10 Money Lessons From the Great Depression


The U.S. may not technically be in a recession. After all, the U.S. Commerce Department says the economy grew at a 0.6% pace in the first quarter.

But most people look at things more like legendary investor Warren Buffett, who defined a recession as when "people are doing less well than they were three months, six months or eight months earlier."

For most economists it is no longer whether there is going to be a recession, but what type of recession it is going to be: short recessions like the one from 1990 to 1991 and the one from March to November 2001, or something like the Great Depression.

No matter which it ends up being, one of the best places to look for sound advice is from those people who have survived the worst of economic times - namely your grandparents.

Here are 10 ideas you may want to take from them:

1. Frugality Is Not a Bad Word
There was a time when a person who was frugal was looked upon with esteem rather than someone without the means to buy more. Many people seem to equate frugality with "cheapness," but that couldn't be further from the truth. Being frugal is simply getting the most out of what you have and purchase, and not purchasing things that you really don't need.
While your grandparents learned frugality during the hard times, many of them continued to practice it even when times got better, which helped them build wealth. Learning to be frugal could help a lot of people who haven't learned to live within their means.

2. Use What You Have
In a consumer society, whatever problem you may have can always be solved by buying something else. If something breaks, go out and buy a new one. If something isn't exactly right, go buy something that is. In your grandparents' time, when something broke, they first took a look to see if it could be fixed.
If it couldn't be fixed, before it ended up in the trash can, they would consider whether it could still be useful for something else. There is no reason to go out and spend money on something new if you can get the same thing accomplished with the things that you already have.

3. Doing It Yourself Is the Way to Go
When it comes to fixing things, the first people that your grandparents looked at were themselves. Instead of calling someone to fix something that broke, they fixed it on their own most of the time.
In a society where we now hire people to do most basic repair and maintenance, it's important to remember that most repairs aren't nearly as difficult as they may appear and that you can do much of it on your own with a how-to book and patience.

4. Things Have More Than One Use
People tend to buy stuff with a specific purpose in mind and use it exclusively for that intended purpose. What your grandparents knew is that most things can have multiple uses throughout their useful life. That T-shirt can become a night shirt when the collar gets worn and can't be worn outside, and then a painting shirt when it starts to get holes and eventually rags when the holes get too big.

5. Debt Is to Be Avoided
In the age of credit cards, where spending what you don't have now is encouraged left and right, it's hard to believe there was a time when people actually believed that debt was to be avoided, but those are the words that your grandparents lived by. If they didn't have the money, then they would simply need to figure out a different plan on how to get what they needed. It might be borrowing it from a friend, saving up money or finding something that could be used instead. Going into debt to get it accomplished was not an option.

6. Save for Rainy Days
As many people are finding out, rainy days eventually come. Your grandparents were well aware of this and specifically put aside money for these rainy days. It's now what is commonly referred to as an emergency fund and something that comes in quite handy when your financial plans don't go exactly as you imagined they would.

7. Used Can Be Just as Good as New
This concept isn't completely foreign even to today's generation. The notion that buying a quality two- to three-year-old car has become basic mainstream financial advice when it comes to car ownership. Your grandparents knew that just because something happened to be pre-owned doesn't make it something to be dismissed as unworthy. They also know that this concept doesn't stop with cars and can be expanded to almost any other area where a second-hand market is available.

8. Functional Trumps Fashion:
When it comes to making purchases, your grandparents knew that it wasn't what the device looked like, but what it could do that mattered. It was much more important to buy something that did what needed to be done regardless of what it actually looked like. That Rolex may look great, but it doesn't tell time any better than a standard watch bought at the local discount store. Learning to buy for function rather than looks is a great way to save money. ]

9. Bargains Are to Be Sought-After
When it was time to purchase something, your grandparents didn't just go out an get it that day. They took the time to look for a bargain. That meant doing research and waiting until the price was right rather than pulling out a credit card and buying it even when they didn't have the money. Bargains take planning and time to find, but when they are found, you know you have gotten a great deal.

10. Homemade Cookies Are Delicious
In a society where everything is pre-made and sold for convenience, it may be hard to remember the last time you had a meal made from scratch. What your grandparents knew was that not only is it less expensive to cook this way, the resulting meal is also a lot more delicious. Think of it this way; would you ever consider trading in a plate of your grandmother's homemade cookies for any store bought brand?

While the way that your grandparents handled money may seem unsophisticated with all the financial tools that are available today, the basics of living below their means, saving for a rainy day, getting an education and investing in their future are values that a lot of people could financially benefit from today.



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