Frugal Tips Straight From The Great Depression

Piotr Krzyzek —  March 11, 2009 — 2 Comments

So you’ve finally noticed that the the USA is in a bit of a down-turn at the moment and you also happen to live in the United States, though luck huh? The job just isn’t pulling in what it used to, the kids are getting older and are realizing that they can ask for more stuff from you, debt payments are up (darn pesky banks), and financially things just aren’t going to well. Though cookies. Most people call it quits are this point, but not you. Why? Simple, because you know how to be frugal and thrifty.

What exactly can you do to be frugal? One best way is to look into history and see what they' did. So what did people do back in the olden days and in the great depression? Wisebread.com has a great article with a few tips about that. I wanted to elaborate on those and give my own insights from experience and from other's experiences.

Going straight from that Wisebread post lets start off with "Go in Together".

Go In Together: If you can pool your money with someone else, you have more buying power. In many cases, that means you can get something cheaper. For instance if you can buy food in bulk, it's less expensive. If you need a tool or something else that you won't need every day, you can often go in together with someone else that needs the same thing, effectively halving the cost.

Now what exactly does that mean? In other words: Buy in Bulk. That is not to say you should do it all yourself. Get yourself a membership at Cosco, Sam's Club or the like and start getting those bulk discounts. As the article says go with someone, to the store it is all the same as long as you pay together (at least that is how we did it).

You would think that you can only get such great deals at club stores, but not so true. Shop around. If you find a great deal on beef invite some of your friends along so you can all share in the deal goodness. Plus, by car pooling you'll save on travel costs! Woot! If you are at one of the smaller stores shopping in bulk (especially with friends), try asking for discounts. This is not the medieval times so it won't hurt you to ask. The worst they can say is "no", but you'll still get the cheap price that you found there.

If you're thinking that shopping around is not worth your time, you might be right. It really all depends. If you, for example, shop around for 4 hours only to save a total of $20 ... probably not worth it. Those 4 hours can be spent a lot better (like working or learning). On the other hand, if you shop around for an hour and save $30, $40, $50! ... heck, that's well worth it.  This concept goes hand in hand with the idea of spending money to save money (sadly I do not remember the specific article to this at the moment).  It all depends on your view of time vs money. As they say, you're mileage may vary.

Do It Yourself: Pretty much anything is cheaper if you do it yourself, from home repair to cooking meals. Of course, the trade off is time, but if you have the time, it's worthwhile to learn to do as much as you can for yourself. I've been working on this one myself — I still probably shouldn't be trusted with any car repairs, but I no longer have to call someone in to do some of my minor home repairs.

About two years ago I had a big mess next to my tv because of sporadic placement of my gaming systems. My old Xbox was under the tv stand, a PS1 nicely served as a paper weight on the left, a 360 and Wii decorated the right side. Not at all a pleasing sight. So I looked around online to see what options I had. There was "gaming system cases", stands, stools, cabinets and a whole slew of other options but all were either very cheap or overly expansive. So what did I do? I went to the shed, found some old MDF and build my own case. Not only was is way cooler than anything else I've seen, it also fit my systems perfectly making it look as a awesome zen system centerpiece, and I had the satisfaction knowing that something I had was being put to good use. Total cost: $0.00 USD and about 6 hours of work over several days (some time planning, a bit of cutting and the rest nailing, gluing and spray painting).

"I don't have any skills like that" you say? Not a problem, grab a buddy and offer him some food and beer if he helps you complete a really cool project. This goes hand in hand with the next point: bartering!

Barter: Just because you don't have cash for a certain expense doesn't mean that you can't cover that cost. Instead, you can barter. Trade your skills for someone else's — maybe you need a babysitter and your favorite babysitter needs a professional haircut (or whatever your specialty happens to be). You can work out a deal where you both get you want without having to bring cash into the matter.

Ever since the ancient times, bartering has been an art form passed down from generation to generation and still to this day is very wide spread. So how is a old thing like that wide spread? Look at all the business Joint Ventures out there! Company A say they can create a website for B if B helps them acquire XYZ funds. Any money exchange changes in this joint venture? Nope. If you have a skills, any skill from fishing to massaging to programming to underwater basket weaving you can barter you way somewhere. You can teach your skill, you can provide service and you can ever simply find service (through contacts) for others. There is no limit to bartering. If you think bartering is not possible read One Red Paperclip, a man's journey as he bartered his way to a house all the way from a single paper-clip.

Go to the Source: Buying anything from its source is cheaper — food is especially so. If you can purchase from a farmer or through a farmer's market, you often pay less for your food because there is no middle man getting a cut of the cost. Prices are even better if you can become your own source — if you grow your own garden, the cost of your food can be minimal.

In the USA this sort of thing isn't as straight forward as it should be. There are Farmer's Markets (even a store named that), there are brick-yard Saturday morning sales, garage sales type things, but it's all sporadic and not clear cut. I also have seen a huge range of quality in items there. In Poland for example, many cities have places called targowisko’. Basically translates to ‘a place to haggle’. They are usually rather large lots (some are small though) full of people with selling fruits, vegies, cloths, anything for a small profit. Food there is usually of very high quality and rather low priced. If you find a brick-yard type place in your town, go to it. It will probably have some great deals, fresh food and you can most likely haggle with them.

Reuse: We’re used to throwing away all sorts of things that can be easily reused. From packaging materials to broken items, there’s almost always some way that you can repair, reuse or re-purpose anything that you’re planning on sending to the dumpster. Clothing is a key example — it can often be repaired, handed down, altered, made into a quilt or even used as rags. There’s rarely clothing that really ought to be thrown away.

Got an old pair of jeans and your kid just torn up his jeans? Create patchwork jeans! Got some old pens? Make a small table stand out of them. ‘Useless’ paper that was already printed on? Use the other side or spare space as scratch paper (heck, this theory works great for my System’s Modeling teacher and she saved enough money last year using this method to buy a 32 inch LCD recently). Broken bucket? You just got yourself a permanent potting pot that will sit in your garden as decoration.

Just be creative. If it’s around, it can probably be appropriated for some other use. Frugal Tips Straight From The Great Depression

Not mentioned are some things that helped many people in the past:

  • If it’s free, don’t be picky and get/use it.
  • Buy/shop as discount stores. Thrift stores, Salvation Army … ect
  • Barrow!
    • When you can, barrow from friends and family. Most will be more than happy to help out a loved one in need. Nothing screams ‘free’ like barrowing.
  • Use coupons and discounts, AND shop at cheaper locations.
    • “I just saved $200 by switching to Geico!” Ok, well manybe what you’re looking for is not Geico or anything of that sort … but if someone offers you a cheaper price for the same/similar service, go for it.
    • If you have a coupon, use it! These savings add up quick!
    • Discounts are your best friend. For example, if you have a Northwest Airlines membership card you get huge savings from Bugdet car rental. For example, on my last rental, using the NWA discount the price dropped from almost $800 to just over $400! Huge savings. For me this worked out because I rented a car for about a month … see, savings add up!
  • Buy through the business.
    • Be smart and don’t be stupid about this, but being a business and having a business in your household can get you saving on many things. From taxes to computer discounts (see Dell Small Business prices vs ‘regular’ prices [and service]).
    • Extra tip: The corporate/business world is far larger than most of us know. Doing anything through a business instead of personally can reward you not just in cash but also with extra perks such as better service (Dell as an example again), better rates at hotels, discounts on car rentals (oh yes, many car rental places have discounts for business customers), to free upgrades on flights (love this part sometimes). Give it a free, but do your research first as to what you can and can NOT do as a business. Use as your own risk Frugal Tips Straight From The Great Depression

Good luck in your search for balance in life and frugality.

Piotr Krzyzek

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Piotr Krzyzek is one of those rare people who can say he's a consultant, author, entrepreneur and programmer and mean it. His consulting firm, Chykalophia Group, has attracted international startups, Department Of Defense contractors, local mom-and-pop shops and many others from all around the world. He is a bonafide computer nerd with a passion for business, networking and business development.
  • http://wii-repair-guide.com wii repairs

    Hello, I thought I’d post a comment and let you know your web site layout is really messed up on the Firefox browser. Seems to work good on IE though. Anyways keep up the good work.

    • http://www.piotrkrzyzek.com Piotr Krzyzek

      Hey thanks for the tip. I checked in Chrome (linux), Chromium (linux), Firefox (linux), IE (windows) and even Firefox 3.0 (windows) and Firefox 3.5.6 on windows and I could not replicate the issue. What version of FF are you using? Can I have a screenshot of it? Maybe then I can try to figure out what is wrong.

      Thanks for the help.