Hard times are nothing new. Adverse circumstances have come and gone throughout the centuries, and people have dealt with extreme difficulties in some pretty remarkable ways.
Amid catastrophic weather, crop failures, job loss and personal injuries—all of which often lead to economic disaster—previous generations have made it through some of the worst of times. Here are a few money-saving tips our grandparents might give us for getting through hard times. I know we’re getting back to the basics here, but never underestimate the power of deliberate and purposeful living.
Here are a few things you can do:
Work harder. It might seem laughably evident at first glance, but hard work is the answer to a lot of struggles. If you have a job, ramp up your efforts to impress your boss so that you will be eligible for promotion, and volunteer for overtime. If you do not have a job, make it your full-time endeavor to look for one. Either way, consider devoting some of your free time to per diem work such as raking leaves and shoveling roofs and walking dogs. Money is out there, just waiting for you to earn it.
Tighten your belt. Here’s another tip that is so obvious that it can be overlooked. Meals out, new clothes, new vehicles, furniture, accessories for both the home and for personal use, and many other luxuries which people routinely purchase can be forgone during hard times. If it isn’t essential, you can do without it until your cash flow improves.
Limit entertainment. Don’t forget this piece of the money-saving puzzle which interlocks with the first two. If you are spending your time working hard, you will have less time and energy for entertainment. And tightening your belt means saying “no thanks” to things like cable television, the latest electronic gadget, a hobby upgrade such as a new cycle or camera or snowmobile, or a vacation trip. I’m not suggesting you should to go without entertainment and leisure for a lifetime, but focusing instead on work and thriftiness for a period to get you over a rough patch is wise.
Buy second-hand. Even if your livelihood requires that you dress in brand names and drive a nice car, you can still do it wisely by purchasing pre-owned. Consider shopping at thrift shops, online resale outlets, and social media buy/sell groups, not only in lean spells but also in times of plenty. It is a great way to support local businesses, help out your friends and neighbors who may need the cash your purchase brings in, and reduce the impact on the planet from excess shipping and packaging.
Yard sales. Selling your unnecessary goods can kill two birds with one stone. Not only will you scoop up a little cash from the deal, but you will help declutter your home and garage in the process. Having things clean and organized can be energizing, which helps you stay focused and get other things done.
Fix items instead of replacing them. In this world of disposable everything, it feels almost automatic to toss stuff in the trash and buy another one. But in our grandparents’ youth, goods were thrown out less and repaired more. Consider having jacket zippers replaced at a repair shop instead of buying a whole new garment, or sewing on buttons and stitching up separating seams yourself. Glue broken knickknacks, tighten window blind strings and don’t be afraid to tinker with tools and equipment to get them back into smooth running condition. Buy parts and replace them yourself or pay a professional—which is still less costly than buying new.
Grow your food yourself. Backyard gardening is never without some costs and sometimes is not even cheap. But it is always a better value in the long run than buying less healthy and more chemical-laden foods in the store. During hard times, even a few patio pots filled with tomatoes and summer squash can ease up a straining budget, and a couple of laying hens can make a real difference.
Be smart and shop wisely. If chicken is on sale, buy chicken. Even if that was not what you had in mind for your current menu or if it comes in packages bigger than you need, you can always repackage and freeze it for later. Buy seasonal items on clearance and store them for next year. Buy in bulk for things you use a lot. Avoid brand names when it does not make a difference, and use coupons for the brand names you prefer when it does matter.
By following these few simple tips all the time, you will be able to build money-saving habits so that when hard times come around, you will be better prepared. It may be possible to become so skilled at pinching pennies that your practices will either help deflect economic difficulties in the first place or will help you glide right through them with barely a hiccup in your routine. Either way, adopting a money-saving worldview is always a win-win. It’s also a great way to bring up kids who appreciate what they have. Not a bad mind set to pass on to the next generation.