Let’s start by stating the obvious: finances are pretty personal, and as such, everybody’s circumstances are going to look a little different. What seems like an insane amount of risk/exposure looks like daily life for another family. What seems like a nice, healthy income starts to seem a little anemic once you figure in the cost of living and housing in a hot market.
We started riding the Dave Ramsey train before we got married. We read through Total Money Makeover as an engaged couple, knocking out tens of thousands of dollars of debt (almost all of it student loans) in our first 5 years of marriage. We cash flowed our first two babies, lived in sketchy rentals, drove a single car, side hustled, etc, etc. We were ALL IN. And it worked really, really well until we pulled up our roots, sold all our worldly possessions, and moved half a world away to Rome.
After we returned to the US the following year and added baby number three to the mix, we started to see our debt snowball lose momentum. We had sold our (paid off) sensible sedan before our big move, and we found ourselves needing a car to live in the suburbs with 3 kids. We bought a well-used minivan and just like that we had a car payment again for the first time in years.
Time and babies have continued to pile up, and now we’re five kids deep and living in a wonderful home of our own that we hope to be buried in, because that’s about how long it will take us to pay off the mortgage.
We’re mostly happy we bought, except on the day that the mortgage payment is due.
I get a lot of questions about how we “afford” so many kids, and the short answer is: we don’t.
We’re probably overextended from a financial perspective. And yet, we have never gone without.
Working for the Church isn’t exactly lucrative, but it sure is nice getting sent to Rome every year or two for one reason or another.
Having kids is a pretty tremendous upfront cost, but hand-me-down baby stuff comes in handy for subsequent arrivals.
Daycare is exorbitant, but working from home during early mornings and late nights makes it possible to live on one-and-a-half incomes and avoid it.
A good Catholic school is expensive, but having a larger family enables us to apply for – and receive – generous financial aid.
All that to say, things seem to have had a way of working out. As I creep more solidly into my mid-30s, I’m happy we didn’t wait to have kids, or space them further apart.
I’m grateful we weren’t in a position where we felt like we had too.
I think being from large families ourselves, we both accepted early on that having kids meant going without certain things, and saying yes to being uncomfortable. I don’t mean like settling for mediocrity or being reckless, but just having a baseline level of familiarity with the unknown and a little bit of risk.
We’re both working like crazy to get our income up and to pay our debt down, but in the meantime, we’re still having babies, making memories, and learning how to perform a bunch of basic home repairs courtesy of Youtube.
What we don’t spend on lessons, activities, sports, and toys we definitely do spend at the grocery store and in doctor’s copays. We aren’t really saving for retirement or college, but I imagine we’ll get around to it once we’ve finally paid off my degree.
This has ended up forcing us to depend on God in a tangible way, and we’ve seen Him do some pretty remarkable things for us financially over the years.
I feel like it’s worth mentioning that we’ve been committed to tithing ten percent of our income for most of our marriage; it really does seem to open up space for God to work. I don’t mean like He’s magically multiplying our dollar signs (but come Lord Jesus, have your way with those), rather that there is room for Him to work because we need Him to work. We feel a little crazy making that first line item in our budget His, but we’ve never regretted spending “too much” on God.
(Some great causes to give to: FOCUS, the International Missionary Foundation, China Little Flower, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Classical, and CNEWA.)
Do I worry about how we’ll be able to continue to afford Catholic school? Yep. But I volunteer as much as I’m able, support our school financially as best as we can, and gratefully accept the financial aid they offer us, one school year at a time.
Am I worried about what would happen if one of us were to die young? Definitely. Our life insurance premiums are a priority in our budget, even while we’re still paying off those student loans.
I try not to get too far ahead of the present when I think about our family, the future, and what we’ll need when we get there.
We’re trying to strike a balance between prudence and generosity, and to work as if everything depends on us but, you know, trust like everything depends on God.
I will say my stress over finances has decreased as our family size has increased, and I have no earthly reason for that. I guess I’ve mellowed with age? Or perhaps it is the repeated exposure to divine providence; presenting the Lord with one need after another and watching Him come through, time and time again, in a spectacular variety of ways.
If you have any specific questions feel free to ask them, and I’ll try my best to answer in a way that’s helpful. Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the expenses of having kids, and people have different priorities and consider different areas of the budget to be less negotiable than others. Eager to hear what other big or bigger than average families experience in the realm of personal finance!