Y’all, I have met this wonderful woman online…her name is Christy. Let me just tell you, she rocks my face off. Her humor is SO SIMILAR to mine – we’re truly kindred spirits. 🙂 Her blog, The Simple Homemaker is a winner. Subscribe today. You won’t be sorry.
Today I’ve asked her to chat with us a little bit about the myth that kids cost a TON of money – that’s what you read in all the magazines. She’ll set us straight. Thanks, Christy!!
They say you can have either children or money, but not both. Why? Because “they” (and “they” know all things) say it costs $235,000 to raise a child from infancy through age 17, and then there’s college. Does anyone know the Heimlich maneuver, ‘cuz I’m choking on that number.
I have 7 children, people! While the costs decrease by 22% for large families (hand-me-downs, multi-child discounts, and bulk food), that’s still 1.25 million big ones, and that’s kicking the offspring out the door at 17. Someone get the defibrillator! Clear!
It turns out that “they” don’t know all. You can raise a quiverful of terrific kids without overspending.
Here are 15 ways large families make it work:
Only buy what you need. This only sounds obvious. Even frugal parents overspend on first babies, birthdays, and school days. Resist! Apart from some small preparations for baby, don’t buy until you realize a need. Also, don’t buy single use items. I’ve never heard a successful adult claim, “I wouldn’t be where I am today if my parents hadn’t used a wipes warmer and a changing table.”
Never pay retail. Nearly anything can be purchased used or new-for-less: clothes, cloth diapers, cribs, bunkbeds, books, Legos, cars, college textbooks. Where? Look at thrift stores, Craig’s List, Ebay, classifieds (remember those?), garage sales, clearance or sidewalk sales, and specialized sites or stores for selling resale items (like homeschool books or children’s clothing). Let others know you’re on the hunt for items. Remember, even if you buy used, you’re still spending money, so refer to number one above before shelling out cash.
Get it free. Freecycle has stormed the nation. So have clothing swaps, book swaps, and just-about-anything-else-you-could-want swaps. You know what else has stormed the nation? Kind, helpful people willing to give away items they no longer need. Pray about a need, and be willing to accept help. While I’m not a proponent of sitting on your backside and waiting for someone to wait on you (without a legitimate reason), I’m also not a fan of letting pride stand in the way of allowing others to serve God and you through their giving.
Save on medical and dental. Prevent what you can by making brushing and flossing a priority, eating well, living a low-stress life, focusing on common sense safety, and getting loads of fresh air and fun exercise. For routine tooth care, dental schools offer more affordable services than established practices. (That’s where our pediatrician takes his boys.) Communities offer free or reduced-fee events for children’s physicals, immunizations, and dental check-ups…often with free hot dogs and soda, ironically.
Teach your children that work is a blessing. By raising a family of hard workers, you will save yourself from having to do all the labor yourself and from hiring someone.
Teach your children advanced life skills. Children should leave home knowing how to sew or repair clothing (extending hand-me-downs), change tires and do auto upkeep, do home maintenance and upkeep, cook and clean, manage a home and family, and handle finances. Take this to the next level and teach them to be skilled do-it-yourselfers…or figure-out-how-to-do-it-yourselfers. If you can’t sew, replace flooring, or fix bikes, find someone in your church or community to teach you or a child. Bake them cookies and offer a work swap, such as having your kiddos do yardwork in exchange for the life lessons.
Turn your children into teachers. Invest in lessons or training (such as piano, ballet, computer, or bike repair) for one or two older children. They can then pass that skill on to younger children.
Be entrepreneurial. Help your children find ways to earn money. You can go beyond the usual lawn care, babysitting, and pet-sitting, by capitalizing on your child’s skills. Consider the Wisconsin teen whose knack for fixing thrown-away electronics led him to launch the now highly successful electronics repair site Tough Gaming.
Don’t give in to peer pressure. Don’t buy the big new house, the big new vehicle (or the little square vehicle), the big new (fill in the blank). Chances are you don’t need it.
Get creative! Keep your eyes open for opportunities for free or reduced cost educational opportunities (like free days at National Parks and museums), food, household goods (curbside week in many towns), and fun. Think outside the box!
Change your mindset. Children can share bedrooms. They can work hard. They can do without gadgets and elaborate birthday parties. And they will be the better for it. A child raised to be hard-working and appreciative doesn’t generally become that spoiled, whiny adult with the entitlement mentality. You know the one!
Rethink daycare. Childcare is the second biggest expense involved with raising children. Do what it takes to revamp work schedules or bring Mom or Dad home. As a stay-at-home parent, you will eliminate the expenses associated with working outside the home and may drop into a lower tax bracket.
Rethink school. When you consider the things children want and “need” for class, safety, sports, and “fitting in,” free public education is pretty pricey. Private schools, obviously, are even more expensive. While homeschooling is not for everyone and can be quite expensive, it can also be totally free.
Rethink college. As long as you’re rethinking, go all the way. The homeschool movement has caused the system to rethink the word “education.” Today’s students can earn credits online, for life experience, and by examination. High schoolers can take college classes for both high school and college credit. General degree requirements can be fulfilled from home and affordably.
Do children in a large, frugal family suffer? If growing up savvy and resourceful is suffering, most children (and adults) I know could use a heaping dose! Consider what a blessing it is to grow up with an awareness of cost, hard work, and making do as a way of life rather than as a hardship or as the “in” thing in a tight economy. Resourceful parents have resourceful children, and resourceful children are affordable children. So go ahead, fill your quiver, ‘cuz it turns out “they” don’t know everything, after all.
Christy writes about simplifying life at The Simple Homemaker. Once weighed down by unrealistic expectations and life’s overwhelming demands, Christy has learned to throw off the complications of life and find joy in the little things. Christy and her contemporary Christian musician husband, Stephen Bautista, homeschool their 7 children, ages brand new to 15. The family tours the country for the music mission and works together on a home business.