10 Ways The Duggars Live Debt-Free (And 5 Things They Actually Spend Money On)

Anyone who has a large family knows that it can definitely be expensive. More kids means more groceries, more bills for extracurricular activities, more clothing bills, and more upkeep in general. Larger families tend to have many different tried and true tricks they use to save money.

Don't be fooled by all their frugality, because there are a very few and select things this family will splurge on.

The Duggar family is one of the largest families we've ever heard of! With 19 kids (and counting!) including two sets of twins, the Duggars have had to get creative when it comes to planning their family budget. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar have had to find ways to save money over the years just to simply afford all those kids.

Frugal is definitely a word in Michelle Duggar's vocabulary and she has been very open about how she and her family budget, barter and trade to afford such a large family.

Clearly it's paid off as well because the Duggars are also debt free!

Keep reading to find out Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar's secrets to saving money including bulk shopping, hitting up the thrift shop as well as never using credit. You'll also find out what the Duggars love to spend their money on and what they'll never, ever cheap out on.

15 Always Buy In Bulk

Many families set themselves a grocery budget and do their best to stick with it. It isn't always easy and sometimes impulse purchases make you go over budget. It's not typically a huge deal for the average family, but when you have 19 kids to feed, plus grandkids who are probably visiting often, it's very important to stay on track. Not all 19 kids live at home currently, with six of the Duggar children currently married, but most visit often, at least for the holidays.

The Duggars however set themselves a strict budget and buy in bulk to ensure they don't overspend on groceries. In an interview with TLC Michelle Duggar explained that now that many of her 10 sons are teenagers who like to eat non stop, her grocery budget has increased from $2000 a month to $3000. Still, the mother of many ensures she stays on track by definitely buying in bulk.

"For groceries, we mainly shop at discount grocery stores, warehouse clubs and co-ops," Duggar explained. "You can save thousands of dollars by doing just that. We buy mostly in bulk and stock up once a month on staples like butter, cereal and oats--it's just cheaper. And then I go back every three or four days to get our fresh produce."

14 Thrift-Shopping

For some people, perusing the aisles of the local thrift shop is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Maybe you'll find a great vintage coat or purse or something exciting you weren't expecting. For the Duggars however, thrift store shopping is a way of life.

Fans of the show have often seen the Duggars hitting up their local thrift shop looking for everything from clothes to shoes to household items.

The Duggar motto has always been "buy used and save the difference," and for a family who is seemingly debt free, that seems to have worked for them.

"We rarely buy anything new for our household items. Of course, we will buy packages of undies and socks that are new at discount stores," Duggar told TLC. "We buy the big family pack where you get a better price. That's a great way to save money. But those would be the only items that we buy new on a regular basis."

Michelle even suggested to those who want to know the family's secrets to staying on budget that they should definitely be hitting up the second hand stores for clothes, shoes and household goods.

"Another way we cut corners is to always buy used and save the difference," Duggar said. "That means when it comes time to shop for clothes, we go to the thrift stores.


13 Used Cars

There are never brand new cars in the Duggar household. "We try to get bargains on everything. We even buy our cars used because there is such a high depreciation on them," Michelle Duggar told TLC.

"We've never bought a new vehicle," Jim Bob told Parenting Magazine. "We've always bought used vehicles. We buy them at an auction, wholesale. We can drive them for several years and turn around and get our money back out of them."

"We'll get a vehicle that still has a lot of life in it," Michelle added. Jim then chimed in about how they managed to purchase a bus that was able to fit their entire family.

"We bought our 21-passenger bus on a sealed bid for $2100. They're usually, like, $50,000 if you want to buy a new one."

In fact, the Duggars purchased the bus from a now defunct minor hockey team. That's a pretty great purchase considering just a few years after they bought the bus Josh Duggar had it listed for sale on his used car lot for $84k! That's one heck of a profit if they managed to sell it for that price!

12 Home Furnishings

We know that the Duggar family loves to hit up the thrift shop to get their clothes and shoes, but they also always buy second hand when it comes to home furnishings too.

In one episode of their hit TLC show Jinger, is even seen introducing new husband Jeremy to the wonderful world of thrift shopping, and after finding brand new mattresses at thrift store prices, he's definitely a believer.

Michelle Duggar is a huge fan of buying used and she's passed that quality down to her kids. "There are so many other ways to save," the Duggar matriarch told TLC when giving her cost saving tips. "As a matter of fact, Jill and Derick are going to be looking on Craigslist for furniture for their home. There's beautiful stuff available. People are constantly moving and they get rid of things they don't need," she said.

She's also committed to sticking to her budget, no matter if that means she has to sit on the floor.

"If our couch wears out, I know I've got $65.00 to spend on a couch and we'll look around. In the meantime, if our couch falls apart, we'll take it out and just sit on the carpet for a while. It's no big deal. I don't feel like I need to meet the status quo."

11 All  You Need Is Cash!

While many of us rely on our credit cards to purchase our groceries or home goods and clothing, the Duggars are a strictly cash family.

"We've taught our kids when you buy something on credit, you ending up paying three times as much for it," Michelle Duggar said. "Whereas, if you pay cash, the asking price is exactly the price you'll pay. If you don't have the cash, set aside $5 a week, and you know you'll have money when emergency situation comes up."

You may think that Michelle is only referring to the smaller items that the family pays for on a daily basis, but she really means paying cash for everything.

"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," Jim Bob claimed during an interview on TODAY. "But then we didn't have house payments. We don’t have any debt, so it makes it easier to live."

That might sound easier said than done, but clearly the Duggar's lifestyle has worked out for them. The Duggars have even been known to host some pretty amazing yard sales of their own, where they earn some cash and de-clutter in the process.

"De-cluttering is really important. For starters, I always tell the kids that if stuff comes in the house, we have to take other stuff out," Michelle told TLC. "We give things to friends that can use them or sell them at a yard sale. There's just not enough space for everything."

10 They Know How To Haggle

Michelle Duggar is an expert in the art of haggling and negotiating for an item, and she's passed that skill on to her kids.

"Negotiating is an important skill," she tells TLC. "I teach my kids that it's perfectly acceptable to negotiate a price on something if you've done your homework. If you feel like the price might be a little bit exorbitant or a little higher than what you are willing to pay, ask for a lower price. Especially if you're paying cash," which we all know is something that Michelle always does.

"For example, say you find an item you want on Craigslist. You check around to see what similar items are going for and find the price is a little high. If you've already researched it, I don't think it's rude to ask them to lower the price. You're not offending them by asking because they know what they can take for that item and what they've got to get out of it. Most people will be honest and just say, "You know, this is what I can take. I can't take any less than this." And you have to make the decision, "Am I really willing to put forth that much or will I wait for another better deal later down the road?""

Michelle also admitted in her book The Duggars: 20 and Counting that she will even negotiate on medical insurance if she can.

9 They're A Handy Bunch

If you've ever watched any of the Duggar shows like 19 Kids and Counting or Counting On, you know the Duggar family does a lot of the work around their houses themselves. Jana is a wiz when it comes to home and kitchen renovations, and most of the children are taught to use power tools, work around the house and do their own home repairs themselves.

Michelle told TLC that when they were building their floor they installed radiant heat (another cost saver) and that everyone old enough got involved.

"When we built our current home, we installed a radiant heat floor before we poured our concrete. The hot water runs through pipes in it during the winter, and it heats the whole house. Installing that was really something! Everybody that was old enough to help got out there and laid that PEX pipe -- even the little ones were out there tying down the pipe in the floor before we poured the concrete."

When Jinger and Jeremy moved in to their new home some of the Duggar siblings were quick to arrive to lend a hand painting kitchen cupboards, redoing ceramic tile and painting the home.

Having that many kids who are all knowledgeable in home repair defintely saves the Duggars a lot of money.

8 Why Buy When You Can Make?

For many of us we can buy a bulk size bottle of laundry soap and it will last a few weeks. For the Duggars, they can do upwards of 40 loads of laundry a week, so they're using a whole lot more laundry soap than the average family.

Because of that the Duggars make their own laundry soap and save a lot. Jim told Parenting Magazine that making their own products has been a big money saver. "We also have recipes for homemade laundry soap and homemade wet wipes," he said. "We've saved a lot of money that way."

Michelle also commented on just how much they're saving. "It costs $2 to make 10 gallons of laundry detergent that will last us 2 months," she said. "We spend $1 a month on laundry detergent."

I think we can all recognize what a huge savings that is, especially for a larger family. The Duggars also now have a huge vegetable garden where they grow a lot of their own fruits and vegetables as well making their own bread.

When you have so many people to support it's important to save money anywhere you can, which means they're happy to make something for a fraction of the price they could buy it for.

7 Check, Double Check then Check Some More!

The Duggars aren't just frugal, they're very smart about their money. They ask for bills to be itemized to ensure they are only paying for what they've used. In their book Michelle said the couple learned the hard way to always ask for an itemized bill, especially for medical expenses.

"We also watch all our medical bills carefully to make sure they're accurate," she wrote. "One time we got a hospital bill after the birth of one of our children that was much higher than we expected.

When we requested an itemized bill, we found a line that charged us for 387 bars of soap! We told them, "We're just not that dirty!" The hospital adjusted the bill, and we learned a lesson. Now we always request an itemized bill.""

Michelle told Parenting Magazine it isn't just medical bill she watches, either.

"For hospital bills, phone bills, anything -- ask for everything to be itemized. Especially cell phone bills, they always add extra expenses. They automatically put stuff on. We call them and get them to take it off. You have to keep an eye on every one of those."

That's a good lesson for anyone to be more vigilant about what they're paying for.

6 Share And Share Alike

One way the Duggars get around hiring people to help them when they're doing things like building a house or moving a child in to their new house is to enlist the help of friends and family. In return, the Duggars are always there to help out their friends as well.

When they were building their current home, Jim Bob Duggar credited their good friends The Wilson's for leaving their home in Mississippi for a year to help the Duggars with their construction process. Clark Wilson just so happens to be a carpenter by trade so he came in particularly handy when it came to building the home.

While they did hire professionals for some aspects of the home building, many of the friends that helped were also professionals who volunteered their time. His brother in-law John Hutchins was in the bulldozer business, the Inquistr reports, so he was able to help prepare the land for construction. He also helped teach many of the Duggar boys how to work the machines for future use.

Clearly the Duggars know that what goes around comes around so they ensure they're available to help when their friends need them, and in turn they receive the same courtesy.

The Duggars do like to indulge! Let's face it, the many ways the Duggars like to save money makes a lot of sense, but sometimes you just have to go a bit overboard. Here are five different ways the Duggars like to spend their money!

5 They Indulge With Honeymoons

Six of the Duggar families are now married, which means there have been six weddings to pay for and six honeymoons! The Duggar honeymoons have definitely gotten more lavish as more kids get married. When disgraced son Josh Duggar married wife Anna, they celebrated by honeymooning in Myrtle Beach, S.C. where they rented a beach house of their own. Jill Dillard and husband Derick Dillard similarly spent their first moments as husband and wife in Kill Devil Hills, NC, where they also rented a beach house.

Sister Jessa definitely splurged on her honeymoon with a European trip to Paris and Italy. Definitely a step up from a beach house vacation! Jinger and Jeremy Vuolo took the Honeymoon phase one step further with their trip to Australia, while Joy-Anna and Austin Forsyth honeymooned in Switzerland. Joseph Duggar and his bride Kendra are the most recently wed Duggar kids and they enjoyed a Honeymoon in Greece!

Sure, TLC may be chipping in for the cost of the trip since most of them seemed to be documented for the network's show, Counting On, but it's still an indulgence for the family. After all since so many of them started their families almost immediately after getting married they should at least enjoy a nice trip together!

4 Unlimited Coffee Supply

If there's one thing the Duggars take seriously, it's their coffee. My guess is that if you had 19 kids you'd be very, very serious about your coffee too.  The Duggars are known for not being morning people. "I believe if God wanted us to see the sunrise, He would have scheduled it later on in the day," says Jessa. Coffee plays a very important role in the Duggar family!

Jinger is probably the biggest coffee lover in the family. She even had people throw coffee beans at her as she and new husband Jeremy left their wedding instead of rice. While Jinger may be the most serious coffee lover drinking at least 3 cups a day (although she had previously said she was trying to get that down to 2), all of the Duggars love their coffee.

One look at any of the social media feeds of the Duggars and you can see they like their Starbucks too. At an average of $4 a drink that is definitely a splurge that they take very seriously.

In one episode of Counting On, Jinger even attempted to start her own business by roasting coffee beans. Sadly, it didn't turn out so well. They always have Starbucks!

3 They Satisfy Those Cravings

Budgets are important, especially in a big family. Grocery budgets are crucial because it's so easy to splurge and go over with just one or two pricey items. The Duggars set strict limits for themselves at the grocery store and if they can't afford something they simply go without.

While the Duggar family favours buying groceries at local discount stores or anywhere they can buy in bulk, they do allow themselves to indulge once and a while. Sometimes it's the little things that make you smile. Jill Dillard took to Instagram to praise husband Derick Dillard for bringing home a little something special from the grocery store as a treat for her.

“@derickdillard #besthubbyintheworld went grocery shopping for us last night and came home and surprised me with my favorite #chocolatemilk #promiselanddairy Thanks babe! Love you tons!!!” Jill captioned the social media pic.

Sure, it may not be super expensive, but it's the little things that the Duggars splurge on that allows them to stay in budget on everything else.

Of course those Duggar ladies have to be careful anytime they post something regarding cravings or grocery store treats, because it always leads to pregnancy rumours!

2 They Splurge For Birthday Time!

While there many not be a fancy, expensive birthday party or lavish gifts, the Duggars definitely know how to celebrate a birthday! Let's face it, in the Duggar household there's birthdays happening all the time. With 21 people in the immediate family there is no money for lavish gifts but there is one thing the family likes to splurge on. and that's their traditional birthday dessert called the Chocolate Mess.

The chocolate mess is a signature dessert at a local Arkansas restaurant the family likes to go to. It's a super chocolately and fudgey ice cream sundae in a glass coated with cocoa. While the kids aren't forced to enjoy the dessert for their birthday, many choose to.

"For those who have asked if the chocolate mess is 'forced' on the Duggar kids or if they are 'allowed' to choose a different means of celebration, we assure you that they are free to select a different restaurant," Jim Bob and Michelle said. "In fact, we have posted many photos of such birthday celebrations."

It may not be a super expensive birthday party or fancy gift, but it's special enough that each family member chooses it as their special birthday treat.

1 They Invest In Properties

You may wonder how the Duggars are able to live debt free with 19 kids. Well, Jim Bob has made a lot of his money off buying investment properties. The couple often refer to a financial freedom seminar they took some 25 years ago with helping set them on the path to financial independence.

According to The Today Show, "both Duggars are real estate agents, and both also host Bible-based “Financial Freedom Seminars.” They also own commercial properties." Needless to say, their savvy business acumen of purchasing commercial properties and investment properties has not only helped them guide their children towards financial freedom, but allowed them to live a pretty stress free lifestyle.

While the Duggars definitely aren't the family that are going to splurge on fancy cars or expensive family vacations, they spend their money on the things that matter to them the most. I'm sure TLC is on hand to kick in a bit when needed as well, as long as the cameras get to come along too!

What do you think? Would you use any of Michelle Duggar's tips for saving money, or are these tips only really effective for large families?

References: TLC, TLC, Parenting Magazine, TODAY, TLC, TLC, The Inquistr

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