10 Money-Saving Tips for Large Families

Money-Saving Tips for Large Families

Family having a picnic

Karina Mansfield / Getty Images

Having a large family can be an enriching, amazing experience. Although fewer Americans see large families as the ideal than they did during the “baby boom” of the 1950s, data from Pew Research Center has found that the number of Americans who view larger families as desirable has ticked up over the past few years. The poll found that up to 41% of Americans see families with three or more kids as the perfect size.

Still, the top issue that stresses large families out is how to afford them. A separate Pew poll found that 65% of Americans cite financial concerns as the main reason why they aren’t having more kids. These concerns aren’t completely unfounded: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimates, it costs a whopping $233,610 to raise a child from birth to age 17.

However, if raising a large family is your priority—or something you’d like to pursue in the future—there are definitely ways to work around the financial stressors and make it work. We reached out to financial experts for their top tips for how to save money and budget wisely while raising a large family.

Start by Setting Financial Goals

You’ll need to set up a budget (more on that soon!), but first, you should take some time to map out some more global financial goals, says Kristin Myers, editor-in-chief of The Balance, which focuses on personal finance. “Before setting up a budget, it’s important to know why you’re doing it—and ‘because you know you should’ isn’t enough,” says Myers.

Myers says that there are a few key points to consider when setting financial goals. First, you’ll want to consider what the goals of your family are today (e.g., being able to afford your basic needs and any “extras” you are hoping to partake in). Then, you’ll want to consider your longer-term financial goals.

Perhaps you’d like to pay off debt, save for college, or find more opportunities to travel. It doesn’t matter what you choose exactly, says Myers. But you should have clear goals in mind as you set up a budget where you specify dollar amounts to save and spend.

“It’s much simpler to say ‘no’ to everything from everyday expenses to big-ticket items when you understand how the money you’re saving today will help you achieve your goals tomorrow,” Myers describes.

Stick To a Budget

All families who are hoping to save money need to have a budget, and it’s best to have a written one with a clear list of all your expected expenses, says Steve Sexton, CEO of Sexton Advisory Group. “If you’re just ‘guesstimating’ your expenses instead of listing them out in a tracker, it’s likely you’re missing some key living expenses—ultimately making it tough to stick to a budget, especially if things are tight financially,” he explains.

As much as you want to be as specific as possible when creating a budget for your family, you also need to add some flexibility into your budget, says Jaime Peters, DBA, assistant dean and assistant professor of finance at Maryville University. Additionally, you want to make sure your budget accounts for unexpected, emergency expenses.

“The larger the family—the more likely that accidents, illness or unexpected events, like a school field trip or a weekend day at the zoo—come up,” says Dr. Peters.

Identify Essential and Non-Essential Costs

As you fine-tune your budget and begin to see how it works in real life, you’ll start to make smarter purchasing choices. A lot of this boils down to determining what is and isn’t essential, says Sexton. This will vary from one family to another.

Sexton recommends having a conversation with your family and spouse to determine what the essential and non-essential costs are that you want to prioritize. “For example, eliminating non-essential spending could include limiting the number of times you dine out per month, switching from cable to more affordable streaming platforms, or putting a cap on those late-night Amazon purchases,” Sexton suggests.

The main goal is to not only create a realistic budget but one that is also sustainable and takes into consideration all of your family’s needs.

Be a Financially-Savvy Car Owner

One of your most hefty expenses will be your car: buying the car, maintaining it, paying for its insurance, and fueling it up. Yet with a large family, having at least one car is essential. Usually, this means buying a larger car, such as a minivan, that can seat your children and contain all of their gear.

Sexton suggests shopping around for the most cost-effective auto insurance. If you have kids in school, joining a carpool can save you money on gas, he adds. Dr. Peters says that while paying for regular car maintenance may seem like an unnecessary expense, prioritizing it can actually save you money.

“It’s not fun, but regular car maintenance will save a family from unexpected and costly repair bills in the future and keep the car on the road longer,” she explains.

Grocery Shop Smartly

A huge amount of your budget will go toward feeding your family, so having a smart shopping strategy can really help you save money. It’s all about being prepared beforehand, says Sexton.

He says that you should always go to the grocery store with a written list and a budget that you plan to stick to. When shopping, stay away from prepared foods (salad kits, pre-chopped onions) as those often are sold at marked-up prices. Find out when stores have sales, and go shopping during those times.

Shopping in bulk can be helpful, especially when it comes to items you use regularly, like toilet paper and household cleaning products, says Sexton. But Dr. Peters says that sometimes big-box stores will sell extra that you don’t need, so you should be discerning about any bulk purchases you make.

Meal Planning

Dining out can be fun, but the cost really adds up, especially when you do it frequently. When you are dining out with a large family, you can expect to end up with a pretty steep bill. “It’s almost always cheaper to cook at home than it is to eat at restaurants, so dining in is typically the healthiest choice for your wallet,” says Myers.

Even when eating your meals at home, there are ways to cut corners, Myers says. Enter meal planning. Mapping out your meals for the week before you head out to the grocery store will save you money. It also decreases the likelihood of impulse purchases. Moreover, says Myers, planning ahead increases the likelihood that you’ll cook enough to have leftovers, which can decrease the number of times you consider ordering takeout.

Hand-Me-Downs Are the Way To Go

Saving your kids’ clothes for hand-me-downs is a must when you have a large family. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your kids outgrow their clothes, and with a few exceptions, most clothes will hold up well and can be reused from one kid to another. This will save you tons of money—and it’s good for the earth too.

But it’s not just clothing that can be reused. Dr. Peters shared that she’s from a large family and that her mother used to be creative when it came to hand-me-down toys. She recalls that her mom used to ask her older siblings to go through their toys about three months before her birthday. Her mom would hide the toys for a bit, and then wrap them up for her birthday.

“It allowed her to give me four birthday presents to open when she only had to go out and purchase one or two,” Dr. Peters shared. “I still got something new, but also something new to me."

Vacations On a Budget

Vacations might seem to be off-limits when traveling with a large family. Just the airfare alone can be a budget-breaker. But if traveling is a priority to you, you can find ways to make it work. Setting aside money each month in a travel fund can help, for starters.

Sexton shared some other tips for making vacations work. First, consider opting for a local destination that you can drive to, as driving is more economical than air travel. If you do want to fly, consider flying during the off-season, when airfare prices are lower.

In terms of where to stay, renting a house through a service like Airbnb or VRBO is usually more economical than staying at a hotel, where you might have to reserve multiple rooms. If you prefer to stay at a hotel, Sexton says, consider booking hotels with credit card points. “I’ve had clients that have booked hotel rooms for entire vacations just with their credit card points,” he offered.

Look for Low-Cost Activities

Signing your children up for classes or taking them to play places can be costly, especially when you have multiple kids. But you can keep your kids engaged and entertained with lower-cost options: You just have to be a little inventive and do some local research, says Dr. Peters.

“Almost every large city and small town have free activities that are targeted at families that are underutilized,” Dr. Peters says. She suggests signing up to receive information from local parks and recreation centers about their activities, most of which are free or low cost.

Create Your Own Homegrown Magic 

With a little planning, you can also create fun and magical activities at home for your kids. But some of it happens organically, simply because of the size of your family. “Large families are lucky, they have built-in entertainment in each other,” says Dr. Peters.

But you can also create free, at-home fun. And sometimes this can end up being downright magical. For example, says Dr. Peters, instead of going out to the movies, you can pop some popcorn and download a new movie at home. Getting a few neighborhood families together to play ball at a local park can be a lot of fun, and cheaper than a day at an MLB stadium, she adds.

A Word From Verywell

It’s true that figuring out how to get by financially while you have multiple mouths to feed and bodies to clothe can feel overwhelming. But you shouldn’t let it stop you from fulfilling your dreams of having a large family.

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.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pew Research Center. Middle children have become rarer, but a growing share of Americans now say three or more kids are ‘ideal’.

  2. Pew Research Center. Americans’ ideal family size is smaller than it used to be.

  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture. The cost of raising a child.

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.