The Ingalls family, as depicted in the Little House books and television show, lived in the late 19th century American Midwest. At the time, the region was characterized by small farms and small towns and communities dotted throughout the region. Farmers were often on the brink of poverty due to factors such as low crop yields, harsh weather conditions, and a lack of access to markets and resources.
Additionally, the Ingalls family faced personal challenges, such as the loss of their home and property, which contributed to their financial struggles as they kept moving west in Charles Ingalls’ belief that his financial success always was west. There was much propaganda at the time in town newspapers about the riches to be found in the west where settlers could apply for homesteads. But there were requirements to be met for settlers to be granted permanent ownership of their homesteads. When the Ingalls left Walnut Grove, for example, they abandoned their homestead without ever “proving up.”
Charles Ingalls also made questionable financial decisions over the years as well, which also led to the family frequently moving to new locations in search of land and new opportunities for the family to succeed. For example, he purchased non-necessities on credit on the assumption of a good crop, such as when he bought sawn lumber from the lumberyard to build a new house, and planned to pay back the credit for the lumber when he harvested the wheat. But there ended up being no harvest that year due to the grasshopper plague which struck the week before he planned to harvest the wheat.
In the books themselves, while it was obvious that the Ingalls family was struggling, their lack of finances was not a major focus of the books, but rather focused on the daily life and struggles of the Ingalls family overall – some of which were financial.