We can learn many excellent tips from our grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents on living simple, old-fashioned lives.
Old fashioned living focuses on less spending, intention, simplicity, and more work, but if you are trying to save money, get out of debt, or live a less complicated life, you might find some great tips here.
Why Should We Adopt an Old Fashioned Way of Living?
Regardless of how much money you have, frugal living is not a terrible way—understanding that you have personal finance goals that you would like to meet plays a role in how cheap you intend to be.
If you are getting out of debt, a choice to live frugally and old-fashioned will enable you to put every extra penny toward that debt, getting you out sooner.
If you are saving for something special, like a new car or pool, living frugally can help you save up for those things.
And if you are planning for retirement (maybe got a late start), old-fashioned frugal living will allow you to save enough money to live well in your “golden years.”
But what if you have no debt and are set on savings and retirement? Why would you want to live frugally?
Because you have worked hard for that money, why would you want to blow it on things you might not need or genuinely care about? Living frugally and living with intention go hand in hand.
How Old Fashioned Living Benefits You Today
It can save you some money – which is the primary reason for this article. But it can also be healthier and better for the environment.
Making cookies instead of buying pre-packaged ones can save you 75% of the cost. Plus, there are fewer preservatives and less sugar if you make them at home. You know exactly what’s going into those cookies.
Mending perfectly fine clothes instead of donating them is another excellent benefit to old-fashioned living. Fixing a button or rip saves money and keeps these things out of landfill.
Imagine throwing away that black blouse with a hole under the arm and then going back to JC Penny to buy another for $30, instead of taking 15 minutes to repair that hole.
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Old Fashioned Living in the Home
These are some great ways to reduce waste and spending in the home. Some of them I have seen my Grammy use.
Build your furniture.
Decide what you want and grab some lumber. Construct your table or build a simple bed. Pine boards will save you money, and the quality will be better than buying a mattress from a big box store.
Replace paper towels with old rags.
Cut up old blankets or towels to use as old rags. If you need to clean up a gross mess, you won’t feel so bad about throwing the old stuff away.
Watch less tv. I’ve heard it said that if you have time to watch tv, you have time to create or learn something.
Wear an apron.
Protect your clothes from dirt, grease, and bleach. This is speaking from experience. My Grammy always wore an apron.
Wash out zipper bags and gently use aluminum foil.
If they are not soiled too severely, there’s no reason you can’t clean them up and reuse them. Be cautious about zip bags where you have stored raw meat.
Stop using disposable anything (bags, containers).
Invest in glass jars, bowls, and dishes with lids. Stop using those glad containers once, and then throw your money away.
Turn off lights and use small task lighting.
Remember watching Mary and Laura Ingalls doing their homework by the oil lamp t the table with no other light in the room? Try a small lamp or a headlamp for reading or phone Facebook surfing.
Reuse plastic containers from yogurt and cottage cheese.
Sending leftovers home with family in a butter tub is a fond memory from my childhood. Reuse what you can.
Marry your ketchup – turn bottles upside down to rescue every drop.
This also goes for soap and shampoos.
Create a frugal pantry.
Having what you use the most in a frugal pantry and knowing you can whip together a dirt-cheap meal from the items in your pantry is a skill. Learn this one as soon as possible.
Open the windows or put on a sweater.
Skip the heating and cooling. If possible, let your body adapt to the temperature and do less work in the hottest part of the day. Save money on utilities.
Repair your clothes.
Learn to use a needle and thread to sew a button or a hole.
Stop all unused subscription services.
Do you need Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ Amazon Prime, Motortrend, and CBS All Access?
Make homemade cleaning products.
Cleaning products are expensive. Use things like baking soda and vinegar. All those chemicals are not suitable for your body or the environment.
Create blankets and quilts from old sheets, blankets, and clothes.
Now that you are lowering the heat in the winter, you will need a way to stay warm while you sleep.
Make your liquid soap out of bars.
Bar soap is so much cheaper than liquid soap. Boil some water and dissolve a bar of soap to make your own.
Make your laundry detergent.
There are so many recipes on the internet for this.
Use a clothesline.
Add a clothesline as long as there are no ordinances in your community. Put a drying rack out on your back deck if one is not allowed.
Don’t waste anything.
Get every bit out of the tube (cut it open if you have to) and every bit out of the bottle.
Make your clothes and curtains.
It’s a forgotten skill. Brush the dust off Granma’s old sewing machine and teach yourself how to sew.
Reuse wrapping paper and bows.
There might be a good possibility that friends and family members will tease you about this. Stay strong.
Repair and care for your own home.
Learn to do the repairs on all of the things in your home. Fix the leaky faucet, change the lighting, and replace the front steps.
Make a bath rug out of old towels.
Bath mats are expensive. Repurpose old towels and make your braided rug.
Wear clothes more than once if they aren’t dirty.
Many of us don’t get our clothes dirty. Going to work and sitting at a desk isn’t sweat-producing. Working from home and wearing an apron will help keep clothes clean.
Most people can get two days out of their clothes.
Catch all the water while you wait to heat up and use it for something else. Fill up the dishpan or a bowl, give it to pets, or water the plants.
Make do with what you have.
Don’t buy something just because you want it.
Plant a garden.
Even if you only have a balcony, you can have some containers and grow a few veggies.
Learn to can and preserve food.
Canning or freezing the food you have grown or found a good sale on will save money in the long run.
Grow your flowers for bouquets instead of buying them.
Having a small patch of dirt to grow your flowers like daisies, peonies, or even roses can add so much joy if you love the look and smell of fresh-cut flowers on your table.
Cut your hair.
We have been doing this for YEARS in our house. My husband is the only one who gets a haircut at a barber.
And his barbershop just closed. He might be cutting his hair now, too. Grab some scissors or a haircutting tool.
Learn the best way to store food.
Learn which part of the refrigerator to store food for best preservation. Where to put dairy, fruit, and raw veggies. Take it one step further and designate a part of your basement as a root cellar.
Use coffee grounds, Epsom salt, and matches for outdoor plants.
Now that you have a vegetable garden and a flower patch, learn how to care for those plants without buying harmful chemicals.
Make your cards and write letters.
Letter writing is a lost art form these days. But how wonderful would it be on your birthday to get a heartfelt letter from your best friend with a simple homemade card?
Use junk mail for scrap paper and free envelopes for mail.
Most of our mail comes from people trying to sell you something. We pay all our bills online, so when the electric bill comes in the mail, we can use that envelope for other mail that (rarely) needs to be sent out.
Start with natural remedies.
Research natural remedies before taking over-the-counter or prescription medicines.
Learn a skill that will save money.
Learn a new skill like sewing, knitting, crocheting, soap, or candle making.
Learn to love living in a small house. Everything is less expensive, from taxes to heating.
Skip the gym and exercise for free.
Walking is the best exercise. Gardening, stacking firewood, swimming. All good exercise and no membership fees.
Find free entertainment.
Look for plays or music in the park for the summer. Go sledding or build a snowman in the winter.
Share child care.
Start a kid-sitting co-op where you can share babysitting.
Use cloth diapers instead of disposable ones.
Cloth diapering is starting to come back into popularity. Messier and more washing, but it’s still cheaper and better for the environment.
Paint your walls, seal your driveway, and mow your lawn.
Barter and trade services.
Your friend sews a button; you bake the bread.
Use a cash-only system.
Most families spent what they had, and it was cash only. Loans and credit were available but very hard to get.
Learn to change your oil and wash your car.
It’s not hard to do. Check out Youtube.
Keep up on expensive investments.
Perform regular maintenance on investments like cars and appliances.
Read more books.
Borrow from friends and the library. I would rather read any day than watch TV.
Have a budget. Pay what needs to be paid first, then take care of everything else. My Gramp used to say, “Pay your bills first, then eat. You have too many bills if you don’t have money to eat.”
Old Fashioned Cooking and Eating
Stop going out to eat.
Eat at home. This includes stopping delivery and takeout. Learn to cook simple and easy meals.
Bread, cookies, and cakes. Anything you want to bake, the internet has a recipe for.
Eat cheap and easy meals.
I am not a big cook. I’m a good cook, but there are 100 things I would rather do than spend hours in the kitchen. My favorite meals are simple and yummy.
Cook from scratch.
Stop buying convenience foods. Make your soups from leftovers and chicken bones. There are plenty of dirt-cheap meals to choose from.
Drink more water.
Skip the rest (except coffee. Coffee is a must).
Turn the oven on once.
When turning on the oven, get the most out of it by baking something. Fill the oven and get all the heat at one time.
Use a lid when cooking.
Save the heat, and don’t let it escape. That’s like throwing money out the window.
Use what you have in the kitchen.
Use butter wrappers to grease pans for baking or leftover grease for frying.
Pay attention to dates.
Understand “expiration dates” and what they really mean. There is a difference between expiration, best by, and a date.
Learn how to substitute other ingredients in a recipe.
Never throw out food. Use leftovers to reduce food waste or freeze when on the brink of going bad.
Plan your meals.
Meal planning will save money. It will also save time and stress. Knowing what you are having for dinner the night before will allow a plan to take something out of the freezer and have it ready.
Use meal fillers.
If you haven’t any allergies or sensitivities, use items like rice, pasta, potatoes, and bread as a meal filler.
Know your best prices.
Knowing what a good sale price is and having the ability to stock up on deals will help you prepare and build a nice frugal pantry.
Grocery shop once a month.
Old fashioned living meant rarely heading into towns or cities to stock up on supplies. Consider stocking up on a month’s worth of supplies at a time to save time and money.
Learn to use more beans and lentils.
As a cheap and tasty source of protein, beans, and lentils will save money. They have always been a big part of the old-fashioned living menu.
Eat less meat.
Treat meat as a side dish and not the main component. Also, consider adding more meatless dishes when you are meal planning.
How to Live Like the Old Days
Ideas like showering less and not flushing the toilet often sound extreme. But if we can get past our mindsets, we can learn to live a simpler life that will save us money.
People need to work away from home, so spending all day washing clothes on a washboard and bucket is not reasonable or practical but there are great ways to incorporate old-fashioned living techniques into our lives in this century.
Spending less on food and entertainment are skills taken directly from the old days. Learning to have fun while teaching or practicing a new skill is a good way to spend free time.
Reminding ourselves to take a beat and not impulsively look for instant gratification is a skill that’s been lost since our grandparents were our age.
Would we be better off going back to the old-fashioned living?