How To Be Frugal Like Your Grandparents Were

I tend to find old school frugality a bit of a chuckle. Why steam off a stamp and reuse it when they only cost 55 cents? After all, why are you sending a letter when you can email (or text or Tweet or Facebook) someone? Sometimes it feels like the older generations inhabit a world geographically related to mine, but socially and emotionally removed by about ten thousand miles.

But I’ve come to the realization that my grandparents’ generation understands sustainability and savings like I never will. Instinctively they turn off the lights when they’re not in the room.

While my generation moan about the lack of central heating, they ruthlessly cordon off their houses in winter and only heat one room. Electric blankets don’t feature in their lives, because a hot water bottle and a couple of blankets does the job. Of course this is a generalisation. But sometimes they must look at us and wonder what it is we do with all our money.

The Depression generation really knows what it is to save, and I’ve decided to learn a bit from my elders and betters:

Reuse water

Long before grey water became a policy idea, Gen G (Generation Grandparent) were putting buckets in their showers and using it to fill their washing machines, maintain their gardens or wash their cars.

Learn to sow

While many of the Gen G breathed a sigh of relief when socks became cheap enough to allow them to farewell their darning days, it’s second nature to fix clothes as opposed to replacing them. Mending sessions can be accompanied by your favourite movie in the background or the album that just screams of summer. Or you can get seriously old school and take your mending out on the porch, play Gershwin and chew baccy.

Learn to bake

A lot of us can cook adequate meals, but the idea of baking cakes, scones or biscuits is something you do once in a blue moon when you’re on holidays and really bored. Instead of paying $6 for a piece of cake at your local bakery, you can probably have a whole butter cake (for yourself or, if you’re feeling nice, for the whole family) for a similar price.

Grow your own vegetables

Buying herbs from the supermarket is one of the most upsetting activities, as I always love having fresh coriander or basil in my meals but can’t stomach how much they cost. The solution is simple; grow them yourself. If you’re blessed with a backyard, make good use of it. If you’re into apartment living, a kitchen garden works just as well. Have an inside glimpse to kitchen gardens:

Create a skills swap

This was inspired by the wonderful list of similar ideas from Steadfast Finances. Know someone who is good at painting? Ask them over to help you with your lounge room wall and offer to teach their kids how to play guitar or demonstrate your superior skills with gardening (see above) in return.
The Generation Grandparent has a lot to teach us young ‘uns about making every dollar count and appreciating what you have. Looking at the elders in my life, I appreciate their mix of discipline and understanding what really counts- food on the table, friends on the end of the phone and a hot water bottle.

Do you have any old school frugal techniques to save money and live within your means?


  1. Teach Kids About Money says

    Cooking and baking started as a necessity for me when I was younger, and has since turned into a passion (cooking has). Great ideas, our grandparents are smarter than we give them credit!

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