What a Budget For a Family of 8 Looks Like

by J. Money - Last updated March 31, 2015

dan miller & family budgeters

[Look! A post about budgeting! When was the last time we talked about *that* here on this blog, haha.. I should rename this site HustlingIsSexy.com ;) But what I lack in budgeting posts, my man Dan Miller more than makes up for today with his own sharing of budgetary skills. If that guy can do it WITH 6 KIDS we should all be able to do it!]

Hey there everyone! My name is Dan Miller and I run the travel blog Points With a Crew. J. Money asked me to spend a little bit of time talking about what a budget for a family of 8 looks like, so I thought I would break it down on a monthly basis for you.

To set the story, our family of 8 is my wife and I and our 6 kids – 3 boys and 3 girls (and yes – they ARE all mine!). It looks like this:

  • Wife
  • Self
  • 14 y/o
  • 12 y/o
  • 10 y/o
  • 8 y/o
  • 6 y/o
  • 2 y/o

We spend about $5,000 / month which includes everything except for taxes and savings.

Our Bills

Bills are bills, ya know?  I read once (and continue to perpetuate this saying to everyone I know, even though I can find no source to back me up) that no matter how many kids you have, nor how much money you make, you will spend about 25-30% of your income on your kids.

Our Mortgage

My mortgage runs about $2,000 / month including taxes and interest, for a ~2,000 square foot house in a nice suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio.  Cincinnati is a pretty cheap real estate market, and I’m sure if I had no kids I could make do with a smaller house.  Of course, if I had no kids, I’d probably be paying more for a swank loft in a hip urban area :-).

Our Utilities

I’d imagine my energy and water bills are higher than they would be if I had fewer kids, but probably not by THAT much.  We’re at around ~$350-400 / month combined for those.  We don’t have cable (barely watch TV), though we do spend $8 / month on Netflix.  We gave up our regular landline phone in 2013, but do have an Ooma device ($4 / month) mostly so that if my wife and I are out of the house that the kids would have a way to contact us in emergencies.

For cell phones, we use Selectel (a reseller of Verizon).  We paid ~$100 each for our phones (I have an Android Moto G and my wife has a used iPhone 4).  We have a plan that costs $75 but is good for a year and has 2,000 minutes and 2,000 texts.  It took me 8 months to use that plan and my wife went the whole year without reaching that.  So that averages about $20 / month for the 2 of us.  We have an emergency data plan that we can use in scenarios like if we’re out driving and get lost and need to know where to go, but generally we keep the data off on our phones.  Realistically we spend at least 80-90% of our time in places that have free wi-fi (home, work, library, church, etc.)

Our Insurance

I get medical, dental and vision insurance through work which costs me about $200 / month.  I choose the high deductible plan and also contribute another $100 or so / month to a health savings account.  Because we’re a single income family, I think life insurance is even more important.  We have about $1.5 million on me and $750K on my wife, which costs us around $102 / month. We also have disability insurance, and an umbrella policy in addition to the standard home and auto insurance – that adds another $400-500/ month to the bill.

The Food!

As you can imagine, food for a family of 8 can get pretty expensive.  This is probably the one area of our family budget that I feel like we have the least control of.  Especially as our kids are getting older and into teenager-hood, it’s been hard to put a real cap on our grocery budget.

WILL SOMEONE STOP THESE KIDS FROM EATING SO MUCH?!?!!?

About 10 years ago, I was one of those “Extreme Couponers” of the sort that you now see on TLC (back before it was cool!) and that was a lot of work but pretty lucrative. In 2004, I ended up with a yearly grocery bill that was negative, once you factored in coupons, rebates and reselling.  We don’t really do that as much now (too much time, and the rules have changed to make it a lot harder with no double coupons where I live), but we still try to keep things on the cheap – our monthly food budget is about $600-700.

[Here’s Dan’s follow up post on how his family eats on less than $1.00/meal]

Now, I should probably point out that I WORK FOR A GROCERY STORE, so I get 10% off on store-brand products (talk about a timely employee perk!), though that doesn’t really add up to THAT much.  We do buy things in bulk (for example, we go through at least a 5lb bag of cheese every week), and stock up when things are on sale.  My wife is a vegetarian so we don’t buy much meat, which helps keep prices down.

Travel / Vacations

This is one area where we have started really doing a lot more, and is the focus of my travel blog.  3 years ago, when I realized that the 2014 version of our family reunion was going to be across the country at Lake Tahoe, I knew that 8 cross-country plane tickets were not going to be cheap.  I had had a little bit of exposure to the “travel hacking” game, which generally means signing up for lots of credit cards to get the signup bonuses.  It does take a bit of time to keep things straight and make sure you make all the payments (paying interest on credit cards is pretty dumb, right!?!), but it has been pretty lucrative for us.

points with a crew

We used 170,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points (that we got pretty much for free through signup bonuses) to buy those 8 plane tickets from Cincinnati to Nevada for our 2014 family vacation.  We also used miles and points for my wife and I to go to Miami for a getaway weekend back in November 2013, and we have another getaway trip planned for later this month.  I’d say we’ve traveled more as a family in the past year or two that we’ve been travel hacking than we did in the past 15 years.

We have also used airline miles to barter for babysitting – we paid someone 25,000 miles to watch our kids for a weekend, and we are bartering miles again for babysitting for this upcoming trip.

If you’re interested in how to get started on travel hacking, you can check out my Beginner’s Guide to Travel Hacking, or follow me on Twitter – I’m happy to help folks in any way I can.

Auto

We have an 8 passenger minivan (Chevy Venture) and a Honda Civic.  Both are paid off and were purchased used without a car loan.  We bought our (8 passenger, natch) minivan a few years ago and paid cash (about $7,000).  As for my car, the story of how I wrecked my old 1998 Honda Civic and ended up getting a car that was 8 years newer and with 60,000 fewer miles for about $1,000 out of pocket is a great one, and worth telling, but I’ll have to save that for another time :-D

Childcare

For families with kids (especially younger kids), childcare is one of the most expensive parts of the budget, especially if both parents work outside the home.  One nice thing working for us, is that the more kids you have, the cheaper childcare becomes.  That’s because once you get into 3+ kids, daycare becomes prohibitively expensive and the economics of having one parent stay at home becomes a lot more attractive.

[Note to editor: Have more kids!!]

The choice of whether both parents work or not is one that needs to be made at the individual family level, and the discussion is fraught with landmines, but it’s one that has really worked out for us.

two incomes still broke

I read a book a few years ago called Two Incomes and Still Broke?: It’s Not How Much You Make, but How Much You Keep. The book was (officially) neutral on the idea of whether or not both parents worked, but it was an interesting read on some of the hidden costs of having both parents work outside the home that people don’t often consider (like new work clothes, lunches, increased grocery bills, etc).

Charitable giving / Taxes

We’re Mormon (explains the 6 kids, right? :-D), so we give 10% of our income as tithing to our church, as well as other giving.  I decided to lump that into the “taxes” section, since it’s another reason that we don’t pay much in the way of federal income taxes.

Up until this past year, when I took a new job that paid me a lot more than I used to be getting, we were one of “those” people that just “mooched” off the government.  Now in our particular case, I think that between the other kinds of taxes (state, local, sales, property, etc.) I’m sure we ended up paying some taxes, but as far as federal income taxes, between having 6 kids (in addition to 8 exemptions, we get $6,000 in Child Tax Credit), paying 10%+ to charity, and a mortgage in the early stages of life (so lots of tax-deductible interest), our tax bill would generally be negative and thanks to what is called the “Additional Child Tax Credit”, we would get all the money that we put in back, plus some.  With my recent increased income, we do actually (gasp!) pay federal income taxes now, but I’m sure it’s a much lower percentage than many others.

I don’t make the tax rules, and I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, but I just put the numbers in the boxes that they tell me, ya know? :-D

Savings / College

“How are you going to put 6 kids through college?!?!”

I have to say that’s up there in the list of things that people say to me, along with “You must have your hands full!” :-).  Frankly, I’m not that worried about college and we have prioritized savings for our retirement over savings for our kids‘ college.

While I do think that for many professions, a college degree is a good thing if not mandatory, I do think that there is something “broken” about the current college system where kids just go off to college at 18 without any clue as to what they want to do just because it’s “the thing to do”, which just leads to a sense of entitlement and/or a lack of purpose.  When someone else is paying your bills, you generally are less invested in making progress towards a degree (I think we’ve all heard those stories, right?) Also, having 6 kids does mean that our “Expected Family Contribution” (a component of the FAFSA that determines how many grants/loans your children get) will be lower than for someone with fewer children.

Another thing about being Mormon is that in addition to saving for college, many of our kids will choose to take 2 years to serve as missionaries, which will be about $400-500 / month for 2 years.  On the flip side, admission to BYU (a fairly well-respected university owned by the Mormon church) is only $4,850 / year for Mormons.

To share my example (I graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in Computer Engineering in 2000) – due to doing well in high school, I earned a full-tuition scholarship, as well as enough Advanced Placement credits to test out of about a year’s worth of classes.  UC’s College of Engineering has a very successful co-op program (they actually invented it back in 1906!), so you would go to school for a quarter, and then work for a quarter (I worked at Procter and Gamble for 3 quarters).  In addition to tons of meaningful work experience, I made enough money to be able to pay for my living expenses for that quarter and the upcoming school quarter.

sugar mamas

Of course, another helpful thing about halfway through school I got myself a “Sugar Mama” (aka I got married :-D ), and my wife worked as a nanny to help pay the bills while I was finishing up school.

Anyways, I am not necessarily expecting all of my kids to follow that exact path, but I share it as an example that you don’t just HAVE TO sock away $30K per kid-year as your kid‘s God-given “college fund”.  For each of my kids that wants to go to college and has a plan for how that’s going to help them in their life, we will make sure that it happens, but it’s also going to take work on their part.

Retirement / Other Income

Like I said when talking about college, we have decided to prioritize our own retirement savings over college funds.  My wife and I both have IRAs, and we contribute up to the match on our 401k.  With my recent change in job, I have just now become eligible for my employer’s 401k match after being employed for a year – they match 100% of the first 3% contributed and 50% of the next 2%, so we contribute 5% to get that free money.

For most of my adult life, my effective tax rate (see Taxes section above) has been 0%, so it didn’t make sense to contribute more to 401ks – instead, we put money into a Roth IRA.  Pay the taxes now, at the 0% rate, and then withdraw it when I’m old and banking beaucoup bucks!

A lot of our other savings income goes towards our real estate business.  We have 3 rental houses that we rent out.  I would say that we are not currently making a ton of money on those (especially given the time we spend), but in “30 years” when the mortgages are all paid off, we’ll be swimming through our tower of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck!  Or… something like that :-D

We currently are paying down a business line of credit that we used to buy one of the houses, to the tune of about $2,000 / month.  Once that is paid down, we will probably look into buying another rental in the next year or two, as well as re-purposing some of that $2,000 / month into other avenues.

For purposes of diversification, we have also started converting some of our term life insurance into whole life insurance.

Entertainment / Kids activities

We do these on the cheap as well.  We do have my oldest daughter take piano lessons ($90 / month) and my 2 older boys do Boy Scouts, but that’s about cost-neutral (via fundraising).  We budget $40 / month for “Entertainment”, and we don’t even use that most months.  There are lots of things that you can do for family fun that is free or low cost.  We loaded up on gift cards during American Express Small Business Saturday when they were offering business credits for buying things at local businesses, and have been using those to go for ice cream or a trip to the local movie theater.

We also will just go to the mall and walk around, or hang out at the bookstore or library, or just spend time at the house.

Wrapping it up

Finishing things up, I hope that this gives you guys an idea of what the budget for a family of 8 looks like.  We made the choice to have 6 kids, and when we did, we knew that it would mean that some of our other choices in life might be limited.

But I don’t feel deprived in any way, and I don’t feel like any of our children feels that way either.  We have a lot of fun, but we do it in a cheap-o kind of way.  And one advantage of that is because they haven’t been “spoiled” to expect some of the things that their peers might have, they don’t feel deprived without them.

Happy to answer any questions in the comments!

—————-
Dan Miller runs the travel blog Points With a Crew which focuses on helping families (especially larger families) travel for free / cheap using airline miles and points. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook or via email at: dan at pointswithacrew.com

Jay loves talking about money, experimenting, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his two beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!

{ 91 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way February 27, 2015 at 5:36 am

Hey, Dan, thanks a lot for sharing your story here and you really inspire me! I only have one daughter and I always tell her that we should not waste our money because we don’t have too much. Thankfully, she understands it even at the young age and she even started saving.

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2 Dan @ Points With a Crew February 27, 2015 at 7:48 am

Thanks! I like to say that a budget is not supposed to be something that holds you back but instead a tool that helps you NOT spend money on things that aren’t as important to you so that you still have money left to spend on the things that ARE important to you

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3 Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog February 27, 2015 at 11:51 am

That’s a great point, Dan! A budget frees us to spend money on the important things, instead of making impulse decisions and not realizing how much we blow on ridiculous things.

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4 Emma | Money Can Buy Me Happiness February 27, 2015 at 6:44 am

Interesting budget Dan. Love that you can use points for such a large family. It’s refreshing to read that you don’t focus so heavily on the college fund. My husband is a tradesman in a niche trade but he earns so much more than me (the degree holder) plus he was paid while he trained so he has no student debt. There are alternatives out there. We are personally saving to buy our son his first rental property when he turns 18 rather than saving for him to go to university. If he decided he wants a degree, he can get a student loan – as they are interest free for life in New Zealand (where we live).

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5 Dan @ Points With a Crew February 27, 2015 at 7:53 am

Definitely! College can be a useful tool and like I said in the article, any of my kids that want to go to college as part of a plan for their future, we will help to make it happen. But I think that one of the best gifts you can give is NOT a college fun but making sure that your OWN retirement is secure.

Because if it’s not, guess who’s going to have to pick up the bill and disrupt their lives (your kids)

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6 J. Money February 27, 2015 at 3:15 pm

What a great idea, Emma!!! That’s so life changing for a person cuz you’ll learn (and earn!) so much!!

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7 Emma | Money Can Buy Me Happiness March 1, 2015 at 4:56 am

I hope so J. I figure he’ll be around it as he grows up as we heavily invest in property so by the time he can get a mortgage (secured by us, no doubt) he should know a lot about how it works. Other than the deposit we won’t put anything else in so he will have to manage cashflow and expenses. We’ll be there for support of course but I figure being thrown in at the deep end is the bets way to learn.

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8 Emma | Money Can Buy Me Happiness March 1, 2015 at 4:52 am

So right Dan, I’d hate to think that my kids would have to pay for me to live in a retirement home because we didn’t have our own funds sorted.

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9 Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life February 27, 2015 at 7:25 am

My parents had five kids which I think is the main reasons they’re still working non-stop while all their friends have retired. I think I’ll go the route of one or two. I’m too selfish :)

I had no idea BYU was so affordable. It’s such a beautiful campus there.

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10 Dan @ Points With a Crew February 27, 2015 at 7:56 am

Hey – that’s cool! Family size is definitely something that’s up to what works for your individual family.

I believe tuition for non-Mormons is more expensive (because the tithing that members of the church pay subsidizes the cost), but IIRC it is still significantly below the average tuition for college.

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11 Mrs. Frugalwoods February 27, 2015 at 7:39 am

Wow–that’s a fantastic budget! I am super impressed! I’m a huge advocate of the idea that anything can be done frugally and I think it’s wonderful to see how you’re managing a large family frugally. Truly inspiring! Also, that BYU tuition is incredible!

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12 Dan @ Points With a Crew February 27, 2015 at 7:58 am

Yeah – I think that being cheap / frugal is a mindset and isn’t as relevant to how much money you actually make or your family size.

Having a large family was a choice we made and I do understand that this may limit some of our other choices in life, but that was what we wanted for a family and so we were okay with those tradeoffs

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13 Jon @ Money Smart Guides February 27, 2015 at 7:52 am

I agree with the college point. I think we push kids too much towards “you have to go to college to get a good job”. While in many cases this is true, a bunch of my friends went to trade school and became mechanics or plumbers and are making serious money.

My wife and I talked about paying for our kids college and we agreed we would help out, but they were taking out student loans. We both had some help but also had loans. As much as they sucked, it made us more aware of how the world works and make us more responsible in the end.

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14 Dan @ Points With a Crew February 27, 2015 at 8:01 am

Totally agree! I’m not even saying that trade school is better than college necessary, but there are other alternatives than just send the kids off to a 4 yr school when they have no idea what they’re doing. We homeschool our older kids and plan to integrate college classes either online or at a community college into our plans when it makes sense when they get a little older

I do think that there is something to be said for the college “experience” and learning how to live on your own and grow up, but I think if my kids want to try that, they can figure it out on their own dime, ya know? :-P

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15 Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog February 27, 2015 at 11:53 am

Exactly, Jon! Too many people think college is a “must”. For some, it’s great, but for others, it doesn’t even make sense…and like you said, some people do better and earn more through going to a trade school.

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16 J. Money February 27, 2015 at 3:19 pm

I was raised (and forced) to go to college myself which I know will pay dividends forever, however now that I’m getting into more entrepreneurial things I’m def. going to instill a love (hopefully!) of that in my kids their entire lives :)

And will then try and force them into college afterwards unless their companies are exploding by that time – hah. The nice thing about degrees is that you can use them forever and no one can ever take away from you.

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17 superbien August 8, 2016 at 7:42 am

I think about this a lot, and have come to the realization that in most carers, success has to do with education (formal or informal – learning to think and analyze, how to learn, and how to find best practices in a field), competence at desired skills, and ability to get along well with others on some level. ‘White collar’, ‘blue collar’, whatever, you need those 3 things.

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18 J. Money August 8, 2016 at 10:30 am

Also passion! The more your heart’s in it the higher you’ll always go.

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19 Shafi February 27, 2015 at 8:03 am

That’s a very detailed budget.

The problem is more and more folks are setting up budget but they don’t stick with it. Many lose tracking after a month or perhaps two months. Following your budget is an important – extremely important – aspect of budgeting. Setting up is easy but following it for years to come is pretty hard.

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20 Laurie @thefrugalfarmer February 27, 2015 at 8:06 am

Your budget looks great, Dan! Your monthly food cost really isn’t that much compared to most Americans. John over at Frugal Rules shared an infographic on that once. We have four kids, and we spend about $400-$500 a month on food, so I think you’re doing pretty good. Thanks for sharing!

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21 Jennifer February 27, 2015 at 8:17 am

I agree that kids don’t automatically need to go to college while mom & dad foot the entire bill. My parents helped me out with mine by taking out parent loans which I regret very much as an adult since my own are now paid off but theirs are not. My husband’s family paid for his whole schooling at an in-state school but only after he had already earned his AA in high school and could finish university quickly. We want to prioritize our own savings and retirement over education funds for our kids like you. We do have small accounts, our boys are two and under one and we will keep adding more over time. But I plan to save what we can, tell them how much we have for each (whether it helps or covers the whole cost in time) and let them choose their own way even if it means they choose a low cost school or choose to apply for scholarships or work to cover additional expenses.

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22 Duncan Macleod of the Clan Macleod February 27, 2015 at 8:22 am

I like the budget but you are scaring me playing with these credit cards and mortgaged rental properties. I also am not so worried about kids’ college as I know it can be cash flowed with careful planning. Thanks for sharing.

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23 Amanda S @ Passionately Simple Life February 27, 2015 at 8:49 am

Great post! There are so many people out there who say big families aren’t possible financially but you have really made it work! That food budget is amazing as well considering that ours can come close to $500 a month for the two of us!

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24 J. Money February 27, 2015 at 3:28 pm

I know, right??? haha…

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25 John @ Frugal Rules February 27, 2015 at 9:15 am

Excellent post Dan! We have three little ones in our family and often get strange looks as to how we’re able to keep costs down – so much of it is in the choices you make. We have a grocery budget of $475/month but we have extra leftover every month so I think we’re doing pretty good with that and still manage to eat well.

I love how you’re using points for a large family. We’ve run into a few roadblocks ourselves with that, but have managed to make it work for everything we want.

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26 Chris @ Flipping A Dollar February 27, 2015 at 9:50 am

My two “go-to” stereotypes for Mormons… “has a lot of kids” and really down to earth. You seem to fit the bill. I’m not a Mormon, but I’ve never met one who I couldn’t get along with.

Thanks for sharing your numbers. The daycare thing seems to be the largest budget line item after mortgage for any family. Another good read that talks about the real costs associated with work (regardless of daycare, although that can be included) is Your Money or Your Life. The investment info is a little outdated but man do the calcs really hit you in the gut. Takes it from “I make $40/hour” to “I make $20/hour.”

When we have our second child, we’ll have to take a harder look at our daycare costs. The hard part is that I make too much money right now!

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27 J. Money February 27, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Interestingly enough all my best friends through high school were Mormon :) All very nice (and super smart).

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28 Dan @ PointsWithACrew February 27, 2015 at 4:08 pm

More good stereotypes!!! :-D

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29 cyndi dodson February 27, 2015 at 10:07 am

loved everything you said except the whole life part, whole life is way more expensive, you pay part for the insurance and part for an investment with a horrible return which they keep when you die. just get the term amount you need and no more and invest the rest in a taxable mutual account and your family gets that when you die, or you use it before then

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30 amy April 6, 2015 at 10:48 pm

Agree! Term life is the way to go and you are well covered. Whole life is a ridiculous waste of your hard earned money!!

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31 [email protected] February 27, 2015 at 10:36 am

I’m not Mormon, but live in an area with a pretty heavy LDS presence, and I work with another optometrist who is Mormon. I am very impressed with the number of professionals and business owners who are Mormon. I actually asked my partner doc if they teach being business savvy as part of the faith. His reply was that they encourage and expect you to be self sufficient, and it certainly seems to be working, at least in our area. I think lots of people with or without multiple kids could use a lesson in financial responsibility! Thanks for sharing your budget.

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32 Dan @ PointsWithACrew February 27, 2015 at 10:57 am

@Shafi – yeah sticking to the budget can be difficult. I would definitely agree that it’s been harder for me to stick to things the more it goes on. Just like anything, regular review is good!

@Laurie – I know – our food budget is still pretty low, but the thing that is difficult for me is the feeling of a lack of control on it. It’s the one area that I don’t feel like I have a good handle on

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33 Dan @ PointsWithACrew February 27, 2015 at 11:04 am

@Jennifer – that sounds like a pretty good college plan! I just think many people are under the impression that if they don’t pay for all of their kid’s college (at whatever college he/she wants!) then they’re bad parents. I disagree

@Duncan / Clan Macleod – It is definitely true that it takes a solid grasp of both of those things to stay on top of things

@Amanda S – Yup – in the end it all comes down to choices and sacrifices. There are definitely things that I do or don’t do because of my large family size that other people don’t have to worry about. In the end, no matter your family size or your income, you’re going to spend about 25-30% of your income on your kids

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34 Dan @ PointsWithACrew February 27, 2015 at 11:06 am

John @ Frugal Rules – The miles and points game can be a fun one. The important part is to take it slow and only do what you’re comfortable with. As another commenter pointed out, you are playing with fire in a little bit, so you want to make sure to keep on top of things

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35 Sarah L February 27, 2015 at 11:16 am

Great article. Glad to see this featured on budgetsaresexy. I will be clicking over and reading your blog as well. My husband and I both came from large families and understand well the virtues of kids growing up un-entitled, and knowing the value of work. My mom and dad have seven kids (I’m oldest), mom stayed at home, and they achieved financial independence/early retirement at 50 because they always saved at a rate near 50% of take home income. We didn’t have designer clothes, we had well maintained used cars, and we didn’t live in the trendy part of town. We did however have a very safe privileged upbringing where we our needs were always met, academics and music lessons were top priority, and we played outdoors daily. Good stuff.

Side note – may I email you Dan? I’ll look for contact info via your blog. We are moving to Cincinatti this summer for a post doc fellowship and I’m looking for info on affordable renting in the area as well as good school districts, fun wards etc :)

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36 Dan @ PointsWithACrew February 27, 2015 at 1:20 pm

@Sarah – happy to help you with moving here. My contact info is at the bottom of this post or over on my blog as well. I am the go-to guy in my ward for info like that so I’ve got lots of good info to share

First step for you before moving here – figure out a good way to remember how to spell Cincinnati :-D.

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37 J. Money February 27, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Wow your parents are financial pimps!! That’s awesome, Sarah!

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38 Sarah L February 27, 2015 at 5:15 pm

yeah they really are. Very inspiring/intimidating example to follow :)

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39 Sarah L February 27, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Haha how embarrassing. Well now that I’ve botched the spelling here, I think I’ll be motivated to get it right from now on! Thanks for being willing to help!

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40 Ben Luthi February 27, 2015 at 11:49 am

As soon as I saw the title, I thought, “Gotta be a fellow Mormon” haha! Glad to see you guys are doing so well with a large clan. I grew up with four siblings and my parents really struggled to keep the finances under control sometimes. I ended up paying my own way for college, so it’s a good thing I had BYU!

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41 Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog February 27, 2015 at 11:49 am

We have a family of 6 and spend less than $400/month on groceries, but considering that our children are getting older, we may soon be going over the $400 mark. Plus you have 2 more kids lol, so it seems like your food budget is about like ours.

And I agree about college, it’s not mandatory, nor is it our responsibility as parents to pay for it. My wife and I do some saving for it, but they will still have to work for the rest or get scholarships. I think if we pay for it all, the kids are less likely to be fully invested mentally, since they aren’t invested financially. It’s just like how we tend to treat things that we pay for differently than things we get for free.

You guys are doing great; keep it up!

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42 J. Money February 27, 2015 at 3:31 pm

I didn’t know you had 4 kids??? Wow!

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43 Kayla @ Everything Finance February 27, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Thanks for sharing you budget with us. It always interests me to see how different people in different geographic areas and with different sizes of families budget.

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44 Kim @ Money Under the Cushions February 27, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Dan, thanks for sharing your story. As a former college VP I wholeheartedly agree that the system is broken. I have counseled many people on how to get through college without taking loans, and without taking four years or more to do it. I was also glad to hear that you and your wife make a point to travel and have couple time!

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45 Dan @ PointsWithACrew February 27, 2015 at 1:17 pm

@Chris / @Kim – Glad I could help perpetuate some of the “good” Mormon stereotypes :-D. I agree with what your friend said – there is a lot of church teachings about being self-reliant, and also not going into debt and saving for a rainy day. I think also that because many Mormons grew up in large families they have firsthand experience with how a large family can still work financially

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46 Dan @ PointsWithACrew February 27, 2015 at 1:24 pm

@Kalen – yes, our grocery budget has definitely gone up as the kids have gotten older. I think though too that we’ve gotten a little “lazy” (if that’s the right word) about trying to stick to the set amount for groceries specifically

The counterpoint to that is that me micromanaging the amount of money we budget for food was causing friction in our family so I’ve tried not to make it into a big deal if we occasionally go overbudget there – as others have pointed out, we’re still well below average for a grocery budget for a family of our size

@Kim – it’s somewhat shocking when I tell people that I have saved very little for my kids college, but when I take the time to explain my views (like I did in this post), I think it makes sense!

@Cyndi – I hear your points about whole life insurance and there is definitely something to that. I do believe that it has a place in an overall financial strategy, but I know other people feel differently

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47 Tawcan February 27, 2015 at 1:57 pm

It’s very interesting to see what the budget is like for a family of 8. I sure can learn a few things from you when it comes to budgeting. Thanks for sharing.

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48 Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom February 27, 2015 at 2:10 pm

I loved your budget, thanks for sharing. It’s so neat to get an insight into a larger family’s finances (we’re just three). It was an interesting point that we all end up spendin the same % of income on our kids. We definitely don’t spend 25% of our income on our daughter, but she’s still small and pretty cheap so far! It’s awesome that a family of 8 can live on $5,000 a month so well!

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49 Dan @ PointsWithACrew February 27, 2015 at 2:53 pm

@Emily – I think a lot of it is a mindset. Actually one of the hardest things for me is that I’ve spent my whole life being “poor” (and by poor I don’t mean anywhere close to poor – but just not having a lot of spare money) that now that I make a little bit more trying to realize that while it’s still important to be financially wise, I might not have to sweat EVERY SINGLE PENNY… :-)

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50 GoGo February 27, 2015 at 2:55 pm

After all this, it’s a wonder you can still afford to travel.

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51 EL February 27, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Thanks for sharing your story and budget. With proper planning any salary can be stretched to the max, as you just proved. Granted you get help and you pay very little taxes, but it’s still a good accomplishment. (Plus you’re saving and not making excuses) I also read somewhere that one college kids pay for school themselves they take do school work with greater diligence.

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52 Amy February 27, 2015 at 6:13 pm

I have a family of three, so this was a particularly interesting read. Thank you for being so open and sharing!

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53 Shannon @ Financially Blonde February 27, 2015 at 6:34 pm

I really tip my hat to you and your wife. We have one child and he is all that we can handle in our lives. I can’t imagine what the noise level is like in your home around dinnertime. Speaking of, I am really impressed with your food budget. I have clients with only 4-5 people in their home who spend more money than you do on food. As far as your choice to not focus on college savings, I see your side of the argument and there are plenty of others like you. I personally think that the cost of higher education is out of control and for most schools/programs, you do not get a good return on your investment and I secretly pray my son will want to go to trade school and become an electrician. That being said, my hubby and I both had college paid for by our parents and the fact that we graduated student loan debt free gave us the opportunity to not only build our own wealth right after college but to have the flexibility to pursue careers that we wanted to not out of financial necessity but out of passion. My husband has been a teacher for 15+ years and he could not have accepted his first year starting salary if he had student loan debt, as it was he barely made enough money to pay his rent. We want our son to have this same flexibility and leg up on his financial life that we had. If it means a delayed retirement for us, we are comfortable with that.

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54 Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget February 27, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Always love a good budget breakdown, especially from a fellow Mormon. Fist bump, Dan. For our kids’ college savings, we’re putting away enough for the first two years of BYU tuition for each child. If they want to attend elsewhere, no problem, but they’ll get a lot more bang for their buck at BYU. How’s that for parental manipulation? :)

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55 J. Money February 27, 2015 at 9:49 pm

That’s a good one :) Reminds me of my parents who said they’d help pay for any in-state schools but if I went outside I’d be in charge of paying my loans… You can guess which I picked :)

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56 Dan @ Points With a Crew February 27, 2015 at 9:11 pm

@Shannon – I definitely agree with your thoughts re: College. I guess I’d just say that we are keeping an open mind on it and will tailor responses individually to each kid. Of course all our kids are different so we’ll have to see what makes sense for each of them. Then we’ll just have to pick which one(s) we love the most, and only help them :-P

@Johnny – I love it. I actually was kind of biased against BYU at first, because I saw (and still see) it as somewhat frustrating that many teens go “off to Utah” for school, leaving not as many folks for the “rest of us” out here (I went to school here in Ohio).

But that tuition price sure looks attractive…. :-D

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57 Mel February 27, 2015 at 11:00 pm

I definitely grew up in a house where we didn’t do “expensive” things or have stuff like cable or video games, and since we never had them, we don’t even really care about them now. It was definitely a treat to visit a friend’s house who had them growing up, but now as an adult, I’m glad it doesn’t even occur to me that I need those things.

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58 Felix Money @ mymoneyfesto.com February 27, 2015 at 11:34 pm

The fact that you only spend $50,000/year for 8 people is very inspiring, we are planning to have a baby maybe next year, and am afraid by how much our expenses will go up. If we could fit 2 kids within a $50,000/yr budget, I’d be very happy. I am hopeful now :)

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59 J. Money February 28, 2015 at 3:40 pm

You won’t want to check out my Baby Costs Tracker then I did for over two years when our first born came out ;)

http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/2014/03/how-much-babies-cost/

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60 laurenkri February 28, 2015 at 4:39 am

Hi Dan, great post! I was wondering who you get life insurance through? We have been shopping around and that seems like an exceptionally good premium.

Also, since this is my first comment I will add a hi to jmoney, I really appreciate your blog.

And someone above mentioned that BYU was possibly much more expensive if you are not Mormon. It’s double the Mormon tuition, so still affordable comparatively… I had a few non Mormon friends who went there and all cited low cost + safe environment as their reason for coming.

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61 J. Money February 28, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Thanks for stopping by and commenting :)

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62 Dan @ Points With a Crew February 28, 2015 at 7:27 am

@Mel – I think that is the key and a good lesson for new parents. If you never have some of those extra (unnecessary) things, then you don’t feel deprived about it. For example, growing up Mormon, one of our house rules was no TV or friends over on Sundays. I remember specifically one of my non-Mormon friends asking me how I could possibly do that and how they’d never be able to make it. My response was just that that was how it had always been so it wasn’t a big deal

@Felix Money – you can do it! One rule of thumb I like to use is instead of starting at where you’re at and then figuring out what to “cut” – start at 0 and only spend money on what you really feel you need. It’s a lot easier than going the other way!

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63 Annahannah February 28, 2015 at 8:43 am

wow, That Dan Miller is amazing! He must have been brought up well. Seriously, I have always been proud of him and his choices. I admire his frugality to make his choice of a large family work financially.

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64 Dan @ PointsWithACrew March 1, 2015 at 2:42 pm

LOL – you know you’re in the big time when your mom posts!!! :-D

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65 J. Money March 2, 2015 at 10:37 pm

Haha…. Yeah mom!!

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66 Kelly February 28, 2015 at 10:53 am

Great post! I’m a mom of 4. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the ‘your hands are full’ line I’d be a billionaire! ;) We also have a similar attitude about college. I believe it has merits for the right people, but I don’t think it is for everyone. As one of my kids approaches college age it’s amazing how much that message is drilled into them from school, friends, other family members. We will 100% support him no matter what he wants to do but at this point I think he’s looking at starting his own business instead of going to college.

Now I’m off to read through your blog-I need to do better at travel hacking! We’ve been able to take a few free flights which was a great way to have one on one vacations with our kids, but now I’m hoping to travel to Europe for my 40th in two years so I need to start saving points ASAP. :)

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67 Dan @ PointsWithACrew February 28, 2015 at 12:03 pm

@Kelly – Awesome! If you need help with miles and points, drop me a note – I’m happy to help! You may be interested in the post about how we helped a family of 5 get to Berlin a few months ago

http://www.pointswithacrew.com/reader-request-family-of-5-to-berlin/

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68 Kayla February 28, 2015 at 10:22 pm

Started reading this article and then realized that this is a guy with a horrible rap in the blogging world for stealing and “reurposing” content. It’s a good budgeting post for your blog, but if you are looking to get into travel hacking I strongly suggest finding another blogger to give your traffic and referrals to.

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69 Dan @ PointsWithACrew March 1, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Kayla,

I’m sorry if you’ve heard that about me – I am not aware of any such issues or allegations. I don’t feel that I steal or re-purpose other people’s content without giving proper attribution.

If you have any specific questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to me at dan at pointswithacrew dot com.

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70 Leslie H (tripswithtykes) March 3, 2015 at 8:29 pm

As someone who is very active in the travel hacking world, I’ve never heard that charge levied against Dan. I’ve always known him to be one of the most stand-up nice guys in the frequent flyer community. Perhaps you are confusing him with someone else.

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71 Heather March 1, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Having 4 kids (wanting one more) I ALWAYS get asked “how will you pay for college?!” When I read your post I was like I think that too!!!! In Florida they can get their 2 year for free during high school and then the Bright Future Scholarship pays a lot if not all up to a 4 year degree. So why would I spend my hard earned money if they can go for almost free if they are serious about college? :-) (If they do that I will be happy to help some/pay most)
I always said I would not send my kids to BYU (for many reasons nothing to do with the school) until I saw the cost for Mormons! Yes, please! I told my 15 year old “looks like you are going to BYU for your Masters!” :-)

Thanks for the great post and I will be checking out your blog for ways to travel!

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72 J. Money March 1, 2015 at 9:42 pm

Glad you enjoyed the post Heather! thanks for adding to the conversation :)

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73 How To Save Money March 2, 2015 at 5:02 am

Wow! Good job to both of you. You’re house must be such a riot all the time!

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74 connie kolita March 2, 2015 at 11:46 am

GREAT article, Dan; thx for sharing! I, too, live in Cincinnati. My fave part of your piece was when you talked about how some kids today end up going to college after HS just for the sake of going… “that’s what people are expected to do” … then perform in a really average way while taking on about $10k/yr in student loans… or maybe I just added that second part myself :) . My roommate’s son is at UC now, and has not been real good at getting a job which would help with the student loan debt… like you said, “it’s going to take work on their [the kids’] part” … I feel like the kid HAS to have skin in the game or else they learn nothing about the value of money… or hard work… pulling my hair out over here!, lol… but at least you seem to have it figured out in the areas of your kids’ college plus saving for your own retirement. Great job!

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75 Points With a Crew March 9, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Yeah – I’m not saying that college isn’t important. Certainly in many cases it will be the best decision you make. But…. there certainly are disadvantages to just going after HS just because it’s the thing to do.

Look at people who go “back to college” after they’ve been working awhile. It certainly presents some scheduling and other difficulties, but the focus and commitment that they have is definitely MUCH higher!

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76 Logan Maloy March 3, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Great article Brother Miller. What ward are you in? We’re in Little Miami, Cincinnati East Stake. We only have our two boys so far but have many more ahead of us.

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77 Points With a Crew March 9, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Hey there! We’re in the Cincinnati Ward – but you probably know my wife’s parents who are in Little Miami (the Normans)

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78 Christine @ The Pursuit of Green March 3, 2015 at 2:05 pm

I loved reading this breakdown of a 8 person family budget! It really shows that there is no one way to do things. The part about college is really great. I went through college in the amount of time I was supposed to and was lucky to have a full scholarship. Other people round me were career students though and would just bounce round yr to yr changing majors.

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79 Alyssa March 3, 2015 at 8:48 pm

Really enjoyed the post, thanks for sharing. I’m not married and don’t have kids yet, but that “Two Incomes” book seems really interesting. Thanks for the recommendation.

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80 Points With a Crew March 9, 2015 at 12:48 pm

It really is a great book. The author’s point is that many people look at the 1-income vs. 2-income decision as just calculating extra income, taxes, and childcare, but there are a TON of hidden costs when both spouses work

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81 J March 5, 2015 at 12:23 am

Great Post!!! College tuition can be very expensive and a lot of times has a terrible ROI depending on your school, cost and how marketable your degree is. Just this week I saw BYU MBA was ranked at the top by Business Insider for ROI even beating out schools like Harvard and Stanford.

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82 [email protected] March 7, 2015 at 10:15 am

Awesome post – I feel the same way about college. We have two kids but they’re twins and so would technically be starting college at the same time but I’m pretty relaxed about it. I also agree the system is broken. I’d rather them take a year to work, travel, engage in a unique experience, and figure out what they want to do that way before going to school. Really it’s up to them. They could not go and start a business or do college online and I’d be fine with that too.

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83 Points With a Crew March 9, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Yup. There’s certainly something to be said for 18-20 year olds “figuring out” what they want to do with life, but IMO, they can do it on their own dime :-)

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84 Nick March 10, 2015 at 10:13 pm

How does one eat for an average of $0.95 per meal? I’ve managed my family’s budget for many years and have NEVER ONCE come close to averaging $1/ meal. I’m seriously lost at how it can be done!!? Are you growing your own food?
Cereal, with milk and a banana and a glass of juice is almost $0.95 / serving. I am honestly baffled by how you can spend that little on food.

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85 Dan @ PointsWithACrew March 12, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Look for a followup post on how we handle our grocery budget. Basically, the idea is instead of starting from a budget number and trying to go DOWN, just start at $0 and look at what you NEED (and/or want) to have

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86 J. Money March 31, 2015 at 12:28 pm
87 Janet March 31, 2015 at 1:57 am

Thanks for the post. I’m a fellow Mormon mom with 9 kids (14 down to 7 months) at home and we’re planning a couple big family trips from Idaho to the church history sites like Nauvoo this summer. My cheap travel plans involve a 15 passenger van and a big canvas tent. Our income is about $3900 a month after insurance and taxes and we homeschool as well. My food budget runs a little higher, around $700/month, but our housing costs are less, only about $1300/month. Big families are a ton of fun and a ton of work, but it is possible! I’ll be looking at your blog for some travel hints for our upcoming trip!

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88 J. Money March 31, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Rock on! That’s impressive! :)

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89 Sheila Smith October 14, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Loved this article and would love to see more posts on Large Families. :) We have 5 kids!! Crazy, right?? 2 came through international adoption so we jumped from a family of 5 to a family of 7 overnight and we’re still figuring out this budgeting thing.

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90 J. Money October 19, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Glad you liked! Congrats on such a large family, wow. I bet there’s a lot of love going on over there :)

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91 Anne slater-brooks March 22, 2016 at 3:14 am

Sounds like you have a great attitude towards your kids. I wholeheartedly believe that too many kids in the uk go off to university because they think it’s expected with no idea of what to do. I was one of them but I paid my way through college and it has paid dividends for me. Too many youngsters (at the risk of sounding like an old duffer) expect everything but don’t want to work for it!

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