Reducing Expenses: Tips for the Large Family

So you probably have a budget already. If not you need to get on that pronto. Everyone needs a budget, even if they make more than than they need or want, because a budget is just an action plan. It tells your money where to go instead of your money just flying out the door while you are left wondering where exactly it went.

But what if the “income” is lower than the “outgo”? Is it possible to afford a large family without getting into debt? Is saving money possible on a tight budget?

Thankfully there are many ways to cut expenses even when raising several children. One of the advantages of having a larger family is having a built in workforce, entertainment, and idea generating committee! Here are some ideas that have worked for many large families.

When looking for wiggle room in the budget, cut or reduce expenditures that are unnecessary. As an example, that daily Starbucks trip. Learn to make great coffee at home. Brown bag hubby’s lunch and your wallet (and his waistline!) will thank you. Instead of each child having extracurricular lessons, it might make more sense to pick one subject area and have a tutor come to you. Perhaps you can barter for services such as music lessons. Or pay an older child a few bucks to teach younger children.

Budget in special events like birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. It’s a budget buster when these occasional events aren’t included in the monthly budget. Things that are common but unexpected – such as car repairs – should also be included in the monthly budget. How much does your family spend on car repairs and emergency medical care in a year? Divide by 12.

Bundle bills and do without. Cable, phone and internet is usually cheaper as a package. But could your family do without cable and a landline, period? A Netflix subscription may save you money over renting movies piecemeal. Discuss the options with the family about budgeting and saving. You may be surprised at what the kids may be willing to give up in exchange for some other thing they really do want. I always thought it would be too hard to cut the cord but we ended up getting a bunch or alternatives in place first and then one day we realized no one was watching the cable anymore. Bye bye!

Only shop for what you need. Window shopping, browsing catalogs and online shopping is courting overspending. Make a list of items you think you need, and wait. If you still want the item after 24 hours (or a week, or a month as the case may be), find it used or figure out how to earn the extra money for it.

Use hand-me-downs. This goes without saying in a larger family. Advertise the fact that you’re willing to accept hand me downs, and you’ll probably get them aplenty from friends and family. Get to know your local thrift stores. Many offer half price days and other discounts (such as all clothing .99). Stock up when you hit great deals.

Turn down the thermostat (and wear layers, insulate the house, etc.). In summer, learn ways to keep cool in the summer without Arctic air blasting from the vents. Avoid heating up the house with hot appliances. In winter, don sweaters, drink hot beverages, and keep moving. Save on the light bill by employing one kid as the “light switch monitor”. Hang laundry as a family and save around $50 a month.

Talk about ways to reduce electricity and water use with family. Make it a contest to spend less time in the shower. Winners get to skip a chore that week. Put younger kids in the tub together. Use “grey” water for watering plants and the garden. (This can be a youngster’s chore.)

Cut up credit cards. If you have ’em, you’ll use ’em. Using credit cards as a budget tool and paying them off every month is also a mistake. Experts say that you spend 18% more when you swipe. Do whatever it takes to fund a contingency fund (yard sale, craigslist) and use that for emergencies.

Walk more, drive less. Combine errands on the same day to save gas. Walk or bike everywhere you can.

Plan meals ahead of time. Food waste and eating out can be avoided with a little planning. Once a month cooking can be HUGE for saving money if you have the freezer space. Also…intermittent fasting for mom and dad can be wonderful for health, waistlines, and budget. Imagine how much money you can save if you are only eating one meal a day. It’s really not that radical…there are entire podcasts and hundreds of books dedicated to this way of life.

Consider membership warehouses. But compare prices to grocery stores and do research. Some items are a good deal purchased in bulk, but many are not. Be a savvy consumer. If you don’t have a membership, go with someone that does to avoid paying the membership fee (this is perfectly acceptable as some of the warehouses encourage this by sending out “buddy” passes). Use the free passes you’re mailed periodically.

Go group. Large families usually do better buying season passes to their favorite attraction. This brings down the cost per visit to pennies if you really utilize the membership and its freebies. In my area of Ohio a whole family can get a science museum or zoo annual pass for around $100. A yearly pass to the neighborhood pool costs little and yields a lot of fun.

Free fun. Become an expert of free local attractions. There are usually several websites in each area that advertise these events, as well as Twitter and Facebook accounts that will alert you to free fairs, concerts, art, and other cultural goingson.

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