As considerably smaller families try to deal with runaway inflation, consider the Burns of Chicago: 14 (of 21) children living on Tom Burns annual income of $30,000. Here is Barbara Burns' account of how they do it.
Our 11-room house is filled with 14 children still at home, ranging in age from 2 to 20. We had always planned on a big family, and we learned early to be ingenious, inventive, thrifty and satisfied.
We've learned to function as an economy machine -- now forced into high gear. Small savings in many areas may not seem worth the trouble, but -- trite as it may sound -- the quarters and dollars add up.
Utility costs and food prices have about doubled in the last three years. I can shop for bargains in food, but haven't been able to find any bargains in the utility companies. So we trim the amount of energy we use by:
Cooking the whole dinner in one pot or oven.
Turning off the dishwasher at the dry cycle, allowing dishes to air-dry.
Unplugging the TV every night. (It has a warm-up tube.)
Mapping out errands with the car to save gas, and walking for short errands.
Not running the water excessively, by taking showers instead of baths and having the two little ones share the same tub.
Using no electric hair dryers or hot rollers.
Making use of flourescent lighting in basement, kitchen and bathrooms for brighter and cheaper light.
Turning off lights and radios when leaving a room.
Keeping our 10-year-old compact and 8-year-old van in top mechanical condition and parking them in our garage.
Using shades on the sunny side in summer and opening windows on the shady side to use the lake breeze to cool the house. Reverse in winter, using heavy drapes, good insulation and weatherstripping to keep heat in.
My husband installed a high-efficiency hot-water heating system with baseboard radiant heat 20 years ago, and we have the lowest heating bill on the block. In our area, gas is cheaper than electricity for heating and cooking: All appliances were bought with this in mind.
Almost everything we buy (clothing and furnishings) is washable, avoiding the high cost of dry cleaning.
My husband, who does all appliance repair, saves all material that comes with a new appliance: He has a parts list when one breaks down after the warranty expires. With the help of the schematic (usually printed on the back of the appliance) and sometimes a book with diagrams, he can repair or rebuild anything in the house or the cars. To eliminate service dealers' 10 to 20 percent charge on replacement parts, I go to a supply house with model number, part name and number and get the wholesale price.
Our furniture is secondhand, sturdy stuff that we have refinished, reupholstered, slipcovered or made over to fit. Our walls are decorated with homemade works of art (hooked rugs, crewel, wire sculpture, paintings by some of our talented young artists, and enlarged snapshots that have many memories for all of us).
When I find a good sale on linens, I can redo a bedroom in coordinating colors, buying enough sheets for bedding, dust ruffle, draperies, quilts, even a dressing-table skirt.
Some ways we save money at the supermarket:
Serving rice or noodles when potatoes are too high.
Preparing beef liver: the most economical meal you can serve, except for fish you've caught yourself.
Buying whole chickens, rather than certain parts.
Using ammonia, vinegar and baking soda for all cleaning jobs: The recipe is on the ammonia bottle.
Buying shampoo by the gallon and transferring to small bottles.
Limiting snack foods to home-popped popcorn.
Making only one pot of coffee a day and storing it hot in a Thermos to save flavor and the cost of reheating later.
Using leftover roasts in homemade harsh when there is no gravy left for reheating.
Making bread occasionally and jam when fruit is in season.
Drying celery tops to save for spicing up stews and soups.
Using the crock pot for cheaper, less tender cuts of meat.
Buying sale items by the case, using money-off coupons and getting a rain check when the sale item is not on the shelf.
Planning the weekly menu around supermarket specials and shopping only once a week -- from a list -- to avoid impulse buying.
Testing and using generics. (It's no saving if your family won't eat it.)
Buying groceries at a no-frills market.
Trying to keep the freezer full. (A full one is cheaper to run. But because we can't afford to fill it with meat, day-old bread from a bakery outlet does the trick and combines the savings with convenience.)
We camp for vacations within 100 miles of home. This allows our older working children to join us part of the time. We use both cars to pull the two campers and one tent for campsite housing. Over the years we have added more equipment (sometimes as gifts). Except for the initial setting up and breaking camp, there is no more work to camping than saying in a rental cottage and a lot less cost.
The biggest sewing project I ever tackled was re-screening our camper. With a size 18 needle and my old machine, I made a zip-on screen room for $48 after pricing one at $250.
We locate a campground next to water, as we haul two canoes on top of the van. Tom made a fibreglass canoe-sailboat-rowboat combination from a kit bought from a Boy Scout catalogue and patched up and antique strip cedar canoe a former tenant left in his mother's garage. We've put a sail on this one also, made on my sewing machine out of an old city flag. We conduct regular races when we're at a lake.
At-home entertainment runs along the same lines. We use the park district programs which are either free or require a minimal fee for ice skating, sledding, swimming, tennis and so on. The children's school and park ball teams provide themselves and us with entertainment. Tom and I belong to two bridge clubs and we frequent church dinners and dances, all inexpensive and entertaining.
We have a private physician, but with his approval use our city health center for all necessary inoculations. I keep him updated on which shots the children have been given. Medical insurance pays for yearly check-ups, but not for shots or sick visits.
We've never rushed out and bought the latest styles or toys. We are not victims of advertising because we don't feel the need to keep up with anyone. With the size of our family, we're different enough anyway.