Three Principles to Frugal Living

This article ran last week on Larger Family Life

We were on television in 2007 for TLC, the same network as the Duggars and other large families, in a series called Kids by the Dozen. Similar to the hit movie in the 1960s Cheaper by the Dozen, most people found our finances as the most fascinating aspect of our show. We even did a poll on our website www.jeubfamily.com confiming this:

Clearly, our frugal living hit a nerve. Unique from other television shows on large families, our family enjoyed speaking of our frugality, saving money techniques, and the blessings that flow from living on such a tight budget.

We’re sure you noticed that living prices, primarily groceries, have gone up considerably in the past five years. We live in Colorado. Grocery prices are up at the fastest rate since 1990. Milk, eggs and flour have increased double digits. Hard times are similar across the world. The cost of rice (the main staple for 3 billion people) has caused riots in parts of the world. Consumer confidence is at an all-time low as the global economy faces considerable challenges.

It isn’t a pretty picture. Yet when we explain specifics of our frugal lives, we get the attention of most parents. They often find it hard to believe we are able to live on such a small fortune. Consider:

  • We have 16 eaters at home.
  • Our income ins less than $40,000 per year.
  • We are on no government assistance.
  • Our children never go hungry.
  • We often have guests over to our home.
  • We spend less than $700/mo. on groceries.

Like most large families, we get the question, “How do you do it?” Let’s explain a few principles of frugality.

1. Frugal living requires faith.

Families on a tight budget are somewhat forced to have faith that God will provide. However, we’ve seen families with twice our salary fret over the next bill to be paid. It boils down to faith first. When you pray “give us this day our daily bread,” do you mean it? We hope you do! Living a frugal life is an enjoyable and freeing life, but only when it starts with a faith that God provides.

2. Frugal living requires adaptability.

Frugal families need to remain flexible to the challenges that come their way. God often surprises us with creative solutions to our money problems, solutions that wouldn’t have surfaced if we remained stubborn or set in our ways. The best example is in our cooking habits. We have our favorite meals, but when we are blessed with a large quantity of a certain food, we adapt and cook a lot of whatever was given us. We remain adaptable, and the blessings flow from there.

3. Frugal living requires an eternal perspective.

Focus on God’s plan for your family, not what others think you should do. Sometimes this takes ignoring cultural expectations, styles and trends. Clothes is a big item in our home, yet we don’t participate in the fashion crazes of the latest styles. We’d go broke if we did! Really, God is calling our family to keep up with relationships and love, not trends in clothing fashion, and we believe this is the perspective to keep.

These are the basic principles of a frugal lifestyle. What follows are the typical money-saving techniques that you can find in a million places on the Internet. It’s a liberating life, really. Frugal families, when they have the faith, adaptability and eternal perspective in their family budget, allow the love in their homes to grow.

About Chris & Wendy Jeub

The Jeub Family live in Monument, Colorado. They encourage couples to love God and love one another, building an atmosphere of love in their homes.

  • Sheila

    Hi Chris,
               We began to adopt a more frugal attitude to life some time ago after spending many years using credit cards and loans. We now use cash only,shop at thrift stores and love to hunt down a bargain for things we need.We have no debts other than our mortgage and have a tight budget that we stick to.Each week i take out just enough cash for the week and don’t take any more out until the following week.It’s not always easy but God always provides either through the generosity of others or through directing us to where the best deal can be found.
               There is a freedom in being content with what you have and not looking at what others have and being envious.If you accept that God is in control you are less likely to be ungrateful with the provision that He has made for you.
                At the moment we are trusting God for a new job for my husband but in the meantime we are managing by being frugal.

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

      Of the three you list, the only one we don’t do is “use cash for everything.” Wendy and I are strongly considering this. We always use credit, but there is a disciplinary benefit of using debit only.

  • T. Gates

    I was just reading an article last night on how much the average family spends on groceries per year.  We have five children, and we don’t spend any more than the average family of 2.3 (or however many it is) children does!  In fact, we may spend less!  I think it just proves that larger families are not always more expensive.  I think in some ways having a larger family saves money.  We hand down our clothes to the next one in line, there are usually no leftovers, etc.  Sometimes smaller families have a tendancy to be more wasteful.  It’s hard to explain, but I think you know!  I think the hardest part of frugal living to most people would be your last point; most people want to be able to keep up with the latest fashion trends and such, and it IS harder to do with a larger family!

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

      If I had a nickel for every time a parent from a small family told me how much more they spent than our family of 16, I’d be a wealthy man.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BZXHT7XDXDDSOBCWGPTUGYGV5Q Elizabeth

      I hadn’t looked it it that way but it’s a good point.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BZXHT7XDXDDSOBCWGPTUGYGV5Q Elizabeth

    The real family in Cheaper by the Dozen were very wealthy. My father knew them. They both lived in NJ.  At the time there were of course many, many large families living on a lot less. One of their 12 children died of diptheria (pre-immunization days) during the same outbreak that took 4 of my Dad’s siblings. 

    My neighbor is one of 23 children, all with same Mom and Dad. They are African American and all the children went to college or the military. The parents are now deceased but I so admire my neighbor and his family.

    I think TLC has raised awareness of large families but I honestly don’t think they are as rare as people think. 

    • Liz

      Why does it matter that they are African American? 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BZXHT7XDXDDSOBCWGPTUGYGV5Q Elizabeth

    Cooking from scratch definitely saves money. Convenience food is very expensive. Do you guys eat turkey often? If I had a large family I think I’d cook up a large turkey once/week, you could get at least 2 full meals out of one. Of course, I love turkey! Do you grow your own food? I was one of only 4 living children by my Dad grew all our food, kept chickens so we had eggs, traded eggs to the dairy farm next door for raw milk. Bought a beef cow once/year from a neighbor for beef. Deer hunted so we had venison. Raised a few pigs so we had bacon and pork. 

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

      Yes, turkey is big in our home. We stuff our freezers at Thanksgiving when stores are blowing them out for a little as $6. We grew a lot in Minnesota in the ’90s, but more difficult here in Colorado. We elk hunt here in the mountains.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BZXHT7XDXDDSOBCWGPTUGYGV5Q Elizabeth

        Can you eat elk? I’m pretty sure you can, I think my daughter and her husband ate the one he shot. I was talking to my brother the other day, he eats bear meat! He said you have to know how to cut it and then cook properly but he likes it.

        • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

          Oh yes, elk is like extremely lean, organic beef. Best meat of all game meat, imho.

  • Peggy

    Were you always so frugal or is it something that has been slowly adapted with each child? I often think if our family was more frugal, we would be able to save up so much more money, but we seem to have trouble with the saving part. We have no debt, but we seem to spend what we make and only put a little into savings. The hardest part is change. I know we need to change the fact that on the weekends when we are really busy, the answer to meal times is going out to eat. If I planned a few more quick and easy meals, we could save ourselves a lot of money. I have done tons of research and discovered so many ways to save money and live frugally, but it’s just SO difficult to implement them into our family.

    So, were you always frugal? If not, how did you bring frugality into your life?

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

      With varying degrees, yes, we have always been frugal. It’s kind of in our blood!

  • Rebekah

    This comment is not to challenge only to inquire.  I am supportive here.  We have six children and can spend $1000 a month easy.  We don’t eat out and I cook most everything from scratch.  The think I have noticed from watching and reading popular large families is that they don’t eat very healthy. Do you mind me asking is this the case with you?  Because unhealthy food is very cheap.
     We have to eat gluten/dairy free and can’t have many food allergies. We have to shop at Trader Joes and Whole Foods to make sure we don’t have added yucky stuff in our food.  It is a big challenge to cut our grocery bill down.  
    The spring isn’t so bad since I can have a garden, and go to the farmers market.  It probably is my biggest qualm with have our family size grow.  

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

      You ask a really good question! I think I’m going to turn this into a longer blog post of an answer. Real quick: We don’t believe it is cheaper to buy unhealthy food. Healthy eating goes much further than just filling tummies. 

      Take morning cereal, for example. We seldom eat it, the kids are hungry again in an hour, and the money is wasted. Compare to a dozen scrambled eggs and English muffins, and you save money and you eat less.

  • Liz

    $40,000 self-employment income? For 16 people? I think that one of the adults in the family (preferably Mr. Jeub) should get a job, with benefits (including conventional health insurance).  Having 16 kids is a choice and a responsibility.

  • Melissa

    In 2007 you stated you only spent $700.00 a month on groceries.  Is that still the case in 2012?  I know in N.J. the price of food since 2007 has skyrocketed!  I was also wondering if your trip to Sam’s club was included in that 700 or is that separate?  Thank you.

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

      It may be hard to believe, but we seldom spend over $800 per month on groceries. Our family size has increased and so have prices, but we still shop the deals and practice some great frugal habits. Wendy and I are going to do some more research (e.g. count our receipts) and post about this more in the near future.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_76C6KTGJ7WYBSJJ7VCDZUHCKOA Gib

    We grow a huge garden.  We canned 250 quarts of green beans, froze 300 ears of corn, canned 50 quarts of tomatoes, canned apple butter, pickles, and well you get the picture.  We were also given two deer this year, which is a very lean and healthy meat.  We also base our menu on what is on sale, bulk buy and coupon.  We are feeding 11; soon to be 12.  It takes planning, but it can be done. 

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

      Can we move in?

  • mamaG

    we want a big family and homeschool our kids.But everyone around us makes us feel so crazy.Your family is a blessing to mine.Just to know with faith in our God it can be done!!! we have 4 little blessing and are praying for more. we wil keep your family in our prays. God Bless