Updated: Sep 18, 2021
You have how many kids? How can you afford it?!?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question.
Much like our parenting, my husband and I adopted the practice of “depositing early and living off the interest.”
As a young married couple, we scrimped and saved fiendishly, knowing that if we wanted to be open to expanding our family to the degree that we have, we would need to be able to provide for those souls. We were always having conversations discerning needs versus wants.
I would have loved to go on an all-inclusive cruise, but it obviously wasn’t a need. I would have enjoyed a larger T.V., but ... it didn’t really scream “need” either. Compared to our greatest want—that of a large family—these other things, nice as they would have been, just weren't worthy of comparison even.
I needed to ensure my kids were clothed and fed, but I didn’t need to buy the clothes from Dolce and Gabbana, nor dish out filet mignon. We made hundreds of little decisions that added up tremendously and were reflected on our bank statement.
Making these day to day decisions and sacrifices allowed us to add to our savings to a point where we now enjoy a debt-free life with our fourteen children, one of whom will be attending university this Fall.
Being that finances can be one of the biggest reasons couples choose to limit their family size, not to mention being one of the greatest sources of fighting within marriage, I thought I’d share some of the practical ways we were able to “afford all those kids.”
When I’m asked how we can afford so many children, the absolute truth is that we have put our lives in God’s hands and have had faith in His ability to care for us.
Here’s a little list of ideas I compiled for saving big:
1. Check Out Freecycling: Check out freecycling groups in your area. They are such a gift to families who really want to save, and it is also a gift to the environment when you can keep gently used items out of landfills. If you don’t have one in your area, maybe you can start one!
2. Hit Up Garage Sales: A good rule of thumb for garage sales is to price items at 10% of their original cost. There are lots of exceptions, but overall this is an amazing way to save 90% of the cost on just about anything. I’ve gotten dressers, clothing, toys, bikes, spatulas ... you name it! They were all in beautiful condition and we were able to save a ton of money over the years. Caution: You may have to exercise your negotiating skills.
3. Make Grocery Flyers Your Menu: Make your meal plan based on what is on sale that week. Buy reduced meats and vegetables, as well as other store clearance items. It may mean shopping more frequently, but most items are at least 50% off and cutting your grocery bill in half is nothing to scoff at. The savings really add up.
4. Eat In: I don’t think I need to tell you how much money you can save when you limit dining out expenses and choose home cooked meals whenever you can. Buying coffee (especially of the Starbucks variety), can easily mount to a huge annual expense. Travel mugs and packed lunches really do help you save big in the long run.
5. Vacation within Your Means: In the early years of our marriage, we knew it wasn’t the right time for a mega expensive trip to Disney. Vacation can definitely be a need, especially for mental and/or psychological health reasons. It’s also a gift to spend intentional time with your family, leaving behind the concerns of everyday life. But it can’t be something that will hurt you financially. So, we did vacation, but we found ways of doing so that wouldn’t put us in debt. We camped, sometimes with other Catholic families, sometimes in our own backyard. We chose family retreats that were rustic, and extremely affordable. We made use of friends’ offers of opening their home to us, or of their vacation rentals. We also worked hard to find really amazing deals at hotels and enjoyed time swimming and playing together.
6. Simplify Christmas, Birthdays, and Holidays: There is such a temptation to go big with these events, but I promise you, scaling back on gifts for these occasions will also be a gift to your family. Too many presents often lessens the impact for children. Another reality is that sometimes the children are too young to even realize what’s going on. It can become more about us than about them.
When our kids were really little, I bought presents (some brand new) at garage sales, or on clearance, and then, because they weren’t exposed to lots of commercials or advertising, I would often talk to them about “a cool toy I saw somewhere” and without fail, they’d express their intense desire for said toy. I know there are so many other families out there with even better ideas on saving for special occasions, but this is one way that worked really well for us and made for a batch of really happy little kids.
7. Pamper Your Relationship without Breaking the Bank: Some people think that a weekly date night is a want, but I assure you, it could definitely meet the criteria of a need, especially for stay at home parents. I say this as I believe that it has kept our marriage fun, grounded and alive, facilitating profound connection. We need to talk without the constant interruptions from little ones, and a change of environment keeps us from getting pulled into the demands of the home. I’m more present to my spouse when I’m not eyeing the pile of dishes, the tower of laundry, or the Lego minefield.
When we were young parents of 4 kids in 4 years, it was so difficult to get out. We allotted a small amount of money in our budget for a weekly date night. We also made the choice to live close to family so we could have the support we needed. Once a week, we’d tuck the kids into bed and have a family member hang out in our home so that we could have a little date.
We made it affordable by choosing to buy coffee and sit by the lake. It was very simple and economical, but highly rejuvenating. I remember how desperate I was for some adult conversation and a chance to reconnect with my husband.