I think you are likely looking in the wrong places for friends.
Have you looked at Catholic Mom’s groups or things like St. Gregory’s pocket? Heck, even activities at the library could give you a better idea about families.
My husband has several friends from college. Some are married, a few for nearly a decade now. Maybe one has kids? Of my college friends, many are unmarried and a couple have kids.
When I worked in a setting with 300 peers, their was a common cry of “one and done” and “two and through”. One of my co-workers spoke openly about wanting to abort her 3 because “3 kids was way too much.” One Catholic mom’s group I am in basically holds off on “full” membership until you have at least 4 kids. (they say it’s a timing thing, but everyone knows the truth).
But big families–those over 2 these days–get shafted. Income is irrelevant. I think that there’s significant “poverty praise” in Catholic circles. Just look at how Catholic-blogger-mom-of-10-in-extreme-poverty wrote a nasty hit piece on Catholic-blogger-mom-of-8-with-6-figure-income and MOST people lauded the “poor” Catholic mom for doing God’s work and were hateful to the “rich” Catholic mom for “being out of touch”. Yet BOTH were speaking to how NFP is used in marriage and their choices surrounding it. Honestly, “rich” blogger mom had much better points. It’s utterly disturbing.
I think that we are subject to all sorts of judgments. Parents of one kid get judged. Parents with two get a pass, but only if those two are opposite gender and spaced 2.5-4 years. Too close in age, too far in age, same gender— judgment. Parents of 3 get judged unless the first two were the same gender, then, OF COURSE, they had to try again. Parents with 4+ get judged. At the same time I cringe at the “you’ll never want less kids”. I don’t aim to erase people, but if my kids need X amount of attention and I determine that it’s not possible to balance X needed adult attention (ie for medical things) plus an infant, I’m NEVER going to regret that choice. Don’t be shamed into more kids if it’s not right for you right now. It’s a month-by-month decision.
It’s utterly ridiculous the level of judgment parents today face. It has NOTHING to do with what other posters suggested—camping, thrift, activities, etc. Those are simply a distraction.
How you choose to spend money is up to you. Personally, I find it very good to go to a store and NOT buy. I think it’s a healthy exercise in understanding wants VS needs. Like Xan stated when kids get older activities are a must. You have to find what budget shopping works for you. For my family we get a ton of used clothes but still need to budget for things like socks…and for one of the kids this means only Brand X–because that’s all she will tolerate. So no, I don’t budget to spend $30 on an outfit, but her socks are $4 a pair for toddler/preschooler…so relying on others is just not happening.
I think what seems to be bugging you most is not really your tight budget/number of kids but how others see you. It might help to find some more positive experiences where you don’t feel odd.