History has a nasty tendency to repeat itself. It is part of the reason why we learn about it. The Great Depression of 1929 was almost a century ago, but we can still learn valuable lessons about homesteading, financial habits, and society from it. While an economic crisis of the same magnitude is not seen on the horizon, there’s no denying that the state of the economy today is far from stable.
Here are some lessons learned from the Great Depression you can implement in your life today. These are not your usual money-saving tips; unplugging the electronics you’re not using goes without saying. These are deeper lessons that require adopting a worldview. Let's see what history has to teach us.
1. Be mobile
The Great Depression of 1929 did not bring about just the economic crash. Americans suffered another blow on the ecological front, as a man-induced drought crashed agriculture in the Midwest. Inexperienced farmers that wanted to settle the western prairies over-plowed the land, and without deep-rooted prairie grasses to hold the soil in place, it simply blew away. Entire homes were covered in dunes, forcing residents out of the area and into unemployment. This series of dust storms began in 1930 and lasted about a decade in a feat known as the Dust Bowl. It brought about one of the largest population shifts in American history.
Today, the situation is much less complex, as remote working is far more widespread. Nevertheless, moving away even if there isn’t any dust storm hovering above your head could greatly impact your financial status. Living in an area where living costs are lower will make your income go further. Finding remote work means you can work from anywhere and are not dependent on your location for income.
2. Learn an extra trade
Another tip on the mobility front is to learn more than one trade. Job security is the first thing to fly out of the window when the economy is turbulent. With the ever-evolving job market, what’s relevant today may not be as relevant tomorrow. Learning an additional trade can open up a new income channel, which is always a welcome thing, even if you’re not short on funds.
3. Dine at home
Life today is far less stressful than it was in the 30s, we'll give you that. Food delivery services, courier companies, and restaurants are expanding tremendously to answer the growing need to outsource cooking – we simply don’t have the time or energy for that today.
You don’t need us to tell you that dining at home is the most cost-effective habit. But there’s cooking, and there is cooking. A simple solution is meal prep – the process of cooking in bulk (usually over the weekend) and storing or freezing for the week. Going one step further would be to set up a kitchen garden, learn the basics of canning, and use scraps – either in your recipes or as compost for your garden.
4. DIY your way through life
This next tip will be beneficial both for your wallet and the environment - learn to fix everything. Instead of throwing away things that are broken, invest the time in learning how to repair them or simply take them to someone who can mend them. Sew the hole when your sweater is ripped, reupholster the furniture, and resole your shoes. Do periodic maintenance work around your home. Keep the car well-mended.
That said, don’t fix something you don’t know how- you could either break it even further or harm yourself. Don’t hesitate to call a professional.
If you don’t want or can’t fix something, you can throw it out and thrift another instead of buying new. And before any purchase, remember to ask yourself, “Do I really need this item?“
5. Invest in neighbor relationships
The strength of your community and your social status in it may also have an impact on your finances. When the Great Depression struck, communities that stuck together and gardened together were able to feed every hungry mouth. Work hard to strengthen ties with your neighbors. Think of it as an investment for rainy days.
6. Investing in good life insurance
The Great Depression took many lives, and those that didn’t have good life insurance left their families behind with nothing. That is not to say that the economic turbulence we’re experiencing today will have the same toll, but keep in mind that crime rates go up in times of instability. Take the necessary measures to make your home as safe and secure as possible, and reach out to your family often to check in on their well-being.