Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How we keep all these kids in clothes without losing our shirts: Part 1

I am pretty fortunate in my life to have a few friends who know what they're doing with money. Usually my hubby plays my go-to example of financial smarts, but hearing and seeing DIFFERENT ways of making things work thrills me. Best of all it makes us look over how we do things, and starts discussion on what we can sharpen and improve.

I have a real-life-and-bloggy friend who is fabulous, and who has agreed to share her perspective with us. In two parts she'll describe how her large and growing family keeps themselves fed and debt free. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did!

How we keep all these kids in clothes without losing our shirts: Part 1

Last fall I posted here and here about ways our family saves money. Ally’s asked me for a more indepth look at what our family does do be able to support (soon-to-be) six people on one income, without going into debt.

We’re a military family and my husband is the sole breadwinner in the house. Our kids are 4, 2 and 13 months, and Numero Quattro will be making her arrival in October. (Yes, I’m busy.) Before we even married we discussed that I’d do the SAHM thing – it’s very important to us to raise our own kids. And we really couldn’t afford childcare for four of them anyway.

We’re completely debt-free and I’m pretty proud of that – particularly because when we married we were swimming in it. We both had student loans and hubs had a car payment, to the tune of over $25K owing altogether. I didn’t sleep well at night.

Two deployments (which bring in extra cash) and a tight fist around the purse strings is what got us into the black, even amid a stack of babies. Here’s how we do it:

1.Tithe. Yup, it’s 10% of hubs’ gross income that goes right back to God – that’s a few hundred dollars monthly that people usually can’t believe we donate. And it keeps us from wanting, as promised in the Bible. Malachi 3:10 says

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”

I’m not gonna not tithe after reading that. It’s always worked for us, and I don’t dare stop.

2. Buy used. Wherever possible. (I think this is becoming trendy now. Upcycling, right?) We don’t have designer furniture and clothes and housewares, primarily because we have a pile of little kids running around trying to break stuff. They don’t care if their clothes and toys are hand-me-downs or secondhand – they’re still new to them. I buy my clothes and household stuff used where I can too – we’ve gotten some excellent deals on nearly-new furniture, appliances, toys – you name it. We swap with friends and neighbours and donate or sell what we don’t need, using the proceeds to buy the kids’ “new” toys.

3. Go without. This sounds like deprivation, but to me it means to do without the material crap that fills our house and electronics that keep us “connected” 24/7. We did a lot of self-denial when we were first married, and I don’t really miss the things we don’t have. We still don’t have a second vehicle, a boat or camper, cellphones, a big-screen TV, or even a satellite dish. (People ask me what analogue cable is, like I’m fifty years old or something. Seriously?) On Twitter last week someone was shocked that I’m even alive without a cellphone. Yes, it’s possible.

4. Do what’s free. When I owned a business I taught myself basic HTML so I wouldn’t have to pay for a full website design. (Please no one ask me for design help – I’m still awful at it!) I make some of my daughter’s clothes and I do my own hemming, auto and small appliance repair where I can (I’ll have to post one day about ordering parts for a gas dryer), and I cloth diapered for over three years – anything we can do for ourselves saves us paying someone for it.

5. Put up the money where it’s required. The cheapest item isn’t always the one you should be buying. Batteries and cling wrap are good examples – the dollar store ones just aren’t as good. We don’t scrimp on household appliances and kitchen stuff, shoes or healthcare stuff (i.e. dentist/glasses/prescriptions if we need them). “Middle-of-the-road” is a good rule to follow for this stuff. We also buy a CSA, which is far more expensive than grocery store veggies but the quality and experience it grants us is worth it.

Basically, we only spend money where we have to. The first step in balancing a budget between six people is to clearly differentiate between needs and wants, and divide the fun money equally between us all.

Check back for the second part of this post, where I will share the top 5 expert-recommended things I won’t do when it comes to handling our big family’s finances.


Jessica said...

You are great at managing money. I need to do better at this.

Ally D said...

I think Jessica it's something we never perfect, we all continue to grow at it.
And I agree-I think L is pretty great at it too!

Lindsey @ Campfire Song said...

It's definitely not something I've perfected - our needs are constantly changing!