10 Vintage Skills That Save Money

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

That's what these are called now, 'vintage skills.'  Because it's been so many years since people regularly did these things, but really, it wasn't that long ago that we used to be so much more self-sufficient.  It's on my goal list to learn one of these vintage skills, because they really can save money.  Now, I love modern conveniences as much as the next girl, and I don't feel the need to unnecessarily complicate my life just for the sake of going back to how things used to be done.  Not every update has been a winner (fast fashion and everyone's inability to sew a button back on their clothing), but not every old skill is either (it is, in fact, cheaper to buy bread than make it, for example).  So here are a few of the vintage skills that save money that I'm thinking about learning more about, before I pick which one I want to commit to.

Gardening saves money in the long run if you're planting and harvesting food your family will eat.  Although it costs more upfront for seeds and soil, if you have a green thumb and maintain your plants well, it can produce food for years and greatly reduce your grocery bill.  However, I currently have no green thumb.  I think I would be more open to this if I lived somewhere else.  Not that you can't grow things in Chicago - every Midwest state is hugely farmland, after all - but it takes a much larger effort to keep things alive here in terms of weather and city living.  And I am limited in what I can grow, and it's not all necessarily things we eat regularly.

Sewing is an incredibly useful and also increasingly rare skill to have.  With clothing being available so readily and cheaply, no one bothers to patch holes any more.  And since tailors only charge minimal amounts for things like hemming a skirt, no one has bothered to learn that for themselves either.  If you can learn some basic sewing skills, you can save yourself a lot in terms of simple tailoring fixes and in terms of not constantly replacing clothing that only has a small tear.  I can do basic sewing, like fixing a hole or putting a button on.  But only by hand and it's not a great effort on my part.  I definitely can't do anything that will last a long time, and I have no clue how to work a sewing machine.  I don't own a sewing machine and have no intention of acquiring one, since I don't really want to get that in depth into it, but I could stand to improve my basic, by hand skills.

Cooking from Scratch
The markup on prepared and processed food is insane.  Obviously you know you're paying for convenience when you eat out or get something delivered.  And sometimes that's a nice luxury.  But it costs you.  It also costs you when you pay for a similar convenience in a grocery store item.  Prepared seasoning mixes (in those little packets), pre-chopped vegetables in the produce section, everything in the deli, and canned beans all come to mind - pretty much anything that has been cooked or prepped for you.  None of these things used to exist.  You had to cook everything from scratch.  Which is what you still have to do if you want to save money.  I'm pretty good at this one because I'm really particular about what sort of ingredients I eat and processed food generally has a lot of stuff I won't touch.  So I have to make things for myself.  I also get annoyed at paying high prices for things like pre-chopped onions because duh I can do it myself and it takes two minutes.  We still do spend on eating out, but I've got a great handle on cooking from scratch when we're in our own home.

People who grow a lot of their own food are usually good at canning, especially when they live somewhere with harsh seasons.  That way, they're fully stocked for the winter months.  But canning can still save money even if you don't grow your own food, because you can buy produce for much less when it's in season at a farmer's market or a pick your own farm, and then can that to consume in the winter instead of paying a premium at the grocery store.  Although I love the idea of this, it's not one I'm willing to touch.  You have to be really good at it, because you can get yourself seriously sick if you don't do everything properly and the food gets contaminated.  I'm not willing to risk it.

Making Cleaning and Household Products
Nothing increases your bill or your household clutter like having 17 different cleaning products for every possible surface in your home.  It's just nonsense.  Everyone used to have just the basics to keep their home clean, and they'd use simple, natural products that didn't cost an arm and a leg, with a little elbow grease (yes, you have to scrub inside the oven instead of letting the food splatter melt off with god knows what chemical that actually needs to be disposed of at a hazardous waste site.  You'll live.)  Going back to making your own cleaning products will save money and your health.  I think I get better at this every day.  When something is about to run out, I start researching how I can make it myself and replace it with something more natural.  Cleaning products are the easiest, since you can clean just about everything in the house with vinegar and baking soda.  I don't know when or why we started loading cleaning products with a billion chemicals and charging outrageous prices for it, but it's not better for cleaning and it's definitely not better for your health, so I'm sticking with vinegar.

Imagine that, budgeting as a vintage skill.  But it really is - people are becoming terrible with money, especially since the invention of credit cards.  It's hard to grasp the concept and importance of money when you constantly buy on credit and pay it back, it's an endless cycle that leads to very little savings for your future.  I don't think you need to make a detailed budget every month, but you do until you really get a handle on your spending and understand your finances.  Even just three months of careful tracking and budgeting can be eye opening and save you a ton of money.  I like to reassess my budget every so often, but I do have a good handle on my finances.  If you need more help with this, check my finances tab up at the top of the page.

Medical Care
There's more to basic medical care than sticking a band-aid on, but so many people have never learned about first aid.  How to stop gushing blood, what to do with different types of burns, how to brace a broken arm before you get to the hospital, even CPR.  It's worth it to learn these things, even just for the peace of mind.  You'll know when a cut is serious or not, when something is infected, when you can treat a cold with natural remedies instead of drugs.  Not only will you save money by not incurring unnecessary doctor and hospital bills, but you'll even start to save on medications and things because you'll be able to recognize all the times that natural home remedies will work.  It's a lot!  I'm great at medical care, I don't really know what else I could learn here.  I suck at math and science so I didn't go to med school, but just living with my dad for years and having so many illnesses myself, I know a lot.  It's weird.  I get asked all the time by my friends to diagnose them and I'm always right.  Plus I already know all the first aid stuff since I used to work at the pool at a country club, and it's required that you're CPR certified and all that.

Home Improvement
People hire out for these things more and more.  You can even hire someone to come hang out photos for you if you really want.  But you'll save tons of money if you start learning some basics for yourself.  It's not difficult to learn how to pain a wall, unclog a sink, or caulk a bathtub.  In our house, we generally don't mess with electrical, but John knows basic plumbing, how to drywall, and other simpler fixes.  We can also both do things like painting, fixing sink drains, putting furniture together, installing replacement fixtures, etc.  Some things, like chimney cleanings, are best left to the professionals, but you should know how to take care of your home on a basic level.  I'm always open to learning new things here, because I'm too cheap to hire someone to come and install a new handle on the front door.  I can do things!  That's what YouTube is for!

Outdoor Skills
Outdoor skills aren't vintage if you live somewhere more rural, but here in the city, they're unheard of.  I mean, city people can't even see the stars, let alone navigate by them.  The only animals we have to hunt are very large alley rats.  Hunting, fishing, and foraging will all save money in terms of grocery bills, that's for sure.  And if you can camp for an extended time, like you can get your own food and water and cook it and safely sleep outside and navigate without your GPS?  There's so much money to be saved there, I can't even keep track of it all.  I have little to no outdoor skills and honestly, I don't know that I even care to work on that, because I hate it outside.  There's no way you'll find me in a camping scenario.  Other than perhaps learning how to start a fire, I see no reason to learn the rest.

Off Grid Skills
Let's get real - electricity and gas inside the home are the greatest inventions.  I love them.  But man, no one can do anything if the power goes out.  That seems to be everyone's ultimate doomsday scenario, and the thing is, it happens a lot!  Can you do laundry without a washer and dryer?  Are you able to light and heat your home if the power goes out?  Can you get yourself food and water without it?  Using electric and gas less with save you money, yes, but having off the grid skills will save you the most money when it actually comes time that you need them.  Because you won't need to pay extortion prices to get food or gas or water.  Or candles.  Now, we have some stuff stocked in case of emergency (because we have had the power go out), and of course I know how to get laundry done without the washer (it's not fun though.)  I absolutely cannot cook without modern conveniences though, since I have no idea how to light a fire or anything.  Hence why it's the one 'outdoor' skill I would care to learn.  I do want to be less reliant on electricity though, so it's high on my priority list to learn some more off the grid skills, and not just for the money saving aspect.

Are any of these skills in your wheelhouse?  Do you want them to be?