Let’s face it, kids cost money. A lot of money. In fact, the USDA’s Expenditures on Children by Families 2010 report estimates that it will cost an average of a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child from birth to age 17 (college not included). That’s for one kid!
If you’re the parent of twins, the financial strain can be particularly painful. Not only are your costs double from the get-go as you need to buy two of just about everything, you’ll need to purchase all that equipment at the same time, too. Think two car seats and cribs when twins are babies, and double car insurance and college tuition if you’re like me with twins nearing the end of high school. Now that’s expensive!
But that’s the bad news.
The good news is that moms and dads of multiples are a resourceful bunch. Very resourceful. Either out of necessity or simply for the thrill of just one more challenge, parents of multiples know how to stretch a dime. So whether you’re a mom-to-be with twins on the way or your dynamic duo are teenagers heading to high school this fall, here are some valuable tips for beating the high cost of raising twins.
Prepare to Pad Your Wallet During Your Twin Pregnancy
So you just found out you’re expecting twins. Congratulations! You’re one of the lucky ones as you can now start preparing for their arrival the right way. The frugal way. For instance, when it’s time to furnish the nursery, think long term, quality furniture that can grow as your kids grow. “Purchase classic furniture that can transform once your child is older,” explains Pam Baumeister, mother to four spunky daughters and the marketing director for Steal Network, the company behind BabySteals.com, KidSteals.com, and KidCrawl.com. Baumeister advises looking for cribs that change into toddler beds and can later be used as twin bed headboards. And that changing table? A big waste as it becomes useless once your twins are potty trained. Save your money and instead add an inexpensive but plush changing pad to the top of your babies’ dresser.
And before putting the finishing touches on your twin nursery, don’t forget to join your local Mothers of Twins Club. Their semi-annual tag sales are huge productions and a discount Mecca, perfect for finding nursery furnishings and baby equipment from double strollers to nursing pillows. Many groups allow moms pregnant with twins to shop a “preview” sale so they can have first crack at all the goodies before the general public. You can snag your twin layette, for example, for a song—$1 for infant sleepers, one-piece outfits, and receiving blankets, even less for booties and knit hats.
Next, hit the Internet and sign up for Amazon Mom, a free membership program that not only offers 30 percent off diapers and baby wipes (plus 15 percent off nearly everything else that your babies will need) but throws in free two-day delivery, too (restrictions apply). Imagine, big savings plus you’ll never have to make a midnight diaper run again!
Stressing about the high cost of childcare? Ask your employer about flexing your work schedule like Kate Dominus of New York, New York. “My husband and I stagger our work days,” says the mom of two-year-old identical twin boys, John and Milo. “I don’t leave for work until nine a.m. when my nanny arrives and my husband comes home by five p.m. so we only have to pay our nanny for a 40-hour week as opposed to a 45- or 50-hour work week.” Dominus estimates they save about $150 a week with this system.
And finally, think about breastfeeding your newborns rather than heading straight to formula. Not only is it healthier as breast milk offers infection-fighting antibodies but it’s free. Formula, on the other hand, will run you about $250 on average a month for two babies. Worried that you won’t be able to nurse your newborns? Make a small investment in a lactation consultant. Find one through La Leche League or through the hospital where you’ll be delivering.
Cut The High Cost of Clothing Your Twins
Infant twins don’t need many clothes but once your twins hit the preschool years, that all changes. To save money, Corrie Behar of Montoursville, Penn. shops the end-of-the-season clearance sales taking advantage of both AAA discounts as well as store loyalty programs. “I just purchased everything my twins will need for next summer for a total of $54!” says the mom to boy-girl twins, Ben and Natali. “For instance, I purchased a Dora the Explorer dress for my daughter which was originally $32 for $1.75. I purchased pants from Old Navy for both kids for $1.25 a pair.”
Behar heads to outlet malls right after Labor Day for next summer’s wardrobe and mid-April for winter apparel and buys clothing one size larger. Since her twins are still toddlers, she finds it’s easy to estimate next year’s clothing size.
Stacking several discounts together is the best way to shop for clothing, according to Erica Walsh of Staten Island, New York. “For example, I currently have a 30 percent off MVP coupon from Kohl’s,” explains the mom to two-and-a-half-year-old fraternal twin girls, Angelina and Colleen. She also cashed in reward points from a credit card for $100 Kohl’s gift card. Plus, Walsh earns Kohl’s Cash for her purchases at the store. “All this will let me buy a nice high ticket item for practically nothing.”
Lori Mohring uses the same strategy while shoe shopping for her two-year-old fraternal twin boys, Ethan and Cameron. “I look for big shoe sales,” the Cape Coral, Fla. mom explains. “I usually go to JCPenney when they have a big sale and make sure to use a store coupon.” If the deal is extremely good, Mohring will even buy the next two sizes. “Then I am prepared when they outgrow their sneakers super quick,” she says.
And when your twins outgrow their clothes, resell them at one of those Mothers of Twins Clubs semi-annual sales for some extra cash. See? It pays to be a member of your local twins group.
It’s Who You Know
When Susan Gamble travels with her four-year-old fraternal twin sons, Matthew and Lucas, instead of renting a crib, high chair or stroller, she contacts the local twins club at her destination where members are more than happy to loan her the gear she needs. “In this day where you have to pay the airlines $25 for a checked bag, you can’t take extra equipment with you,” explains the Los Angeles, Calif. mom. On a recent vacation to Florida, Gamble not only got the gear she needed from local moms of twins but they shared great tips on things to do in the area, too.
“I ask acquaintances for hand-me-downs but you can’t be shy,” says Cynthia Zhu of New York, New York. Zhu noticed her neighbor had a son just a year older than her two-year-old identical twins Mark and Liam so she asked her if she could have the clothes he’d outgrown. “I got a ton of stuff. He had more clothes than my boys combined!”
When Julie Tosh of Minneapolis, Minn. needs something, she turns to social networking. “Post what you need on Facebook and your friends might just know someone,” says the owner of Nesting Essentials, a website that connects expectant parents to the products they’ll need, and mom to two-year-old fraternal twins Charlie and Oscar. “I’ve gotten great feedback from other parents happy to share and get rid of stuff from their homes. It’s worth posting as you never know unless you ask.”
Great Gift Giving Strategies
Tim Johnson of San Pedro, Calif., and a self-proclaimed bibliophile, loves to give books as presents, especially to children. “I go to the clearance section in bookstores where you can get books for $1 to $3,” says the father to two-year-old identical twin girls, Rebecca and Naomi. He also hits up his church’s book sales and his local library’s big monthly book sale.
But if your twins have electronics on their wish lists, keeping up with their appetites for the latest tech gadgets can be costly, especially when you need to buy two devices at once. Instead of buying new, think used says Judi Di Fonzo. When her seven-year-old fraternal twin sons, Neil and Craig, each asked for a Nintendo DS for their birthdays, this Philadelphia, Pennsylvania mom did a bit of research before doling out her hard-earned cash. She found a used pair with warranties from a local gaming store for about half of what they’d cost new.
I wholeheartedly agree with this strategy, especially as technology changes so rapidly making the new appear outdated in just a matter of months. So when my boys asked for new cell phones last Christmas, I purchased three refurbished phones for a third of what they would have cost new.
“I’ve discovered the best time to shop for the upcoming year’s birthday party toys is to head over to your local Target, Toys R Us or other outlet about ten days into January,” adds Susan Gamble. “This is when all the Christmas toys get deeply discounted.” Armed with a list of ages and genders of the kids she thinks she’ll have to buy for Gamble leaves the stores with some pretty sweet deals. “Of course you need the storage space to do this, but it sure beats going out the week before the party and paying full price for a gift.”
Planning for their Future
Your twins may be just babies now but trust me, time will fly and before you know it, your twins will both be applying to college. Talk about financial stress! Start saving now by opening a 529 plan, a tax-advantaged savings account, for each child. (I like the low fees and low contribution options offered by Iowa’s plan. Then link each 529 account to UPromise, a rewards program that gives you money for college when you spend at participating businesses, stores and even restaurants. It’s amazing how quickly the savings add up!
With our twins rapidly closing in on college, I take a bit of solace in the knowledge that the financial aid formulas look favorably upon families with more than one child in college at the same time. In fact, when you have two in college at once, your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, will be cut nearly in half, making it much easier to qualify for financial aid even if you think your income is too high. Furthermore, some schools like George Washington University and Eastern Michigan University offer second-sibling discounts, too.
Good news for sure. And these days, every little bit helps.