain job because it may pay less or we may just feel it’s “beneath” us. If things are rough? Nothing is beneath you when it comes to feeding your family. What you may think of as a menial job, they thought of as opportunity.  Do the same.
  1. Get Creative with your meals and eat at home – Some of the most memorable meals are the simplest and this holds true for cooks during the Depression Era. One of the best tips is to replace ingredients with cheaper ones. Lentils or beans are great for substituting ground beef and you can easily stretch most soups or casseroles with rice or egg noodles. Want to use the meat but make it go further?  Mix in some oats or oatmeal.  And save meals out for special occasions.  Even a drive through trip can cost $20!  Planning ahead for those busy nights by having some meals in the freezer will save your budget, and taste much better than a burger in a bag.
  1. Skip the store and make it yourself – Depression Era families learned how to make things at home instead of buying them. This could include things like toothpaste, deodorant, laundry soap, bread and more. All of these things are much cheaper to make yourself than to purchase.
  1. Grow it yourselves – Most families had gardens and they were a necessary part of life if you wanted to eat.  Victory Gardens were popular during World War II, and many families depended on what they grew to feed the family.  There was no super grocery store to run to when you needed food, and many families could not afford store bought anyhow.  If you try, make sure that you include things like celery that can be grown from scraps so that you don’t waste anything.  And a compost pile is a great way to recycle food scraps into beautiful organic fertilizer.
  1. Fix It Yourselves – Have a skirt that needs hemmed?  Learn to do it yourself.  Need a rip sewn?  Learn to mend it yourself.  Plumbing need fixed? You guessed it, fix it yourself. Your grandparents learned to do it themselves (often by sheer necessity) and you can too. Your wallet will thank you, and you will feel accomplished.  And these days Google and YouTube are fabulous resources of information for practically anything you want to learn to do.  Just know when you really should call that professional to be safe.
  1. Trade for it – Money was not the only commodity, and in fact trade was very common. People traded things they had or services they could do for things they needed.  Doctors were often paid in eggs or crops.  My own grandmother used to trade her excellent sewing skills for things the family needed all the time.
  1. Learn Needs vs Wants – Money does not in fact grown on trees, and when budgets are tight needs vs wants become stark reality. I am not talking about basics like food, shelter and utilities.  I mean the extras that we THINK we need.  Not sure if you really need something?  Try this test:  Consider the thing you need/want.  Would you be willing to have the thing or the same value in cash?  If your answer is the cash…you probably don’t need it, you just want it, so consider carefully.  Things like satellite tv, data packages on smartphones, and expensive coffees out are all nice.  But if you need cash more, then you need to consider cutting back.  Brew your own coffee.  Sign up for Netflix.  One trick I do when I want something is figure out how long I have to work to pay for that item.  Usually it goes right back on the shelf.
  1. Hand it Down and Pass it On – Ok this one can be really fun! I try to shop at thrift stores, and I learned this from my grandma who dressed very nicely on the cheap!  There are some good thrift stores nearby and the clothing is great quality, so when I have NOTHING to wear (lol) I head to the thrift store to satisfy my shopping bug without breaking the budget.  Here is the fun part — When I am done wearing something, I put it in a bag and then I pass the bag to a friend.  I get bags passed to me.  Take what you want and add to it and pass it along.  It is a great FREE way to rejuvenate your wardrobe.  And for kids, definitely pass those clothes (and TOYS as well!) on or even SELL them on resale sites.  And invest in classic items for things like coats, boots and bags.  Fads are pricey and often poor quality.  Sometimes it is a better value to spend a little more on something that you want to use for years.
  1. Sell Sell Sell – One man’s trash really IS another man’s treasure! I sell things we no longer need on Facebook resale sites.  You would be surprised what people will buy, so give it a go.  My grandma sold jelly and jam.  My grandpa earned extra cash working on boat engines in his spare time.  My other grandma made custom draperies at home.  If you have a hobby, see if there is a way for you to get paid to do it!
  1. Live Below Your Means This one is really the biggest.  My grandparents lived in the same small house they bought in 1942. They raised 4 kids in it and lived there proudly until the day they were unable to care for themselves.  They didn’t buy a new car every year, they used it till it wore out.  They could have afforded more than they had, but they didn’t spend frivolously or foolishly.    My parents still live in the house I and my brother grew up in.  Don’t take on debt for bad reasons, like keeping up appearances.  There really do come those rainy days (Or months.  Or years even.) when NOT keeping up with the Jones’ pays you back in spades.  My grandparents eventually needed their savings to take care of themselves in a decent place when the time came, and our family felt better that they were well cared for until they days they passed.  They taught us all well, and I am trying to live their lessons and teaching my daughter the frugal way.


Shares 0

I am a trained accountant, but I started using coupons out of necessity, and for something to do after my day job. I was astonished at the savings and all the free or better than free things I could get. It was so much fun I decided to share what I was doing with others, and was born in March 2011. It has been satisfying being able to provide for the needs of my family, friends and community through what I do. My site grew so much that I became a full-time blogger, author and marketing manager, and I left the corporate world behind for the glam life of a WAHM. Personally, we are a family of three living in the St. Louis Metro area. In a big SURPRISE we had our first (and only) blessed daughter when I was near 42…and my husband the King turned 40 right after we brought her home, then he graduated college right after THAT. Life has been busy, but bountiful! SO while I no longer concentrate solely on deals and freebies because I am 1. Chasing a toddler, and 2. Did I mention I was in my mid-40s and chasing a toddler? my focus still remains frugal and family friendly and hopefully fun and useful. Others now are a part of the Couponista Queen team, though I remain Queen in charge, hands on daily (makeup and bra optional).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *