There are a number of schools of thought on the causes of the Great Depression. Some things are certain however, there was an economic boom before the fall, people were spending money they didn't have, debt as a result increased, the former wealth of the many came into the hands of a few, with less money circulating and debt increasing, people started spending less, banks were not lending as readily and with the economy slowing down from lack of spending, businesses slowed down, layoffs became more common, confidence fell and eventually the stock market crashed. As a result of these events, some people went broke nearly overnight. Some lost jobs and it took a little longer to go broke.
With no jobs or low paying jobs, people could no longer afford the mortgages on their properties and foreclosures rose. People were forced to either become renters, move in with other family members, become homeless, or migrate in an effort to find work and a more affordable place to live. Added to all the economic upheaval, there were also great droughts across the midwest affecting crop production and crop prices.
People hit the roads in search of not only better lives, but any life where they could feed themselves and their children and find work and a home. We as a nation, initially in shock and concerned with our own well-being, tried to look out for number one, take of us and ours. This didn't work for most people. Eventually, we came together to solve our problems.
Communities came together to help one another. The federal government under Roosevelt created work programs that not only helped individuals, they helped build and rebuild this country's infrastructure, parks and other public works.
People learned to work harder and smarter. They became resourceful in methods of growing their own food, preserving food and clothing, heating their homes, getting water, finding work, learning new marketable skills. They didn't give up. They suffered some, but they survived. If we go into a full-blown recession, we will be in a different position than our parents/grandparents were.
First, most of us aren't living a subsistence life to begin with and we're not living in shacks. So we're not as close to destitute as a lot of people were during the Great Depression. The negative side of that is, we're soft and ignorant. Whereas most people during the Great Depression understood how to survive, how to grow their own food, how to butcher and prepare animals, how to make most of what they needed to survive, today, most of us are clueless.
I visited a number of Internet sites with first person interviews with people who survived the Great Depression. The following is a condensed, compilation of the advice most of the survivors had to give this generation in surviving a new Great Depression.
1. FOOD -- learn to raise chickens, pigs, cows, some sort of protein; learn to turn your flower gardens into vegetable gardens; even without a yard, you can grow food in windows, on balconies and on rooftops. Learn the age old arts of preserving food for the winter. Learn new recipes for food substitutions and making a little food go alot further, think casseroles and soups. Hunger pains aren't the end of the world and you won't die if you feel a little hungry each day. Don't panic, it burns calories.
2. MATERIAL GOODS -- Learn to sew, mend clothes, make clothes, re-use fabric for other purposes. Learn to make curtains, table clothes, sheets, blankets. Learn to weave, latch-hook, crochet, knit. You can make beautiful things from old scraps. Learn to repair what you have, furniture, appliances, your home. You can keep things clean and in good repair with a bit of creativity and very little money. Learn to look at items in new ways. Exhaust all possible uses for a material or an item. When you've finally exhausted every use for an item and there's just nothing left that it can be used for, if it's organic, put it in your compost pile for your garden, if it can't be used to grow food, burn it for heat.
3. MONEY -- Don't spend what you don't have. Learn to work more, save more, play less, and go without. Figure out free forms of entertainment, board games, singing, crafting. Learn to share with your family, friends, neighbors. Learn to barter skills, services, products, food. Always, ALWAYS be willing to learn a new skill that you might be able to use to make money. Pay down debt. Secure your home before your car or other items that are not necessities. Get into the mindset that no job is beneath you if it pays cash. Beggars can't be choosers still applies. Learn what a necessity actually is and then prioritize your necessities. Downsize if you're living large. Rent a room to someone to bring in more money if you have the room.
4. COMMUNITY -- Know your neighbors, look out for them. People tend to panic and get mean during hard times. Come together as a community or neighborhood to protect each other and help each other through. Anticipate change and bad times. The signs are out there if you choose to pay attention. Stock up now on shelf items, staples, medicines, batteries, water, so when money gets really tight, it won't be so hard. Shop second-hand, shop at discount stores, learn to use coupons effectively and competitively. If you can get an item for free or for a few cents with a coupon, get it even if you don't use it. That item can be re-sold, bartered, etc.
Here are some of the pages I looked to for information:
Pix of Great Depression"
Surviving the Great Depression
First Person Accounts