Readers have a lot of questions about how Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar manage to raise their 17 kids without going broke. Here, the busy couple fields questions about living debt-free, preparing for grandkids and more (including a crowd-pleasing recipe!).
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Q: [How have you] made ends meet (feeding, clothing, diapering, entertaining, etc.) while still being debt-free? Also, how do [you] pay for everything without credit, and still have money in the bank every month?— Marni, Kings Mountain, N.C.
Jim Bob: How do [other] people pay interest for the debt on top of making ends meet? What we've done is something that a lot of people don’t want to do. It's not keeping up with the Joneses. We've always driven older vehicles; we've never bought a new vehicle.
In the past, Michelle's gone to garage sales and bought shoes for a dollar. We probably spend less on clothing than what a family of four would spend. We spend a lot of money on food — $3,000 a month on food and diapers and that type of stuff.
We saved up and paid cash for our second house 18 years ago, then spent a year remodeling to get it fixed up to be livable. But then we didn't have house payments. We don’t have any debt, so it makes it easier to live.
Michelle: We went to a financial freedom seminar when we were young. It was about getting out and staying out of debt. It really is freedom when you're not under this immense pressure every month.
Jim Bob: It wasn’t easy going this route starting off. We made sacrifices. We lived in a 900-square-foot house for seven years. But the money that we saved in rent allowed us to pay cash for the first house.
Q: Are you going to keep on having kids as your now-grown children start having families? How will you financially be able to afford a growing family which will include possibly having grandchildren younger than your own kids?— T. Burley, Russell, Ky.
Michelle: I am 42, so my childbearing years are coming close to an end here! We would welcome more if the Lord saw fit to give us more. With our older children having families, it will add that much more to the family.
Jim Bob: Our kids will have to support their own kids.
Michelle: I'm looking forward to being a grandparent.
Jim Bob: Our oldest son just got married. He has a car business; he and his wife are working together on that. They have their struggles and are learning about business.
Q: How do you manage to iron all the family's clothes?— Janet Brockman
Michelle: I don't. When our children were young, that was the purpose for the knit pullovers and wrinkle-free clothes. I would find them at yard sales and thrift stores. Now that they're older they do their own ironing. Sometimes I have to tell the boys, “You need to go iron that”
Q: How do you make tater tot casserole?— LindaJo Perry, Pahrump, Nev.
[Editor's note: A lot of readers asked about this one after seeing it on Discovery Health's “17 Kids and Counting.”]
Michelle: This is a favorite that can be adapted. Sometimes we have tried it as a breakfast-type thing with sausage, or like a Mexican taco-y type dish.
Jim Bob: We've had hundreds of e-mails from people who have made it with their family, and everyone likes it, including children who are picky and husbands.
Recipe: Tater tot casserole (on this page)
Visit TheDuggarFamily.com for more tips like these, or TLCfor more info on the family. Michelle and Jim Bob’s book, “The Duggars: 20 and Counting,” is out now on Howard Books. Their show “17 Kids and Counting” airs on TLC on Mondays at 10 p.m. EST.