It takes ingenuity, hard work, and a lot of creativity, but raising a large family and making it work financially is possible, and the rewards are endless.
Sometimes we think that more children means that we need more space and more things. But downsizing and living simply is possible even with a large family, and you can save a lot of money, too.
Maybe you don’t need that gigantic house with a huge yard. Children can learn to share rooms, and neighborhood parks are great places for children to run free. Holidays can still be magical without over-the-top decorations and expensive gifts. And most kids are totally happy with a good old-fashioned vacation.
Teaching your children to value togetherness over extravagance will not only keep your budget tight, it will teach them strong core values.
Consider becoming a family with one car
For many—especially families with multiple children who need to be transported to multiple activities—the idea of becoming a one-car family sounds ludicrous. However, buying a car, insuring it and maintaining it is one of the most expensive expenses there is.
Organizing our lives so that our family only needs one car may be more feasible than we think. Maybe you can set it up so that you or your spouse can bike, walk, carpool, or take public transportation to work. Maybe you can organize carpools for your children’s after-school activities.
Most wholesale discount stores require you to pay an annual fee up front to join them, but once you’re in, you can save a ton of money by buying in bulk. Of course, you have to play smart. If you walk into one of these discount stores and fill your basket with anything you fancy, you’re likely to overspend.
Probably the best way to get organized and curb impulse buying is to shop online. Many of the big online stores will allow you to buy in bulk to save money. Some also offer a subscription service for purchases, so you can get organized and plan ahead. If you want to save gas and time, online shopping is the way to go.
Of course, you have to be careful about taxes, shipping costs and other hidden fees.
Eat at home
Taking your large family out to eat can be a stressful experience, especially when your children are young. Not only that, but going out to eat with a large family can cost an arm and a leg. Even eating at less expensive restaurants is a big expense if you have multiple mouths to feed.
However, you can make your dinners at home meaningful and fun. Think DIY pizza night, breakfast for dinner, or Taco Tuesday. These types of family traditions can be just as special as dining out.
Prepare the food
Eating at home as much as possible is ideal if you want to stay on a tight budget, but preparing healthy meals for large families every night can be overwhelming. Prepare meals.
Set aside an hour or two a week to plan your family’s meals for the week. Next, decide what preparations you can make in advance for each meal. For example, you can chop vegetables, crumble cheese, and marinate meat. If you can, you can even make some meals or side dishes and freeze them. All of these things will save you time and ultimately money as well.
Second-hand gifts and second-hand purchases
Keeping the kids well-dressed can quickly drain your bank account, especially when you buy name brands or clothes from expensive stores. Some more reasonably priced stores have discount shelves, and you can get many great deals online. But the best option to save money on clothes is to buy second-hand clothes.
If you have a large family, you can also buy used clothing. After a few kids, things like T-shirts and jeans will have seen better days, but some of the more expensive items, like winter coats and snow boots, will stand the test of time.
Value experiences more than things
What do you remember most from your childhood, those family trips to the lake house, those evenings curled up watching movies with your family… or all those cheap plastic toys you asked for and then lost interest after 15 minutes?
Sure there are some toys and gifts that you probably cherish as much as anything else, but for most of us, it’s the experiences that become the most memorable and meaningful. And the best part is that most experiences can be done cheaply, or even for free.
Look for low-cost and free activities
Another of the most important expenses for parents is all the activities, classes and sports that our children inevitably want to sign up for. But with a little research and discretion, they can also be done sparingly.
Your local library probably has free weekly activities for kids. The same goes for the leisure center in your town or city. Many school districts offer enrichment classes at reduced prices; some even waive the cost if you can prove that you are in financial difficulty. Your local church or rec center is probably your best option for low-cost sports, and much of the equipment you need can be bought second-hand.
Also keep in mind that being busy is not always better. Limiting your child to 1 or 2 extracurricular commitments a week will not only save you money, it will reduce stress and allow you to spend more time with your family.
Stick to your budget
If you support a large family, you must respect the established budget. Most financial experts advise making a list of all your expected bills and expenses for each month, calculating your monthly take-home pay, and making sure you don’t spend more than you take in. This usually means that you also have to keep track of all expenses for each month.
Keeping track of every penny you spend can seem tedious or exhausting, but there are several budgeting apps and online tracking systems that can help. Once you get the hang of it, everything will be quick and hassle-free. But most importantly, budgeting will keep you on track with spending and help curb any overspending.
Many families who stick to a strict budget also find that they end up adding to their savings and paying off their debts. It is something beautiful.