Family, Freedom and Finances

Last week I read a couple of really thoughtful posts concerning family life and finances. Jeana pointed me to this first one. It is long but worthwhile. The comments are just about as interesting as the post. Someone else pointed me towards this one at Amy’s Humble Musings.

These posts got me thinking again about the choices my husband and I have made over the years. Our first house was a fixer-upper. Lots of sweat over 4 years gained us enough equity to afford to build a new house. Contracting it ourselves gained us more equity and more house than we could have afforded otherwise.

Over the years we’ve driven used cars. Any name-brand clothes we’ve had have been gifts or come from yard sales. We’ve chose camping over the Red Lion on our vacations.

Don’t get me wrong– we’re not paragons of frugality. We splurged and took our kids to the Olympics in 2002. We’ve spent some years paying car payments and student loans and credit cards. And you know my book-buying habit.

But in general we’ve been what most Americans would call frugal. We’ve cooked affordable food from scratch. We’ve gardened. We’ve chosen to eat out at the local taco place and that only on Tuesdays when the burritos are 2 for $1. We’ve budgeted.

Some people may groan at that, and think it sounds so un-fun. They’ll focus on the work involved. The deprivation.

But from this end, what I see is freedom. I am able to be at home full-time with my family, just as I want to be. My husband is currently works only 3 days a week. To be sure, they are 13 hour days– he’s whipped when he gets home from work on those evenings. But he’s able to support a family of 10 by working 3 days a week! How amazing is that? That leaves four days of the week to spend together. Let me tell you, right there is one of the reasons I stay sane mothering eight kids.

While writing this, I’ve worried that this will come off as bragging. Please understand that I am always conscious that every gift we have is from God. And yet we all have choices in how we live our lives. We affect the level of freedom in our lives with every flex of our wallets.

Choice. To read more about this fascinating topic, go read the articles I mentioned above. Afterward you’ll be thinking, guaranteed.


  1. Mary – thank you, thank you, thank you! Just what I needed to hear today. As the “manager of household funds”, I’ve been getting discouraged about all the “cuts” and losing sight of the long-term rewards and freedom you talked about here.

    Da Hubby and I have talked often about getting to where you guys are: me staying at home and him being able to work less while “having more”…more time together, more time to spend visiting/helping others, more time to spend sharing home responsiblities, etc. If you can do it with your large wonderful family, I’m sure we can get there with just our two! Thanks again!

  2. I work a few hours a week and when I’m there, my co-workers constantly tell me “You are so lucky! I’d love to work as needed”. Then they start to talk about their stuff and their payments that come along with that. They are working to pay for top of the line cars, boats, boob jobs, new room makeovers, houses, etc. Its like you said – choices.

    It’s hard for me somtimes. When I drive buy some of these bigger houses, walk into a furniture store, etc., I start to think “Maybe if I just worked more . . . . ” But then I have a day like yesterday where we all went fishing and enjoyed each other and life, and I think “No way!” No house, couch, etc is worth missing this!


  3. This post was incredibly timely for me. So often I find myself resenting the things that more money would bring, resenting how frugal we have to be to have the life that we love. Thanks for this wake-up call.

  4. Martina Fahrner says:

    Hi Mary, no – you are not bragging. You just have your priorities right… who needs all the crap as long as you have time for your family and the things you love about life!

  5. We only have two kids and one on the way but I totally understand where you’re coming from. When I was running a day care in my home and had six kids to feed for lunch every day we only could afford $60 a week for the grocery bill. It was so tight but I shopped the ads and made some great purchases. I’m so glad that God taught me how to trust Him to bring what we needed each week!!

    I’m all for clearance, second-hand, and good bargains!!

  6. I also do not think it is bragging to share some of the ways that you and your husband have figured out how to raise 8 children in a frugal and yet undeprived fashion. I know you have helped many others when you share your frugal ways. “He who is rich is content with what he has…” That is the secret to happiness – I think it fits you.

  7. You are not braggy. Admirable, to be sure, but never boastful!

  8. Definitely not braggy! Congratulations on building such a wonderful life for your family! Your kids will remember the time they spent with you, your husband and their siblings much more than they’d remember an annual trek to Disneyworld or some other elaborate celebration or outing… that’s all that matters, right!

  9. I agree, not bragging at all. I love when folks spend less. I have said many times that Aldi’s is the reason I get to stay at home with my kids.

  10. My brain is fried after reading the recommended posts! Thanks for the suggestion. And I can only say how wonderful I think your attitude to money and family is. I hope every one of your readers takes it on board and really thinks hard too. Need vs want again. Definitely words of great wisdom for every family to ponder.

  11. …it is one of the things i love reading about on your blog…how you make it all work. great post.

  12. So I am wondering- how do people who live this way afford to adopt? Do you save like crazy? Raise the money? Go into debt? I too live frugally in order to stay at home- and we don’t have any left over. We wonder all the time how everyone else does it. We know about the grants, which we will apply for if able to proceed, but the tax break does not help us since we already do not pay and federal taxes. When you shop at garage sales, cook form scratch, camp for vacation, and the like- where, oh where, do you come up with $30,000???? Is debt the only way?

  13. April, Our adoptions cost around $13,00-15,000 each. Here’s something I wrote talking about how we afforded it.

  14. Oh, and regarding debt. The majority of Americans have no trouble with going into debt for a vehicle that will be a rustbucket in a dozen years. Why not for a human soul?


  15. Thanks for a nice post! We are able to do things with 7 kids and one income, and compared to some people, we don’t even really go without all that much. I know its possible to do! My dh and I do not have college educations, and we make it. Our problems are all due to our own lack of self control, not because God has not abundantly supplied!