Having a large family comes with plenty of challenges. Making a little money last a lot of days is one of them. These 15 tips for budgeting with a large family is how we make it work.
Large Family Living
We have been blessed with 7 amazing children. I wouldn’t change a single thing about my family, but it isn’t always easy. Budgeting with a large family is a necessity, but man it sucks knowing how far that little bit of money has to stretch. Just feeding 9 people every month will set us back almost $1000 each month. It seems like all of us wear out or out grow our shoes all at the same time. Having 4 children in diapers can literally bankrupt you.
For 6 years we were a family of 5 or less. We definitely still had a budget then, but we could have quite a bit of money left at the end of the month if we watched what we spent. Now it seems we have quite a bit of month left at the end of the money. It can be disheartening. Knowing how hard you worked, how much you went without, the fun trips you didn’t take and still just making it.
The only thing is if I take those trips I wont be able to buy the shoes my 11 year old is going to out grow. If I go buy a brand new iPhone, dinner might have to be toast this month. I have to have a plan for my money. I have to know where it is going. It isn’t easy, it isn’t fun, but it is necessary. These 15 tips are a few ways our family and other large families make it work.
Create a Budget
First thing, before you can have plan you need to know what you are working with. This one is hard. You have to be completely honest with yourself. For me it is do I really grab fast food once a week or is it more like 3 times? What about grabbing Dunkin in the mornings, doughnuts for the kids and coffee for mom, yeah that counts too. Do I really only buy necessit6ies from Amazon? The glass jugs I have still in the unopened box says differently.
First you have to figure out how much money you have coming in. I am a stay at home mom so we only have my husband’s income. He gets paid bi weekly, so I budget off of two pay checks a month and the 2 extra we get throughout the year are a bonus. I use his take home pay for for 2 paychecks a month. This is after 401K, insurance, taxes, etc. Just what is deposited into our account.
Your “four walls”
After you know what you are bringing in you need to figure out what bills are coming out. I start with the must pay, rent/mortgage, electric, water, gas, car insurance, car payments, and any personal loans or credit cards. One thing I do add to this for our family is internet. My husband works from home so we do not have a choice but to have internet. These things have to be paid. Most of these need to be paid for daily life.
Once you have the must haves figured out it is time to look at the bills that are more wants. For our family this is cell phones, Kindle Unlimited, Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, and Prime. Most families internet and cable would be here as well. Here you would include any other monthly bills or subscriptions. Amazon Wardrobe, Hello Fresh, gym memberships, etc. These can really add up. After I figured out mine and had everything worked out I remembered I had signed up for Kindle Unlimited to use during homeschool. Well that was another $10 to add in.
Next is the variables. Food is a good example of a variable. Not only do your needs change month to month, but the cost changes constantly. Sales one week, inflation, etc. Other items I put into the variables category are personal care, clothing, gas for vehicles, dining out, gift, and entertainment. Some of these items are not needed every month, and those that are change. For instance, I don’t have birthday gifts to buy every month.
These things vary so I try to find a middle ground and stick there. I’ll use gas as an example. My gas needs change weekly. This month we have really only had to drive to get groceries. Only driving the van few miles each week means I wont use the full amount I budget. Next month I have a dentist appointment an hour away, we have a family Christmas an hour away, plus the 2 Christmas gatherings 1/2 hour away. We are also doing an experience for the big kids Christmas this year so that adds a few more hour away trips.
Because I am able to budget and not use a lot of my gas money this month, I am going to have plenty left over for next month without having to pull money from other areas. The same goes with clothing. We do not need new clothes every month, but I might need new jeans this month, and the kids might need new socks next month so keeping the extra in each month makes the jeans buying months a little easier.
Take a Look at Monthly Bills
One thing I hate doing, but really need to, is taking a look at what I actually have coming out every month. Say, for instance, you got rid of cable because it is just too expensive and you got a few streaming services instead. Well, adding in Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Disney plus, Paramount, Philo, and Sling adds up. After adding all of these you are likely paying more monthly for TV than you were with cable.
You need to take a look and evaluate what you actually use. How many of them to do watch often enough to justify keeping? Do you have a gym membership? How often do you go? Do you have a house phone? Is it actually used? What other subscriptions do you have? A newspaper you never read? What about a magazine that you don’t read? Do you pay for Pandora and not have the time to listen? I have a membership to Large Family Table Community, and I find I do not use if as often as I would like. I was paying for Cricut access and never used it so I canceled it. Take a look at your bank statements and figure out what all you have coming out and see where you can cut.
Eat at Home
This is one I am horrible at. If I do not meal plan, buy everything I need, and mentally prepare to cook it all, I will be the first in line at McDonald’s. For my family of 9 to go to McDonald’s it costs about $40, and this is bare minimum. But man, it is so easy just to run through a fast food place when life is busy. The problem is, I just can’t afford to be lazy, and my new jeans I just bought, they can’t afford it either.
When budgeting with a large family, nights like this just can’t fit in the budget often. Eating out is so expensive and so bad for you. I can tell the difference the morning after eating fast food. I am more tired, grumpy, my stomach hurts, and I just feel like crap. For me though, sometimes (read most times) I need to have that easy night.
On the rough days I try to make something super easy, like breakfast for dinner. The kids really like it when I have snack dinner. I buy pizza rolls, taquitos, chicken strips, Skyline dip, ect and that is dinner. I try not to do that more than once every few weeks, but to be completely honest they have happened more than once a week in the recent past. But it’s ok. I was able to do it all for $10 instead of running to fast food and it costing us $40-50.
One of my biggest culprits when budgeting with a large family is food. For me to grocery shop for 9 people I have to know what to buy. If I do not go in with a plan I end up with $300 worth of random things and not many of them will come together to make a meal. Going into the store without a list ends up with me buying my 4th bottle of ketchup because I didn’t look to see if we had any first.
3 days ago I didn’t know what to make for dinner, so I ran to our local Kroger to grab something. I knew what I wanted to make, but i didn’t check the cabinets first. I grabbed cans of sweet potatoes when I already had 2, and I grabbed my 3rd bag of brown sugar. We were having a smoked sausage sheet pan meal along with it, so I grabbed 2 things of smoked sausage. When I came home I discovered I only needed 1. Not a big deal right? Except we don’t eat smoked sausage very often so if I don’t throw the extra in the freezer now it will go bad before it is used.
Since I didn’t meal plan, shop smart, and plan ahead, I ended up paying $4.00 for that container of smoked sausage that we wont eat for a month for two. That trip to Kroger cost us $43.17 for one meal. We did have some left overs, but not a huge amount. I’m not sure about you, but I can’t do that. I need to have a meal plan.
You can sign up to receive my free printable meal planner to help you out with planning. I have to use it, or we are in trouble.
When I am budgeting with a large family I have to shop cheap. Food is expensive, and it’s not getting any cheaper. Not only do I have a large family, I am the youngest of 5. So grew up with my mom budgeting for a large family. We always shopped at Aldi. I remember getting some of my favorite snacks from there. I still do my shopping at Aldi. My kids love snacks (i wonder where they got that from) and I can get bags of chips for under $2 each. Fake Little Debbie’s for $1, eggs for $1 a dozen, nice moist bread for $0.85 a loaf, Yes please!! I am able to fully feed our family of 9 from Aldi for under $200 a week.
I also watch my local Kroger ad. A lot of time I find meat cheaper at Kroger, so I will get my meat there. There are some items I either can’t get at Aldi or do not like from there so I will almost always make a second stop at Walmart. Neither of these stores are in my town so when I do my weekly shopping in the next town over I will make sure I shop at both. In my town we only have a Kroger, and let me tell you they are expensive. I cannot afford to get my weekly groceries there. I tried a few times after we moved here and blew my budget out of the water. They are now only for sales and items we run out of, like this morning when I ran out of formula.
Second Hand Stores and Yard Sales
Nine people means a lot of clothing. Like A LOT of clothing. And the shoes. Oh my goodness the shoes. When you are budgeting with a large family that mean yard sales and second hand stores. When yard sale season comes around my mother, sisters, and I are trying to get out every weekend to find the deals we need. We know what size kids are in and what size they will be in soon and we try get everything we need.
Some things I will not buy second hand, and in those cases I look for sales. Like socks, undergarments, and shoes. Those items need to be purchased new so I look for deals. For undergarments and socks I hit Walmart or Amazon. I look online and see where has the best deal. For shoes I buy kids shoes at Walmart. Yes they are cheap price and quality, but my kids are either going to outgrow them in a month or completely destroy them (no matter the brand) and I can’t justify buying $50 shoes for them to destroy.
I haven’t had cable in years. If I’m not mistaken I cut cable before I even started budgeting for a large family. I think I cut the cord when I was pregnant with my oldest. When I was put on bed rest when I was pregnant with the twins and knew I had to minimize my spending so cable was the first to go. I was able to get an antenna and have the news and a few sitcoms so I was happy. I’m not really a person who needs all the channels so it didn’t bother me. This might be a little more difficult for others, but with streaming services the kids get the cartoons they want and I can watch Youtube videos and be happy.
I currently have 4 babies in diapers. The cost for diapers for 4 is astronomical. Being able to use cloth diapers is a huge part of me budgeting with a large family. The upfront cost is a bit high, but I was able to save that by not having to buy disposables within a few months. There are a lot of different ways to cloth diaper and these can make a large difference in cost. I personally use a lot of pocket diapers. These can be found on Amazon for fairly cheap. These are my favorite ones I bought. The best part of cloth diapering are all the adorable designs you can get.
A great place to learn more about cloth diapers is Green Mountain Diapers. They have tons of information on the different types of diapers, how to clean them, and you can purchase some from there. If you have time to wait, Alva Baby has some super cute and cheap pocket diapers. The only thing is they are made in China and have slow shipping. They seriously have some of the cutest diapers ever.
Another way my daughter and I save is by using “mama cloth” or cloth maxi pads. Since I am already washing cloth diapers adding in cloth pads was simple. I have actually used cloth pads for 4 years now and I love it. When I use disposable pads I find I have more cramps and more bleeding through.
Buying reusable food containers can save a lot of money as well. Yes, the upfront cost as be a little high, but in the long run you save. I have yet to purchase reusable zipper food bags, but I know that is going to be on my list soon. I just need to find the ones I want and the price I can afford.
Hit Up Dollar Tree for Party Supplies
We have a lot of birthdays in our family. 6 birth dates for the kids, my husband, and I. Party supplies add up quick. The Dollar Tree has a very large amount of party supplies and decorations. When everything costs $1 it makes budgeting with a large family easier. I can buy the entire birthday parties supplies for $10-15 instead of $50. It is definitely worth it!
Did you know your local library may have books you can download onto your Kindle? Ours has the Libby app and we can download books and audio books for free. We can also get a lot of magazines. Our library has mobile hot spots we can check out. When we lived at our old house in the country we were not able to get in the internet at our house so it was super helpful to be able to borrow the hot spot. We can also get passes to museums, some libraries have cake pans, sewing machines, and our has ukuleles you can borrow. Most libraries have movies you can rent as well. Free movie night anyone?
If you go to your local library’s website you just might find a calendar filled with free events. Ours has free painting classes, a felting class, free classes for the kids, and a book club. The library has so much to offer, it is worth the time to check it out!
Take Advantage of Free Entertainment
Being able to entertain and have activities to do is important, especially during the lockdown. Budgeting with a large family means I can’t afford to take my family of 9 to the theater, or the children’s museum. Luckily there are a lot of free things we can do to keep us all entertained. In our small town and the small towns around us we have a decent amount of festivals we can go to. Many of them have live music, a parade, and our local library has demonstrations.
At one festival we have the “pioneer tent” where the children’s department of our library sets up old toys kids can play with, dough they can mold, corn to grind by hand, and a wash board and clothes wringer. One year I sat up at this tent with my spinning wheel showing how yarn is made, and even brought drop spindles and fiber so they could try too.
There are also plenty of public parks to visit. Going to a new park in the next town over is always exciting. Our small town also has a nice set of walking trails for the public to use. In a town about half an hour from us they have a free splash pad we like to go to in the summer. Many local churches put on free activities in the summer as well. Our church did free drive in movies last summer. There is plenty to keep our family busy for free in our area, especially if you include all the amazing things the library has to offer.
Buy In Bulk
In many areas there are bulk food stores. Stores like Sam’s Club and Costco are great for budgeting with a large family. I have to keep an eye on price per ounce or price per item to make sure it is a deal, but many times I can get the items we use often for a good price.
In our town we have a bulk food store, I think in a lot of places these are known as Mennonite or Amish stores. They buy their food in bulk then portion it out into smaller containers to sell. This saves a lot of money and helps out a local family. In my local store I can buy 5 pounds of organic flour for under $3. I am also able to buy bulk flour and oatmeal for a great price there. They also sell spices, candy, sugar, baking supplies, and gluten free items at the same great discount.
If Needed, Get Assistance
In America we have the ability to get assistance from the government with food, health care, utilities, and housing. I know that there are a lot of people that think you should never ask for help and I am here to tell you, they are wrong. If you need help making ends meet, apply for assistance. There is nothing shameful about it. If you qualify then there is no harm in taking it. Everyone comes on hard times and needs help. The shameful thing would be allowing your children go hungry or not have heat because you are too proud to get the help you need. Sometimes budgeting with a large family means asking for help, and that’s ok.
For the Woman, Infant, and Children (WIC) program you can go here to find you local offce.
SNAP or food assistance information you can click here.
For more information on housing assistance, also known as HUD you can click here.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program information can be found here.
For information on Medicaid click here.
For more information on internet and phone assistance click here and here
I love that you mentioned getting assistance if needed. If you qualify for a program, then you should absolutely take advantage of it and don’t feel shame about it! I know how hard it can be sometimes. Right now, we only have two kids, but I grew up in a family of nine kids, so I get that simple trips to McDonalds can actually be unaffordable. Great tips!!
Thank you! There are too many people that think needing assistance makes you a bad person. In my case, God gave me twins and triplets spontaneously, I didn’t ask to have 3 newborns and not be able to afford daycare. It is there to help people who need it.
Love these tips! Especially getting cloth diapers – it is definitely worth it the cost upfront in all the money saved over time. Thanks so much for this post, is has great ideas and help for families struggling right now.
Cloth diapers have saved us! With four in diapers I’m not sure how we would have bought diapers at times. Money gets tight and having cloth really gives some breathing room.
These are all great tips! And I see more and more benefit in following these ideas as my own family grows larger 🙂
I am happy to give any tips or tricks I have. If I can help one person get through a time of struggle than I am doing my job.
Loved this whole post good reminders of what we need to be doing and preparing for as our family of 6 grows bigger. We love doing cloth diapers too, I am glad you shared that tip. Thanks for this post!
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Eat like a bear diet
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