Lessons I Learned From My Great Depression Parents

charlie_imageMy parents were products of parents that lived through the heart of the Depression. They had Great Depression living practiced every day of their life. Consequently, I am the product of Great Depression grandparents, which was passed down through both my parents. As they say, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

In talking with my wife about an idea on what to write about, she said, “Why not talk about things that you do as a result of watching your parents?” From our discussion, I realized that, ya, I do have a lot of what I consider natural tendencies, which originated from the Depression. Hopefully, my examples will spur up ideas for you to comment on how your parent's money saving lifestyles impressed upon you.

  • Make my own window cleaner – I hate paying full price for Windex at the store, so I elect to make my own with this Windex recipe. In addition, I also make my own all-purpose cleaner and I reuse Swiffer bottles and fill them with my own solution. It doesn't necessarily save a lot of money, but the savings will slowly add up over time.
  • Save unused old tires – have you recently reviewed lessons from Great Depression Parentsthe bill after getting your tires replaced? Have you noticed that there is a $10 fee for disposing/recycling your tires? You can opt-out of that. I chose to keep my old tires and keep one old set in my garage. The other sets of tires I don't use, that I just use at our local farm for the goats to utilize.
  • Shop the thrift stores – my parents have been using thrift stores since I can remember and our family was always about re-utilizing perfectly good clothing for our own family's purposes. One interesting fact I learned, did you know that Goodwill Industries was founded in 1902? It was around even before the Great Depression. Hmm. I wonder what the thrift stores looked like during the late 1920s and early 1930s? Does anyone know?
  • Cutting my drier sheets in half – ya I know during the Depression they didn't have electric dryers, but the concept my parents impressed upon me was to be thrifty with what you have. Just because the manufacturer cuts the dryer sheet a certain size doesn't mean you have to use the whole thing.
  • Cutting my paper towels in half – same deal here as the dryer sheets. You don't have to use the whole sheet!
  • Growing my own foods – since growing up on a farm in NW Iowa, I've loved growing my own foods. So much so, that I started a community garden in our suburban community where we are growing tomatoes, corn, green beans, pumpkins, zucchini, and a lot of different herbs. In addition, we do a little preserving of fresh veggies to be able to have year-round.
  • Raising my own livestock – when I was 12 years old I bought eight sows from my dad and bred, fed, and sold all their offspring. I learned early on that I needed to work hard for my living and starting my own pig operation was my first attempt at financial freedom. Today, I raise about 50 chickens with my 3 boys, and actively sell the eggs to my friends, family, and neighbors. Makes for a little side income and helps teach my kids a little hard work along the way.

These are a few of the things I learned from my parents, which was passed down from their Great Depression parents. I'd be interested to hear from our readers on ways you save money based on your parent's example.

Coronavirus Update

If you've lost your job due to the, check out our page on who is hiring during COVID. We are updating this page daily and sharing a list of all major companies that have announced new hiring during the current situation.

You might also be interested in:

Recommended Posts


  1. My grandma used to make her own clothes
    She also went to the second hand market stall to buy clothes and would then redesign it into something for herself to wear for example she bought a mans tweed over coat .Unpicked it and using the unworn inside material made it into a pinafore dress,the kind that needs a blouse underneath.
    She also used their old clothes to make quilts

  2. When our kids were very young we decided to help clean up the community and make some pocket money for them by picking up aluminum cans wherever we went. We took almost daily bike rides and picked up cans off the street. We visited parks, big parking lots, stadium parking lots after games, all of which netted lots of cans. We made a monthly event of taking them to the recycling center. The kids really got into it, and the can money was a real blessing for them. They earned it!

  3. When I was little, I had my first Christmas club. Around the 50’s. I take coins to the bank weekly until I got money. $25! What I learned was when coins turn into paper, good deal.

    I believe savers are born and I am one of them. Suggestion, when I go out shopping, any $1s left in my wallet are put into a can. I then forget I have them. I separate silver coins and pennies for 2 other cans. I am never broke by the end of the month.

    Charlie’s article about saving like we are still in a depression was great. However, for those who live in a town, we cannot raise animals. I did have a garden and animals in Oklahoma.

  4. First of all there were no dryer sheets or paper towels during the depression.
    All the laundry was line dried- there were no electric dryers.
    My parents suffered through it and had no problems transitioning
    to a spendthrift mentality if needed.
    We never went to restaurants. Imagine the
    Always bought” on sale”.
    Shoes were always resoled an re heeled after
    feet stopped growing.
    Turn heat down under 70 in winter.
    Turn A/C up over 75 in summer.
    That’s just a few

    • Ron – I mentioned I know they didn’t have drier sheets. :)

      My mom talked about how they only went out to restaurants once a year, and that was at the end of the summer of walking beans.

  5. Nice article! It would be interesting to see what Goodwills were like in the Depression.

    I use tires for planting in the summer. The really big tractor tires are great for zucchini. Smaller tires work for tomatoes. They help keep the ground moist and are easier to keep weed-free. Instead of dryer sheets, I use wool balls. They are so much better for static and fuzz, plus they don’t smell. You can use paper towels to make your own baby wipes – fewer chemicals and so much softer.

    • I know, Angela! I would have liked to see what Goodwills looked like during the depression.

      Thanks for the tip on how to use the tires. I’ll have to try that next year in my garden.

  6. I appreciate your suggestions! Thank you! Just wanted to offer an idea to save even more for window cleaner and fabric softener. You can invest in Norwex cloths and wash windows without any cleaning solution – they work beautifully without streaking and then you just throw them in the wash and reuse. They last a long time too! And for static issues in the dryer use the dryer balls instead of sheets, reusable for many, many cycles. I haven’t used dryer sheets or bought/made window cleaner for years.

    • I can vouch for Norwex cloths – they are great!

    • Jodi – great idea. Where do you usually buy them? Amazon or local store?

      • I buy them from a friend who is a rep. They have deals every so often and you can buy them in packs or individually. I use the window and environmental cloths and they have lasted for well over a year with a lot of life left.

Add a Comment

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