Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Finances and kids: how we do it

Another good question today, from a blog reader:

I would love to know what you both do for a living and how you plan to afford all the children God brings to your family.  I would love an insight to your lifestyle, ways you can cut, ways you can afford adoptions, etc.

This is an excellent question! 

It was honestly always a given that once we had children, I would be an at-home mom.  We both felt strongly about this, and it was a philosophical/spiritual/foundational decision for us.  We knew this might one day mean that we wouldn't own a home, or wouldn't go on vacations, or would have to leave California, but we were dedicated to living off of Kevin's income once we had children.

Kevin is an Electrical Engineer currently working in the aerospace industry.  We are so grateful to God for how He provides for us through Kevin's career.  My husband is a hard worker and is extremely financially savvy.  He does our own taxes, plans for our retirement, is frugal beyond compare and makes a mean Excel spreadsheet.  Love this guy!

As for me, I don't earn any sort of income.  I'm home with my children full-time, and I also homeschool the three oldest.

We drove majorly old cars that we already owned the first five years we were married (a 1988 Toyota Corolla and a 1988 Lincoln Towncar)--until our number of children exceeded the number of seats.  Those old cars were certainly nothing to look at, but we had no car payments thankyouverymuch.  When we have needed to buy another car (first our minivan in 2007, and now more recently our passenger van), we have bought them used and shopped around for a good value and good financing.  And, we're still driving the Corolla.

We have never taken fancy vacations and spend very little on entertainment.  I rarely go to Starbucks and we don't eat out much.  We DO buy things, don't get me wrong, but overall we're not huge spenders.

As for our first adoption, we used our home equity line of credit to front the money.  We also received a $4,000 adoption subsidy per child (so $8,000 total) from Kevin's employer at the time, but not until the adoption was finalized a year or so later.  We've been able to take advantage of the Federal Adoption Tax credit each year, until this year when the government made it refundable and, after a brutal audit, we received the rest of it in full (about $9,000).  Thank you US government and IRS!

As for our current adoption, we have received some money in grants and from dear, generous friends who fundraised for us, and are hoping to take advantage of the Federal Adoption Tax Credit in its refundable form again.  In terms of fronting the money, again, we pull it out of our home equity line of credit where we have an extremely low interest rate.

I feel like I want to stop to say that international adoption is expensive.  No doubt about it.  But it's not the only option.  Our country has an orphan crisis of its own, and we desperately need families open to children right here in the United States.  Don't write foster care or foster-adoption off because you think it's more messy or risky than international adoption--adopting from a foreign country can be messy and risky too.  (Have you read my blog lately?)  And when you adopt (or foster) through the state/county, the cost is minimal, if anything.

When we moved to Denver three years ago, we bought a 5-bedroom fixer-upper in a nice Denver neighborhood, that Kevin has done the vast majority of the work on himself.  Ripping out subfloors and tile, installing all sorts of stuff, etc.  We dream of one day adding on to our house by building a second story, and of having a lovely yard with a nice big patio and nice new fence, but that won't be happening anytime soon.  And, we're cool with that.  Living in the city of Denver, we have NO HOA fees and our property taxes are LOW.  Really, really low.

I buy all of our clothes (and most of our other stuff) from the thrift store.  My kids love it.  I love it.  Kevin loves it.  We also joyfully accept hand-me-downs.  I think for the most part we look decent and put-together--no need for things to be new to look nice, in my opinion.

When we need furniture, I usually find it on Craigslist.  Such.great.deals.  Three years ago for example, I scored the Pottery Barn square Montego dining table that seats up to 14 people, with two leaves, in perfect condition, for $300.  Shopping for stuff on Craigslist means you gotta be persistent and patient, but it's rather exciting when it pays off!

I don't clip coupons, but look for good deals at the grocery store and try to limit my trips there, forcing myself to be creative and use up the stuff that we have.  I don't usually buy organic (sorry) and I HATE wasting food.

My kids eat oatmeal for breakfast every.single.day.  Super cheap.  And, it's healthy.  They also usually eat PB&Js on whole wheat bread for lunch, with fresh veggies.  Also pretty affordable.

We don't own any fancy gadgets, and that includes smart phones, ipods(!), flat-screen TVs, cable or satellite TV, and even TiVo.  Yes, we live in the dark ages, and no, we don't really mind!  :) 

But what about college?  If our kids decide to go to college (and most of them probably will), we will certainly do what we can to make that happen.  But will we pay for 100% of each child's housing, tuition and books?  Probably not.  And I think that's okay.  While we will support our kids as best we can (and that includes helping them find a job and allowing them to live at home while going to school), we can't compromise our convictions regarding marriage and children and adoption on account of the college issue. 

Hopefully this gives you a little insight into how the Heldts roll.  I occasionally do spend more money at Target than I really need to, but we try to live simply, cut costs where we can, and work at being content.  I hope that my children can one day look back and see that we loved them dearly, that family came first for us, and that we did the best we could to point them to Jesus.  I hope they can remember the beauty of a carefree, simple childhood spent out in the weed-filled backyard digging up worms, eating otterpops in the summertime, and living life together. 

Perhaps one day we will need to downgrade our standard of living even further, and if that is the case , so be it.

It's not fancy, but it's our life.  And I kind of really love it.

Thanks for asking!


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