Monday, December 6, 2010

Affording a Large Family-Clothes, Groceries, and Priorities


I've been asked how we afford life more than once. I finally decided to sit down and reveal the mystery (okay, so some of it is still a mystery...hee hee).



Some things I am still figuring out...slowly but surely.

BACKGROUND

Life isn't always easy for any family. Finances is considered one of the leading causes of divorce. I will not say that we never stress or feel overwhelmed, but I will say that it doesn't cause division for my husband and I.

I do handle the finances. Thomas goes to work and handles financial issues and customer issues each day. I take the family ones. We do share EVERYTHING and discuss everything. During the trials, the burden tends to fall more on him since he is the provider. If either of us needs to make a big purchase, we discuss it with each other as well.

But as with everyone, finances can come crashing down in one fail swoop. These are our most recent, unable to truly plan for, situations.

*We finished our adoption (PRAISE GOD!) and though it's a good expense and a TOTAL God thing in itself, it's still expensive.

*The brakes went out on our SUV (Bekah used to call this our "Burbon" which was pretty interesting when she'd ask if we brought our "Burbon" in public :).)

*Gabe went to the hospital and this accumulated almost $1,500 worth of medical bills. We have wonderful insurance too. I'm truly thankful for our great doctors and hospital.

*We had a extended family health emergency and Thomas had to travel almost 3-4 hours daily. We at least we had a car (smile).

*Our second vehicle died a quick death.

*One of our daughter needs braces.

*Our back door is broke (and one of our toilets).

Most of these things happened in such a short period of time that it left us reeling. Savings? What savings? If you remember, I even posted a prayer request not to very long ago. It hits me occasionally like it hits everyone else...painfully.

Yet God provides...all bills were met and are being met. Christmas may be smaller, but that's a good thing and not a trauma at all.

God is teaching us through this though. He's teaching us to be good stewards with what we have.

Recently it just got a little easier. Rachel and Gabe were on some of the most expensive formulas out there. We were spending about $350 a month on baby formula (ProSobee and Nutramigen). I'm glad we didn't figure out the cost until we were done though. It was nice not worrying about it (smile).

Anyway, that's the background. Now to how we afford to live as a big family.

HOW WE MAKE IT AS A LARGE FAMILY

WHAT IS NECESSITY?

One things we've learned is that some things are necessary and some things the world just views as necessary. Cable, Satellite, Digital TV? Not necessary...nice, but not necessary. Lawn mowing service or house cleaning service? Nice, but not USUALLY necessary. The latest gadget, a party each birthday (a family dinner with a friend, cake, and present is what we do many years), four pairs of shoes? Not necessary?

Everyone's necessary seems to be different though. We do have cell phones. We do have Internet. We feel that for safety our oldest teens (with activities and such) we need cell phones. My husband needs the Internet for work and we both feel it's necessary for adoption support.

The hard thing is when we realize that some of the things that we MAY need to give up, are things that we also feel are beneficial.

We do participate in extra curricular activities. My oldest plays football and our next oldest plays volleyball. They love it!

It's fun...but is it necessary? Exercise is necessary, but organized sports? Even in public schools now, sports cost money. Our fourth grader also plays piano (taught by Grandma). Is this necessary?

There are many adults who are productive and happy that have never played sports or learned piano. Is that easy to say? No, these activities mean a lot to me and our children enjoy them. Yet, are they necessary? Are they worth stressing out about (IF it came down to it) and arguments? No, if it came down to it...they are NOT mandatory and they would be given up.

Seeing the poverty in the world has been eye opening to me. We let so much get in the way in families and life. We saw children that only had the clothes on their back and a soccer ball. They were happy and laughing. Necessity is something that is changing daily for me, because I have seen those going without so much.

TIMING
Often we can put off and live with certain eventualities.

We often ask ourselves, "Does it have to be done now?"
Such as....
*A second car, the braces, the back door, and toilet will hopefully come with our tax return. This way we can pay for them outright instead of financing more.


CLOTHES AND INCIDENTALS/PRIORITIZING

Right now Tom needs some shoes (he has one pair that is getting a hole)and a pair of dress pants. Sarah needs a pair of jeans and a pair of comfy athletic pants (got a hole in her last pair). Anna's good. Max needs longer jeans. Bekah's good. As growing babies there always seems to be something they've outgrown. The SUV needs and oil change, one brake light isn't working, and it's time for an inspection.

There is always something. Honestly, we prioritize with each paycheck. We get the most mandatory needs first. Tom's dress pants will wait since he can wear his nice jeans and a dress shirt. The oil change, Sarah's pants, and Tom's shoes will come with the first paycheck. Max's jeans and dress slacks for Tom will be the next one....and so on.

We just prioritize and don't buy/pay for everything with one check. We also, when we have savings, don't use it for incidentals and daily necessities.

I know many that shop yard sales, EBay, or Craigslist and can find nice clothes that way...especially more expensive items like jeans. Truthfully, we have not successfully worked that out yet (though it's an awesome idea). I HAVE found that often (if I keep an eye out for sales at places like Wal-Mart and Target) I can find new things at a low price though. Also, I have learned never to turn down clothes that have been passed down by friends.

It's funny, with my first two children I NEVER would have considered used clothes...on my babies?! NEVER! I look back at that and laugh now. You know I prefer clothes handed down by family and friends? You know why (besides being free)? Because I can look at an outfit and think of my niece Sofia or my second cousin Jordan. I can think of Sarah's best friend. The clothes just mean so much more!!!

One last thing, haircuts...my poor boys (hee hee)

I have learned to buzz my sons hair at different lengths. My oldest son asked me to and started it all off (brave soul). The boys hair grows like a weed and it really does save quite a bit of money.

NEW THINGS, DISHES, ETC.
There is so much we don't need. I have found that, in following God and in our last adoption, He has been convicting us about "things". We had to ask ourselves, "What wouldn't you sell to bring your children home?" There is almost no "thing" in our house that would hurt to lose.

Our dishes are eclectic, our carpet is stained, our tile has some water damage, but these things are not health hazards and are temporary. If someone came into our house and judged us for what we don't have...well, "YEAH!!!!"

We don't need to be hang dog and look self sacrificing, but we do need to realize that stuff doesn't hold up eternally.

GROCERIES
This is probably the biggest question we get asked.

Here are some things we do, are learning to do, and are planning on doing.

First, we've found that often certain grocery stores are less expensive. This will totally depend on where you live. Wal-Mart is USUALLY the cheapest around here. It also helps to, at times, buy things in bulk at places like Sams or Costco. Be careful though, sometimes we think things SHOULD be less expensive, but aren't when you figure out the total.

Meats bought in bulk can be separated into air proof bags and frozen.

Generic items are not as awful as I once thought (smile). I have found that 90% of generic items taste EXACTLY the same as non generic. There are a few items that we will not be buying generic again, but that tends to be more a trial and error thing. Even medicines and laundry detergent usually have generic alternatives. There are just a few things that we do NOT buy generic EVER (hee hee...my hangups)...diapers, wet wipes, toilet paper, and paper towels.

We also keep a "sick" box in the bottom of our pantry. This is a box that keeps us from running and spending extra money (because we need things too bad to worry about looking for sales). This includes things like generic tooth brushes, Sierra Mist, packaged jello or pudding, soup, and general things that we may need when sick. We also make sure our meds are stocked every couple of months. You can find two for one deals on meds just by keeping your eyes out at the store.

Those are just some of the things we do, but we have more things we are trying out.

I have some friends that use "The Grocery Game". This is an online site that DOES cost money for membership ($10-$20 a month). It's not bad, but my friends (who have used it for quite a while) save a TON from it. You plug in the stores that you may shop from and it will give you a list of current sales, coupons (and where to get them such as the paper, super saver, etc.). My friends have saved hundreds this way. It does take more juggling and a little work, but I'm told that once you get into the habit, it's SOOO worth it.

I will also share with you how my friend got her teens involved. She initially offered her kids the savings if they helped with the coupons....until she realized just how much savings it was. We are thinking that for our kids we will put HALF of the savings in a vacation jar. However much is added up in the jar will be split between the five oldest (the twins are just too young :)) when we take a vacation. If they don't help out, the savings will be much less. This is also REALLY good for budgeting and math skills (my homeschool mom self is showing :)).

Now to see how it works (smile).

Here's another thing...one of my friends used to teach others recipes that can be frozen!

You see, our downfall is illness and eating out. When we get sick, we don't eat as well or my husband picks up something on the way home. This adds up with a family of nine.

Our plan is to keep 5-10 frozen meals in our refrigerator. When they dwindle we can cook more. This way we can just pop in something when we are too sick or too tired.

So that's it, for now....

I will being sharing any new ways to save that we (or others) come up with and I would LOVE to hear your ideas!!!!

If you have any questions, just comment and I'll reply...though sometimes it may be with a "I'm not really sure..."

2 comments:

  1. I love this post!!! I agree- -lots of priority-setting and the kids just win out over the rest! :)

    Next you can move close to us and start raising your own pork, poultry, and beef and we can share a milk cow and make cheese and butter and such and work in the garden and it gets even cheaper on the grocery budget! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm ready! :) Time to get a small farm (LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea) and it would be soooo cool to be your neighbor!!! :)

    ReplyDelete

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