Frugal Tips for Big Families

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I actually giggled out loud typing “big families.” We are a family of 5. Soon to be 6. In my book that isn’t very big. But it seems anything more than 2 kids is considered “big” these days.

I ran to the grocery store one afternoon last week for some odds and ends, and I was leaving with Sweet M in the cart and only three grocery sacks. The big kids walked nicely beside me. Our neighbor was coming in and he smiled and waved. 

“Geez, you’re going to need a bigger cart soon,” he said.

I laughed awkwardly and mumbled something. A few moments later as I was putting the groceries in my trunk I couldn’t help but think “What!? There were three grocery bags in my cart. I could have fit H and B back there.” 

The I put the cart away and went to load Sweet M in his seat and was like “Oh! It’s finally obvious I’m pregnant and not just slinging back chocolate and wine like a frazzled lush!”

I always envisioned I’d have a big family. Like half a dozen tiny humans running around and bringing me joy. Of course, I didn’t know how sleep deprived and sometimes insane they’d make me feel, so 4 is probably our number. Well. This morning anyway. I got less than a consecutive hour of sleep last night because everyone is dying from allergies. Ask me some other time when I’m well-rested and feeling great, ha.

My husband’s biggest reservation with having a large brood is money. Of course. We have a very fixed and finite income, like most people. It does not grow exponentially with each perfect baby we bring into the world.

I admit, I’m not a frugal person by nature. And I’m still learning. I have to. Because I also refuse to live outside of our means. But we do have to live.

So what are some of my favorite ways to save money?

1.) Meal plan. I know, I know. You’ve surely heard this before because it’s such a huge and obvious one. I shop the ads and meal plan each week. Sometimes it’s tedious, especially if I end up going to four different grocery stores, but it save us so much money that it’s worth it. 

     A.) Stick to your grocery list. This isn’t quite a point of it’s on, so I’ll make it a sub point. Make a grocery list and actually stick to it. Impulse shopping is expensive. It’s what gets you. 

     B.) Shop the outside aisles. There isn’t much you need from the center aisles of the grocery store. All the real food is on the outside. And processed food may seem cheaper, but whole foods are ultimately more filling once you get used to them. Besides, your health will be grateful!

I will say meal planning isn’t my strongest suit, so I’m planning to start using a meal planning program. I’m think Real Plans since they are so versatile and we maintain a primarily dairy and grain-free diet.

2.) Buy used. I rarely buy clothing new unless it’s deeply discounted or is undergarments or shoes. Second hand stores are my friends. I also love the Kidizen app for high-quality kids clothes for way less. I’ve noticed that when I spend a little more for quality kids clothes it actually pays out because I rarely have to replace anything before it’s outgrown and it often stays in great condition: and my kids play in their clothes. All of them. 

3.) Use the library! We love to read, and we own more books than I care to admit. It’s a weakness for me. But unless it’s sometime I know will get read and re-read, we often opt to just check it out at the library. Also, did you know you can check out movies and kids toys, too!? (At least our library lends out toys.) What a money saver!

4.) Cloth diaper. I know this one can be hard for some to stomach, but you will literally save thousands of dollars. Thousands. Because cloth diapers can be worn from baby to baby. You could easily diaper one child for $300 (give or take your preference of cloth diaper style) and every kid thereafter is subsequently free to diaper. That’s kind of amazing when you consider I can buy a small case of diapers for $28 when we travel and that doesn’t even last me a week. Now do that for four kids for at least two years and…

5.) Go outside. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of “enriching” your kids with activities. But they actual don’t need soccer, baseball, gymnastics, mandarin, dance, and guitar lessons. Yes, they’re fun. And if they’re in your budget – great! But don’t feel you’re doing your kids a disservice by not putting them in extracurriculars. All they need is a lot of free range, uninhibited play. Preferably outdoors. And experience gifts are always great ideas for other who want to gift-give.

6.) Don’t buy toys. I’m not saying your kiddos shouldn’t have toys, but this is a great one to let friends and family who want to give them birthday and Christmas gifts step in. It also helps kids learn patience and the value of delayed gratification. I’ve been known to buy the occasional toy, but I’m also getting much better at this.

7.) Don’t pay for cable/satellite. I haven’t paid for cable or satellite in my entire adult life. And I honestly cannot imagine doing so. 

8.) Invest in each other. Going out is expensive! Dinner, movie, baby sitter, etc. It adds up quickly! Instead J and I have learned a romantic night can easily be sharing a pint of ice cream on the couch with a baby in between us while we chat about life. It’s a season. Someday we will go out again. 

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