Raising a Family of 8 on a Budget: Cheap vs. Fast vs. Good

People are always amazed that we live on one income. I've been blogging since 2006, and since my husband has been home to help with things around the farm and the house, we've managed to live on just that. I handle social media for other companies, blog for others, as well as make money from freelance writing work. But it's meager compared to what most people make, and it's even less when you consider that we raise 6 kids, homeschool them, and feed them all at home!

When asked by someone what my mission was for things like cooking and decorating, I have explained that rule of Cheap vs. Fast vs. Good. You see, I'm a firm believer that for most people, you can't have all of these things, but you can have two if you really try hard.

Let's take meals for an example: When my husband cooks, he uses up every scrap from the fridge and freezer, making a delicious amazing meal that costs almost nothing. But it takes until 9pm to get it on the table. That's him accomplishing Cheap and Good. He fails the test of Fast, however.

When I cook, I usually get food on the table in less than 45 minutes. It's sometimes delicious, but that's usually because I'm using premium meats or convenience foods. So I've accomplished Fast and Good, but failed the test of Cheap.  On the flipside, I sometimes manage to use cheap ingredients and put them on the table quickly, but the meat will be tough, or the flavors haven't developed. Here's the example of Cheap and Fast. I obviously failed Good.

We painted our house ourselves. Cheap and Good. Not Fast.

This works with most anything in life, from decorating your home to repairing your cars to gardening.  If you want your sink fixed or your fuel lines replaced, you can have a mechanic do it quickly and properly. You will probably pay a fortune. We prefer to outsource very few things and work on it ourselves; it's cheaper but takes a long time because we usually have to order special tools or learn something or wait until we have finished other tasks. Usually our rule for repair is Good and Cheap, but never Fast.

What about you? Have you discovered the rule of Cheap vs. Fast vs. Good? Do you follow it differently for different areas of your life?


  1. Some things I leave to the professionals, e.g., I don't cut or color my own hair -- but I do my best to make it cheap by getting discounted gift cards to Regis, saving up to 20 percent.

    But my partner and I are as patient as you when it comes to getting most stuff done. He thought about the way he would build a greenhouse for several years before actually doing so -- and during that time he'd figured out which pieces from the scrap lumber pile would go where, and how he'd take down and reconfigure an existing structure. We'd also scored some free windows from a neighbor and a friend who were having replacements put in.

    Last year the roofing material he wanted (clear and corrugated, with a 30-year guarantee) went on sale for a couple of weeks. I immediately ordered more discounted gift cards (thanks, Home Depot!) through a cash-back shopping site and we used Home Depot coupons as well, saving more than $130 in all. He also bought cedar deck boards for the floor and the lower-level deck, since they'd be plenty wet in the greenhouse and exposed to Alaska winters outside. The penetrating oil stain was free, though, at the city transfer station (people can leave paint and other things there, sort of a mini-Freecycle).

    As a result, we got a greenhouse up this year and it produced WONDERFUL tomatoes and cukes -- plus hours of enjoyment for us. It's a hobby/pastime we can eat! We'd have gotten it a lot quicker if we'd hired someone to build it. But we'd have paid a ton more.

    So we got cheap and good, but not fast. Works for us.

    1. Donna, that sounds just like my husband! Years of planning, tweaking, and accumulate the right materials for the right price. Some day, we'll have quite the home and garden, but we are learning to be patient until then. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I think you stumbled on a huge life lesson here! That's amazing what you are able to provide for your family, good work mom and dad!


Post a Comment