11 Extreme Frugal Living Tips From the Great Depression That Can Be Used in 2023 (2024)

I spend so much of my time writing about entrepreneurship, building a business, and wealth, but, rarely do I ever review how to save money, or, how to live frugally.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “a penny saved is a penny earned”. Well, I’ve lived with that mantra throughout my life. In fact, my controller at my company, the one I started in 1991 and ran for 27-years, used to say quite often “if you look after your pennies, the dollars will look after themselves”.

That extreme frugal, and penny watching mindset is what is required in order to build wealth. Having said that, as we exit what will be the end of the 2020 Covid recession, it’s now an opportune time to review some extreme frugal living tips and extreme frugal money-saving ideas, and for inspiration, I’m going to use the great depression, the 1930s as my time-period.

I must admit, some of these frugal tips and extreme frugal money-saving ideas are things I do or have done, some were from my grandfather who lived through the great depression himself, and has been my wealth guide for many years, and some are inspirational ideas I’ve heard over the years from others.

Before I dive into some of the extreme frugal living tips, you can also get some value out of this short video. I know I certainly did:

1. Produce, Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh produce is one of my favorites, especially bananas lettuce, and strawberries. One thing you’ll notice when you buy fresh vegetables and fruits is how expensive they are. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Most grocery stores always showcase their freshest fruits and vegetables, and naturally, they are also the highest price. BUT, all produce has a shelf-life, and just before the fruit goes bad, maybe a day or two before, the stores will put this produce on the shelf, sometimes hidden at the back of the grocery store, with a usually significantly lower price. If you can’t find that produce, ask the manager. There’s no need to pay full price for a banana when the frugal penny-pinching side can save 50% and buy the bananas that have a couple of days left before they go completely brown.

2. Shampoo? Well, Maybe Not

Who says you have to use the expensive shampoo? For that matter, why do you even need to use shampoo at all? I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t wash your hair, but, it is possible to use dish soap, which can be purchased for less than shampoo on a dollar per ounce basis, for your hair. Dish soap will get the job done, and will keep your hair clean.

3. Thrift Store. Thrifty Living Tips

Who says that the clothes at the thrift store necessarily look bad? I can’t tell you how often you’ll find designer clothes, often with the initial label still intact, in perfect shape, for a huge fraction of what that same shirt would have cost at a designer store. You can buy pants and shirts for $1 each, and still, even look stylish! So yes, you can be extremely frugal, and stylish at the same time. It isn’t called a thrift store for no reason!

4. Shower Less Often, and If It’s Yellow

Do you pay for utilities? How about water? Well, the first step of frugal living is to live in an apartment and have your landlord pay for utilities. BUT, if you do pay for water consumption, then, you can be extra frugal by living by the expression “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” There’s no need to flush the toilet every time you go, so, you can save water that way. Also, if you’re paying for water consumption, then it is possible to shower less often. Remember, we’re looking for extreme frugal living tips from the great depression, and back then, many people didn’t shower for days, and sometimes even weeks.

5. Live in an RV. Frugal Living RV

There’s no reason you have to live in a house, or, for that matter, that you even have to rent an apartment. You can have your own place, and travel at the same time. It’s called an RV. Granted, RVs weren’t around during the great depression, but, it can certainly make for frugal living.

6. Clear Out the Mess

Have you considered why you need all of the junk you have sitting in your house? In fact, some of it might not even be junk, but, you can probably live with less. For example, do you really need two, or three TVs? If you want to live a more frugal lifestyle, it’s time to clear out all of the clutter and junk, sell it, collect some cash, and simplify your life, home, and living.

7. Start a Garden

11 Extreme Frugal Living Tips From the Great Depression That Can Be Used in 2023 (1)This is something my spouse starting discussing during the current pandemic. What if the food supply becomes compromised? And then, the next thought is … why can’t we just grow our own vegetable and fruit garden. Not only is gardening an excellent hobby, but, you by the fall you can have your own supply of carrots, peppers, lettuce, and so on.

8. Keep the Boxes

Our kids have had great fun making crafts from the boxes we’ve brought home from Costco, and other places. A few crayons, scissors, and other tools, and they can have hours of fun playing with, and making crafts from boxes. So the next time you’re about to buy your kid’s toys, ask yourself if you really need them, or, if you can take a page from the extreme frugal playbook and have them make use of what’s around the house.

9. Save the Soap

Have you ever noticed how unusable a bar of soap becomes as you get down to the end of the bar? If your inclination is to throw it out, then don’t! You can save these little pieces in a container, and when you have enough, you can melt them down into a new useable bar of soap. You can get more info on how to do that here.

10. Who Needs a Hairbarber Anyway?

Are you spending money on hair cuts? During the great depression, and even now during the current stay-at-home pandemic where you can’t even visit a hair barber, you can cut your kids, and other’s hair to save a few dollars on the barber.

11. Turn off the AC and Down the Heat

This extreme frugal living tip will keep you warm! If you’re trying to save money on utilities, then why do you really need an air conditioner? The AC is an expensive appliance to run, and if you’re paying for utilities, then turn off the AC to save on the electricity costs. And in the winter, turn down the heat. There’s no reason the house needs to be 70 when 65 during the day (with a sweater), and 60 at night (with a warm blanket) will do.


Living a frugal, or an extreme frugal lifestyle isn’t necessarily about not living. In fact, you can live a fulsome, and healthy life, while at the same time, saving dollars where they count. And the above extreme frugal living tips and extreme frugal money-saving ideas are a testament to that. And again, remember the expression, a penny saved is a penny earned. That expression held true during the great depression when a penny had value, and still has merit even today.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy this one:How to Become a Decamillionaire, Grow your Net Worth to $10 Million, and Join the 1% Club

And this one:My Response to an 18-Year-Old Who Wants to Become a Millionaire by the Time He’s 30

Good luck with your wealth-creating journey.

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11 Extreme Frugal Living Tips From the Great Depression That Can Be Used in 2023 (2024)
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