Frugal Living Ideas From the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s

by Lizzy

Today is about frugal living ideas that are blasts from the past. The 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s seemed simpler, and it seemed to be much easier to live frugally. There wasn't so much peer pressure on having the latest technological equipment, having large allowances, and being able to afford smartphones.

As we get older, we realize stuff was never the important thing. We had much less stuff when we were children, and most of us had a frugal childhood. Here are a few frugal living ideas from my childhood that I remember well.


1. Playgrounds

Do you remember the playgrounds of old where there was the death-defying roundabout that could shoot you off at any time? Of course, it was always the older kids to spin it around faster and faster, so you clung on for dear life. Also, the climbing frames were just built over concrete.

Then there were the slides. The slides were always made of metal, so in the baking summer, which we had so many of as a child, it was almost like sliding down a baking sheet. If you wore shorts, you'd have to lift your legs so you didn't skid down and burn your legs as you went.

Flying a kite

2. Outside activities

Next door to our park was a field where children would take a ball and play football. It was also quite common to see children flying kites. Our shed held our fishing nets. We would go fishing in local ditches for tadpoles.

Most children had a bike at this period of time, and we learned to ride bikes quite early. They were generally passed down from older to younger siblings as you fitted the right size bike.

The bike would be bought as a main Christmas present or as a birthday present. It would never just be bought because you needed one. Many children would have go-carts made from orange boxes made of wood with wheels added from old baby buggies.

Pushing a toy pram

3. Toys

One of my favorite toys as a child was the large buggy I got for a Christmas present, and I would have all the toys in it. My friends and I would take turns pushing this buggy with all the cuddly toys and dolls in it, and we'd push it up and down the streets, just pretending we had all these babies. It was lovely.

Innocent times when we didn't see for one second that we were being pushed into a gender role. It just seemed like good fun.

Another toy from the 60s and 70s, and 80s was the pogo stick. Yo-yos were very popular and not expensive. Scooters, skipping ropes, free games such as hide and seek, hopscotch, and the hand game from an old piece of string called Cat's Cradle.

Jelly cubes

4. Treats

Some of our favorite treats as children were being given jelly cubes. Our mother would say, eat this jelly cube; it strengthens your nails. We didn't realize, as children, we didn't particularly need strengthened nails.

Sweets from our childhood: I can remember the candy sticks that were meant to be cigarettes, sherbet flying saucers, the Curly Cubes, and some American sweets my friend told me from that period of time was Razzles, which was a candy that eventually turned into a gum, Bottlecaps, which were soda pop flavored candy, Neccos which were candy wafers, and something called Laffy Taffy, which was a strawberry flavored toffee.

The corner store

5. The corner store

Our corner shop was our sweet shop where we would buy our sweets, and it was also our local shop that seemed to sell just about everything. There were jars and jars of sweets; there were cooked meats, bread, fresh fruit, and vegetables; a section of the store was hardware with buckets, tin pails, mops, pegs, and that type of thing.

There was always a seed stand full of seeds for growing in the garden. These small corner shops had everything we needed, but you wouldn't get big shopping done there just because they would be more expensive.

Frugal shopping

6. Frugal shopping

We didn't have a car, so if we went into the city center maybe once a month, we'd get a bus into town and purchase anything we couldn't get at the local shops. This could be from clothing to carpets to furniture.

We're a little bit more lucky today just because of the internet, and we can order from the comfort of our front room and see so many more items. The downside is things don't seem quite as well made.

7. Budgeting

When I was a child, big items were saved up for, everything was saved up for, and nothing was bought ad hoc or on a whim; there just wasn't the money or the resources.

Saturday was when we were either playing outside or shopping with our mother. Sunday was the day we all loved until about tea time, and then all of a sudden, Sunday just turned into Monday morning being back at school.

Frugal living ideas from the past

8. Sundays at home

Sunday may have been the day of rest but not for the busy housewife.

It was certainly one of the busiest days from my mother doing all the ironing, getting us all ready for school, making sure we were all bathed and cleaned and scrubbed, making packed lunches for those of us that were having a packed lunch, sorting dinner money out if we were having school dinners, then the correct coins were popped into envelopes to take to school and also making sure that we had a few coins in our school bank books ready to be deposited into school on Monday morning bank day.

They don't, as far as I'm aware, do saving lessons at school anymore encouraging children to save, which is a shame because children need as early as possible to learn how to handle money and save money and save up for things.

Frugal living ideas from the past

Do you remember growing up with frugal parents? What things do you remember the most about frugal living many years ago? Share your frugal living ideas from the past in the comments below.

Join the conversation
  • Jan15261348 Jan15261348 on Jun 03, 2023

    There was only two of us plus Mom and Dad but times were tough. Mom cooked and cleaned all the time. Not much money and no car and no tv. I was born 1939, My Mom was the best in making all kinds of soups and she used what ever we had on hand. Always had a big meal on the table and Saturday nights of course hot dogs and baked beans which I hated. Spaghetti dinners was a big thing in our house and my Mom would start the sauce on Saturday and she would make her home made meat balls and loved watching her make them and believe me they all were the same size. Then on Sunday we would have all the Cousins and family there and there was three different kinds of noodle or spaghetti. The sauce had the meat balls, sausage. Then the garlic bread. Those were happy time and you all ate at table. Kids in the kitchen and Adults in the formal dining room. House was super clean and floors washed and waxes. Good times and card playing and most of the time was out door fun unless it rained and then inside to do other things.

  • MISSMAC IN TX MISSMAC IN TX on Jun 03, 2023

    I grew up making mud pies, spent hours with Lincoln Logs and farm animal figurines. Playing with the dogs and horses. Went swimming in the local creek. I had a great tomboy childhood out in the country and when I was older and lived in town, we ran around with friends until dark 30.

    Kids today can’t be left alone to be kids anymore. God forbid a kid gets hurt or scratched. I tried to give my kids as much freedom as they could have without me going to jail. I think some basic rules and trust were adequate. They survived and even thrived without being over supervised. I saw a sign recently to warn about “Free Ranged Children”…lol.

    Now, for my grandkids, you just can’t trust some pervert isn’t going to snatch them walking home from school anymore. We’ve got things going in in schools too. They don’t have recess, afraid kids might get hurt on a playground. Kids can’t be safe unsupervised anymore it seems, and I think it creates anxious kids. If you can find a way to provide quiet, unstructured, unscheduled time, and turn a kid loose at the park to play, you are doing them a favor!