Advice from large debt-free Catholic family helpful but incomplete

"A Catholic Guide to Spending Less and Living More: Advice from a Debt-Free Family of 16" by Sam and Rob Fatzinger. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2021). 192 pp., $16.95.

Sam and Rob Fatzinger are the parents of 14 children. In their new book, "A Catholic Guide to Spending Less and Living More," they share some of their story of raising their family with an emphasis on the importance of budgeting and saving.

In writing this book they "want to share things that have worked for us to achieve financial freedom and live debt-free." They hope these tips "will encourage you to live better and spend less."

The financial advice offered here is accurate and would benefit anyone looking for guidance on how to manage their finances, whether raising a family or not. Sam, a stay-at-home mom who home-schools her children, writes every other chapter in an inviting and friendly style.

The chapters written by Rob, the father who holds a job outside the home, are more direct and no-nonsense. Together they have created an informative and helpful resource for those just starting out in marriage and for those with years of marriage behind them.

Where the book is most helpful (and most interesting) is when the couple writes from their experience of managing their finances while raising such a large family, including brief vignettes from their older children describing how they have benefited from the lessons learned from being raised in the "Fatzinger way."

More detailed information on this level would have been quite helpful. For example, one of the suggestions made here is to get a second job if money is needed.

While a reality for many people, neither Rob or Sam mention ever having to do this or, if they did, what effect it had on their family or their marriage.

Sam and Rob have raised a large family today with only one parent working at a paying job. The reader wants to know what they did and how they did it, rather than being told what to do.

Also somewhat lacking is an explanation of why they made the choices they made. Why did they want a large family? Was this based upon a religious belief in accepting children lovingly from God? Hints are given but nothing specific is said.

Along this line, there is very little written here that is specifically Catholic, with no explicit discussion of Catholic Church tradition or beliefs or values. There is some mention of being supported by their church community, but it could be any church in any community.

Again, more information on these matters would be welcomed, especially the support a large family needs from a Catholic parish.

The financial decisions we make say a lot about our beliefs and values. On page 155 Rob offers a theological underpinning for the book: budgeting "is (or should be) an expression of our faith. It is this fundamental faith in God and a deep-rooted desire to please him and pick up our crosses in everything we do that has been at the heart of all the choices we had made as a family."

Mentioning this sooner and expressing it more explicitly throughout would help the reader better understand the "Fatzinger way."

There is much to like in this little book. It would make a great gift for young couples starting out or for anyone struggling to manage their finances.

Additional resources on living the "Fatzinger way" are provided on the publisher's website but were not reviewed. A longer book telling the story of the Fatzinger family in more detail would be welcomed.

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Mulhall lives in Louisville, Kentucky.