Three principles for frugal living from the parents of 16 children


Chris and Wendy Jeub live in Colorado and are the parents to sixteen children.  They have written for Larger Family Life before, and are back again, this time to share their top three tips of living frugally.  You can visit Chris, Wendy and the rest of the family at their website,



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 confirming 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.
Chris and Wendy Jeub

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9 thoughts on “Three principles for frugal living from the parents of 16 children

  1. This is a great article and I truely admire how little they manage to live on.
    However there is a huge difference in culture from homeschooling in Colerado, to sending your kids to a large state school in the UK.
    Whislt I do not like/approve of the fashion trends and their prices neither do I want my children to be victimised/geeks/suffer for being part of a large family which was our choice and not there’s.
    We have over the years reached a compromise on such items. I will give them the money for the trainers/ shoes/ sweatshirt etc that I would consider buying them, if they want the uber expensive ‘in’ item they must make up the rest of the money with their savings from their jobs. We have encouraged all our children to work from 13, firstly paper rounds then shop/ resturant jobs.
    Giving them this choice means they make the ultimate decisions, and also they do not feel like they are not fitting in. In the UK peer prerssure is huge. Asa teacher I have to deal with so many incidents and see so much I really do appreciate for my kids how hard it is.
    We talk a lot about this, I do not agree with all the trends buy any means (giving 13 year olds iphones/blackberrys!) and it is a constant manovere of boundaries all the time.
    Our friends who do homeschool in the States were shocked how different things are over here. You cannot live in glorious isolation from the rest of the world, and neither would I want my children too. It is hard and we have had many instances of them being upset because they do not have things their friends have.
    Living frugally by and large is something all larger families have to accept, but as the Jeurbs so rightly said it doesnt mean this is hard all the time. The children share many things such as music, videos, clothes etc so they have a lot more.Many of their friends envy our family and wish they had one like ours when they come over and stay! We are blessed in so many ways, just perhaps not the ones our “materalistic’ world sees as important.

    1. Hmm, I’m a lot closer to you than Colorado but I disagree. None of my children has ever had any designer clothes. They have never asked for nor expected them, and even the oldest ones have grown up realising naturally, (that is, without my input) that they do not need certain clothes or certain brands to make them who they are. It has never really been discussed because it has never been an issue as to where their clothes have come from.

      None of them have ever been victimised, called “geeks” or bullied because they don’t have the latest x, y or z. The clothes do not maketh the man, after all, so I find it really hard to agree with your comments. I’d be interested to hear other parent’s opinions on this.

    2. Well, I think that when we homeschool, we are infact sheltered from a lot of the issues that families with kids in school face, peer pressure being one of those. We encounter those things a bit once our children begin to join sports clubs, youth groups and the like – but fortunately to a lot lesser degree. I can imagine that there will be issues that have to be handled differently and more compromises made when your children are in school.

      I agree that it is totally a real “risk” to be, if not bullied, then at least teased and considered a geek if you don’t follow the crowd or are fortunate enough to be one of the cool bunch. I think your children Tania have possibly been lucky not to have experienced that at all. I also wonder though, if how the child lives it himself does not mean a lot as well. I mean, if the child internalizes the values that he or she carries on from us parents.

      Total isolation, no that’s not an option (though sometimes I’d be just fine in a remote monastary somewhere over the mountains :-D) but I do think it is possible to decide how much of the world you WANT to let in. For example, we don’t receive any ad’s in our mail (no thank you sign) and we don’t own a TV – because the less you are exposed to what the world says is cool and desirable, the less you are tempted and the less you’ll struggle with not “fitting in”.

      I realize that the famous teen years are (supposed to be) delicate and I’ll have to report back in 5 or so years to tell how much of my theories I have had to review, LOL.

      Btw there’s a book by Maybeth Hicks called “Bringing up geeks” that treats precisely about this, having “geeky” values when your kids are in public school.

      1. You raised some good points there, Maria.

        My oldest child is almost 19 and went through his whole school life in mainstream school. My daughter went through most of hers through mainstream bar three years. She did get bullied but it wasn’t to do with not having brand clothing.

        Neither Mike nor I care at all for designer names and labels. We never have placed any importance on it so yes, I do believe a lot of it comes from values that children carry on from us parents.

  2. I do not wear designer brands and never have, neither does my husband who cares very little about such things. I think you are very fortunate if your kids are absoutly immune from these trappings as most of my friends suffer the same dilema’s as I do with these issues. Like us, most of them so not wear any desinger clothing at all. However their children, once they reach a certain age do feel pressured into this.
    My kids have all gone through phases of wanting these things. Some a lot more than others. Odly enough Tania, our son (15) is one of the most concious and that certainly does not come from us!
    They seem to get to about 16-17 and thankfully get over this phase. Don’t get me wrong they still like these things but they no longer particulary buy them.
    I agree the children get certain things from us. I have always taken great pride in my appearance no matter how little money we have had, as my mother made me value this.I think it is very important that the children look clean and tidy and dressed nicely as it is one of the first things people assume, that large families cannot afford clothes etc..
    As I said before, I teach, teenagers, I have seen firsthand how cruel children can be to each other over very, very small and insignificant things.Clothing is one of these. I have dealt with many cases of kids being isolated because of this, sadly. Perhaps this has coloured my perceptions. My kids have to live through an emotional/social nightmare of secondary education, I do not. Whislt I do not give into every pressure, I try to support where I can as well. This does not mean they are materalistic or at all shallow, my 18 year old, who has, yes, label clothes, false nails, hair extensions and lots of make up has spent her last two years wages saving up to spend each summer in Uganda working in a children’s orphanage where she left all these trappings at home and loved it! The others all likewise, help at different things and give of themselves. But they are teenagers, they are influenced by fashion, culture, pop and celebrity. Do I like all of it? Nope, but it’s part of their culture and they do get over it, and thankfully grow up to be pretty normal .

    1. What I can certainly agree with, is that it IS a delicate job, and a tough, ongoing one – to find balance in what to allow/adopt from the outside world and what to reject and stand firm against, regardless of pressure.

      We don’t experience the clothing issue at all (yet) but we do experience the “being weird and different” with other things; what we watch and read, what we listen to. I have had countless talks with oldest dd about how there is just unfortunately so much crap out there, and how so many people just don’t think about what it is they put into their minds (I’m sure a lot of parents would actually disagree if they really sat down and checked out some of the lyrics to a lot of pop songs that girls as young as 8-9 are walking around parroting!)

      Anyway – as what is important and what is less important will be different for all os us, we will have difficulties on different levels. What matters most I think, is that we as parents are open to the struggles that our children face and try to help them navigate it all in the best way we can, different for each family with its own challenges and particularities 🙂

  3. When I got the email with this article I was excited to read it. We have 4 children between 1 and 8 and stretching our income is a constant challenge. However after reading the article I was left feeling a little underwhelmed.

    I guess I was expecting some solid, real advise or techniques but instead was told to have faith in God. Now I am no atheist but at the same time I am a realist and I can’t leave such matters to the unknown. Pint 2 came close to offering some solid advise but really fell short in my opinion.

    Now I’ve also read the comments and I have a take on it. We buy almost all our clothes second hand. We visit car boot sales and charity shops, oh and my wife is a hawk on eBay too. This doesn’t mean we buy second hand designer clothes but it does mean we can buy quality second hand items from places like Next and Gap, or Lelli Kellie shoes that my girls love.

    Of course none of my girls have really reached an age where they are drawn to fashion, although my eldest is starting to really take an interest in her appearance. However, she is very relaxed about the fact we buy second had and I hope that the fact we educate her about saving money and buying second hand stays with her. We may have some troubles to come but I am confident we can ride that storm.

    My only element of self-doubt is a memory I have from my school days. One of my class mates saw me going into an Oxfam with my mum one Saturday afternoon and he took great pleasure in relaying this around school as though it was some thing to be embarrassed about. I then refused to go in there again. My mother didn’t bat an eyelid though and left me to it. I have since come to realise that there really shouldn’t’ be a stigma attached to such things, although there still seems to be. I just hope that we can instil the confidence in our girls to ride that kind of stigma and ignore it.

    1. Hi David,

      not only shouldn’t there be any stigma attached to it, but more people should be educated on why it is actually a good thing to buy second hand!

      I never tell my children that we buy second hand because we can’t afford to do otherwise. For one, that is not the case – if we wanted to, we could give priority to that. but we choose not to.

      We buy second hand, because it’s 1) an environmental issue. I shop thrift stores because I don’t wish to support the over-production and consumerism in the world 😉
      2) a way to support chariity causes and hence a way of giving/sharing of our over-abundance with those less fortunate…

      My children know this, and they see me walk that talk. I don’t shop around in malls and stuff for myself either. Not even for gifts. Those are preferably either homemade or from a charity.

      i make a big deal out of explaining these reasons to the kids and we talk a lot about issues like sweat shops, pollution etc

      I once read someone saying NEVER tell your kids “we cant afford this” unless it is really honestly and truely the case. I think she is right. And in my experience that is actually quite rarely the case – it is almost always a question of priorities and what we choose to value over something else. (For instance I have friends who supposedly cannot “afford” to buy organic food, but they wear brand clothes. Well, i shop thrift stores but I buy organic food…question of choice folks ;-))

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