How to Manage the Costs of a Large Family
Let’s face it: despite what the federal government says, inflation is real and the costs of living and raising a family are going up. If you’ve got kids, you know how true this is. Life isn’t cheap and the larger the family the larger the costs. So how do we manage the costs of a large family?
Find ways to cut costs
Truth be told, my husband and I have been pretty frugal since before we even met. He read a book way back when that inspired him to keep his expenses low so he wouldn’t be a slave to his job (novel concept, right?) so when we met he was living in a small basement apartment close enough to the hospital that he could walk to work and he worked about 30 hours a week. But he saved a lot of money, had no debt, and had a happy work-life balance going on. I can’t argue with that!
Live more simply
Living simply is a big part of managing the costs of a large family. Simple living is enjoying a lot of popularity right now, and for good reason: it is cheaper and it’s easier. Here are some ways we choose simple living:
- We don’t have cable TV. In fact, the only TV we have is a small TV/VCR combo left over from a major move several years ago.
- We don’t have a landline phone. We don’t use the minutes we pay for on our cell phones so we cancelled our landline phone. Why pay for a service you don’t need.
- I buy groceries when they are on sale and have a price point in my head of what I will pay for the foods we use the most. If I can’t get an item for that price, I don’t buy it.
- We don’t eat out very often. Maybe once a month we eat out as a family, but generally speaking we do not.
- We eat beans and rice every Tuesday for dinner. I never thought I would like refried beans, but after watching my kids devour them at a Mexican restaurants I went looking for a recipe. Now we throw it in the crock pot just before lunch and it’s ready for dinner. Every Tuesday. Cheap, warm, satisfying, and a complete protein. Hoopla!
- We make most of our food from scratch, even going to the point of buying wheat berries and grinding them into flour to make our bread twice a week.
- We use the library. I have an ulterior motive, which is that I don’t want all of those books all over the house, but even so, using the library is such a money saver. Our local library has started printing out how much we saved by using the library instead if buying those books at a bookstore. How eye-opening! My last trip to the library saved me over $200.
- We use rags instead of paper towels. When the bath towels get too ragged to use, I cut them up into dish cloths. If something spills, all of the kids know to ‘go get a blue towel.’ (They used to all be blue towels that were extra from the ER where my brother in law worked. Great surgical cloths that came in a sterile pack but he couldn’t stand the idea of them being thrown out so we got them. Thanks!)
- Our town has a clothing swap where you can more or less bring in the clothes your kids have outgrown but still have life left in them and trade them out for the size you need. This is an amazing ministry started by two Army veterans and it has saved us a bundle. Honestly – there are enough clothes available that I haven’t had to buy more than 10 pairs of pants total for 7 kids in 3 years. And so many people have clothes that have been outgrown. What a blessing. Without the clothing swap, and even with it, we shop at Salvation Army or Goodwill. I am not one to spend $30 on a pair of pants for a 2 year old.
- I mend our clothes. I know, mending is almost a thing of the past and many of us don’t know how to do it. I don’t always feel like I know what I am doing either, but I can usually patch something enough to make it work at least for play clothes or garden clothes.
- I cut the kids’ hair myself. It’s not always perfect, but I watched the lady at the barber shop do it and I was convinced I could do at least as good a job as she did. And her bill was almost $30 for 2 boys! So I do it myself now with these tools.
- I keep the thermostat low. It is set at 63 in the winter and 75 in the summer when it is over 100 outside. Some rooms have ceiling fans (mine and the littlest kids’ room) and that helps in the summer, but in the winter I see no need to heat the house any warmer than 63. When it is 63 outside in March the kids want to run through the sprinkler. If you’re cold, put on a sweater. And socks.
- Daddy hunts. Now, let me say this – I am NOT a woman who grew up eating venison or other wild game. I got food poisoning from fish when I was about 6 or 7 and to this day I don’t eat fish. If you told me 5 years ago that I would have a freezer full of elk meat and be glad for it, I would have scrunched up my nose and said no way. But that was then. Daddy just got an elk in January and it pretty well filled our extra freezer. I use it interchangeably for beef in everything but burgers and even this picky mama doesn’t notice a difference (venison is another story).
- When I do make purchases online I look for coupon codes. My favorite website for codes us RetailmeNot.com, but a simply search for coupon codes for the store you’re shopping at should yield something you can use. It might only be a few dollars, but those few dollars add up over time.
- I fix things myself. Okay, I could go on for a long time on this one. I have taken apart my dryer, my washer, the ice maker, the sewing machine and the Kitchen Aid mixer. I have installed a disposal and cleaned out the P-trap under the sinks and changed the locks on our house. I don’t try to fix the car myself, but I tackle just about anything else. Here’s my thinking: you have to at least try. Just calling the repairman to come out is probably going to cost you $50 before he does anything. Youtube has a ton of videos explaining things. Try it, see what you can do, and if you really get stuck, then call the guy. But I always try myself first. Where I draw the line: electrical makes me a little nervous. I very rarely am fixing something without little kids watching and I don’t want anyone getting hurt. But the KitchenAid that’s not plugged in? Well, how much damage can I do to it? Not much. (I enjoy fixing them enough that my husband even suggested I go get certified as a KitchenAid repair tech!)
Why We Live This Way
We didn’t start out our married life intending to have 7 kids. It just sort of happened. And we’ve heard all of the jokes and rude comments about having kids, getting pregnant, do you know how this happens, etc., that most people with at least 4 kids have heard.
When our oldest was about 15 months old my husband and I were both in jobs that weren’t working out well and we were nearly 1000 miles from his parents. One day it hit us like a ton of bricks: he didn’t like his job, I didn’t like my boss, and our daughter was growing up not knowing her extended family. We had no deep roots where we were so we decided it was time to move on. He quit, I quit, and we moved north. Ever since then we’ve been living on one income and honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I like being home with my kids and I don’t know how working moms work all day and still come home and make dinner?! On the occasional days when I think my husband has it easier than me, I jokingly tell him I’m going to go get a paying job and he can stay home. His answer is always “No, You know how to manage the costs of a large family and you save us so much because of how you spend the money carefully that it would cost us money if you went to work.” That is high praise.
There are struggles. Just like anyone else, I can see the greener grass over there. It’s easy to look around at other people’s houses and cars and to hear their vacation plans and get jealous. There are days I wouldn’t mind a cleaning lady or a chance to go eat out instead of cooking dinner again. A monthly massage would be nice. But the choices we have made have 2 huge plusses for us: first, I think our kids are growing up with a solid appreciation for money and the fact that money represents work. We talk about how long Daddy has to be at work to earn enough to pay for dinner out, or a weekend away, or a new pair of shoes. Secondly, we have no debt. There was a time when we had a car loan and/or a mortgage, and yes, we are renting right now so that is a little different, but we have no debt and we have money in the bank. There is great peace of mind that comes with being debt free.
There are lots of ways to manage your money and make things work. What works for us may not work for everyone. You have to find what works for you. But it is possible. Your money is a tool – make it work. If you are looking for more ideas for budgeting, check out The Busy Budgeter – Rosemarie has lots of great articles and tips for you.