Thursday, August 3, 2017

Great Depression Lessons

Some of us came along shortly after the Great Depression, but most had parents and grandparents that lived through it.  I even had siblings living through it.  We have all heard stories about what life was like then.
It wasn't easy at all - it was bad in some respects - but I think it also had many good things going for it!  Does that surprise you? 
Think about it - these folks learned things and lived in a way that many people today are striving for.  So many are going back to living a simple life, living off grid, homesteading, being frugal.......the list goes on and on. 

We can learn so much from the past, and unfortunately, many lessons that we SHOULD be learning, we are just oblivious too.             

The  usual motto back then was "use it up, wear it out and make it do".  This was the way of life for most families.  Almost everyone was affected by the depression in some way.  Nothing was wasted.  People improvised.  Many items weren't available or were in short supply - so you had to come up with news ways.
As bad as it was - it was good too!!!  People were creative.  People helped each other.  No one felt especially deprived.  Families and community was treasured.
Conserving what little money that was had - was vital.

1.  USE WHAT YOU HAVE - mend it, fix it, re-invent it.  We have such accumulations of stuff - we should all be able to get by with what we have for ages.  It is just a matter of getting creative!

2. SHOP FOR BARGAINS - do NOT impulse shop!!!!  If you are going to have to make a major purchase  - research, research and more research!!!!!  Have patience.  Odds are you can make do for a while without it.  Think hard about your purchases.  Odds are when I think I want something - if I think on it for a while - I realize I don't need it.  Get the best quality for the best price.

3.  NOTHING WRONG WITH USED - Check yard sales, thrift stores, Craig's List, Freecycle, friends and neighbors.  Someone you know may have just what you need just waiting for you!  You never know till you ask.
Electronics can be iffy - unless you are a pro and know how to fix.  I would avoid second hand computers, unless from a reputable upgrade store.  Beds are another thing you might be careful with.  Bed bugs can cause huge problems if you bring them home.

4.  COOK AT HOME FROM SCRATCH.  learn how to make your restaurant favorites - there are many duplicate recipes on-line and in cookbooks.  Restaurants can suck your money up quickly.  Learn how to make simple old fashioned meals.  Get cookbooks at the library.

5.  MAKE IT - Learn how to make simple but good home cleaners.  Make your own compost.  Learn how to do small projects around the house.  Learn to sew and mend.  Cook.

Here are 3 of my older siblings who grew up during the depression.  Don't they look nice?  Mom made the boy's shirts and clothes for the girls.  Homemade doesn't mean looking bad.  Being poor doesn't mean you can't have nice things. 
6.  FIX STUFF - so much of our society has become throw away - it is really disgusting and wasteful.  Check out You Tube for instructions on how to fix your stuff.  Acquire missing manuals on-line.  Call 800 numbers on products - they may be able to trouble shoot.  TRY your best to fix things before buying new.

7. DO IT YOURSELF - do your own yard work, pet baths, gutter cleaning, easy plumbing, cleaning AC and furnaces, etc.  No need to pay someone else, when you can do it yourself.

8.  PAY OFF DEBT - no brainer for most of us - but many don't get it!  Make any extra payments you can on car or mortgage.  Always try to pay more than the minimum payment.  Pay off one smaller debt at a time - it gives you a since of accomplishment.  If need be get an extra job or learn to make extra money to pay things off - DO IT.  Get out of debt!!!!!!  Budget.  Make a plan and a goal.  STRIVE FOR IT!

9.  FOREGO FASHION - This doesn't mean look like a slob or have crumby stuff.  You can dress simpler when you stay at home.  Be comfortable and practical.  DON'T feel like you need to keep up with the Jones's.  An older well maintained vehicle is fine, older furniture and things are fine.  DO NOT worry about impressing people!!!!!!!!!!!!

10. LEARN TO HAVE FUN WITHOUT SPENDING - it is doable!  Have a picnic, play board/card games, play Frisbee, story telling, go to the library, camp (if nothing else in the back yard), have campfires, do family research together (great way to teach kids history and learn about your ancestors), do cooking or sewing lessons with the kids (and friends), garden together, hike, fly kites, play horseshoes, croquet, volleyball, etc.........................

11.  EMERGENCY FUND - pay yourself.  It is necessary and important.  You may have to start small  with $5 or $10 a week - but do something!  If you have an emergency that comes up and it costs $1,000 - even if you only have $500 - you are better off than having none.  You just never know what can happen - you MUST be prepared.

12.  FREE STUFF - find it!  Libraries have books, music and movies all for free.  Check out special days at museums, historical sights, state or federal parks.  Go to local parks.  Check out programs performed at area schools and colleges - there are may things that can be enjoyed - choirs, art, plays, etc.  Our local park has an event every week all summer - the symphony, art displays, movies in the park, local musicians - all FREE

13.  GARDEN - for the cost of a few packs of seeds (or free is saved seeds) - you can grow an abundance of food - healthy food!.  Read books, mentor with someone, watch You Tube and learn to can and preserve your food for later months.  Grow whatever you can - even if it's a few herbs on the patio.  It is food you don't have to buy!!!!!!!!

14.  MAKE GIFTS - make your gifts more personal than just giving generic store bought stuff.  Re-purpose items into new things - pillows, dish towels, quilts, lap quilts, pillows.  Make wood crafts if handy.  Make up small photo albums with family recipes from long ago (maybe add pictures if you can).  Give home canned goods, breads, muffins, candy, etc.  There is NO limit to the gifts that can be made when you have any special talent. 
Make coupon books, for baby sitting, home car wash and detailing, a meal a month, snow shoveling, leaf raking, baked goods, etc.

Quilts and pillow shams that I made from clothing scraps and yard sale materials.  I made each sibling a set one year for Christmas, when we had virtually NO money.  They loved them, and I felt proud to give a nice gift without spending much money.
I have done many small ones for new babies as well.

Take time and figure out what you REALLY WANT from life. 
Do you want to be in debt and have all kinds of fancy new stuff, that loses it's appeal after you get it home? 
Do you want to retire and relax? 
Do you just want to feel safe - IN CASE?
Do you want to do good things for the planet?
Do you want to slow down?
Do you want to have new experiences with family and friends?
Do you just want to be a good steward of what you have?

WHATEVER you do - be wise and thrifty!


  1. Another wonderful post, Cheryl. And when we consider that WWII came on the heels of the Depression, it gives new credence to the phrase 'The Greatest Generation'. Those folks went from having nothing at all to having what little they had being rationed. When you talk to these men and women they invariably tell their stories with a smile, recalling "the good ol' days". I wonder how this generation would manage? Mindy

    1. Wonderful observation. The younger generation today is so dependent on WANTS, technology. It is really sad. I don't think they would fair too well if the bottom dropped out of society as we know it.

      We ALL (including the younger folks), need to talk to all the people we can from that generation and hear the stories before they are gone.
      We can learn so much about life.

      Thank you for posting and for your compliment.

  2. Great post!! I am amazed when I go to the garbage dump to take our garbage.... bins full of furniture,tv sets, toys, etc. No one fixes anything anymore!

    1. Thanks. It is so sad. I think I would be 'shopping' at the dump!!!! I have been know to curbside 'shop'.

  3. We definitely need to research before shopping for bargains. I had been researching for a clothing item that I needed since February, but the place was charging $29 for the item and I knew they offered it at a better price at other times of the year. I've been checking on it all summer and finally last week they were offering them for buy one get one free, so I jumped on the deal and got two of them for the $29 price tag. I just made the one I was using last until I could finally replace it. So glad I waited.

    I had read an article this summer about bed bugs in pillows also. So be careful when buying pillows at yard sales too even decorative pillows. It's made me think twice before buying something like that.

    Your siblings do look nice in that photo. It's great that your Mom made their clothes. That was a big money saver back then.

    I love that we can find manuals for appliances online now. I have a rice cooker and don't have the manual, so it's very helpful to find how to use it online.

    The quilts you made for your siblings are beautiful and what a nice gift that would be to receive.

    Such a great blog post, Cheryl.

    1. Thanks Belinda. Did you know that on smaller items like pillows, blankets, etc. that you can put in dryer at high heat for like an hour - and it kills them. Also I wrap throw pillows tightly in black trash bags and lock them up in a closed car. The heat gets tremendously high in the bag. heat is the best killer of bedbugs.
      Better to be safe than sorry.

      Thank you for the kind words.

    2. I knew that the dryer was good for killing lice, but did not know that about bed bugs. That is great information to have. Thank you, Cheryl. :)

  4. 'Being poor doesn't mean you can't have nice things.'

    Great reminder!

    1. Yes mam! We need to take care of what we have, and there are so many ways to get nice things for little or no money nowadays!
      We can still have pride!

  5. What a great post! We always said we were not poor we were broke! Poor is a state of mind. Loved the quilts.

    1. Oh I agree so much. Having little money is not poor! Poor is so much more than money in my eyes. Each day that we wake up is a blessing and therefore makes us rich.
      I love that phrase - "poor is a state of mind".
      Thank you.

  6. Cheryl, You probably don't sit still long enough to read, but if you get the chance, you must read 'Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression' by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. I think you'd really enjoy it.

    1. I love to read - especially during the winter months. Thank you - I will make sure to try and find that one.

  7. Great post my friend! My father grew up during the Depression and he remembers his parents and him living with his mother's aunt and uncle on the farm until my father was old enough to go to school. They had to move back into town then but dad, and later his brothers, all spent the summers on the farm to help out. He said they never realized how poor they were because there was always so much to eat since his aunt and uncle provided them with lots of food from the farm and my grandfather turned their yard into a garden.

    I love reading stories from the Depression because they inspire me to live more simply and do find new ways to do things.

    YOur quilts are lovely and your mom sure did an amazing job on the clothing for your siblings. :)

    1. Debbie I am the same. I love hearing and reading stories about those times - so much to learn and strive for.
      Shucks, we didn't realize that we had little money - always had plenty of good food (thanks to garden), and nice clothes (thanks to Mom).

      Mom was quite a seamstress - she often sewed for others as well. She taught me to sew at a young age.
      Thank you!