Guest Post:  Stretching a Single Income for a Family of 9

Guest Post: Stretching a Single Income for a Family of 9

While I’m out of town, Caryn has graciously agreed to write a post for Mom in Management.  I won’t be here, but don’t let that stop you from commenting.  I’m sure Caryn would love it and I will respond to comments when I get back -promise!

By Caryn Haluska

I have to admit to being a little intimidated with the idea of writing here, as I am generally the reader being enlightened, rather than the author doing the enlightening!

Though I was a very busy single mom of 5 working crazy hours not very many years ago, these days I’m a very busy (not single) stay at home mom of 7 ( yes, you read that right) working crazy hours. Though I don’t leave home anymore for work, and I don’t receive a paycheck for the work I do, I cannot imagine a more fulfilling occupation for me at this time.

Stretching a Single Income Budget for a Family of 9

In keeping with the voice of this site, I wanted to touch a little bit on how we make our not so large, single income budget work for our ever so large family – especially with the cost of living and fuel prices sky rocketing.

People approach me all the time through email, twitter, facebook, and my blog, to ask how we do it. Usually I reply somewhat flippantly with something like, “One day at a time, just like everyone else!”   But today, I’ll give you some of the tips I use to make it work.  This is not because I think we have anything figured out better than anyone else, or because we have a money tree in the back yard.   I’m not an expert.  I’ve just learned some things through the years that have really helped stretch those limited budgeting dollars.

Here are a few tips:

  • Clothes: Long before 19 Kids and Counting became a hit, and the Duggars revealed the fact that they shop at thrift stores for all their clothing, we at the Monster House were doing it.   That doesn’t mean my kids are wearing ratty clothes.  I am picky like you’ve never seen picky before.  I will not purchase anything stained, torn, or missing buttons, or jeans with worn knees or seats.  Shopping at thrift stores, I can usually get all the school clothes purchased for 5 school aged children and two toddlers for under $300.   I have learned though, that there are times that the clearance rack at Wal-Mart can beat out thrift store prices, so if I see a cute pair of pants or a shirt for a child under $5, I’ll buy it. Shoes are never purchased second hand because my children wear them out so fast. I would be spending the same money for multiple pairs of used shoes that I would for one pair of good quality sneakers twice a year. You don’t have to have a ridiculously large family like mine to reap the benefits of adopting this practice. However, I caution you to be picky.   Be very, very picky. I refuse to allow my children to dress in clothing that reflects my thrift store shopping habits. No one really wants to wear ripped, stained, ill-fitting, out of style, double knit polyester clothing… do they?
  • Groceries: I obtained a copy of my local grocery store’s buying guide. I discovered I could purchase anything Associated Foods carries, for cost plus 15%.  Because we can go through lots of foods quickly, this is a HUGE discount for us, as opposed to paying shelf price for all our groceries. I have used this method for everything from produce, canned goods, dairy products, meat from the butcher, and frozen items, to paper goods. You will have to talk to your store manager to see if that is something you can do in your area. Establishing a good relationship with your grocer is key. Once you have cultivated that relationship and use it regularly, you’ll find that the grocer will be willing to let you know in advance of upcoming sales and reduced prices.  During the summer, I call in produce case orders once a week, and make organic jams, jellies, and fruit pie fillings for the year. Many large grocery store chains also have case lot sales twice a year which are open to the public. Take advantage of this, and purchase things your family consumes regularly. One caution though, do not buy a case of spam if you hate the stuff just because it is on sale.
  • Gifts: We rarely ever eat out except for birthdays ~ the Daddy will take the birthday child to work with him on a Saturday to choose a gift of their choice within a set budget, and have lunch. This is a special treat that has become a tradition each child savors. It helps to strengthen the relationship between parent and child in ways we never thought of.  We limit the children to $30 for birthdays, and only allow Santa Claus $50 per child at Christmas.
  • Vehicles: I used to own a 1990 GMC Suburban which I absolutely adored. There was room for everyone, the cargo space was ample, and the four wheel drive in the winter time here in Utah was heaven. However, the maintenance for my elderly SUV, and the cost of fuel, and the miles per gallon dictated last year that it was time to let go and get something more cost effective. I sold the Suburban for $500 cash to a neighbor, who wanted to use it for parts. Given the age, and the extent of the work my Suburban needed, it was fair. We then purchased a 2003 Pontiac Montana minivan. Here are the facts, in numbers. Suburban: Seats 9, 40 gallon tank, got 7 MPG city, and 14 MPG freeway. Van: Seats 8, 25 gallon tank, gets 21-ish MPG city, right about 29 MPG freeway. This is important, because we live 45 minutes away from the nearest hospital, Wal-Mart, thrift store, etc. We bought the van for $5000. $2000 was paid in cash, the rest was financed. Every month, the Daddy has faithfully made double payments. Next month, the note will be paid in full, after exactly one year.

None of these practices are ground breaking. But when I’m asked why it works for us, I rely on the flippant, rather than the reality of: “It HAS to work.” With 7 children, there are proms, extracurricular activities, school fees, class fees, field trips, library fines, gas money, the occasional event away from home such as scout camp outs, church activities, and school trips. We do not give our children an allowance.  However, they know that they can come to me or the Daddy, present their “case” for the monetary need, and together we work out a way for them to “earn” the funds they request.

These tips work for us.  This is not to say it’s foolproof, but we have found it less traumatic to weather through tighter months when we strictly adhere to our own guidelines.

Caryn Haluska is the Momma to seven, including 2 year old twins. One of the twins has autism, SPD, life threatening allergies, and unexplained seizures. You can connect with Caryn on her blog, Living with Logan, on twitter, and on Facebook


5 Responses to Guest Post: Stretching a Single Income for a Family of 9

  1. Wow, I thought you were awesome before! Now I think you REALLY need a tiara. :) I LOVE the system you worked out for birthdays, and I’m going to have to consider this. I think our Daddy would love it, too. Thanks for sharing your tips. You did great!

    • I really like the birthday thing too. I am wanting to put more focus on experiences versus things and this is a great way to do that without spending too much. Caryn’s so smart!
      By the way, how do you get the inside track on buying groceries at wholesale prices?

      • I buy them in case lots. I started that when I spoke to our grocer about getting specialty items for my extremely allergic child. I asked if he could get certain things, and if I could buy them wholesale if I bought by the case. That was the beginning. Now, I do that with MANY things, most of which are standard stock items. But I DO have their complete ordering booklet… LOL

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