Whether you're struggling to make ends meet or you just want to save more of your hard earned money for the future, history provides some of the best ideas for doing so. Since the days of Genesis, people have struggled through financially difficult times - but perhaps no time is easier to apply to our modern days than those of the Great Depression. Fortunately, many of the ways our grandparents or great-grandparents used to survive those difficult years still apply today. In fact, you may find that following these guidelines makes your life happier and more fulfilling, even if you aren't strapped for cash. I know I do.
1. "Use it, Wear it out, Make do" was the motto of the Depression and WWII. Patch clothes, make do with household items that aren't perfect but still get the job done, and never replace an item you can fix.
2. Reuse, reuse, reuse. This is especially true of containers. If you buy a jar of food, save the jar for storing something else later. You know the old joke about Grandma's house not having Tupperware, but being full of old margarine tubs? Yep, do that. And if my grandmother had Ziplock bags back in the 30s, you'd better bet she would have washed them and reused them until they fell apart.
3. Don't use convenience foods like frozen French fries or jarred spaghetti sauce. Make your own! It really doesn't take much time, but it saves a lot of money - and the homemade versions are usually healthier, too! (Learn how to make some convenience foods here.)
4. When looking for entertainment, do what's free (or cheap). Instead of paying $18 or more to go to the movie theater, get a Redbox rental. Better yet, check out a movie from the library. Go on hikes. Have a family board game night. Have a neighborhood potluck. Often what costs least is the most fulfilling.
5. Grow or raise your own food, as much as possible. This is cheaper and healthier!
6. Eat your weeds. Weeds are a free source of food that are high in nutrition. One of the most commonly eaten weeds during the 1930s and 40s were dandelion leaves.
7. Stretch meat with beans. Lentils, in particular, are cheap, take on the flavor of what's around them, and easily blend in with ground meat. Grab more ideas for stretching your meat budget here.
8. Learn the difference between real needs and wants. One trick to help: Imagine someone offering you cash instead of the item you're considering buying. If you'd pick cash over the item, you don't need the item.
9. Before you buy, consider how many hours you have to work to pay for that item. It may make you reconsider. (More here.)
10. Buy used. Lots of things - maybe most things - we need can be purchased used for a fraction of the cost, and work just as well as new. Cars are an excellent example. So is furniture. Clothes, too, if you live in a fairly affluent area. Even kitchen items.
11. Use up everything. Use your soap scraps. (Tip: Just lay them on top of a fresh, wet bar of soap and they will stick there.) Dip down into your lipstick tube and get every last bit. Scrape the sides of food cans and bottles. It may feel inconvenient, but over time, you'll save money. Plus, it feels better not to be wasteful.
12. Don't use credit cards. It's good discipline, and will save you a huge amount of money in interest.
13. Use leftover meat and veggies in stews and soups. Plan on having soup or stew at least once a week.
14. Never throw away vegetable and fruit scraps. Most veggie scraps can be added to the pot when making stock or broth (learn how here),
and all veggies and fruits can go into the compost bin. Vegetable and
fruit scraps are also excellent feed for animals like chickens.
15. Eat simple food. That doesn't necessarily mean eating high carb foods like beans, rice, and pasta. Even just paring down to a palm-sized piece of meat, plus a side of veggies, will reduce your grocery bill (and make you healthier).
16. Stash away cash. Even if the amount seems insignificant - those little amounts do add up over time. I remember reading about a lady who took small amounts of cash - sometimes just a dollar or two - to her bank to pay off a loan there. The clerks often raised their eyebrows at her, but she paid off her loan many months in advance, saving a lot of money in interest. The principle is the same if you're saving money. A dollar a week may not seem like much, but in a year, you'll have $52 more dollars saved than if you hadn't stashed that cash.
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