What can a mother of eight teach us about saving?
A whole lot.
You might recognise Kate Gosselin from her former reality shows “John and Kate Plus 8” and then “Kate Plus 8,” or from her book “Multiple Blessings,” but in real life, Gosselin spends her days as a mum of 11-year-old twins and 8-year-old sextuplets.
Gosselin has a secret, though. While she and her kids might always appear effortlessly put together, it turns out a whole lot of budgeting (and coupon clipping!) underlie those efforts.
In fact, Gosselin often shocks cashiers by handing over coupons that shave a few cents off her shopping tab. “They don’t expect television personalities to be frugal,” she laughs.
Smart move, since being a TV star doesn’t automatically make raising eight kids any cheaper. Especially when you think ahead to paying for college—times eight!
LearnVest sat down with the reality mum to get her take on allowances, budgets and how she affords groceries for herself and eight mouths (plus a dog!). Not to mention the three questions she always asks before making any purchase.
What would you say are the most financially challenging aspects of parenthood?
With eight kids, I can’t think of any aspects that aren’t challenging! It’s very unnerving to know that I am the major breadwinner for a family of nine and one dog. If I had to list some of the most challenging aspects, it would be saving for college, which is still a few years away. But it’s tough that even clothing, shoes, food, shelter and recreation are always multiplied by eight. For example, a few weeks ago I had to buy clown wigs for each of my 7-year-olds for a school program, and it cost me $65. Nothing is a small purchase in our home.
What are some ways you stick to your grocery budget, especially when you’re tempted by impulse purchases?
An impulse purchase is OK once in a while for everyone. I just ask myself three questions. First, is this a good buy? Second, if I leave the store without this purchase, will I be sorry? Third, is this a need or a want? It should be a “need.” If I pass the test on all three, chances are, it fits my budget and I’ll buy it.
As a mum, you probably understand that it can be tough to make ends meet. What are some strategies you rely on to make shopping and financial decisions?
I try to buy for the long run. In other words, I can buy cheap backpacks and lunch boxes for school each year, or I can buy a better brand for $10 more each and use them for two consecutive school years. In the end, if I do that I’ve saved. I use that strategy with winter coats and boots, too. I buy a bigger size and use them for two years each. I also have coats and snow boot purchases scheduled on alternating years so that I don’t go into debt when winter comes.
Do you set a household budget? How do you stick to it?
I have a mental budget and operate on a system that unless we need it, we don’t purchase it. I also tend to look around and recycle and reuse things throughout our house before I’ll go and buy something new. Many times, with a little creativity, you can save money just by scouting the house for a basket or a lamp that is better used somewhere else. I love those finds … and the savings.
Do you give the kids an allowance?
I don’t officially hand out allowances. I do, however, reward my kids when they do an extra job beyond what is on the chore chart. I offer $1 almost daily to Mady and Cara for doing extra things to help around the house. This benefits them because they are always willing to work for extra money, and it benefits me because I have extra help and am teaching them the way real life works. Beyond that, I believe in families working together to get the work done. My kids have everything they need because they are such willing helpers.
Are there any areas of finance you are afraid of?
Finances make a lot of sense to me. I spend a lot of time budgeting, balancing and saving so there aren’t really any areas that scare me. However, I don’t enjoy the paperwork aspect. I’m old school, so I have a bill paying notebook; it’s not done on the computer. But I am very organised in that area, so that helps.
What prompted you to clip coupons? Have you always been frugal or did becoming a mum push you to the frugal side?
I have always been frugal. I am obsessed with saving money, and I grew up understanding the concept of saving, sales and coupons. I’ve always felt the exhilaration of getting the same exact item for the lowest possible price, and coupons definitely help me reach that goal.
Has clipping coupons taught your children anything?
Yes. Mady and Cara will often sit in my room at night and clip and sort coupons for me. They also organise my receipts according to “business” or “household” so I can file them appropriately. They love helping this way, and it’s a great way to introduce them to budgeting and organising household finances.
What are your favourite tips for clipping coupons?
Most importantly, don’t spend money just because it’s a good deal. If you get a great coupon or see a sale on an item that you know you will always use and have room to store, stock up (think paper towels, soup, toothpaste and other things that you don’t need to use right away). But you shouldn’t spend money just because it’s a good deal or a good coupon.
Also look online. People don’t realise shopping online often offers better prices than in-store shopping. For example, if you need stuff from Target, you might find an exclusive online coupon code for $5 off orders of $50 or more, plus you’ll get free shipping so you’re saving on gas and babysitters.
Lastly, stack coupons. In many cases, you can use a coupon code on top of sale prices. Free shipping is easy to find online, too. In fact, CouponCabin has a page that lists all the stores that offer free shipping. (Kate recently signed on as a blogger for CouponCabin.)
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