Monday, March 29, 2010

Financial Concerns and Family Planning?

Hello! This is Natalie. Just a few small items of business:
First, Thanks so much for visiting! My mom and I have been gushing to each other all weekend about the comments you've left, the nice things you've written on your blogs, and just the number of people who have taken an interest in this site. It really makes us happy, so thanks!
Second, We have a whole slew of questions/answers to post, so we will be posting all of them today.

And Finally, we will probably start posting "Letters From Jane" about once a week. We're thinking question/answers on Mondays, Letters on Fridays...but we'll just see how it goes.

Now on to more important matters...

The Question:

My question is about finances. At the present time we only have two children and I am wanting very badly to have a third (all 2 years apart). However, the economy being what it is, my husband's company has no plans for up-grading (he is a pilot) in any near future. He took college classes as long as he could, but now this summer we are facing THE STUDENT LOANS. It cost a lot to be a pilot and the looming debt feels like it is about to crush us. Usually pilots are only first officers at a regional airline for a couple years but we are well into year 3 and like I said, he still has 800 people above him before he can become a captain.

We bought a duplex two years ago since we knew things would be tight (the loan officer actually said, "Well, you'll make more money eventually, right?" haha). I don't mind living here - it is small but not as small as it could be - but even with that, we barely make ends meet. If it weren't for tax return season, we'd be sunk. I often feel torn about doing something like child care to earn extra money, but I feel like my hands are full as it is - then add another child of our own (which I want so badly)...

What is the balance between faith and using your own judgment? When he makes captain it will double our income and that is just in the first year so I don't want to limit our family when I know things will get better... Some day. What were some of your experiences in this area as you added children to your life? And what are some of your tips for budgeting/money managing? Do you have any recipes or food ideas you would share that have helped stretch your dollar?
Thanks as always,


The Answer:

Dear Rachael,

This, I'm sure, is going to sound very irresponsible, but we never considered finances when having our family. It just didn't factor in. We paid for our first couple of children with student loans! For some, we had great insurance, for others, we scrimped by. When we had four children, we went back to school for a PhD and lived in a basement apartment for a while (and had another baby). We had an agenda--having a family--and we just moved ahead with it. Things always worked out. We've taken criticism for this over the years, but I think that when you're sure of yourself, when you really know what you want, and when you have a sense of purpose about your life from an eternal perspective, you can weather all the obstacles.

Little children don't really know when things are tight. Their needs are so simple and their satisfaction so easy to achieve. By the time we were making a good living and bought our first home, we had five children. We've gone on with financial ups and downs over the years. When we've had the money, we've taken some wonderful vacations, when we haven't, we've gone camping. The money end of things has always been my husband's worry. Mine was creating happiness out of whatever we had.

We often shopped at thrift stores and garage sales. It's a fun family activity and my daughters have become geniuses at finding wonderful things for almost nothing.

I cook from scratch. Over the years, I've developed a system of grocery shopping that saves a great deal. I keep a stock of all the basics which I replenish when they go on sale. So the only things I usually buy weekly, are dairy and fruits & vegetables that are in season (and therefore cheaper). And if one of my staples-- for example sugar or chicken breasts-- is on sale, I stock up. When I make out a weekly menu, it only includes dairy products, fresh produce and a few random items like tortillas or hamburger buns. So I'm always paying the minimum for everything and I'm accumulating a good, usable food storage at the same time.

I keep a three ring binder with my family-tested recipes on full pages, by category in page protectors. That way, I never have to go hunting for that pancake or french bread recipe. It encourages me to cook inexpensively. Those are some of my practical ideas.

Of course, everyone must consider their own situation and chart their own course. But this is my story. And I want to assure you that if you want a child and are feeling the urge to have one, you can. I wish you all the best in this important decision.

All my love,


  1. We are big budgeters at in our family. But I would get so frustrated, that even though I bought all my kids clothes at yard sales for $1, and scrimped on the food budget, as soon as my kids were sick boom $80. Or a hospital visit boom $1500. (And we do have insurance, with a high deductible). I kept feeling like our major expense was medical (and we are a healthy family), but they are so darn expensive. So I started experimenting with herbs. I've only been doing it for 6 months, but I'll tell you, everything I've tried has worked. I've used tea tree oil to cure my dandruff I'd had for a year and a half, an onion to cure my son's ear infection, and a clove of garlic to cure my yeast infection. Anyway, that's my budgeting tip of the day: buy a few herbal books and use the internet. Try herbs before you head to the Dr. (or even before you head for the OTC drugs). You can also buy a Dr. Mom otoscope (to look in your kids' ears). Oh, and my family has been eating raw garlic daily and we haven't gotten sick all winter. Hope that helps.

  2. Maybe I'm playing a bit of a devil's advocate, but in considering finances, perhaps some questions would help put things in perspective:

    Do you have access to clean drinking water? Can you turn on a tap and have instant hot and cold water? Do you have a solid roof over your head that protects from rain and storms? Are you able to heat and cool your home to a comfortable temperature year round? Do you own several pairs of shoes? More than two outfits? Do you have more than one room to live in? If you have children, will they be able to attend school practically free of charge for many years? Do you have machines that clean your clothes for you? A clean bathroom inside your home?

    If so, then you probably have more than 95% of all the people who have ever lived on this planet. I think about some of the things our ancestors put up with while bearing and rearing children and I'm content that I can't afford NOT to have children. One family in my history gave up a rich and comfortable lifestyle in Sweden to travel across the plains, dig a hole in the side of the mountain and endure a few very, very tough years as they started a farm from nothing. I've seen the home my father and his nine siblings were raised in on a teacher's salary, and it is small. My mother grew up on a dairy farm where she usually had just two dresses, one to wash and one to wear.

    I have SO much. And I believe that I will be accountable for what I do with it. "Where much is given, much is required." (D&C 82:3)

    Brigham Young said, “There are multitudes of pure and holy spirits waiting to take tabernacles, now what is our duty?—To prepare tabernacles for them; to take a course that will not tend to drive those spirits into the families of the wicked . . . It is the duty of every righteous man and woman to prepare tabernacles for all the spirits they can.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 197.) I like to think that means that every time I bear a child, that is one less child who will be born to poverty and a life of neglect.

    Understanding the plan in its fullness helps me to be satisfied that my children will feel eternally grateful to be born into our home where they are fed, clothed, loved, and nurtured, whether or not we are able to afford the greater privileges in life.

  3. I forgot to add the other major medical way to save. I learned this from the anestegiologist when I was in the hospital delivering my second baby. When you go to pay your bill (any medical bill - hospital, Dr.)say, "What is your discount if I pay in full?" I've done this every time since then, and probably 60% of the time I get one. It's usually 15%, but I've gotten 10% 15% 20% and even 50% once. We always pay in full because we don't like bills looming over us, but before this I'd never gotten an additional discount because you have to ASK. This is different than this cooperating insurance discount. Sometimes I haven't gotten the extra discount because they say, "You already got a discount with your insurance" but really about 60% of the time I get one on to of the insurance discount.

  4. But you have to be paying your bill on time.

  5. My husband and I are pretty poor right now, but we are ready and willing to start a family whenever the Lord sees fit to bless us with a child. When we first started planning for a family, I felt a lot of anxiety over whether or not we could financially handle it. When I analyzed my fears, though, I realized I was fussing over having "things." There is a lot we can do without while still caring responsibly for a newborn.

    I thought we had to have a fancy stroller, matching crib bedding, and cute outfits. I now realize that none of it is necessary, especially when there are hand-me-downs from family and friends that will do just fine. There are secondhand sales on Craigslist all the time. Most things that a baby will wear or use are outdated in a few short months, anyway.

    Some of my practical, money-saving suggestions are:

    - Buy what is on sale and creatively make a week's worth of meals out of it. There are so many options, and not every meal has to be perfectly rounded, as long as it offers nutrition.

    - Always freeze leftovers. Even a very small tupperware of soup (that you would otherwise throw away) can feed you or a kid for lunch, and you will have saved that much more money that day.

    - Don't throw away scrap vegetables. Freeze them and make a soup with chicken broth and herbs.

    - A note on cleaning products: It is tempting to purchase fancy cleaners, when really, a few basic off-brand items will do. Bleach, ammonia (not together, just for different tasks), baking soda, and a few rags and sponges really do the job.

    - It's not for everyone, but I've looked into cloth diapering, and with a bit of work on my part, it will really save us some money when the time comes. Some basic cotton diaper cloths and a few extra items will go a long way.

    - Use half the amount of laundry detergent that the box/bottle calls for when doing your wash. I have found that my clothes still get clean, even in cold water (also saves money). It stretches the dollar by doing this.

    - On some insurance plans, Birthing Centers are less expensive than hospitals. There are a lot of options for women right now. Know what is in your area.

    - Insurance is obviously important (and responsible), but there are women in my area of the country having babies all the time without it. Medicaid often covers what you cannot. I mention this because depending on individual circumstance, there are many options for medical costs, even if all your ducks may not be aligned in perfect order.

    Overall, though, the most important thing that I have found is a renewed trust and faith in the unwavering hand of the Lord, and His encompassing power to provide and care for us as we do His will. Bringing children into this world, especially if we have the desire and willingness, is definitely His will. As I do my part, I know that Heavenly Father will do the rest. This has been the most poignant and comforting realization of all.

  6. Erin - good medical tips. Gratefully we have insurance and qualify for medicaid (but we only use it when I am prego), but I hear ya on those deductables! They really bite. I would love to learn more about using herbs. It is something I've thought of but just haven't gotten into fully (besides medicinal teas). How do you get your kids to eat raw garlic??!! That is amazing - there must be a trick!

    Handsfullmom - thank you for the perspective, especially on that quote from D&C. That is actually in my Patriarchal Blessing and I often pray on further meaning about it. Even when we have "nothing", we live in a nation where we will never go hungry.

    bjahlstrom - Thank you for the tips and yes I do most of that having lived under the poverty level since we got married :) But there were a few things that I have been neglecting - like scraps for soup. They usually go in my compost, but next winter (when I often begrudge going out to the compost) I will start again. I have been thinking a lot lately about using cold water for the wash - does it really have the stain removing power as warm or hot water? I have wondered that which is why I haven't done it yet, but you are right it would save a ton on my gas bill I'm sure. I know they market cold water detergent - do you think it matters?

    All - I find most of my financial hemorrhaging happens with food. What are your favorite and cheap recipes? Espeially lunch and snack ideas. I just made split pea soup for the first time from scratch and I feel super cool :)

    Thank you all again. Sometimes happy thoughts and encouragement is so helpful when it seems everyone thinks you are crazy for even having the family you have in the first place.

  7. A friend of mine recommended i read your blog, and i have to say it was inspired! I have 4 kids under 3. twin boys, 20 month little girl and also a 4 month little girl! My husband and I want our kids close in age even though he is a full time college student and playing football and we don't have a lot of money, there is nothing I would rather do than be a mom! It is tough sometimes with having to live off student loans but the lord always provides a way! I have read a few of your posts and can't help but be uplifted and motivated! Its moms like you that we younger ones look up to and strive to be like!Thank you Thank you

  8. Raw garlic - if you grow garlic, on top is the - I think they're buds - anyway, not sure what they're called, but they are little balls full of mini garlic cloves. you break them apart, and swallow them like pills. I usually take 10 a day, and my 3 year old takes 5. They are small and easy to swallow. My 3 year old can swallow all 5 at once with a sippy of water. They don't taste like anything, don't give you garlic breath, but you betcha they do break down once inside your body. I get mine from a man in Bountiful, though you could easily grow your own or find someone who does. It's really cheap. My baby gets hers through my breast milk.

    The main "frugal" food is rice and beans. As long as you buy your rice in bulk (brown rice definitely best), and your dry beans in bulk (canned beans make it not so frugal or healthy after all), it's really cheap. We eat hardly any meat. We eat it when we go places like my parent's house, and I cook with it like once a month. You can buy meat for cheap on great sales, but I am of the opinion cheap meat is very bad for you, loaded with hormones, steroids, and antibiotics. So the healthy cheap option is beans.

    My favorite snack is hummus with celery. If you make your own from dry beans it's really, really cheap. And my whole family loves it.

    But I have to stop here on the grocery. Although we do all right, I'm pretty particular about healthy, so we're definitely no $150 monthly grocery budget family. We spend around $320 a month, but I think we eat really pretty healthy, so it's worth it. But if you're just looking for frugality here, I'd definitely recommend Amy Dacyczyn's book The Tightwad Gazette if you haven't read it. It doesn't just cover food. It covers everything, and is such a good frugal read.

    One last thing. Remember you get a tax credit of $1000 per kid per year. I think besides medical I don't spend near that per kid. I think the expensive thing about having kids is 1. quitting my job to stay home, which I did when I had my first. That's defintely the most expensive step. If you're already a SAHM, you're already there.
    2. medical expenses. If you've got medicaid, I guess you're covered.
    3. when they grow up and no longer can you find cute second hand jeans, they have more expensive tastes, are in all sorts of lessons, etc. etc.
    A baby is very cheap if you nurse and make your own baby food, and especially if you already have the gear like cribs and car seats.

  9. Oh, and I forgot to mention participating in a co-op for fruits and veggies. Have you looked into that?

  10. I never thought of co-op for fruits and veggies! That is what drives me crazy - you go to the store and leave with a few bags of fruits/veggies and wham $40 gone (and yet so important). I want to learn how to cook with beans and actually have been thinking about that a lot. It can be sort of intimidating - finding recipes that are tasty and not bland I think is my biggest stumbling block. Do you have any cook books or blogs you would recommend?

  11. I really like Depending on the recipe, they are frugal or not, but most have beans or lentils. I just discovered it a month or two ago, have tried a lot of the recipes, and have liked them all. Lentils are a good choice because they don't require soaking. Making them is similar to cooking rice - just water and simmer.

  12. I like to make fried chicken and mashed potatoes. If you buy your chicken ahead of time, it's really cheap. I always buy breasts and cut them into strips (tenderloins) because I feel like we eat less that way. Then if you only want to eat half a breast, you don't waste the other half.
    I have a really great recipe for the chicken.

    I make pancakes from scratch. I usually have everything on hand, except frozen blueberries which I like to mix in. Buy them on sale. Try to buy all your fruits and veggies in season and on sale.

    I read an article recently that suggested stocking up on frozen fruits & veggies. I prefer frozen corn over canned. (Of course I prefer corn on the cob over everything, but we all have to make sacrifices sometimes. ;) )

    We eat a lot of casseroles and make lots for leftovers. Strogenoff, mac & cheese, potato casserole, shepherd's pie, etc.

    My dad makes a pork roast, then turns it into pulled pork for sandwiches and freezes all the leftovers for lunches.

    I don't know if you're gardening (you said you have compost) but garden as much as you can. Even if it only saves you money for a few months, it's better than nothing.

    I only wash with cold water and we don't have problems with stains. Maybe it's because I use Shout, but there you have it. I use regular detergent, too.

    Make your own pizza sauce.

    Make your own refried beans.

    Shop and plan meals according to what's on sale.

    Some great websites are:
    ** Where people give away things they don't need anymore. I've seen people put food on there, including baby food and formula.
    ** This one tells you what's on sale, which coupons you can use on the items, and how many of the item you should have in your food storage. They email you when the ads are ready.

    Email me for the recipes you want, I don't want to take up too much room.

  13. Also, I don't consider finances when getting pregnant, either. I just trust that the Lord wants us to have kids and as long as we pray and feel like it's the right thing, He'll work it out.

    Worst case scenario, you can always get church help with the food.

    Oh, a couple other things. Unless you absolutely NEED a cell phone, consider canceling it and just getting a landline. You'll be amazed how free you feel when people can only contact you on your terms. I'll be trying out Magic Jack, so if you email me I'll let you know how it goes.

    Lots of people suggest a date night once a week for spouses, but that can get really expensive. One friend parks her kids in front of the TV and she and her husband eat their dinner in the car.

    Cancel your cable and just watch public access TV.

    Get Netflix and you'll save a TON of money from rentals. (At least, we do. That was always our big splurge was movies.)

    Check the free newspapers that come in your mail for local free events.

    I always feel restricted when I'm getting "too" frugal, so I like to feel like I'm not missing out on things. I'll buy chocolate on sale and hide it in the pantry and then when I REALLY need a fix, there it is. Waiting for me like an old friend.

  14. I'm coming to this thread late, but I wanted to share my story. My husband was in school for 10 years and we had four children during that time. I stopped working a few months before my first baby was born. My husband usually worked for the university as a grad student so that was our income. It was small, but we made it. We even moved ourselves to and from a foreign country, Sweden.
    I can tell you that if we could live on what we made, others can do it. The first year we lived in Sweden, we might have made $15,000 the whole year. And we had two kids then. But we were fine--just loved our time there.
    We've never missed the luxuries that we could have had if we waited to have kids. But I sure would have missed my kids!
    The last thing I have learned in my 12 1/2 years of marriage (having five children during that time) and living on little money is that you can never be sure of what the future brings-especially in regards to children. My first three boys came very close together. I was very puzzled by this as I had originally intended a much larger spacing, but through prayer, I knew I was supposed to have those babies. I had no idea when I was pregnant with #3 that I would soon become incredibly ill with a serious chronic illness that would make having more children difficult and challenging. If I had waited until financial circumstances were ideal, I would have had 1 or 2 kids because of my health--not the five wonderful kids that I have. I feel blessed in my life.
    How to manage on tight finances? Pray as you budget. Pray as you pay bills. Pray as you make purchases. You'll find that you will be blessed with guidance and inspiration.

  15. I forgot to add some things about using money wisely.
    1. grocery shop using circular ads. Plan meals around the foods on sale.
    2. cook from scratch. If you don't know how, go to the library and check out cookbooks that teach you.
    3. check out movies, books on tape, books, etc. from the library--cheaper than Netflix (unless you get overdue fines)
    4. go to the library for storytime
    5. check out the internet or paper listings for free family events
    6. going to a park is always free and fun
    7. walk or bike instead of driving to parks or other close locations (I didn't have a car for 3 of the 5 years I lived in Sweden. We took the bus, biked with kids in a trailer, walked. It was great.)


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