Being Frugal and Saving Isn’t Enough

Did you hear about the family with 13 kids and no debt? Now, let me begin by saying that I’m happy for them, truly, but I am also angered at the insinuation in the article that their feat is possible for everyone. They don’t even see how they have been very privileged in their opportunities and contacts and such.

For example, the article said that, at the husband’s first job when they were married with kids, he never made more than $36,000, as if that is a mere pittance. It isn’t a huge salary, to be sure, but it is more than a lot of families make. Even a small difference in salary can make a huge difference. He later got a better job that made $40,000, then $60,o00, then $110,000/year, so hardly the norm for a lot of people.

Then there’s the mention of saving 25% of their income. That is laudable! I often see people saying to save 10%, give 10% to Church, and live on the other 80%. Even that is a stretch for many families, though. For some, every cent earned is spoken for, and nothing can be put back in savings, no matter how frugal and how much they plan. So telling such families that they just need to plan better and be more frugal doesn’t actually address the fact that the ability to put back in savings isn’t always possible even with doing that.

Speaking of being frugal, I couldn’t help thinking about how the things they bought to eat, which are indeed on the cheaper end of things, wouldn’t work for my family. I know having a nightshade allergy isn’t common, but not being able to buy potatoes does make a huge difference with the grocery bill. As does needing to buy coconut milk, rice milk, and Earth Balance. Oh, and the chicken breasts which are more expensive than thighs, but child with gallstones can’t eat the thighs. Obviously if no one in the family has special dietary requirements, then shopping as they did is possible and is a good lesson, again assuming one has the cash available to take advantage of the specials (there’s a good article on how being poor is actually quite expensive because you can’t take advantage of sales and specials and buying in bulk).

They bought a house out of foreclosure, saving quite a bit. That’s great. The house was in great disrepair, and they were able to get friends to help with everything. That may not sound like much, but having that kind of help is huge. Not everyone has that kind of community. I wish they did. I also have a bit of an issue with the possibility of profiting off of someone else’s misfortune. Maybe it’s just because we sold our house on a short sale and are still paying on a house we no longer own, but I’m rather sensitive about such things.

Finally, they speak of how others have given them a lot of things, including cars. That is huge! I know people with fewer kids who need cars but aren’t gifted them. Again, let me be clear that I’m thrilled that people are generous to this particular family. However, this point shows that it isn’t just the family’s own efforts that have made all this possible. Having access to a reliable vehicle is a huge need for a lot of families, especially in the (many) areas without reliable public transportation.

I’m glad this family has been so lucky. Let’s just no pretend that all families can do what they did, or that they did this all themselves without a ton of help from their community. Let’s recognize that they had a lot of advantages, and made the most of them.


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