We can learn many lessons from the Great Depression. My grandmother always said, everything old is new again. I didn’t realize, as a kid, that it wasn’t always good things that repeat themselves. Economists like to say that we are in a Great Recession right now. But how far are we from another great depression? We may be a lot closer than many of us realize.
Lessons from the Great Depression
Call it a recession or a depression, you only need to look around to know the economy is struggling. So what can the lessons from the great depression teach us now? I believe there is much to learn; and you can start applying it now to protect yourself from the pitfalls that could lead to devastating poverty.
Here are my 10 Lessons from the Great Depression:
Lesson 1 – Cash is KING (credit is the joker): Do not use credit, especially credit cards, to buy anything. Pay cash, and if you don’t have enough then you need to save for it. Neither a borrower nor a lender be… Own it, don’t owe on it. Can you imagine if we still had debtor’s prisons? How many of us would be a unwilling tenant? If you’re in debt, now is the time to make a plan to get out of it. If you’re not sure where to start then I recommend Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. Make debt a dirty word in your life. Can I be honest? This is the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn…and we are still paying for the mistakes we made. Don’t do it. Credit is a cancer!
Lesson 2 – Make it work with what you have: In other words, stop buying. There is a reason our closets have quadrupled in size in the last 50 years…and it isn’t just because we are gaining weight. We have more clothing than most of us could wear in a week, maybe even a month. I bet you have clothes with tags on them. But it isn’t just clothes! It is all the “stuff” we accumulate over the years that have no real meaning or purpose in our lives; except to take up space and money. We need to adopt a policy of using what we already have and make it work. We have to start living in reality, not trying to live like they do in reality tv. There is joy in being content – can we say that in the constant battle for more? Do you really need a new couch? New car? New designer hand bag? Or are you just trying to keep up with the Joneses? By the way, they are in debt to their eyeballs and living pay check to pay check.
Lesson 3 – Sow it, grow it: During the Great Depression people were starving, literally starving. Many had moved into the cities and left behind simple skills like growing a garden. This is one of the easiest things you can do to protect yourself from uncertainties. You certainly don’t need a farm to grow your own food either. Plant in raised beds in your backyard. Use containers, buckets, baskets and such to grow on a balcony. You can even grow some vegetables and herbs indoors! Producing your own veggies will give you some insurance against any economic depression. Also, learn how to save seeds for the next season. Make sure you have seeds saved when money for seeds might not be available.
Lesson 4 – Put some away for a rainy day: And I’m not just talking about money. What we know is that many people during the great depression of the thirties is that they were unprepared. Start taking measures make up your own food storage – it isn’t just for doomsday preppers. This little closet of nonperishable food could keep you and your family eating when there is no money to put food on the table. Check out my article on starting a food storage, you’ll see how easy it is. BUT get some money put away too. I’m talking old school – money in a coffee can or under your bed. Something you don’t put into the bank but is kept with you. Hey banks have shut down before, make sure you have something on hand.
Lesson 5 – Be flexible and diverse: Maybe you’re a specialist. I don’t want to discourage anyone from being truly great at something. But you need to be flexible and your skills should be diverse. If jobs become scarce and you’re only qualified to do one or two things, it could become very difficult to work. Learn all the skills you can, even outside of your chosen profession. And in your job, know how to do yours and as many other’s as possible. Make yourself as indispensable as possible. Remember to stay flexible with what you’re willing to try and learn; you just never know when that particular skill will be needed.
Lesson 6 – Know your neighbors: Build community in your communities! In many neighborhoods people can live an arms length away and we never know their names. We drive in and our of our garages without ever stopping to greet our neighbors. But communities take care of each other. Communities lend a helping hand. You can take this a step further and organize your neighbors into a Depression Fighting Team! Teach each other skills, help build gardens, be supportive and keep a sense of connection going. This could be the difference in times of trouble.
Lesson 7 – Be self-reliant: Learn how to sew, mend, knit and crochet. Can you change your car’s oil? What about repair a roof? Make an effort to learn skills that will make you more self-sufficient. You’ll be able to save the money you’d pay someone else to do these things for you too.
Lesson 8 – Learn to barter and make a deal: No matter how prepared we are, something is going to slip by. It is important to know how to barter (trade) your skills, time, and commodities. Somehow in modern times this is seen as being cheap and generally frowned upon. But I love to barter, even when I don’t have to. Give it a try, learn how to make a good deal. This could be the difference in thriving in your surviving.
Lesson 9 – Know what really matters: Do you know what really matters? What you can’t live without? One thing the lessons from the great depression has taught me is to know true value; and that’s not in your stuff. Tomorrow your things could be gone – disaster, creditors, theft…who knows. But if your value, your treasure lies in your family and friends the stuff won’t be as hard to lose. Try to become ok with leaving it all behind if you had to…because families did it all the time in those days.
Lesson 10 – Learn to do it by hand: What you ask? All of it. Learn to cook, clean, wash, sew and make things by hand. Without electricity or modern conveniences. Learn to entertain yourselves with books, card games, and conversation. These were natural skills for most people during the Great Depression but not in modern times. We need to start putting these skills to test today, before we have to; so they are there when and if we need them.
Make sure to check out my article on Great Depression Meals.
These Lessons from the Great Depression aren’t meant to be scary but they should move you. If you watch the news or read it online you know something is stirring in our economy. We need to learn from the past; in hopes that we don’t repeat that time but we are prepared if we do.