smart spending

5 frugal lessons from the Depression

Consumer products can have multiple uses
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Save money on energy-efficient appliances

Then: In the 1930s, advertisers asked shoppers to consider multiple uses for one product. A tissue advertisement from the day offers more than a dozen ways to use a disposable hankie, and tries to convince shoppers that disposable is better than dirty cloth. Listerine advertised that it could be used for ridding oneself of dandruff, soothing a baby's gums and avoiding body odor.

"In the '30s and to some extent today, it's a harder-sell environment for advertisers," McElvaine says. "So they had to come up with more uses for the product and to figure out ways to overcome reluctance."

Now: In a buy-and-toss society full of single-use products, we rarely think about multiple uses for one item. But opportunities still exist. Baking soda can deodorize a closet or clean baby equipment. Vinegar erases spaghetti stains on clothing and cleans up scrapes on skin. A product with multiple uses can save money throughout the house.




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