I’ve written previously about how my grandparents and parents survived during the Great Depression. Although growing up with parents from the Depression had its drawbacks (those $5 tennis shoes are just as good as the $30 Vans shoes, I was told), I realize now that I actually learned quite a few survival skills from them.
Perhaps one of the biggest things I learned was to identify a “need” from a “want” Yes, I needed shoes, but I wanted Vans. My mother would often ask me: “What do you need it for?” If I couldn’t prove I needed it, I rarely got it.
In this article, I want to take a look at the things my parents, and others, simply did without during those difficult times – things our great-grandparents never had.
1. Cable television
Television can be cheap entertainment and a good place for news, weather and other important updates. However, one thing we could live without are cable channels. Putting an antenna on your roof will work just fine.
2. Disposable goods
Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that disposables were meant to be used in emergency or only for travel. Plastic bags weren’t really even commonly used until the 1960s and no one “needs” disposable coffee cups, paper plates, plastic forks and one-time-use razors.
3. Video games
While our kids might think these are absolute necessities, they aren’t. You can spend family time and still have fun with old-fashioned games such as checkers, chess, Parcheesi, Monopoly, and other board games. Or have kids play the old-fashioned way — outside.
4. Health clubs or gym memberships
Walking and jogging cost nothing. If you’re near a town, imagine the workout from simply walking to the store and carrying home groceries? But if you think your health would benefit from exercise equipment and weight sets, check out Goodwill or Craigslist.
5. Microwaves, espresso makers and other kitchen gadgets
Ladies, I understand completely. There is nothing like the latest kitchen gadget to make cooking easier. However, if you take a hard look at things (as my mother would have asked), do you really need it?
Rice and popcorn can be made in pots on the stove. Toast can also be made using a small device that goes over the burner. Knives work just as well as a food processor. Take a good look around your kitchen and you will find a dozen little “must-have” items in your kitchen that you truly don’t “need.”
6. Clothes dryers
My mother didn’t buy a clothes dryer until 1970. Even then, she only did it because she got a job outside the home! We hung clothes outside, or in the laundry room during bad weather. My mother talks about how embarrassed she was as a young teen when she had to hang her underwear near the fireplace and her brothers saw it.
7. Tanning beds and nail salons
Sunlight in large quantities, whether natural or man-made, is not good for the body. Some sun exposure is good for the body, so take advantage of it when you can. However, as hard as it might seem, you do not need a tanning bed. Or even a nail salon. In my mother’s 84 years, she never went and had a manicure or a pedicure, let alone acrylic nails. She did her nails herself and they were always beautiful.
8. Cell phones
It wasn’t all that long ago that no one had cell phones. I, myself, did not get a cell phone until 1996. Even then, they were unusual and they could only make calls — nothing more. Some people still live without them today, but if you feel you must have one for emergencies, you can buy a basic pay-as-you-go phone. I’m not saying today’s phone can’t be time-savers and very convenient, but we could actually live without one just fine.
Just a side note here to make you laugh. I once bought my then 78-year-old mother a cell phone so she could take advantage of the “free nights and weekends” plan and talk to her friends and relatives out of state. It was a simple flip phone with big numbers and I showed her how to use it. Two weeks later, she called me on her house phone and told me I should get my money back because the phone didn’t work. I asked her what happened, thinking she would tell me about dropped calls. Instead, she told me that she opened the phone and waited all day for a dial tone, but she never got one. She never did get the hang of cell phones — and lived her entire life without one.
What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the section below: