Whenever people find out that I have four kids, they usually respond in one of three ways:
1. “Wow! You have your hands full.”
Yes I do, but it’s a good kind of full. Usually. And when they’re too full, there’s always Scotch and yoga.
2. “Don’t you know what causes that?”
Yes, I certainly do, and obviously, we are good at it. Do you need any tips?
3. “Holy Crap, I bet that’s expensive. How do you afford it?!”
At one point in time, I would reply, We play paper, rock, scissors each night so see which kids get to eat, or that we don’t waste money on things like underwear and toothbrushes. I quit telling people this because some of them can’t detect sarcasm and might call CPS on me (my kids have plenty of food and underwear, and occasionally they brush their teeth) and because I realized that there are actual ways in which having a gaggle of kids has in fact forced me to save money on child-rearing expenses.
These are the ways that come to mind right away:
1. The Gospel of Hand-Me-Downs
Having a lot of kids means that they will be made to wear passed-down pajamas and T-shirts for baseball teams they didn’t play on and that they will be perfectly fine with it, because they don’t know any different. In fact, my younger ones look forward to their older siblings outgrowing certain pieces of clothing so that they can wear them.
Consignment sales are another way I find cute clothing for them that I wouldn’t otherwise choose to sink money into. The higher quality pieces I buy at these sales are more durable and enable me to actually use them for their younger siblings. I never knew little girls were as hard on clothes as little boys, but the Target and Wal-Mart brands of clothing that my kids own so much of tell another story.
2. Saying NO at Target, AKA the Las Vegas of Big-Box Stores
It’s easy to drop $100 on things that we don’t need but that we lust after. I could see how if I only had a couple of kids, it would be much easier to say, “Sure! You can have that LEGO set, but don’t tell Daddy,” and give in to more whims. With four kids, I just can’t do that. This is why I refuse to buy anything for any of them that we did not come to the store to buy. If you buy a treat for one child, you will be hounded relentlessly until you buy a treat of equal value for the others. Not only can I not afford to do that, I don’t want to add more stuff to the ever-growing mountain of misfit toys in their rooms and the rest of my house. This also saves some of my remaining shred of sanity, because they know walking into the door that they probably won’t be getting anything. It also holds me accountable so that I’m not buying “happies” for myself when the shirts in the women’s department call my name.
Hopefully this is teaching them delayed gratification, because it’s certainly teaching me that.
3. Buying in Bulk
Warehouse and discount stores are my FRIENDS. Not to brag, but I’m kind of a big deal at Costco. Employees don’t even make me show my membership card anymore and greet me by name, and they give me unlimited boxes at checkout. Yeah, you heard me. Unlimited. When your kids eat like horses, buying in bulk saves you money. Although in one trip I may initially be paying more than I would at the grocery store because I’m buying greater volumes of items, it’s cheaper per individual item, and there are less small items to impulse buy, so I save money from not buying random quick meals and US Weekly magazines at the checkout. It also forces me to plan out what we will be eating.
4. Taking Trips, or the Lack Thereof
Taking vacations to fancy places is really not an option when you have more than a couple of kids and live on a (primarily) single income. My husband and I have talked about taking the kids to Disney World (yes, we have deprived them of Disney) but have a hard time justifying dropping the $5,000 or more that we would need to spend to make the 9-hour drive worthwhile. Instead, I have begun to seek out trip locations that are both closer to home and less expensive. Not getting to go places as often has made the trips we do get to take more appreciated by all of us.
My kids aren’t neglected or in want of things they need, and they get a few fun things along the way. Having a herd has pushed me to be more creative with my resources and less obsessed with what I have or don’t have.
Focusing positively on what I can do within the confines of our budget has made me appreciate my children even more. I never knew that having more kids would make me happier with less, but I’m so thankful that it has. I hope they feel the same way when they look back and see the corners I cut on spending, and that rather than feeling slighted for not getting all of the bells and whistles that some of their friends had, they understand that having more siblings isn’t a curse that got them less stuff, but a blessing that makes their lives more full.
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