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10 Financial Lessons Your Grandparents Can Dust Off From The Last Depression

by Jarrod Thalheimer

You're sweating big time. The markets are down, you're getting squeezed at work, and the lease on the car is three months past due. To cap it all off, some creepy old codger in the parking lot seems to be eyeing you up and down. Look at him, sitting there in his senior's issue mobility chair, all slippers and plaid shirt tucked into a belt with suspenders. What possible understanding could this relic from a bygone era have for the modern financial crisis you face today? Quite a bit, it would seem...

1. “Don't live beyond your means.”
Seems pretty old school and more than a little kill-joy, but can anyone argue with the good sense this little nugget makes crystal clear? Sure, your Flash consulting job may pay lots, but if you're spending three times what you earn in a day, you're still on the fast track to debtor's prison. Use your head -- if $10 comes in, don't spend it all plus more. Save at least half. Master that and most financial problems fix themselves.

2. “Waste not, want not.”
Now this shiny nickel of a platitude is so overused it's almost annoying, but in times of financial firestorm it takes on a whole new meaning. If you want to make it through a tough money crunch, you better wise up and stop tossing out those half-eaten cordon bleus just because you think using the microwave is icky. You can cut your food budget in half by eating what you normally toss out.

3. “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”
Now as aphorisms go this one is really stone age. Everyone knows that credit makes the world go round. How the hell can anyone own a Mercedes, two BMWs, and a spiffy cabin at the lake without a generous helping of credit? Darn few, which is why easing up on -- or cancelling outright -- all the credit lines and cards you have is a good idea. Until things improve, credit is little more than a temptation to sin.

4. “Mind your own business!”
This phrase is as timeless as it is specific. If you spend more time focusing on the life you lead and less on whatever the guy on the other side of the fence is up to, you might just be able to haul yourself out of this monetary mess. Yes, his massive riding mower is super-cool and his boat has a pretty swish wine room, but you can't afford either one. So smarten up, buttercup, and get your eyes back this side of the fence. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses.

5. “Put your nose to grindstone.”
This advice might sound like something Joan Rivers paid a small fortune for, but once upon a time it meant getting your butt off to work. In a world where distractions are more plentiful than Ashton Kutcher's Tweets, it's a heck of a great reminder to focus on what matters. If you're still lucky enough to have a job, you better start working your tail off to keep it!

6. “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Of course you deserve a double latte five-times a week and everyone knows that without your regular facials you're an absolute bear, but each and every one is little more than a money-sucking luxury bleeding you dry with each passing day. Every penny counts, so stop blowing it on things like foamed milk or cashmere scrunchies. Do whatever it takes to stop spending. You'll be amazed at the results.

7. “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
When tough times hit, many sensitive souls have come to expect gentle cuddles and positive support from those in charge. Well get real, ‘cause when everyone is feeling the pinch sympathy is in very short supply. You alone possess everything you need to get things going again so stop looking around for hugs or back rubs. Things won't get any better until you make them better. Depend on you first!

8. “Make do.”
It may seem like an alien concept to those living in present day USA, but once upon a time folks used to “make do” a lot. Dishes didn't always match, clothes got handed down, and furniture actually wore out. Remember, if you spend more time looking for ways to save money instead of spending it, you'll see that “making do” is a heck of a great way to keep the bank account from running dry.

9. “Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”
You may not be crazy about driving around in that primer-painted ‘82 Buick your brother-in-law offered up or having loud Aunt Shirley in the house as a free babysitter, but when things are getting tight, you have to remember not to judge the help you receive. It may not be perfect or exactly what you hoped for, but if it helps to move you and the family forward, it was most definitely worth having. And way better than none at all.

10. “Dance with the one what brung ya.”
He or she may annoy the hell out of you and given half a chance (plus a good lottery win), you can imagine a multitude of ways to say “arrivederci,” but like it or not, a bad economic climate is no time to be divvying up the assets and deciding who has to adopt the cat. Shut your mouth and try your best to remember why you married him/her in the first place. It'll make life more bearable and could even lead to some hybrid version of love. And when you think about it, love is all you can afford these days anyway.

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Great article. Lots of excellent tips. I especially concur with #10 for a whole bunch of reasons, including for the children and the grandchildren! Divorce is not the panacea so many people think it is. I have seen so many hurting families with deep, long wounds that never heal!
by Kaye Swain submitted on Aug 18, 2009

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