I was recently asked how my large family made ends meet, and did we get by on things like mac and cheese and accepting hand-me downs, and did we have to spend the majority of our free time doing affordable things like playing card games, renting movies from Redbox and every once in a while live it up and go on vacation outside of the state.
I put down the stick I was whittling (homespun Christmas gifts you know!) and thought carefully before I replied.
“It depends on what ends you’re talking about.”
I mean, “ends” can mean so many different things — financial, spiritual, emotional, material, time and schedule, relationships, parenting, work-related, meals, hobbies, obligations, friendships—the list of “ends” goes on and on.
Okay, so I obviously knew she was referring to how we survive financially as a family of 10 in these unstable economic times, but I also think many people miss the big picture when they equate “ends meeting” to just paying the monthly bills. Of course we would all like to be comfortable enough to never worry about paying our mortgage or rent on time, but what about how we make our other ends meet at the end of each month—heck, at the end of each day?
Here we are living in the 21st century with advanced technology, cutting-edge medical treatments, a focus on higher education, a plethora of modern conveniences, and yet many people are totally overwhelmed financially and emotionally the majority of their days.
We knew that having a large family would mean a different type of lifestyle, but I refuse to refer to it as making sacrifices. Ugh—that makes everything sound so mundane and difficult. Instead, I like to think we take a “back to basics” approach to living, which ultimately is allowing us to get more out of life.
Here are a few examples:
Always Schedule Unscheduled Time: Instead of filling up every day on the calendar with practices, games, appointments, and other commitments it’s essential to allow blocks of time where nothing can be scheduled—unless of course an inconvenience like an accident or major illness occurs!
Get Uncluttered: The more people who live in the house, the more clutter seems to multiply and find its way on to every unclaimed surface, corner, or vacant floor space in the home. This is true of people with and without kids! A few years ago I spent a week making a 10-page detailed list of how to unclutter and spruce up every nook and cranny of our home, including the garage and shed. It took me over six months, but finally—the mission was accomplished. It’s so much easier to think, complete projects, and just live in a state of calm when mismatched Tupperware pieces, stained and tattered clothing, and empty tubes of dried up make up are long gone!
Forget the Jones’—Remember who you are! I cannot lie, there was a time when status was very important to me, or at least I thought it was. I came from a humble background, raised by parents who were school teachers. We didn’t do without, but we never had a silver spoon in our mouths either. When we were first married, we lived in a designer home with all the bells and whistles and hob-knobbed with some very important people. Today, we live in a very ordinary home, but we are much happier despite having less square footage or elites to hang out with.
Why? Because I became very adventurous with paint color, creating a kid-friendly and whimsical atmosphere, and if dirt gets tracked in from the kids or the dogs—I can pour myself a glass of wine, clean it up, and haven’t gained a single gray hair in the process. Oh, and we can afford it! As for the elite, we now hang with people who don’t care what’s in our bank account.
Less is more! It’s hard to believe that having 7 nice outfits hanging in the closet is as satisfying as 50 or so pieces that don’t fit us correctly, are on trend but not for our body types, or are being saved for when we finally lose those 20lbs! If that works for you, great, but spending less time riffling through a closet that is crammed with stuff we or our kids will never wear is just a precious waste of time.
Taking time to communicate with conversation, not electronics is a must! I learned to text a couple of years ago solely for the purpose of being able to communicate with my kids when they were out and about. Personally, I find cell phones a nuisance, and if that draws hate mail, so be it. We spent stretches of time where all we did was nod to one another when we passed in and out the front door. I knew I was in trouble when a friend of a friend wanted to know if I found texting my kids to the dinner table was a real time saver! Now when the kids come home, their iPhones get turned off until dinner, homework and household jobs are done. I want my children to remember that communicating means talking with your mouth, not your thumbs.
So, in answer to that curious person’s questions about how we make ends meet each month, of course there are some frugal and budgetary stops in place, but the most successful times occur when we ground ourselves with as many “basics” as we can—that is what makes for a rich and plentiful month.
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