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10 Self Sufficiency Lessons From The Great Depression

The Great Depression was a very trying time for a lot of families in the early 1930s, but here are 10 important lessons could be learned from it.

10 self sufficiency lessons from the great depression

When the stock market crashed in October 1929, it was the start of the longest lasting economic downturn in the history of the United States.

Millions of investors lost countless amounts of money when stocks and bonds became worthless. Your fortune was gone if it was in stocks or bonds and if you didn’t have cash at the time.

The Great Depression, however, taught us some valuable lessons on being self sufficient and self reliant that you may recall your parents, grandparents, or great grandparents teaching you.

Lessons To Learn

1. Always use things more than once and don’t waste – “Disposable” wasn’t part of many people’s vocabulary during the Depression. Scrap cloth pieces were often sewn together to make clothing and rugs. Don’t spend hard earned money to buy something if you would only use it once.

Parents had to ration their food to be able to feed their children and often times it was very little. You couldn’t afford to throw anything even the littlest of food away. So there would be no waste.

2. Don’t open new food until the old is finished – My wife’s grandparents taught her this early on in life. If there was something that was already opened, you better finish it before you even thought about opening the fresh new. This prevented waste and food spoilage.

When money is tight as it was in those days, you’d have to learn to make things last as long as they could, so you’d save the newest so it’d stay as fresh as possible until you needed it.

3. If you have it, use it – My wife’s grandmother had an old hand cranked mixer. (Like the one is this link) It wasn’t as easy as a newer electric one, but it worked and she used it until it finally broke one day.

But in her defense, why go out and buy something that is brand new with all the bells and whistles but is the same thing that you already have at home that still works? Why spend the money and buy it just for the bells and whistles?  You wouldn’t during the Depression.

Decisions like this are what you had to ask yourself in order to survive. Do I really need this or is it a want? Does it serve a purpose and would it be useful? If not, then it wouldn’t be bought.

4. Learn to barter – Yes, you may have some good skills, but chances are, you won’t know how to do everything that needs to be done. This is where bartering comes in. You may know how to harvest your own food but don’t know how to can and preserve it.  So you and a neighbor can barter your goods and services. And that leads us to #5.

5. Band together – Most people are going to be in the same boat as you. Unless you have a huge stockpile of food and a vast expertise, you will need other people and they will need you. This is what builds communities, coming together for the greater good.

6. Getting our of debt is important – Most people don’t realize that even in tough times such as the Depression, you still had to pay off debts.You still had bills to pay.

7. Become a DIY-fer – Learn to make and do things on your own. Some people were so poor they couldn’t afford clothes so women would take scraps of cloth and sew them together to make clothing. Not everyone knew how to farm, but they had to learn to do it in order to survive. And the list goes on!

8. Move if you have to – If you couldn’t find a job during the Depression, you would have no choice but to move.

9. Always have some emergency money – Always have some emergency cash put away. You never know what is going to happen and cash is always going to be needed.

10. Never Give Up – The Great Depression was a very trying time in history, but our ancestors fought hard and did all they could do to overcome the stresses that they were faced with on a daily basis. They stood strong and firm in their faith. They overcame, were strong and resilient.

Final Thoughts

The Depression can teach us many things especially lessons in self reliance and self sufficiency.

If we take a look at what they did in order to survive and apply it to our everyday lives, then we will be able to overcome most SHTF scenarios and be come even more self reliant.

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Meet The Author

Jim Mcgill


Add a Comment
  1. It’s interesting how many of the “Lessons” you list have been common family-isms in both my and my wife’s families. The practices (like ‘don’t open new until the old is empty’) weren’t overtly taught by grandparents who lived through the Depression. They were just family-isms — how things are done. Another one you didn’t list was “clean your plate.”

    The frugality of the Depression got codified into family-isms. To this day, my wife saves the buttons off of old shirts. She has a box full of buttons — buttons which might cost 69 cents new (and all match). Yet, she can’t bear to just throw them away. “They’re still good,” she’ll say. Even the old shirts go on to second duty as cleaning rag or the good parts as quilt material.

    We’re not conscious of these being Depression lessons, but they probably are — codified into “the way WE do things.”

  2. Excellent reminder of an article. The whole country is going to need to learn these everyday common sense maxims. I don’t usually feel the nay-sayer in me rise up; but, things like written here are going to be needed soon.

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10 Self Sufficiency Lessons From The Great Depression


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