Monday, March 10, 2008

I'm just full of questions today... (Big Families)

BJ makes good money. He's an engineer. We are doing just fine, financially, except for the fact that we got bad tax advice once upon a time (being self-employed can really stink sometimes) and so we're playing catch-up because of that debt. And we bought this moderately oldish house that has ended up costing a lot to repair, but we're doing that gradually. Otherwise, though, it's not like we're trying to support ourselves on minimum wage. We're very firmly middle class, I'd say.

Here's my question - how do people afford to have huge families? I was just reading a blog where a woman is pregnant with her TWELFTH kid. I can't even spell 12th! I mean, I think that's right, but I'm not positive. How does that work, financially? How do you plan to pay for college? Weddings? Or do you just plan to say, "We have 11 other kids, tough cookies, do it yourself, babe," when it comes up?

It can't just be a simple matter of cooking at home and not going out much. It can't be even eating beans and rice, using cloth diapers, recycling clothes, having a cow to make your own milk and a chicken to lay your eggs. I mean, we could have all of those things and I still don't think we could afford 10 more kids. And like I said, BJ makes good money. We're not loaded, but we do ok. What am I missing? How do huge families do it? Are you all independently wealthy? Do your husbands all make $300,000 a year (I could do it on $300K)? Did you inherit a huge amount of money and say, "You know, we could retire and spend the rest of our lives traveling on this $10,000,000, but instead let's have 12 kids!"?

We're in negotiations about our family size, and one thing that always comes up is money (although to be honest, other than diapers, Claire hasn't increased our cost of living by much yet). I really want to know, because I think having a huge family would be fun, if I could figure out how not to lay awake at night wondering how I'm going to feed them all.


Holly Miller said...

I've wondered the same thing myself! I know of people whose plan was to purchase a home for each child and rent it out until the child went to college. Then they would sell the house to finance the education. Seems like a good plan if you have a little real estate know-how.


ALG said...

I think that each child costs incrementally less than the previous one. So it doesn't cost twice as much to raise two kids than it does to raise one kid, and it doesn't even cost twice as much to raise 12 kids as it does to raise 6 kids.

A few other factors:
--with so many kids, you can seriously buy in bulk and you save money that way.
--you don't need to pay for much childcare once the oldest reaches the age of 12 or so; you can skip summer camp and other such luxuries
--pretty much all entertainment is self-generated if you have a backyard, some crayons, and a basket of dress-up clothes
--you don't buy new clothes very often; everyone wears hand-me-downs until the clothes are practically threadbare

I think that the economics of it just work out. I don't think most of those families have $300,000. My parents raised four kids and never had a combined income of more than $75,000, and often had a lot less. We ate a lot of pasta, and our main sources of protein were eggs and turkey. (No red meat, not too much cheese, etc.) We went to municipal day camp and spent a lot of time at the playground, in the backyard, and making our own arts and crafts projects out of random junk we had lying around the house.

Jeana said...

First and foremost, we depend on God for His provision.

(Wait, do you consider 4 kids big? If not, ignore the rest of this.)

After that, it's a lot of little things that add up. We get a lot of hand-me-downs from other families, and when we do have to buy clothes (which is very rare for the kids) we buy them used or on clearance if we can. (Hint: if you give a lot of hand-me-downs, you tend to receive hand-me-downs.)

We bought an older home that needed repair and updating. The updating is happening at a rate of slow to never.

Our kids don't do a lot of activities. We don't pay for entertainment very often. Our large family IS our entertainment, usually.

We don't have cable, and rarely rent movies. We get some as gifts and check them out from the library. Ditto books.

We don't dress or decorate with the latest styles.

Our vehicles are 8 years old and 16 years old.

We get the cheapest cell phone plan, and are considering going to prepaid and using them only for emergencies when our contract runs out.

We don't consider college to be an entitlement. It seems to us that the people who pay their own way through school end up being more successful in the end. (My husband and I both paid for our own college and believe we are the better for it.)

Weddings will probably be small and simple, and the kids may have to contribute to the cost, as we did to our own wedding.

Most people have no idea how much less money they could get by on, if they had to. I know 8 years ago I thought we were barely getting by. Since then, my husband's income has been cut about 20%, and not only are in better financial shape than we've ever been, we're paying down our debt rather than adding to it. When he made more, it was the reverse. It's just a matter of looking hard at what really is a necessity. (Or it was for us. Of course I can't speak for you, not knowing your financial situation.)

I will say that for us it is absolutely worth. None of the things I've listed comes close to comparing to the joy I get from my kids.