This Stay-at-Home Mom of Six Shares Her Best Money Tips for Big Families
Growing up in Mexico as one of four sisters, Brenda Rivera Stearns looked up to her mom who was parenting them all solo. "We had everything that we needed—nothing more and nothing less," she recalls. That experience helped shape her view on finances and raising a large family.
Stearns' family moved to the U.S. when she was about to turn 13. As a teen and young adult, she worked hard and focused on making her own money, but she often spent it without thinking too much about building for her financial future. But when she got married in 2010 and started having children, Stearns started to reflect on her spending habits and money mindset.
"We struggled a lot financially," recalls Stearns, who lives in Ohio. "We could barely make ends meet. My husband was working two jobs at the time, and he was a full-time student going to college, so it was very tough." They realized they didn't want to continue to live this way—and they didn't want to pass the same kind of struggle onto their children.
And although they knew they wanted to have a large family and for Stearns to be a stay-at-home mom, they knew they needed to make sure they could provide for them—"not just emotionally and physically but also financially."
That's when the couple decided to sit down and look at the numbers. In turn, they learned how much debt they owed and how long it would take to pay it down, as well as what it would take to create an emergency fund and to start saving for their children's futures.
They landed on putting 10 percent of their income toward tithing (a faith-based charitable donation), 10 percent to paying down debt, and another 10 percent to their savings account, which left them with 70 percent for spending.
At the same time, their family was growing. The couple welcomed their children in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2018, and this past June. Stearns found that reusing clothing and gear for their kids helped them save money. They also cut out expenses like smartphones, internet and cable TV, limited eating out, shopped for bulk, on-sale groceries they could freeze, and used coupons. It also didn't hurt that they were already homebodies. "It was challenging, but we wanted to be able to be financially secure to be able to say, 'Let's have more children,'" says Stearns.
Recently, Stearns began bringing income into the equation by launching her content creator business on social media. Although she started creating content for Instagram in 2017, she only just started seeing profits this past year, reaching more than 90k followers.
"I just save it aside into a separate account, so whenever we want to travel or go do something fun that requires paying for all six children, we're able to use that account instead of using our regular monthly budget," she explains.
Her success and their bolstered savings have also give them more peace of mind. "Life is so unexpected," says Stearns. "We like to be able to go to bed at night and say, 'You know, if anything happens tonight, we're good to go. We're taken care of.'"
While Stearns doesn't think she will give birth to any more children, she hopes to expand their family through adoption. "We want to be able to provide a safe, loving environment to other children," she says. "I feel like I have this amazing gift of mothering. I truly, truly love being at home with my children. I want to be able to provide this lifestyle for other children."
Looking back, Stearns is proud of what she and her husband have accomplished financially. "I'm very, very thankful for the sacrifices that we made at the beginning of our marriage," she explains. "We're able to now have the lifestyle that we want to provide to our children. So I'm very hopeful for the future."
Here, Stearns offers her best money tips for big families like hers.
Buy in Bulk
Stearns explains that the family takes advantage of big sales and buying more items than needed. "We're able to come home and put it in our deep freezer," she says. "We freeze bread; we're able to freeze cheese, meats. And that saves us a lot of money."
In addition to seeing what's on sale, Stearns says finding out which items can be bought with coupons allows the family to "save a ton of money" as well.
Try to Have a Little Wiggle Room
While the Stearns want to be smart and save, they also want to live comfortably and have fun. "We're not like super tight and strict and rigid with our money," say Stearns. "We also like to have a little wiggle room between everything that we spend so we can give [the kids] fun things that cost money."
"Having a large family is a huge blessing, but also a huge responsibility," notes Stearns. "We are literally a team."
These days, the kids tackle their morning chores, and everyone works together to create the kind of home environment that they all want to have. "One of the main things is teaching them that they're part of the family unit, and the thing that they do matters, and it helps a ton," says Stearns. "And I think children like to feel needed."
Don't Stress, But Be Smart
"Don't stress about the numbers," advises Stearns. "Don't stress about your debt. Don't stress about, you know, five, 10 years from now." What to do instead? "Be smart in the way that you spend your money and make financial goals for the future, but don't make it like your life's aim, because life is so short," she says. "I don't want my kids to remember that my mom was always focused about savings that we didn't really have any memories."
Ultimately, what Stearns aims for is raising kids who remember her as a present, loving parent. "That's the main goal," she notes. "Everything else just kinda falls into place."