Having a large (by today’s standards) family generates a lot of questions, with the most prevalent of which being “how do I afford it?”. Normally, I respond to this query with as simple “we just do”, but I think that this response bears a little more explanation. You can afford a family on almost any budget, with the caveat being what you are willing to give up to do so.
The working mom vs. the traditional mom
My wife is a full-time wife and mother, as we agreed that this would be the best scenario in which to raise a large family. Having someone at home that you love and trust to care for your babies instead of relying on a daycare or babysitter is the best option and environment for your child’s early development. Between the two of us we’ve been able to see (and sometimes record) every first step and hear every first word.
That’s not to take anything away from working moms, because I know how difficult that can be (my mom worked hard her entire life) and I understand that its sometimes necessary. Often, my wife fields remarks from working mothers about her situation, usually stating how lucky she is to stay home. What often goes unrecognized, however, is the sacrifices that we make to get to this point.
Yes, we have five children and yes, we subsist on one income. Those are facts. What often gets missed is the fact that we drive used cars, got rid of cable, don’t go to restaurants very often and lead a frugal and budgeted life. By sacrificing what we view as shallow leisure pursuits and bucking the trend of ‘keeping up with the Jones”, we are able to invest all of our resources into our most precious commodity – our family.
Where to start
In order to make ends meet, you must first evaluate what you are doing and where you want to be. Think of it as planning a trip: where you are currently is point A and where you want to be is point B. It’s up to you to decide what path you take to get to your point B.
We started by assessing needs versus wants. We need electricity but we don’t necessarily need the full cable package. We need to heat the house in the winter, but we don’t need that dream trip to Hawaii. We’ve come to understand that although our favorite restaurant is pretty awesome, we could make a full grocery run on what we spent on that awesome meal. By removing the unnecessary items from our budget we able to reduce overall costs, which in turn reduces overall income needs, and ultimately reduces overall risk.
None of this is easy. There are times where a big expense rears its ugly head and we need to get creative with our finances, which is a calculated risk on our part. We started squirreling portions of our windfalls (like tax refunds and bonuses) away for occasions like this. By mitigating the unneeded expenditures we remain in a position to live our lives in the manner that we see fit.
The best tool you can have to assist in this lifestyle is a budget. Whether you use an app, a spreadsheet, banking software or just a plain old notepad, get things recorded and get a real view of your financial situation. You need to know what you don’t know. Accounting for everything will give you a clearer picture of your cash flow, expenditures and opportunities for improvement.
If executed correctly, a budget will also serve as a deterrent against flashy overspending. I follow a YouTube channel called Minority Mindset that has some great advice on managing your money. The man in the videos, Jaspreet Singh, advises that “if you can’t afford five of something, you can’t afford one of them”. This simple notion has helped me understand expenditures on a level that I never thought possible.
Mitigating the costs
My personal motto has always been “if you stop learning, you stop living”. This mantra rings true whether you own a computer, home or car. It seems that there is always something to fix or upgrade or just plain redo. Most of the small stuff is really simple and the materials can be bought on the cheap. There’s a multitude of great reference materials on sites like YouTube, Fixya and iFixit, as well as countless others, that can provide you the means and knowledge to tackle the basics by yourself. Learning basic repair skills can save you thousands, and, if you’re skilled enough, you can earn some extra money by branching out and helping others with their repairs.
Never be afraid to ask for help. Although I spent a lot of time learning new skills, I still don’t know everything there is to know. Chances are you are in the same boat as me, but you may know someone who is skilled at such things. Humility is a virtue and there is never shame in admitting that you do not know how to do something, plus you might be able to use the experience to learn more about task at hand.
Affording a family is possible with a well thought out plan and careful execution. Being meticulous in handling your finances is solid advice for anyone, and especially if you have others that depend on you for support. Living below your means will benefit not only your wallet, but it will give you a new frame of reference about what is important in the world.
Being self-sufficient is not only useful, but it is incredibly liberating in that you are freer to choose your own direction. Tackling a task that others would have to hire for is satisfying and productive, plus you get the added ego boost that comes with a job well done. Cost avoidance is just as important as earning, and serves as an effective tool to use in your budgeting strategy.
Ulitmately the decision on how to support your family falls on you. Keeping the costs low and living below your means while making smart decisions with your money will allow you and your family to prosper and grow.