How Gil and Kelly Jo Bates pay for their 19 children

Gil, Kelly Jo Bates, and their 19 children are the new Duggars. They’re even friends with The Duggars. Both families belong in a rare niche: Modern American families who actively refuse to use birth control, and instead let God decide how many children they have. (They also both may or may not belong to The Quiverfull movement.)

Their new reality show The United Bates of America debuts on TLC tonight at 9/8c, and we’ll get to see if the viewing audience wants to watch more mega-families.

Of course now The Bates are reality stars (if the show works out,) so the opportunities that come along with that will help pay for their children, but they’ve been already surviving for two decades with a large brood. The question is: how do two non-billionaire adults find the money to feed and care for so many children?

Again, The Bates have many similarities to The Duggars with their financial philosophies, but how they get their income is a bit different.

Gil Bates’s family tree-cutting business is the main source of family income. His sons work for him, but one of his sons actually started his own business. Their fourth child Lawson started a lawncare service, Lawson’s Lawncare, when he was just 13. Now his business does so well that he actually lends money to his family.

The other way the Bates pay for their family is simply by stretching a dollar as far as it can go.

They buy things on sale, shop at second-hand stores, and get hand-me-downs from other familie. They also refuse any debt or loans (except within the family, apparently) and don’t even have auto-loans, or a mortgage on their large house.

Gil told 20/20:

“We try out best to live as cheap as we can. I’m a real penny pincher. I’m probably worse than a penny pincher. We try not to buy stuff that’s full price. We wait till it goes on sale, and if it’s not a necessity we try not to buy it unless it’s something we really need.”

Gil’s also a fan of all the tax deductions the family can take: “That’s a wonderful thing. America is a great place to live.”

One odd thing about they family’s financial plan is that they don’t have health insurance. In the 20/20 episode, Gil praised the care the family receives at the ER, but that doesn’t exactly explain how they pay ER bills, which can be quite high. They do receive free prenatal care from a faith-based clinic.