Here are many old fashioned money saving tips that came naturally to generations before us… but that we might need to re-learn!
Pay with cash
If you do nothing else on this list, do this. Handing over real money sends a message to your brain that using a card does not. When you are dealing with credit cards and online and account, the amount of money you have seems very flexible, almost imaginary. What’s the difference between a few numbers on a screen, you think to yourself as you order one more thing.
Well paying with cash ends that fantasy quickly. You are spending real money that you (or someone else) worked hard for. Seeing that money leave your hand makes sure you don’t forget it.
Buy for keeps
It’s always smart to think about how long something will last when you are buying it. Sometimes spending a little more makes sense and saves you money in long run. And sometimes it is better to spend less and forgo bells and whistles that are likely to break.
When you are considering buying something, think about how it will look in ten years. Can you paint it as time goes on? Will it be be faded, junky plastic? Will you have thrown it out because it’s actually not very nice? If you plan on every purchase being a long-term purchase, you reconsider a lot.
Take care of what you have
And with that, take care of what you have bought. When you have spent the money on something that’s built to last, make sure you are getting the most out of it by performing maintenance, keeping things clean, and storing them well.
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Repair, don’t replace
So the washing machine isn’t working as well as it used to. Your car is making a funny noise. Your phone is running sooooo slowly. I know its tempting to just get a new one. The new ones have so many cool features! But first, wait.
See if that old thing can be repaired before you replace it. This has so many benefits. First of all, it is pretty much always less expensive. Something like a washing machine repair will often allow the machine to run perfectly many more years. It gives work to a local business rather than a far-away factory. And it reduces waste. It’s not always the right choice, but it always deserves a try.
Frugally heat and cool your home
Air conditioning and central heat are clean and convenient. But they are expensive!
Heating your home with wood is a big cost savings, and usually saves money even if you have to buy your firewood. You can save even more if you are frugal about burning wood and use newspaper, fallen sticks, and use your wood wisely.
Air conditioning is a huge expense in hot regions, and it is definitely hard to live without, especially when it is humid. But one of the best old fashioned money saving tips to remember is that recently, a lot of today’s necessities didn’t even exist. So even though it doesn’t seem like it, air conditioning is a luxury. Treat it like one!
Turn off the water
Dad was right! It saves water to turn it off while you are brushing your teeth and doing the dishes. Try filling a bowl with water at the sink and using that to wash the dishes instead of having the water running constantly. Time your showers and try to shorten them.
Do it yourself
Not for everything, but for some things. Painting, mowing the lawn, cleaning, washing your car, and other simple jobs can be done by most healthy people. Or consider hiring a neighborhood teen in need of a little extra money!
Cleaning and Laundry
Line dry your clothing
Your dryer is one of the biggest uses of electricity in your house. Luckily, it is one of the appliances that can easily be replaced with a little hard work.
Hanging your clothes up to dry takes a little getting used to, but you might find that you actually enjoy it after a while. It’s a chance to get outside in the fresh air, stretch your body, and feel truly productive. It extends the life of your dryer, saves money on electricity, and the sun does a great job of bleaching and freshening clothes.
If your clothes feel stiff after drying outside, try moving them over to the dryer for about ten minutes when they are very slightly damp.
Cut up old clothes for rags
We’ve all heard “waste not, want not”, and it’s absolutely true. If you’re able to make something out of nothing and save your money when you don’t need to spend it, you will be able to keep your money for something else. So instead of spending money week after week on paper towels, use rags whenever you can.
Old clothes and old cloth diapers make great rags for cleaning. When they are almost worn out, save them for really dirty jobs like wiping out greasy pans. Every little bit helps!
Make your own soap and cleaners
So many modern cleaners are expensive and not really necessary. You can clean almost anything with baking soda, vinegar, soap, and water. For tougher cleaning jobs, try a mild abrasive scrub like Bon Ami or Bar Keepers Friend.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can get into soap making. There is a small investment up front, but will pay you back over time.
In the Kitchen
Drink water, coffee, or tea
Soda is SO expensive! And it’s something that is totally unnecessary when a perfectly good drink is available in your kitchen for free. Juice and other soft drinks can really add up over time, too.
Of course drinking water all day can be extremely boring. But instead of stocking up on expensive pre-made drinks, why don’t sit down and relax with a nice cup of something warm? Tea and coffee and both frugal choices.
Don’t waste food
Throwing away food is throwing away money. (Or if you’ve grown it yourself, throwing away lots of hard work.) If you find yourself throwing food out on a regular basis, set up a leftover night once a week where you eat everything in the fridge.
If your kids can never finish their food, give them smaller portions. If you don’t like leftovers at all, make sure you are fixing what will be eaten in one sitting.
Bake your own bread
Baking bread is such a fun and thrifty hobby. If you’ve never tried it before, you can read my bread baking beginners guide here. Don’t be afraid to play around with recipes and make a few mistakes before you find a bread recipe that your family loves. You can bake it ahead of time and and keep it in the freezer so you never have to buy bread again.
And don’t throw out what you can’t eat! You can make your own bread crumbs and croutons with leftover bread easily.
Stock your pantry
Make sure that, like grandma, you always having something available in your pantry that you can make a meal out of. Nothing drains the budget faster than running out to the store for a “few” quick things that you need to make for dinner.
You can focus on canning your own food if you want, but the most important thing is to just have shelf stable food on hand that you can serve without too much notice.
Don’t buy snacks
The idea of constantly snacking is a modern one. Up until the 1950’s there was no such thing as “snack time”. It’s okay to get a little bit hungry in between your meals! And there is nothing wrong with just having fruits or vegetables as a snack, too.
I am as guilty as anyone of buying snacks (and eating them!). But they are definitely a waste of money. Skipping them altogether is one of the best old fashioned money saving tips out there.
Use the library
My grandparents went to the library every week and it was a date for them. They planned for it, looked forward to it, and enjoyed it. And why not? It’s a free resource available for everyone.
Don’t forget that you can use interlibrary loan to request popular books, you can borrow DVDs, and you can even download e-books. (Okay, so the idea of borrowing movies and e-books is not exactly old fashioned, but it sure does save money!)
Visit a friend for entertainment
Visiting neighbors used to be a much bigger deal, and a big source of entertainment. If you are looking for something fun to do during the day, instead of going out for coffee or lunch, why not go visit a friend or neighbor for a quiet visit. It’s free and easy.
There are probably many people nearby who are lonelier than you think and would love the company.
Save scrap paper and fabric
This is a little thing, but little things add up. Save scraps whenever you can and when it makes sense. Generations past couldn’t afford to be so wasteful, because everything was more expensive. Use both sides of your paper, save small amounts of fabric for quilting or dresses for dolls, etc.
Even if this doesn’t really save you tons of money, it gets you in the habit of wasting less.
Borrow from friends
Before you go buy that new tool or gadget that you will only use a couple of times, check to see if a friend has one you can borrow.
Be sure you have things that they can borrow as well so that you don’t become a free loader. And always return things in better shape than you got them.
Early to bed, early to rise
Mom always said nothing good happens after midnight, and she was right. Staying up late is bad for your heath, mood, and pocketbook. It tends to involve either being out spending money or sitting around being unproductive.
If you can get in the habit of going to bed early and waking up early you’ll find that it saves you money too, the long run.
A lot of the time, the most frugal way to do something is the hardest. If you can accept that and lose any fixation on doing things the easy way, you will enjoy life a little more. Don’t forget to enjoy the process of your everyday life, and start to see work as its own reward.
Walk instead of drive
This doesn’t always work. For some people who live far away from a town, it will never work. But if you are within a mile of your destination and there is a safe way to get there, why not walk? Not only does it save gas, but wear and tear on your vehicle, as well as being good for you,
As a bonus, you are less likely to buy things while you are out if you know you have to carry them home!
Use what you need (a dab will do)
My grandmother used to say this to me alllll the time. Especially when I was using glue or butter. She treated everything like it was precious and expensive, because to her, it was. It’s one of those things that seems silly, but adds up over time. Use just a bit, and see how much longer things last.
Bartering is better than selling because you don’t pay taxes. It can either be a formal arrangement, like something you post on a message board, or a casual arrangement between friends.
If the idea of this feels strange to you, try just giving things away that you have plenty of but have real value: homegrown veggies, eggs, homemade soap, things like that. You will get things back, even if you don’t ask for them. Wait and see.
For the children
Don’t have so many toys for the kids
Ugh, toys. So many of the modern ones are plasticky, ugly, and everywhere. Some of them are great, of course. But there is so much value in old fashioned toys. And sticking to classic toys will save you money, as will just reducing the amount of toys you have over all.
Your kids won’t miss 90% of them. Promise.
Use cloth diapers
Don’t be scared! They aren’t that gross or difficult (well, no more gross or difficult than regular diapers.) And they will save you loads of money, especially if you have multiple children and are able to reuse them.
Bonus points for line drying them outside!
Around the house
Grow your own
Now gardening can either get crazy expensive, or it can save you real money. Old fashioned gardens were filled mostly with practical, easy to grow foods that would really get eaten.
Of course, there is nothing wrong for gardening for fun and beauty! But if you are looking for an old fashioned way to save money, stick to a vegetable garden that is actually going to help you save on food.
Be careful about your electric bill
Beyond the big culprits of heating and cooling your home, there are little ways to save on your electric bill. A lot of these are more modern ideas: programmable thermostats, better insulation, etc.
But there are old fashioned tips as well. Make the sun work for you by getting heavy curtains that you open when the heat of the sun is welcome, and close them when its not. Be cautious of turning out lights in rooms that you aren’t in. Evaluate how much space you really need in your fridge and freezer. Bake things back to to back to take advantage of a hot oven.
Fix up old furniture
Of all the overpriced things in this world, furniture might be number one! And so much new furniture is not built to last.
Luckily, you can get simple furniture inexpensively if you are willing to hunt through yard sales. And even though much of it won’t be beautiful, you can paint it, reupholster it, or just live with it. Grandma certainly would have lived with a table that wasn’t to her taste before going into debt.
And that’s it!
I hope you enjoyed these old fashioned money saving tips. Some of them are absolutely practical for the modern world, and some of them are more fun just to read about.
Looking for more frugal living inspiration?
- Get a quick start with Ten Days to A Simpler Life, which walks you through easy and actionable changes.
- Saving money is just one part of simple living, which we explore more here.
- Get a handle on your housekeeping by making a custom homemaking plan.
- If you want to supplies to get started soap making, canning, or bread baking, check out my Amazon store for my recommendations.