“How do you do it?” Part One

People are often astonished when they discover that I have five kids.  I don’t know if it is because I look young for my age. (Ha!) Or is it my immensely calm nature? (Ha! Ha!) Perhaps it’s my lack of stereotype that has them intrigued… I guess I will never know.

But really, the number one question I get asked is “How do you do it?”

So I figured I would start a series where I share some specifics. As I do this, please PLEASE view this disclaimer:
This is what works in our family. Every family dynamic is different, so some of these things may not apply to your family. Take the good and leave the bad. And no, I am not judging you if you do things differently.

Whew. Now that that is out of the way!

I could start by sharing a philosophy of child raising. But I’m not. I think we get too lofty sometimes and don’t just get down to the nitty gritty of it all. I’m going to start with how we afford our family, because I am sure that is the biggest question on the minds of people.

1. “Having kids is expensive.”

My husband often says “Life is Expensive.” Just knowing this factoid helps keep our spending in perspective. It costs money to raise humans. I could be investing that money in a 401k or diversifying my IRAs right now. But besides barely knowing what those things even entail, nor caring to, Stephen and I recognize that our best earthly investment is our children. If you are looking to be wealthy, having kids is not the way to do it. If you are looking to make an impact in the world… that’s another story.

This means that we want to provide for their needs, so they don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. When winter comes, they know they will have a warm coat and boots. They will have a roof over their heads with heat and clean water.

This also means that we want to provide for their well being. Sporting activities to strengthen their bodies and teach them important life lessons on teamwork are important to us. Lessons on music and other interests they may have are important as well. We want them to be able to be whatever God wants them to be. Toting them to a Bible camp or a museum is going to cost something, but what they take away from these experiences is something money cannot buy.

It does no one any good to complain about how expensive it is to raise children. Every dollar I spend is worth it. This mentality doesn’t give me a license to be flippant with spending, but when I keep this one thought in the front of my brain, I can accept the reality of it.

2. Sales!!

Growing up, my sister and I made fun of my mom mercilessly for always buying “on sale.” (SORRY MOM!!!) Looking back, I am so glad she ingrained that in us because it is just a way of life in our home. I plan my shopping list by what the sale items are. I don’t buy everything “on sale”, but I buy what is on sale.
I also stock up on sale items. We are woefully low on space in our home, but my husband built me a pantry in a stairway a few years ago and it has been a life saver. We also have a freezer to store veggies and meat and bread. So when chuck roast is on sale, you better believe I buy a few.

3. Club shopping

Costco and I have been friends for a good long while. And during this relationship, you recognize what is a good deal there and what isn’t a good deal. This principle can apply for just about any store; you just have to be aware of prices.

But I also buy many essentials from Costco. Socks, underwear, linens, even tennis shoes. Their prices cannot be beat on many of these items, especially when you add in any monthly deals they have.

4. No cable

We have internet and do not live in ignorance. But we do not have cable TV. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Roku and the good ol’ antenna give us plenty to watch. Besides, we really enjoy not having to watch commercials, and I can just shut the whole system down when screen time is up. We save a lot of moolah this way.

5. Clothing Creatively

Hand-me-downs are a way of life for us. Fortunately, we have friends and family who love to hand down clothing to us. Poor Ethan really gets new underwear and socks and that is about it. The girls naturally just hand down when they are done with an item. The crazy thing is, our girls are sized so that when it doesn’t fit one, it almost certainly fits the next one down.

We also have a fantastic thrift store in town. I let my girls find outfits and such and they love getting to pick out almost anything. That’s a bonus to thrift shopping.  It’s amazing what people get rid of after one season of wear… just be on the look out!

This is going to sound strange, but it really works for our family: I buy quality. I understand, jeans never hold up to knees always crawling abound, but when it matters, I buy what will last. Winter coats and shoes are important to us up here in the Tundra, and because I buy well made stuff, it lasts through the kids.

We do make store purchases as well, but I usually shop online and sign up for newsletters. Lots ‘o deals can be found in those pesky newsletters that Old Navy and Land’s End send out. If you time it right, you can get new things for your family for next to nothing.

I also do sew. Skirts and dresses often come from my machine. I’ve even made some ties for my boy. It sounds scary, but just a few straight stitches and some elastic can make some really cute things.

6. Eating Out

I know what you are thinking: they never eat out. Not so!! I am only human. We are eating out less than we used to, and that saves a small fortune. We are not above treating ourselves though.

So, often times, the dollar menu is our friend. We do the “Subway split” where you buy a foot long and split it between kids. Pizza is always an affordable favorite. And my BFF Costco? Well, the world is our oyster then…. feeding 7 for less than $20? Yes please and thank you.

But do consider: Eating out is expensive. We have learned the hard way that when you eat out a lot, your kids expect it. So let me save you a little heart ache and whining – don’t eat out all the time just because. The kid’s menu doesn’t suffice when you have an 11 year old the size of an adult. Treat eating out as a treat and they will view it the same way. I totally get busy schedules and sometimes it cannot be avoided. During sports seasons, I’m guilty.

7. DIY

I grew up in the home of a diy’er before it was even cool. Naturally, I married one as well. “This Old House” is his favorite show hands down, and I get a little nervous when he gets a twinkle in his eye after watching an episode. Home repairs, car repairs, furniture…. Stephen can find a YouTube video to show him how to do anything. We save money by repairing things ourselves. When I stop and think about it for any length of time, the amount we do not spend is staggering. And because our children are children, lots of things get broken. If your guy is just all thumbs, that is okay! YouTube is still available to women as well, last I checked. ; )

So there you have it. Some ways that we can afford having 5 kids. We aren’t perfect at it by any means, but I hope that maybe some of these things will help you no matter how many kids you have.

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