10 Money-Saving Tips for Large Families

Money-Saving Tips for Large Families

Family having a picnic

 Karina Mansfield / Getty Images

According to Pew Research Center, larger families have fallen out of favor over the past few decades. Back in 1936, for example, the average ideal family size was 3.6 kids. In the 1970s, that number dropped to 2.9. The latest Pew survey from 2013 saw that number dropping even further, to 2.6 kids as the ideal family size.

What was the top reason parents gave for their reluctance to raise larger families? Yep, you guessed it: money. 65% of families said that the costs associated with raising kids was the biggest factor influencing their desire for a smaller family. 11% cited the economy and jobs.

With the USDA estimating the cost of raising a child these days as $233,610 per child from birth to 17 years old (for food, shelter, and basic necessities) you can understand why money is such determining factor in family size.

Yet at the same time, for many parents, having a large, bustling, and loving family is a priority no matter what. These families find a way to support their families, despite the roadblocks they inevitably face.

It takes some ingenuity, hard work, and a whole lot of creativity, but raising a large family and making it work financially is possible—and the rewards are endless.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways large families make it work:

1. Live Simply

Sometimes we think more kids means we need more space and more stuff. But paring down your lifestyle and living simply is possible even with a large family—plus, it can save you a ton of money.

Maybe you don’t need that giant house with a huge yard. Kids can learn to share rooms with each other, and neighborhood parks are great places for kids to run free. The holidays can still be magical without over-the-top décor or pricey gifting. And most kids are totally happy with a good, old fashioned staycation.

Teaching your children to value togetherness over extravagance won’t just keep your budget trim, but will teach strong core values.

2. Consider Becoming a One-Car Family

For many—especially families with multiple kiddos who need to be transported to multiple activities—the idea of becoming a one-family car sounds absurd. Yet purchasing a car, insuring it, and maintaining it is one of the most costly expenses out there.

Arranging your life so that your family only needs one car might be more doable than you think. Maybe you can arrange it so you or your spouse can bike, walk, carpool, or take public transportation to work. Perhaps you can arrange carpools for your kids’ extracurricular activities.

There are many options here for transitioning to a one-car family, and all of them can save you money. They’re better for the earth too!

3. Buy in Bulk

Most wholesale discount stores require you to pay a yearly fee upfront to join, but once you are in, there is a whole lot of cash you can save by buying in bulk. You do have to play it smart, though. If you walk into one of these discount warehouse stores and fill your cart with anything that suits your fancy, you will likely overspend.

That’s why it’s always important to comparison shop. Do the math to see if buying the item in bulk is actually cheaper than buying it at a discounted rate elsewhere. Always shop with a clear list in hand, and don’t stray too far from the list. You also don’t want to go and buy everything in bulk. For example, large amounts of produce or other perishables with not last, but buying toiletries and cleaning supplies in bulk is always a good bet.

4. Shop Online

Probably the best way to stay organized and curb impulse buying is to shop online. Many large online stores will allow you to buy in bulk to save money. Some will also set you up with a subscription service for your purchases so that you can stay organized and plan ahead. If you are trying to save gas and time, online shopping is the way to go.

Of course, you’ve got to watch out for taxes, shipping costs, and other hidden fees. And even online shopping has its temptations. But overall, online shopping is super helpful for large families on a budget.

5. Dine In

Taking your large family out to eat can be a stressful experience, especially when your children are young. Not only that, but dining out with a large family can cost an arm and a leg. Even eating at less expensive restaurants adds up when you’ve got multiple mouths to feed.

Dining in whenever possible—or at least limiting your eating out experiences to once or twice a month—can save you a lot of money.

You can still make your dining at home experiences meaningful and fun. Consider a make-your-own pizza night, breakfast for dinner, or Taco Tuesday. Family traditions like those can be just as special as dining out.

6. Meal Prep

Eating at home as much as possible is the ideal if you are looking to stick to a tight budget, but preparing healthy meals for large families every night can be overwhelming. Enter meal prep.

Set aside an hour or two a week to plan your family’s meals for the week. Then, decide what preparation you can do in advance for each meal. For example, you can chop veggies, shred cheese, and marinate meat. If you are able, you can even prep a few meals or sides and freeze them. All of these things will save you time, and ultimately money, as well.

7. Hand-Me-Downs and Thrifting

Keeping kids well clothed can deplete your bank account quickly, especially when you are buying brand names or clothing from pricey stores. Some more reasonably priced stores have discount racks and you can get lots of good deals online. But your best bet for saving money on clothing is to buy gently used clothes.

You might think of thrift store clothing as clothing that has seen better days, but you’d be surprised by the selection of good quality kids’ clothes at thrift stores. If you think about it, kids don’t wear clothes for very long (they grow so fast) so it stands to reason that lots of the used kid clothing available is in good shape.

If you have a large family, hand-me-downs will also be a no-brainer. After a few kids, things like t-shirts and jeans will have seen better days, but some of the more expensive items, like winter coats and snow boots, will stand the test of time.

8. Place Higher Value on Experiences vs. Things

What do you remember more from childhood—those family trips to the lake house, those evenings curled up watching movies with your family … or all those dinky, plastic toys you begged for and then lost interest in after about 15 minutes?

Sure, there are a some toys and gifts you probably cherish as much as anything else, but for most of us, experiences are what become more memorable and meaningful. And the best part is that most experiences can be done on the cheap, or even for free.

Consider creating little coupon books or gift certificates with the activities you are planning to do with your kids. This can make these experiences feel more tangible and something to look forward to and celebrate once they arrive.

9. Look for Low-Cost and Free Activities

Another major expense for parents is all the activities, classes, and sports that our kids inevitably want to sign up for. But with a little research and discretion, these can be done frugally as well.

Your local library probably has free weekly events for kids. Same goes for your town or city’s recreation center. Many school districts offer enrichment classes at reduced rates—some will even waive the cost if you can show financial hardship. Your local YMCA, church, or rec center will probably be your best bet for low-cost sports, and much of the required equipment can be purchased second-hand.

Keep in mind, too, that busy isn’t always better. Limiting your child to 1-2 extracurricular commitments a week won’t just save you money, but will reduce stress and allow for more family time too.

10. Stick to a Budget

If you are supporting a large family, you must stick to a budget. Most finance experts advise making a list of all your expected bills and expenses for each month, estimating your monthly take-home salary, and making sure not to spend more than you bring in. This usually means that you also need to keep track of all of your spending each month.

Keeping track of every dime you spend may sound tedious or exhausting, but there are several budgeting apps and online tracking systems that can help immensely. Once you get the hang of it, the whole thing will be quick and painless. But most importantly, budgeting will keep you on track with your spending and will help you curb any excess spending.

Many families who stick to a strict budget also find that they end up building up their savings and paying off debt. It’s a beautiful thing.

A Word from Verywell

Figuring out how to stay afloat financially when you have multiple mouths to feed and bodies to clothe can feel daunting at times. But if you are considering whether or not to have a large family, you shouldn’t necessarily let money be the deciding factor.

If you know in your heart that a large family is the right choice for you, have a little faith that you will figure out how to make it work.

As they say, when there’s a will, there’s a way. With a little creative planning, simplifying, cutting back—and most of all, love—big families always find a way to make it work. And you can too.

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  • Americans’ ideal family size is smaller than it used to be. Pew Research Center website. Updated May 2015.

  • The cost of raising a child. USDA website. Updated March 2017.