Between the two World Wars, the value of personal thriftiness became a prominent feature of American rhetoric. Along with the designation of a National Thrift Week and the rise of piggy banks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Treasury released a series of 20 pamphlets advising citizens on thrifty practices. The first asked, "Is Thrift Worth While, Mr. American?" and from there the pamphlets advised on such topics as "Saving Food by Proper Care," "Thrift on the Farm," and "Inexpensive Ways of Keeping Food Cool." The final two pamphlets addressed the younger generation.
"Teaching Thrift To Your Children" examined how parents could instill a thrifty nature in their kids through a series of simple tasks—things like showing them how to mend their clothing to emphasize the value of careful wear and encouraging them to grow a vegetable garden. The pamphlet also included a chart that was useful for teaching kids about investing money.
Except for the mention of Thrift and War Savings Stamps and the 25 cent investment, the advice is remarkably applicable almost a century later. The basic spending plan charted in the pamphlet would make a great jumping off point for any modern kid—or adult—looking to track their finances.
The last pamphlet was addressed to the kids themselves. "Thrift Standards for Boys and Girls" asked children, "Did you ever stop and think how much it costs your parents to keep you well and comfortable and to educate you to be a useful man or woman?" Kids were encouraged to "estimate [their] cost of maintenance" by filling out the handy chart below.
The pamphlet advised specialty schooling in a chosen line of work, avoidance of "blind following of others' extravagance," saving for a specific goal, smart but conservative investments, and thoughtful gifts in place of expensive ones.
An annual inventory chart included tabs for War Savings Stamps, Liberty Bonds and valuable animals.
After the depression hit, this advice went out the window, and the government reversed tactics to encourage consumer spending in an attempt to buoy the economy.