Surviving the Great Depression

There is something I find rather mystifying about older people. I watch old movies, or learn about the past, and the texture of the time just seems so different. Everyone carried themselves differently. They thought differently. It was like society emerged into parallel universes every decade or so. I wonder what it was like to be in that time. To be immersed in the sense of it, and not just the glimpses and snippets you get looking back. I wonder what it would be like to be a time traveler. And then you see around you there are these people that have come from that time. That parallel universe. I find that terribly fascinating, and strange at the same time that most people are not conscious of it.

As time slips by, we don’t have many people who still remember what it was like to live through the Great Depression. It was a time of terrible loss and poverty. At its height, 25% of the workforce in the US was unemployed, and 30% in Canada. (1) It was years of people struggling to feed their families, to stay in their homes, and to find any kind of work. It was an experience that changed people. People had to become more resilient. More resourceful. Harder workers. More caring neighbors. There was a way of life that they developed to get them through that. As we go through our own upheavals, that way of life is something we should revisit. Here is some advice from the past, sprinkled with a few modern considerations.


    Set your hope on something secure

    Don’t complain

    “Poverty is simply having more problems than solutions.” – Robert T. Kiyosaki

    Look for solutions

    Be resourceful

    Learn from your mistakes

    Know that you can find depths and talents within yourself you never knew you had

    Be grateful

    Help those who cannot help themselves

    Remember the good times, the good things, and the good hopes

    Take care of yourself

    Provide for morale-boosting activities

    Learn to spend time alone or with family

    Pay attention to what is going on and ask the right questions

    Focus on what needs to be done

    Set goals with schedules for what you want to accomplish

    Have plans A, B, and C if the first doesn’t work out

    Create redundancies for essential functions

    Have print copies of necessarily information incase the internet is unavailable

    Think through how you should react to various situations

    Practice things ahead of time

    Judge yourself and your capabilities honestly


    Reduce expenses

    Have cash on hand

    Look for ways to increase income

    Pay off debt


    In case of inflation

    – Buy precious metals

    – Convert cash into appreciable assets

    – Stock up on things you know you will be using, even long term

    – Debt with low interest rate dragged out as long as possible is better

    – Don’t loan money



    Stock up

    Collect from natural sources




    Everyone who was able, as well as children and elderly, worked

    Be open to working any job available

    Be able to move to get a job

    – The whole family can move together to support each other

    – Migrant farm work was often a good opportunity

    Go door to door asking for any work

    Work multiple jobs

    Having a versatile skill set makes it easier to find work

    Trade skills, such as carpentry, mechanics, plumbing, cooking, and sewing were in high demand

    Be flexible to work any shift for any duration, even if a job is only a few hours

    Be an entrepreneur, create your own work. See what your local community needs. During the Great Depression, people: (2)

    – Caught and sold fish, made baked goods, foraged, grew food and sold it

    – Ran a lunch wagon

    – Sold newspapers

    – Road and lawn work

    – Chopped or gathered wood

    – Cleaned houses

    – Sold door to door

    – Did deliveries

    – Childcare

    – Rented rooms

    – Mended clothes




    Get cheaper cars or reduce the number of cars

    Do more things in walking or biking distance from home

    Get a bike

    Get a good pair of shoes and a few replacements – you’ll probably be on your feet a lot


    Stock up on essential supplies you know you will use. Don’t expect them to be available later on.

    Consider quality, not just price

    Inspect and maintain items

    Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without

    Collect multipurpose things, like containers, rope, wire, tape, sewing kits, and a variety of materials to craft things from

    Collect tools, nuts, bolts, nails, screws, and other materials to make repairs

    Repair things—learn how to repair clothes, appliances, and everything you can


    Keep track of energy and resources expended

    Use only as much water, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, fuel, etc as you need

    Don’t waste. Recycle, sell, or give away what you can.


Buy second hand

    Websites like Craigslist, Ebay, Kijiji, or Facebook marketplace

    Garage sale, yard sale, or flea markets


Home security

    Don’t attract unwanted attention

    Have a home visible to neighbors

    Have locks and use them

    Set up alarms, whether a commercial system, motion-detecting lights, or a dog

    Have a plan to escape the home in case of break in, fire, or other danger

    – Pack backpacks with essentials for each family member and have them ready to go

    – Keep a vehicle in good working order and with the gas tank at least half full

    – Have a place to escape to, whether just to meet up, or to stay long term

    – Consider the possibility you may have to move (3)


    Eat right, exercise, sleep, lower stress, get lots of sunshine and fresh air

    Have reference material handy incase there is a problem

    – Red Cross apps: first aid and vet

    Keep a well-supplied first aid kit and other basic medicines

    Study and practice to handle more medical situations yourself

    – Red cross training:

Useful books:

LDS Preparedness Manual – Free download. This book contains a wealth of information, especially concerning food storage.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 50th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual for Living off the Land & Doing It Yourself

“The definitive manual of basic skills and country wisdom for living off the land, being prepared, and doing it yourself–whether it’s a farm or homestead, suburb, or city.”

Household Discoveries

“An excellent book for Homesteading, living off-grid, or even if a national, or world disaster transpires. It’s all about “getting back to basic living”. ”

Red cross first aid manual

The Forgotten Arts and Crafts by James Seymore

“The Forgotten Arts and Forgotten Household Crafts, written by the acknowledged “Father of Self-sufficiency” John Seymour. Taking the reader on an evocative journey through the worlds of traditional craftspeople — from blacksmith to bee-keeper, wainwright to housewife — Seymour celebrates their honest skills, many of which have disappeared beneath the tread of progress.”

Online copy









Disclaimer: I am not responsible for the consequences of your actions. Please do your own research and decide what is best for you.


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