10 Old-Fashioned Money Saving Skills That You NEED to Learn

Old white barn with green trim in a field.

Are you looking for ways to save money and be more self-sufficient? Check out this list of Old-Fashioned Skills that you should learn today including gardening, bartering and mending.

A collage of photos including a white barn, drying herbs and home canned food.

This post was originally published in November 2014 and has been updated for you convenience.

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10 Old-Fashioned Money-Saving Skills

  A lot of basic skills that were once common knowledge are now deemed old-fashioned or unnecessary, but we shouldn’t be so quick to discard them.

  If we took the time to learn how to do more for ourselves instead of paying someone else to do it, then we’d have more money and a greater sense of accomplishment that can’t be bought.

  Not to mention, the current situation that we are going through has opened a lot of peoples eyes as to how much is out of their control, but by practicing a few of these old-fashioned skills, you will not only save money, but also become a little more self-sufficient in the process.

  I personally practice a lot of these skills because I think it’s good to know how to fend for yourself if the need arises. So here are my top 10 Old-Fashioned Money-Saving Skills that I think everyone should learn!


  You can potentially get hundreds of tomatoes from one $2 packet of seeds, but how many tomatoes will that same $2 get you from the store? Gardening is a great way to save money if you can keep costs down by growing plants from seed and using natural soil amendments. If you are new to gardening or just want some more gardening tips, be sure to check out the links below.

Additional Gardening Resources:

Preserving Food

  Knowing how to preserve your own food is an amazing money-saving skill to have especially when you grow it yourself. It also comes in handy when you can find produce in bulk at rock bottom prices. Canning, freezing and dehydrating are the most common food preservation methods. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation Website to start learning today!

Food Preservation Recipes:


  Foraging is something that our ancestors knew way more about than we do today. If you don’t know, foraging is when you find food that is growing wild like picking berries in the woods or dandelion greens in your backyard.

  I wish I knew more about this lost skill, but sadly my knowledge is limited. The best way to safely learn about identifying nontoxic edibles is to sign up for a local class or take a course on the subject. You could also find books from your local library, but I’d be leery of relying on photos alone as a lot of edible plants also have toxic look a likes. Check out Wild Edibles to learn more.


  Our culture is so used to spending money that bartering isn’t even on most people’s radar and I think that’s a crying shame. Bartering is when you trade your skills, time or goods for someone else’s. For example, I could crochet someone a hat in exchange for a couple of hours of babysitting or I could trade some of my surplus garden produce for piano lessons.

  Think about how much money you would save if you put this into practice more often. Also, there are lots of bartering groups on Facebook which would be a great place to start.


  Since clothing is so cheap and plentiful these days, sewing handmade garments is normally more expensive than buying off the rack, but having basic knowledge of mending and tailoring can save you tons of money. I don’t know how many times I’ve extended the life of my families clothes simply by sewing on buttons or mending seams. Check out Martha Stewart to learn the basics of Mending. Also, I really enjoyed the book Mending Matters by Katrina Rodabaugh.

Cooking from Scratch

  It’s amazing how much money we spend on convenience food. I did the math and I spend $50 per month on yogurt and granola bars alone!! That’s insane considering I try to keep my food budget under $100 per week. So just by making those two items from scratch I could save TONS. Just think how much you would save if you started making just one new convenience item at home per month.

Resources For Cooking From Scratch:


  While my family doesn’t hunt or fish much, plenty of our friends do and I think it’s a wise skill to have in case you need to provide for yourself one day. Also, store-bought meat is expensive and being able to kill your own is a huge money saver! Of course it isn’t free to hunt, but it’s still a good source of quality meat on a budget. What would our ancestors have done without dear, wild turkey or fish to keep them going?

Keeping Chickens

Disclaimer: This was originally written in 2014 when egg prices were higher.

  Keeping a few chickens may not save you much money, but in most cases the cost of feed versus the cost of eggs/meat evens out. You can keep costs down by letting them free range, feeding them kitchen scraps and selling your extra eggs to family and friends. You could also collect scraps from friends or local restaurants to feed to your hens, but make sure they are getting mostly whole foods such as vegetables, grains, etc.

  Remember, your backyard chickens will produce higher quality eggs with a denser nutrition profile, which can cost upwards of $5 or more per dozen at the store, so it’s not fair to compare the cost of the absolute cheapest eggs that you can find to the price of keeping chickens.

Paying Cash

  Paying cash definitely seems like an old-fashioned skill these days, but it’s a great one to keep alive! Did you know that people tend to spend more when they use a card verses paying cash? Also, you can normally talk someone down on price when you have cash in hand. For more budgeting tips, check out The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

Going Without

  Did your TV break? Go buy a shiny new one and put it on the card! Did the car break down? Trade it in for a new one and pay for it later! It seems like our culture tells us we deserve everything instantly, but by doing so we’re missing out on valuable life lessons such as patience, resourcefulness, hard work and gratitude.

  Not to mention that delaying gratification allows you to avoid paying interest and save even more money. The next time you want to buy something, ask yourself if you can find it cheaper, make it yourself or go without or better yet try living by the motto made famous by the great depression: Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!

Which of these skills do you practice to save money? Do you have anymore to add? I’d love to know!

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  1. Glad to see the interest in living more frugally. We had to growing up as we were poor and had seven kids in the family, 5 of them boys! My Mom sewed, cooked, gardened, put up food, crafted, refinished furniture, painted, wallpapered...you name it, she did it. Her parents lived through the Great Depression and taught her many lessons. I remember the phrase: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Granny made a lot of their clothes out of flour sacks (they came in pretty, colorful prints)and there's even one picture of me in my flour sack dress! I'm ashamed that I have gotten away from the way I was raised and waste things like our consumer-culture has encouraged. I'm going to do better now, I promise! Ooh, just remembered hubby's grandmother washing aluminum foil to reuse it....until it lost it's flexibility! Then she would use it to line a drawer or something...you could still wipe it off!
  2. I like your comment on foraging. Gleaning is similar. I volunteer with a group in Long Beach, CA (SoCal Harvest) that gleans fruit/vegetables from homeowners' yards, by request. Most of the produce is donated to local food banks, but everyone that helps, has the opportunity to take bags of produce home that might not be at the standard for donating (stem end of orange pulled out, etc).
  3. I'm not so skilled at the ones that involve gardening and food, but I've definitely started mending things on my own now and going without. Just fixing things in general, instead of tossing it and buying a new one. Great list!
  4. Most people who have a yard can find a place to tuck in a few berries. It also doesn't have to take up much space to have chickens or rabbits, and they give you great fertilizer for your garden, in return. (Chicken manure must be composted, but rabbit manure can be used straight from the source.) Hens can be rotated to the crockpot when they no longer lay eggs, and rabbits can provide lots of meat because they can breed like....rabbits. There are all kinds of websites that can show you how to raise a lot of food on a small amount of property. Preserving food isn't just about freezing a bag of berries or a piece of meat, either; there are many convenience meals/mixes to be made, and just to your own personal taste. Thrift stores can help save you lots of money, too, and it's stylish to shop there now. I recently found jeans for less than $3 each, and they were better quality than I could have afforded new. Making your own laundry detergent takes very little time, is easy, and saves tons of money! The same with many cleaning and personal use items. It's amazing when you realize that there isn't much that you need to go shopping for, and what a sense of accomplishment to know that you aren't so dependent on outside sources!
  5. I am a pretty frugal person... it has worked out well for me. I cook most of our meals. We eat out maybe once a week. I try to make a lot of things from scratch, but I make sure if it's cheaper to buy it premade first. I am going to start gardening soon, and possibly have some chickens and a turkey.
  6. I started cutting my boys' hair when they were two. By the time they cared, I had years of practice. I've easily saved thousands of dollars, and have a skill I can barter or just offer. I rarely spend money on plants either. Trade them or just ask for cuttings. I prefer those that multiply or reseed easily, and do not require special care. Edible landscaping is a bonus.
  7. Desserts were once a very special treat that the family & friends ate on Sundays, or at special occasions. We really don't need a dessert after every meal. The money to purchase desserts adds up. Even if we're baking them ourselves. That is an added expense we can train ourselves and family to do without.
  8. If you still have a small place in your backyard where you can plant some vegetables that can grow easily, this way you can have your organic veggies and save money at the same time.
  9. Great article! Don't forget baking from scratch - we bake all our own bread. For the price of two loaves of store-bought multi-grain bread you can buy flour and the other ingredients needed to make a dozen loaves at home - healthier and better tasting! Try cooking a cup of 7-grain cereal in 2 cups of water until the water is all absorbed, let it cool to lukewarm, and add it to 1/3 cup molasses (or honey if you want it sweeter), 2 tsp salt, 3 tbs butter, 1.5 cups warm water, 1 packet (or 2,25 tsp) yeast, and 3 cups each whole wheat and white flour. Knead well, let rise until doubled, punch down and divide into 2 loaves, knead for a few minutes, let rise until doubled again, cut 3 diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes (sounds hollow when tapped or use a thermometer to test that internal temperature is 190 degrees). Best bread ever!
  10. All great tips! Another money saving technique is garbage hunting. I know, some frown upon this, but I was able to get cabinets for my garage for extra storage for free. These same cabinets, new, would have easily cost me $500 to $1,000. There are great finds in people's trash. You'd be surprised the things people throw away that are valuable.
  11. Hi loved your article. Not sure how old it is but I just found it. This kind of goes with cooking from scratch,but baking from scratch & trading your baked goods for products or services. If you're a good baker your products can be VERY valuable!!!! Who doesn't like a good batch of homemade cookies? Or a fresh baked lemon meringue pie? Yummy! Anyway I agree, people today would be in trouble if they had to do these basics.
  12. My 6 year old son and I moved. We do not have a TV by choice...it frees up time, I do not have a cable bill and we spend more time together. .
  13. about the foraging, here in Holland we have a special website, so people can look up but also add locations where you can pick fruit or collect nuts. Really awesome! Dutch people used to be better with not going crazy with money, like not spending money you don't have. The price of making your own clothes can be more expenisive but when you buy stuff at a thrift shop and remodel it, check out refashionista.net she has some great ideas. try to cook for more days, When I make chili, we eat it two days and the rest goes in the freezer for an other day. Also know your prices, I don't buy everything at one store, I check the prices. Also on saturday the market is great! At the end of the day you can get nice prices. I make my own spice mixes but I make a couple ahead in glass containers. Just like a package but then cheapier and healthier!! I know there are lot's of facebook groups per city where you can exchange stuff, like for instance tiles from the yard you can pick up in exchange for some flowers. A store nearby is having a closing sale and I already bought lego for my 5 year old for christmas! Saved me a lot of money! But also bought presents for birthdays I know are coming, instead of 15 to 20 euro's I spend 5 euro's on it. They don't have to know I didn't spend the original price! I go to the hairdresser college to get my and my sons hair cut, On Wednesday afternoons you pay 6 euro's for a kidshaircut plus a little gift. I pay 10 euro's. At at regular hairdresser you pay at least double, most of the time times 3! I hate throwing out bread, My hubbie has a hand of "forgetting" the last 2 or 4 slices of a loaf. So I toast them and eat them with a bit of butter and just a sprinkle of sugar for breakfast and lunch. I don't do fancy cookies for my son, he can have some fruit or a teabiscuit when he comes home from school. And he takes a reusable bottle of water to school which also saves a lot. Plus we don;t have schoollunches, no just old fashioned bread from home in a lunchcontainer! And my hubbie does the same! Thanks for your tips! Love coming to your site!
  14. Great list! With all of our modern conveniences these days, people are less likely to garden and to can! These are things that we all should be doing and passing the skills on to our children! So important! Thanks!
  15. I do most of these things , I do not do much foraging but this is a skill I would love to learn.I do container gardening as I am older and cannot get down on my knees fo do regular gardening , I also crochet , knit, and make many of my own spa treatments, there are so many good recipes on line. I do a little bartering not as much as I would like but I am working on it. I recycle, re-use and try to find ways to re-purpose as much as possible. I really like your site and am so glad I found it .
  16. I really wish that bartering was more widely accepted, people look at me like I'm crazy when I suggest it, I've even had some people become offended (oh, well). Thank you for sharing these. I started my own garden and got a couple of chickens this spring, even in city limits there are lots of ways to save, now if I could only talk them into letting me have a cow and some pigs, we would be all set ;)
  17. I shop a lot on line...I mean a lot! What I do is go thru several sites for the items I want and suspend them in their shopping carts.......a few days later I go back and trim the cart......I also go online to source out coupons. Believe it or not it cost a lot less to shop online,most sites offer free shipping .....no gas, time driving and I find that I focus on just the item I need.
  18. I love all the recipes on your website and all of the frugal, simpler lifestyle and faith tips you have mentioned! I'm also trying to live more simply, frugally and so far your website is the most helpful one I've found! Keep up the great work!! :) Jacquie
  19. On the foraging, see the website below for info on places in your city that have been mapped as available for forage. Random fruit trees, berry brambles, etc. http://fallingfruit.org/about I haven't used it yet, have stuck to U-Pick farms and orchards so far but if it helps someone!
  20. I'm new to this site and am really enjoying poking around here. I've tried my hand at gardening, raising chickens, turkeys, ducks, and pigs for food, I've gone hunting for deer, I've canned stuff and I love fishing. I've got to say tho that it is a full time, back breaking job but soooo satisfying. Thanks for such an informative site!
  21. Really enjoyed your article! Tried gardening in Tucson, Arizona spent $130 on soil and amending soil, seeds etc...my mom has been gardening her whole life. Yield - 3 small tomatoes, 10 sweet peas, 2 tiny two inch cucumbers, 4 two inch carrots, none of the other 6 things we planted did anything but flower. Chickens - They are a lot of work and if you don't feed them properly, their eggshells will break before you can harvest them. Kitchen scraps are not sufficient. And as far as meat is concerned, have you ever killed a chicken? It's not a pretty sight, my dad did it when I was a teenager. It about turned me into a vegetarian. Very few people I know today would be able to do so...and once they catch the bloody body be able to gut it, pluck it and eat it. I've made my own clothes, tailored clothes and mended clothes. I've gone without. Cooked from scratch. Payed cash. Hunting and fishing is not feasible where I live, but I would if I lived somewhere it was conducive to doing so. Foraging I know there are some things here in the desert that are edible, I need to learn. When I lived back east we forged for wild berries, I miss that. I wish people would barter more. I agree that these are lost arts.
  22. Hunting and fishing unfortunately don't typically save money anymore. Most people can't just walk out and shoot a deer, they have to go in on a lease, pay for gas, get camping supplies. Even my dad who can just walk out and shoot one still has to pay for the hunting license. Fishing is the same way. But they are definitely good skills to have in case there is a zombie apocalypse.
  23. Wonderful post. We certainly have forgotten have to save money. I remember my Mom darning, cleaning and fixing just about everything. We are a "have now" society. Thankyou

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