Raising a large family is challenging-to those with small families it appears somewhere between impossible and miraculous-but countless LDS families (and lots of Catholic families, and Hindu families and others, too) do it anyway.
Here are ten financial planning ideas that will help you raise your family on a regular income.
1. Tithing: It goes without saying that you should pay your tithing to get the Lord behind you in this effort to raise a large family, but I’ll mention it anyway. Closely related to paying tithing is teaching your children to pay tithing. From about age five, children can understand the basic concepts of money. Give them a small allowance and encourage them to pay their tithing. By the time your children reach the age of accountability, they should have made tithing a matter of habit. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you paid tithing on the money that your kids don’t need to pay; they need the blessings, too.
2. Work: If you are going to have lots of kids, they all need to learn to work. This applies even if you don’t live on a farm. Beginning at an early age, children need chores and responsibilities around the house. Learning to work is not something they will learn in school and it will be invaluable for your children as they grow older. And let’s not kid ourselves, if you have four or more kids, the parents cannot do all the work that the household requires without help.
3. Employment: Kids not only need to learn how to work, but also how to earn. Most kids can find earning opportunities outside the home starting around age 12, babysitting, mowing lawns, caring for neighbors’ homes while they are on vacation. As your teenagers get older, they can find regular jobs or launch more ambitious ventures. Not only will this teach your children how to be good employees, it will help them to learn the value of a dollar. You can teach your children the value of money by giving them some in the form of allowance, but if you have a regular income and lots of kids, it makes more sense to help them find opportunities outside the home to earn some pocket change. Don’t take this too far; your children shouldn’t be made responsible for their own food, housing and basic clothing and their employment should not interfere with school.
4. College: Both you and your children should be saving what you can for college. That may be relatively modest, but don’t ever let your children think that they can’t or shouldn’t attend college anyway. By using a combination of savings, part-time and summer employment, living at home, scholarships, Pell Grants, and perhaps a tiny dose of student loans your children can go to college, even if you can’t write big tuition checks.
5. Missions: Saving for your children to serve missions should be a top priority. Unlike going to college, your missionaries won’t be able to work part-time or during the summers to pay for their missions. The savings have to happen before they go. This will require that you and they share the responsibility for putting money away. If you start saving when a child is born, saving just $25 per month could be enough to pay for a mission-which today costs about $10,000. The older they get, the more you’ll have to save if you haven’t started already.
6. Home: With a large family, you will feel pressure to buy a large home. While children often seem to think having their own room is a divine right, you can be assured that it is not. As you drive around old neighborhoods in Salt Lake City you see countless little old homes with 2,000 square feet where generations of large families were raised. Your children need a safe, warm, clean place to live; they don’t need a palace. The difference in interest paid on a large home versus a smaller one over the 30-year life of the mortgage could easily reach $250,000-a difference of enough to fund 25 missions.
7. Cars: It may be tempting to use the size of your family to justify spending too much money on cars. Most of us are good at finding good reasons to buy newer and bigger cars. While a used minivan costing $10,000 might adequately serve to get your family around, good lease terms might theoretically allow you to drive a new Cadillac Escalade instead. The difference in cost for driving the Escalade over the minivan would be enough to fund a full mission every year. Don’t stretch your resources to drive the biggest, nicest car you can find. Make do with the vehicle you really need and save the money for more important things.
8. Family Councils: Use your family councils to talk about financial issues. It isn’t appropriate to share all of your money concerns with your children-nor all of your successes-but you can work together toward shared goals like saving for missions, college and vacations. Nothing is likely to get your kids thinking about reducing waste, wear and tear, and utilities than saving for a family vacation. Don’t be afraid to use your family home evenings and family councils to talk about ways to become more self-reliant.
9. Precedents: Be careful not to set precedents with your older children that you can’t match with your younger ones. Your future adult children will likely forgive your providing a car to the youngest child if they didn’t get cars, but your middle children will not have the judgment to understand or forgive their not getting cars if their older siblings did. That kind of pressure will push you in large and small ways to spend more on the younger kids if you set generous precedents with the older ones. If you mistakenly set a precedent that you can’t match with your middle and younger children, don’t let them trap you. Eventually, they will come to understand and forgive.
10. Charity: One of the best things you can do with your children is to help them have opportunities to give service and share their limited money with those in greater need. Not only will this help them form valuable habits you’d like to instill, it will help them to develop perspective. It is easy for kids growing up in large families to begin thinking they are poor compared to the small-family neighbors.
Helping them to have experience serving people in worse conditions will help them to appreciate the financial resources they do have.
If you have a large family, you’ve probably found lots of ways to save money and send kids on missions. Please share your experiences in the comments below.
Devin Thorpe is the author of Building Wealth for Building the Kingdom, which addresses these and other financial topics; you can connect with Devin on his blog at BuildingWealthForBuildingTheKingdom.com, on Twitter or Facebook. Be sure to share your experiences in the comments below.