A testimony from Rachel of Sisters with a System
In 2016, one of our children unexpectedly qualified for the National Bible Bee competition.
Friends and family donated money that allowed us to fly to the competition in Texas. It was a tremendous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our single-income family of 8!
Fast forward 5 months. All of our children wanted to return to Texas and three wanted to compete at Nationals. The only problem was, we didn’t have the funds and certainly didn’t expect others to foot the bill again.
My husband and I set up our 2017 budget, but were only able to save $40/month for a trip… so, we started a Texas Jar and decided to get creative.
- In addition to spare change, any time we came in under budget for an expense, the difference went into our jar — no matter how trivial.
- We cleaned out our attic and closets to have a yard sale, during which the kids had a concession stand. They raised almost as much money with their concessions as we did with our yard sale!
- We sold a few items on Ebay and Craigslist.
- I cooked some especially frugal meals (think Meatless Monday!) and tucked the money saved into our growing fund.
- The kids earned some money doing yard work and housecleaning for their grandmother; they wanted to put all their money into the fund, but we only allowed them to contribute half, with the other half being deposited into their savings.
- My husband gets paid biweekly (26 paychecks/year), but we budget on a monthly basis (24 paychecks/year), resulting in two “extra” paychecks per year. We put a portion of this money into the Texas Jar.
Still, saving money was only half the plan. It takes a lot of money to get a family of 8 from Ohio to Texas and back (42 hours total driving), plus the expense of the 4-day competition. So, we plotted and schemed the cheapest ways to travel.
- We cashed in hotel points (both ours and a those of a generous friend) for free nights.
- While mapping our route, we decided to drive through the night once to stretch our free hotel nights.
- The majority of our meals were food we packed in a cooler (both on the road and in our hotel). Once we arrived in Texas, we bought groceries for easy meals we could eat in our rooms.
We finally had the expenses whittled down to $2500, and had saved $2300. We had counted and recounted our money, rolled the coins, and hoped each time that the final amount would miraculously change.
The departure date was drawing near and we were thinking hard about robbing Peter to pay Paul, when a couple from our church gave us a check for $200! The trip was the most memorable one our family has ever had, made all the more special because of the way this truly was a family effort!
Rachel is a homeschooling SAHM of 6 and co-creator of the blog Sisters with a System, where she shares ideas and printables for organizing our homes, homeschools, finances, and lives!
Pratheeba @ Centsible Indian says
Inspiring story. I’m sure your family will remember this trip forever.
Thank you for sharing your story. I loved reading about a family goal that everyone worked so hard to enjoy together.
Thank you for sharing! How encouraging!
Need Anap says
You say “rooms”, we also have run into issues securing a single hotel room for our family of 6. Any tips/ideas on how you get hotel rooms for more than 5? How do you split up your family to stay in 2 rooms? When I was a kid, we brought sleeping bags and my parents didn’t really tell how many kids were in the room, I don’t think, but my husband and I feel that isn’t right. But it’s hard to pay for 2 rooms when we can fit into 1.
We are a family of 6 and only pick hotel rooms with a suite or 2 queens plus a pullout. Any of the hotels that add onto their name “and suites” should be able accommodate your family (with no deception required!).
You can still get reasonable prices but can’t do Priceline express deals since they don’t usually let you pick room size.
That’s what we do as well as a family of 6. Comfort Suites is one we frequent lol. Must have 2 beds and a pullout couch 🙂 They’re a family of 8, so I would think 2 rooms is a must.
Rachel Johnson says
We really didn’t have too much fitting in one room when we were a family of 6. As Heather said, hotels with suites have 2 queen beds plus a pullout. We especially like Holiday Inn Express because of the availability of suites, the free breakfast and the great reward program where you can earn free nights (IHG Rewards). Once we became a family of 7 and then 8, it got more difficult. On our way home from Texas, my brother-in-law had booked us one free suite (using his points). We decided just to be honest and pray for the best. So, when they asked how many were in our family I told them the truth and explained that we had an air mattress. The lady was very accommodating and allowed us all to stay!