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Personal Finance in a Polygamous Family

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The Salt Lake Tribune recently ran an article about a polygamous family living in the suburbs of Salt Lake City. The family, consisting of a husband, three wives, and get this, 21 children (yikes!) aren’t your stereotypical polygamous family. They don’t look like the compound people you often see on the news. The wives in this family look like any other American woman: they wear stylish clothes, makeup, and don’t have braided hair. The children all attend public school and are active in sports in their community. In fact, they’re a lot like the family on HBO’s Big Love.

The family belongs to a faction of Mormon fundamentalists that still continue the practice of plural marriage. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint discontinued plural marriage 117 years ago and excommunicates members found practicing it. However, plural marriage persisted and gave rise to number of different fundamentalist Mormon factions that are not connected to the mainstream LDS church.

The whole article is interesting. As a member of the LDS Church, it’s always weird to read about polygamists. I find the whole practice strange. It’s even weirder to see a normal looking family practicing plural marriage.

The part I found most interesting was how the family manages to afford to support 25 people:

Gary is the main breadwinner. Vicki and Valerie both work part time; Vicki is able to work from home. Kaye looks after the younger children when the other mothers are working.
“Historians say [plural marriage] was great for an agricultural society, but it works in today’s service society, too,” Gary said.

They have made frugality a science. Home hair cuts are the norm; they rent rather than go to movies; dinner out is a picnic in the park; there is one Playstation 2, one Xbox, one television.
The monthly food budget is $1,000. “I’ve got lunches down to 50 cents, 75 cents, a day,” Gary said. “We don’t buy brand names. We buy strictly what’s on sale, and we buy bulk.”
Think Costco, where Valerie recently shopped for two-week’s worth of groceries from a four-page list. It took less than an hour for her to load the cart with supersize, value and jumbo packages of everything from corn dogs to peanut butter. Total: $418.87.

What impressed me the most is that they only spend $1,000 a month to feed 25 people. I know families of four that spend that much in a month. Overall, it looks like this family is making all the right financial moves to make their lifestyle choice work. It would be interesting to do a follow up on them to see how they manage to pay for their children’s education.

Make sure to check out the video slideshow of the family. You can get a inside view of what it’s like to live in a plural family.

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