“How can you afford all of them?!” This is one of the most frequently asked questions, right up there with, “Do you know how this happens?” regarding our big family. Eye rolls aside, I understand the question. Life is expensive.
“How can you afford all of them?!” is part of, Party of Ten, guest post series, by a mom deep in the throes of mothering. A wife and mom to eight children, Jamie writes from a tender heart, the experiences, the dilemmas, the struggles and the joys of large family living. She is real, transparent and intertwines the journey with encouragement, devotion and sincerity.
In all honesty, we don’t have a great track record with money. I like being spontaneous and carefree and really don’t enjoy being tied down to “nerdy things” like budgets (where’s the wink emoji?). But, as mathematics stands, the money you make caps out and you need to figure out how to keep a roof over your heads, clothes on your backs, and food in your bellies.
Having a big family means everything is shared or stretched. Space, time, love, patience, etc…and money too.
Some very practical ways that help us “afford” our big family is shopping at Aldi for groceries, Once Upon a Child for the kids’ clothes, and never eating out by default. We also keep a close watch on costs for activities.
This year, I took the kids to a farm during pumpkin season. Instead of going on the hayride and picking big pumpkins, we looked around, enjoyed the atmosphere and they each picked a small pumpkin from the “tiniest pumpkin of all basket”. They took them home and painted them and loved every minute.
It is okay to live a life others do not understand
This year we decided to trail blaze as a family. We felt like the momentum of the world was overtaking what our hearts were telling us about how we should grow our family. I found this quote on Pinterest, “It is okay to live a life others do not understand”. Like many of the things we are doing, the way we’re looking at money as a family is different.
Years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth according to my kids, I was starting out with a new home. I thought I needed all the things. Thankfully, Hobby Lobby wasn’t around. But there was the Christmas Tree Shoppe. And Target. And gosh, how fast the trends shift. Good thing I was just a quick car trip away from all those dollar deals.
Then, when kids came, every party was a life-defining moment. I planned themes again and again, so I supported ‘big business’ because they support cute parties.
How can you afford all of them?!
Shopping with the kids meant good behavior bribes. Dollar spots saved my sanity. Or so I thought. I couldn’t go anywhere without a kid thinking that they’d get a reward for just breathing air in and out.
I thought I had to buy our memories. Birthdays, Christmas, vacations…After years of blowing money on birthdays, I decided that having people over with a simple cake was plenty fine. And it was. A box confetti cake and family. The kids love it. This year we defrosted a year old, 20 lb turkey from the freezer and had a turkey dinner for the 4 year old’s birthday party. He didn’t even blink an eye. His family and friends were there and he was eating cake. His love tank was full when his head hit his pillow.
Time and money
As the kids got older, sports happened. And I love that. What I don’t love is that we thought we had to close our eyes and sign the registrations, knowing that it was time and money we didn’t have to give to it. We stopped playing town sports and to be honest, I miss it. But I don’t miss that it was a time strain and a financial strain. They play school sports and they enjoy them.
As it turned out, our income changed for a little while and we were given (with a nudge) the opportunity to re-evaluate what money means to our family.
Last Christmas, we knew that things were shaky with our income, my sister’s family was on the ‘off year’ for visiting from NY, and it would also be the first Christmas without my husband’s mom. We were thinking about doing what we do every year and just buy stuff with a loose budget and hope for the best.
But something was pressing on our hearts. How could we do Christmas like normal when things weren’t normal? We decided that we were not going to buy anything. Not one gift. We talked with our children and were very honest with them. They knew we were nervous about not giving them gifts, and that we didn’t want to disappoint them.
To our surprise, they understood.
The hope of the specialness we were going to receive through a gift-less Christmas overcame the sting they felt about no presents. A sweet side story is that we were given the kindest gift of a Toys R Us gift-card from a friend, but we didn’t tell the kids we had it.
On Christmas morning, we all came down and sat by our popcorn and cranberry decorated Christmas tree. There were a few hand-made gifts under it, made with love, by one of our sweet daughters.
There was a quiet peace.
We sat on the couch and Josh talked about how we were given this unique opportunity to enjoy one another. He talked about how it was a sad Christmas because his mom went home to be with Jesus earlier that year, and that it’s ok that Christmas doesn’t look the same as usual.
He talked about a baby being born who was Savior to the World, a Savior to our souls.
We sat peacefully.
Loved one another.
Mourned the loss.
As we were finishing up Christmas morning, we told the kids that a friend gifted us a Toys R Us gift card and we’d love for them to think about something they wanted. Last year was the year of the “Hatchimal”. It was high on two of our girls’ lists. Would you know, by the time they made their choices, Pie In The Face and Play Doh beat it? Some of their choices cost a lot, some cost close to nothing. The weights and balances I would have played around with, trying to buy them things fairly, didn’t matter. Equal didn’t matter, because they were grateful for a surprise gift. They had time to decide on what they’d like, with no pressure of the fear of missing out.
Gift of memories
Will we Grinch away Christmas every year? I think, no. But, we didn’t really Grinch away Christmas last year. We were given the gift of a memory. A memory of choosing to go against the flow and listen to the still, small voice whispering to have a Christmas that illuminated Christ’s birth, truth, family gathering, and trust.
Throughout this year, we’ve decided that we are going to listen carefully to what God calls us to. It’s scary, but it’s exciting too. Mainly, it’s freeing.
In matters dealing with money, I’ve come to realize that we need to loosen our grip on our possessions. We need to let go of the notion that we are stuck in one place.
If we decide that we should move, I look with anticipation of where we will land. We need to look at our traditions and see if they fit with what is right and true. We need to stay within our means and trust. We’re each given an allotted amount of time and money.
We talk about wanting adventure. What about the adventure in the daily choices of how we will handle what we’re given? We constantly have to tweak this and tweak that (like making a new category in the budget titled Rubix Cube bribe if you get a haircut).
Opportunity to grow
Sometimes we’re surprised by monetary blessings. Sometimes, something comes up that drains our bank. I believe that every shift in our bank account can be an opportunity to grow. We learn from our mistakes and change course, we trust when it is out of our hands and diligently wait for provision, and we rejoice when we are given gifts.
So, how do we afford our big family?
We start with the basics. Food. Clothing. Shelter. Sometimes we eat steak and sometimes we eat beans and rice. Sometimes we wear North Face and sometimes we wear Goodwill.
We lived in a little 4 bedroom, 1 bath cape cod with seven kids. Now we live in a 6 bedroom, 3 bathroom colonial. We may decide to downsize again.
We constantly have to make thoughtful decisions with the money that we have.
It’s extremely important to me to find contentment in plenty or in want.
We may never make it to Disney World. We may hardly ever eat at restaurants . We may have to shop at thrift stores.
Sometimes I wish I could get whatever I want, but would the trade off of the lessons we’re learning as a family be worth it? I don’t think it would.
“Contentment makes poor men rich, discontent makes rich men poor.”
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