There are any number of books, YouTube channels and other resources about frugal living available these days. However, one of the best sources might well be a look back at the past. Here are 10 frugal tips to help you save money like Grandma did.
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Save Money Like Grandma
1. Use a clothesline.
One of my fond childhood memories is the lovely scent of Grandma’s sheets when I spent the night. She used lots of Downy and hung them on the clothesline to dry in the hot desert breezes. Grandma had a dryer and used it sometimes. However, using a clothesline saves a lot of electricity and is easier on the clothes.
2. Cook from scratch.
There is much money to be saved by cooking meals from simple ingredients. Boxed, packaged and frozen meals can be very expensive. Take a page from Grandma’s book (her cookbook, that is!) and prepare delicious meals for your family from scratch. They don’t need to be elaborate or use a lot of exotic ingredients. Focus on simple, home cooking and you’ll save plenty.
3. Re-use foil.
If a piece of foil is lightly used, wash and reuse. Do the same with plastic food storage bags. Or do like my grandma did and cover dishes of leftovers with a plate. The advantage of this method is that you can stack dishes on top of one another, a handy trick when the refrigerator is full (like after a big holiday meal!).
4. Use jars for leftovers.
Save glass jars and store leftovers in them. Keep a variety of sizes for different purposes. If “jar hoarding” is a problem for you, choose an appropriately sized box and limit your stash to what the box will hold.
5. Repair things instead of replacing.
The neighborhood repairman is fast disappearing. And honestly, many goods produced these days are cheaper to replace than repair. But if it’s possible to mend a torn seam or repair an appliance, those are frugal choices that are also better for the environment.
The immense quantity of items that get tossed every day in this country is astounding. So if you can extend the life of some things by mending or repairing, you’ll be helping the environment as well as saving money.
6. Save up for things instead of using credit cards.
Credit cards used to be largely for emergencies and buying a new television or loads of Christmas gifts were not considered emergencies.
One of the memorable stories my grandmother told took place in her first year of marriage. She and Grandpa were living with Grandpa’s father in what we would call a duplex these days. One day, her father-in-law was making a trip to town, not something they did often, and asked if she needed anything. She had been saving for months to buy a blanket before winter and asked him to pick one up for her. She turned over the money she had painstakingly saved. Several hours later he returned, not with the much-needed blanket, but with steaks for her to cook for them all that night. He said he felt sure she’d rather have those instead. She didn’t say a word, went to her room to cry a little, and cooked steaks for dinner.
Despite the way that particular story played out, saving for things instead of running up credit card debt is still a good idea.
7. Wear an apron to protect clothes.
Grandma nearly always had an apron on during the day. This protected her clothes from stains. The aprons always had pockets which were handy for keeping tissues to wipe the noses of her many grandchildren. She often had a couple of sticks of gum, as well.
8. Use cloth napkins and cleaning rags.
Our grandparents didn’t grow up with all the disposable items we take for granted these days. Consider using old rags for cleaning instead of paper towels. And cloth napkins not only save money but add a nice touch to the dinner table.
9. Buy seasonal produce to freeze or can.
Every year Grandma and Grandpa went to a nearby town with farm stands to purchase flats of strawberries. I remember helping to prepare these for the freezer. If you have access to farm-fresh seasonal produce it often pays to buy in large quantities to “put up” for the rest of the year.
10. Shop once a week with a list.
My grandma didn’t drive so once a week she made a shopping list and sent Grandpa to the grocery store. Shopping with a list and limiting trips to the store are great ways to save money. And I suspect she saved by not going with Grandpa. During the pandemic I’ve done all my shopping online for delivery or pickup. Even though grocery prices are rising, I’m sure I’ve saved by avoiding impulse items.
Be content with what you have.
Those who had the privilege of knowing my grandma would all agree that she was one of the most contented people we’ve known. This made her very hard to buy for but contentment is a trait I’ve come to appreciate more and more as I get older.
If you are content with what you have you are far less likely to spend money on “extras”.
- Grandma never heard the term “capsule wardrobe” yet her closet contained a relatively small number of items.
- I ate many meals at my grandmother’s table and no one ever went hungry at her house. But she never had more than a few pots and pans and very few gadgets of any kind. She never wanted a dishwasher, either. I recall when her 4 grown children went together to buy her a portable dishwasher. It gave her tiny kitchen additional counter space but I don’t remember her ever using it.
- Her beds were supremely comfortable with those Downy-scented sheets I mentioned above but I don’t think she ever had more than two sets of sheets per bed. Her towels were used until they were virtually transparent. This, despite the fact family gifted her new items. Those gifts were tucked away until absolutely needed. I don’t necessarily endorse this; I think we should use our best things. But it points to the fact that Grandma was content to use what she already had.
In a world dominated by advertising and constant pressure to buy the latest and “greatest”, I think we should at least occasionally consider the ways of the past. Many things we consider essential today weren’t even invented in our grandparents’ era. If your budget could use a little trimming or if you are saving for a big-ticket item, follow the example of previous generations.