The Depression’s Frugal Generation–A Reality unlike any.

great depression Frugal websites, although many, do not come close to describing frugality, as experienced by so many during the Great Depression of 1929 and felt around the world. There was no money as banks closed and survival was  based on one’s ability to be self-sufficient. This time period presented the highest levels of emigration ever in our nation’s history which lasted til 1940 before stabilizing. Tough times lasted for nearly a decade, ending with a recession in 1937-1938 and boosted by WWII and need for materials. A NY Times online article of April 24, 2013 by Nick Taylor;’ The Great Depression-Short History of the Great Depression,’ stated that “By 1932 the unemployment rate had soared past 20 percent. Thousands of banks and businesses had failed. Millions were homeless. Men (and women) returned home from fruitless job hunts to find their dwellings padlocked and their possessions and families turned into the street. Many drifted from town to town looking for non-existent jobs. Many more lived at the edges of cities in makeshift shantytowns their residents derisively called Hoovervilles. People foraged in dumps and garbage cans for food.”

Comparing today’s economy to that of the Great Depression clearly demonstrates that even though we are in hard times, we are nowhere near what those of The Great Depression experienced on a personal level. I had always wondered, as a child, why my grandmother (a young adult during the depression) saved and re-used everything; saran wrap, plastic bags, cans, jars etc. Growing up in such desperate times made an indelible mark on how people affected by The Great Depression lived their lives; full well knowing that there were no guarantees. My grandparents and parents were and are very self-sufficient, a consequence of the times. It wasn’t uncommon for people then to grow their own vegetables/fruit trees, Can their garden harvest, raise cattle and cows for beef and milk, raise sheep and harvest the wool to make sweaters, hunt as well as fish for food, make their own clothes–many skills not witnessed amongst the younger generations of today.

The Great Depression population, was hands down “frugal,” out of necessity. They did not worry about buying the latest using coupons for example, as they had no money and they were only able to get the very basics if and when available. They bartered or traded services/man-power. They didn’t spend hours in front of the television or on computers as their chores/work/survival drove their lives. They weren’t obese as a population as they had to be physically active doing their chores/work and had to walk or ride a bike to get anywhere as cars were scarce and inexpensive. Healthcare was minimal and lifespans were shorter.

The Baby Boomers’ parents passed on a lot of these life skills ( to a lesser degree than their parents, as the times dictated) to us, their children. The Industrial Age post WWII had changed the lives of the general population with an increase in jobs and creation of products that made life overall, much easier, with less need for the level of self-sufficiency exercised by our grandparents. Regardless, our parents, who were children raised during the depression, still relied on their gardens/canned the harvest, did their own laundry/dried clothes on outside lines, shopped sales, didn’t waste food, ate out rarely, focused on saving money, made their clothes, monitored water and electricity use as well as planned their trips to town in order to minimize time away from home/kids and saved gas. They truly walk the walk in being self-sufficient and frugal and are much more disciplined in their journey through life.

Each generation since the Great Depression has re-invented itself according to the times, yet unfortunately, dropping self-sufficiency skills secondary to our over-committed lifestyles with no time to do anything out of the ordinary. Supposedly, we are more efficient but, at what. We spend hours and hours on computers, in our cars, doing anything and everything our hearts desire; all the while getting further and further away from spending time in becoming more self-sufficient. I find this rather worrisome as our grandparents once said, “there are no guarantees in life” and knowing this causes me to focus on how unprepared people today are. It only takes one life changing event for most people to realize this. I truly hope that people are making a conscious choice to live more frugally, be prepared and most important, putting out the effort to do so.



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