Thursday, 31 July 2014

Large Family Logistics - How Do You Afford All Those Kids? 6 Ways We Provide For Our Large Family On One Income - Reader's Question Answered

Large family living is a strange concept for some, especially when it comes to money.  I get a lot of questions about our finances, what my husband does for a living, whether or not we are on government assistance, and how we manage to live on one income.  People often make assumptions about us that range from "Wow you must be really rich!" to "Wow you must be really poor!", and neither of these statements are true.   We're just DIFFERENT.  Let me show 6 Ways We Provide for Our Large Family On One Income.

We have taken advantage of the practical skills we have learned through our church, our parents, and through our own personal study.  My husband and I made our college education a priority for each of us, he has a Master's degree in Computer Science and I am a Registered Nurse, though I do not work currently.  His education has allowed him to get a job to support a growing family, and I use what I've learned at home to care for my family and keep our medical expenses low.  All these factors contribute to our ability to provide for the family and need to be mentioned.

6 Ways We Provide For Our Large Family On One Income

1.  We Don't Spend Too Much On Housing
Housing is by far the largest expense for most families, and saving on housing is a dramatic way to increase the disposable income left over each pay check.  I did some research and found these facts from NZ Government Statistics:
  • the bulk of New Zealand households spend 25-40% of their income on housing (Americans spend even more, more out of choice than requirement, depending on the region)
  • our family spends 18% of our income on housing, about half of the social norm
The result is we look poorer than we are and maybe live in an area that might be below our income's standards.  We do NOT have a large home.  There are 11 of us in approximately 1300 square ft.  That's 4 bedrooms/2 bathrooms.  We're cool with this, though.  The sacrifice is temporary while we're focusing on raising our family.  *Added bonus, the desire to keep up with your neighbours is reduced when they have less than you.


2.  We Do Not Drive Flashy Cars
To avoid debt, we've paid cash for our cars OR bought cars that we can pay off painlessly within one year.  There have been periods of time when we have only had one car for all 11 of us, having to take 2 trips while we saved up for the second vehicle.  Yes, it was a little embarrassing and cumbersome, but our family is free of financial strain, and that makes for a happy home.  My husband saves a significant amount money each week by taking the bus into the city.  He has a 20 minute walk each way, but he finds it invigorating.
  • let other people pay interest on an auto loan, its not for us
  • older cars cost less to insure and make great cars for teenage drivers
  • public transportation is a beautiful thing

3.  We Cook From Scratch
A trip to McDonald's for Combo Meals and Happy Meals would cost my family $83, but only if no one upgraded anything.  I guarantee they'd all be hungry in an hour.  I can make my Spicy Ranch Burgers and Rosemary Roasted Potatoes for under $20, and that would include rolls, a green salad, and dessert.  With a little ingenuity, we spend less on food per person than many of our 'small' family friends.
  • when we splurge for fast food, we get $1 drinks or $ .70 ice cream cones
  • dinners are selected from a list of meals I've priced to cost $12 or under
  • kids and husband typically take home-prepared lunches
  • we practice many cooking techniques to save on convenience foods like tortillas, breads, pasta, sauces, yogurt, and curries
  • we don't have expensive habits like coffee, alcohol, or smoking

4.  We Are OK With Second Hand Clothing and Furniture
Some readers might squirm at the thought of having stuff that has been used by someone else, and I confess I struggle with this still on occasion in some categories.  For a large family on a budget, second hand is just a part of life.  Over the last 20 years I have evolved from believing it was shameful, to thinking 'hey this makes sense', to 'wow, what else can we get second hand?' 

Most of my friends and family know we are OK with second hand items, and like to use us as a dumping ground for their old things.  The understanding is we will go through their stuff, take what we want, and pass what we don't want on to someone else. 
  • we reuse, repurpose, recycle and we're PROUD OF IT
  • we sanitize everything (a $5 box of Legos from the second hand store scrubbed with a brush and soaked in bleach water over night looks EXACTLY like new ones)
  • we've been known to have a lot of fun with the kids redoing furniture and making it look new again
  • we've got standards.  I won't tolerate clothing or items that are dingy, stained, or ripped and know when to say "This item is no longer good enough for us".  I'm a lot more lenient on toddler clothing and play clothes, but large families need to look nice, too. 

5.  We Use Out-dated Technology and Entertainment
Have you ever noticed how quickly the value of electronics plummets as soon as the newer version is released?  We cling to the older versions and buy used games, used consoles, and I believe our laptop is a display model.  Our home phone has a cord.  Our cellular phones are pay-as-you-go and bottom of the line. We do splurge on gifts, so we do have the occasional cool gadget, but for the most part we are a good decade behind our friends.
  • our movies and music are electronically purchased on Xbox Live, Netflix, and iTunes so they can be seen over and over again, and best of all, won't get lost or ruined.  We do not frequent the cinema unless its the- movie- we've- all- been- waiting- for.
  • our books are all electronic on a family shared Kindle account, then we have a few family tablets to split between us all
  • we don't do the library or video stores.  For some reason, we are cursed and cannot return them on time and in one piece
A rare splurge for the Avengers movie.  The cheeky grin is priceless  :)

6.  We Prepare For Financial Storms Before They Hit
Rarely do people go through this life and experience perpetual prosperity.  Storms are bound to hit, and the question is 'when' and not 'if' these storms will occur.  When trouble hits a large family, the fall is hard and recovery is long.  Prevention is our responsibility, and we take it seriously.  Here's a list of our favourite ways to prepare and sleep at night with a peace of mind that our little ones' needs will be met.
  • have an emergency savings
  • store food, water, fuel, and supplies
  • have a network of professionals in your field who can help you find work
  • develop DIY talents like gardening, sewing, animal husbandry, and home repair
  • life insurance, living wills, retirement savings, and owning land are good things

Raising a large family on one income is a challenge, but with some old-fashioned tricks and self-restraint, it can be done.  We don't feel like we're missing out on anything.  In fact, my kids have told me they'd much rather have our happy family than all the gifts in the world.

"A fool and his money are easily parted." -Benjamin Franklin

Do you live on one income?
Are you willing to shop second hand?
What luxuries are you NOT willing to part with?

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