Getting by with less while still living well

7 Simple Living Lessons from Grandma

by Diane R. Schmidt

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My grandmother, Esther, who lived through the Great Depression, passed away recently. In the past few weeks, I have been thinking about the lessons of frugality that she taught me.

Lesson 1: Make Do with as Little as Possible

While it may not seem cool in this society to go without, my grandmother made do. She lived in the country with my grandfather and made almost all her meals from scratch, using food from their garden. My grandfather hunted and brought home wild turkey and deer. She reused scraps of paper to write lists and notes, and conserved water and electricity. She did not shop for fun or accumulate knick-knacks and frivolous items. She wore her clothes until they wore out.

Lesson 2: Learn to Cook, Sew, Decorate

My grandmother was an expert seamstress, which was how she paid for her college tuition in the 1940s. She made many clothes for her children and grandchildren, knitted blankets, pieced together patchwork quilts, decorated her home and cooked meals everyday for years. They rarely went out to eat or had pizza delivered. Someone else preparing meals was a luxury.

Lesson 3: Pick Up Frugal Hobbies and Entertainment

Some hobbies, like renting movies or shopping, can really cost a lot. Others, like stamp collecting, don't cost as much. My grandmother loved reading books and magazines she got from the library, taking walks outside, visiting family and friends, and listening to music. She rarely watched TV.

Lesson 4: Appreciate What You Have

It can be hard to want what you have, without wanting more. My grandmother never seemed to want more than she had. She was content with her home, her belongings, and her family. She had mastered the art of contentment.

Lesson 5: Never Get in Debt and Save Up for a Rainy Day

My grandmother's generation didn't believe in debt, and therefore, she never got in debt or even had her own credit card. For whatever she needed, she paid cash. She saved her change and dollar bills and only bought things when she had the money. She saved her money for what was important to her.

If circumstances have put your family in debt, find out how to conquer your debt by creating a plan personalized to your family's budget and lifestyle.

Lesson 6: Creatively Solve Problems

Whenever a problem came up, she always had the solution. She was very practical about how to solve problems, without resorting to spending money. For example, when I was moving into my first apartment, she helped me come up with a list of stuff I'd need and meals I could make that wouldn't cost a lot. She also gave me necessities for my new home.

Lesson 7: Focus on the Big Picture

One snowy night, not too long ago, my grandmother died peacefully in her sleep. The most important lesson she taught me was to focus on living a good life, loving your family and not focus on money or things.

With these lessons, she lived a wonderful life. I hope these lessons inspire you too.

Diane Schmidt is owner of,, your guide to savings, deals and more!

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