Nowadays there's an app for that. In the GDR, on the other hand, people kept an eye on their receipts and expenditures with the help of a meticulously kept book of household accounts. It was a proper housewife's duty to keep track of what amount of money was spent for what and when. It was listed, when and how much salary was payed each month, how much was spent at the hairdresser's as well as how many meal vouchers had been used within one week. It was also listed how much money was saved from the previous month, what kind of debts existed and how much money was kept in the household budget. The DDR Museum was recently donated a total of 8 books of household accounts from a family from Dresden, starting on January 1st in 1963 and ending on January 3rd in 1993. Learn more about these highly interesting historical documents in the following text!
Unique authentic documents
In the previous year, the collection of the DDR Museum received quite a special and precious accession. A total of 8 coherent books of household accounts from a household in Dresden. The first three books are documenting one year (1963-1964, 1964-1965, 1966-1967); the remaining five books are covering a larger period. The last book, for example, was kept from November 1984 until January 1993 - almost ten years. This is mainly due to the bigger format of the more recent documents. In contrary to the older books with their simple black softcover, the more recent ones consist of more pages and are hardcovers. Furthermore, the notes in the more recent books are not as detailed as in the ones from the 60ies and 70ies – the expenses are listed simply as “groceries” as opposed to a detailed listing of every single article. The entries are done both with a pencil as well as a ball pen. The person in charge of keeping the books also noted the period of time on the books' front covers.
This is an example for a typical entry, dating from the 2nd of February 1963 within the book covering the year 1963 until 1964:
- Train ride and bus – 11,40 Mark
- Soup and cake – 2,10 Mark
- Flowers (for grandpa) – 2,40 Mark
- Coffee and cigars – 8 Mark
- After-school care club Ralf – 30 Mark
As well as an excerpt from the book 1972 until1977, dating from the 29th of August in 1974:
- Subscription – 15 Mark
- Fees – 67,50 Mark
- Trip Czechoslovakia – 60 Mark
- Groceries – 27,50 Mark
- Benefit shoes Ralf – 30 Mark
- cinema and other things – 5,50 Mark
The books of household accounts are authentic historical objects, with the help of which we can comprehend the financial situation of a middle-class family in the GDR. We can also find out about the availability of certain products and services, such as a haircut for 5 Mark, the liquor for 22 Mark or the slippers for 11 Mark. One can therefore identify the interesting relation between everyday consumer's goods and “luxury products” such as a television or a ladies' bicycle for 260,50 Mark (April 25th 1972).
Do you also still have such books of household accounts or other unique and authentic documents from the GDR which you would like to donate? If so, please feel free to contact our collection department or our head of collection Sören Marotz via phone 030 – 847123736 or via mail at email@example.com !