Tuesday, October 23, 2012
TWINS TUESDAYS: Twins Are Expensive!
When it comes to twins, double blessings also mean a double drain on the family bank account. I remember when we were first told we were having twins, and one of my first thoughts was "How can we afford this?"
Now, they turned pretty cute -- see above pic! -- but it is a financial struggle. I was home with Big Girl, but she was just one person to feed, clothe, etc. I was able to continue a decent work schedule when she was a little girl. I have found it hard to work as much with the twins around, which puts a dent in my part-time earnings. But I know that our choice to have me continue to stay at home is a wise one, since day care expenses and after-school care for the oldest would eat up most of the earnings I could make.
Twins do not require two of every single thing, but clearly more is needed. The most affordable way to acquire necessary gear and clothing is through the generosity of others: hand-me-downs! I have sometimes struggled with this, but it is a blessing to have things given to you for free, or have things already in your midst. I saved some of Big Girl's clothing in the hopes of having another little girl, so I am trying to make the most of those items, even if sometimes they run a little big. Big Girl was born in July; Bunny Twin in December. Sometimes the size for the season is not exactly right; however, as Bunny Twin grows it doesn't matter as much. We are lucky to have a bunch of winter coats, fancy dresses and holiday-themed outfits to get us through the next few years. When it comes to hand-me-down clothing, I believe it can be just as cute as new stuff -- just add a sweet matching hair accessory and it cheers up any outfit.
Last Christmas I felt very bad that Bunny Twin didn't have anything "new" to wear for Christmas Eve; somehow that seemed that less special since Big Girl and Buddy Twin were sporting new outfits. But that said, she looked just as cute in her big sister's hand-me-downs, especially with a set of new fancy striped tights. I know that it is me feeling bad, not her; however, I do not want her to grow up resenting hand-me-downs! (That said, her grandmother spoils her often with adorable outfits. She is not lacking for fashionable clothing!) Buddy Twin is also lucky to have some hand-me-downs from his cousin, who is only 6 months older, as well as some moms of boys who have passed things on to me. I have been able to acquire some great new things for him this way. (A post talking about "Dressing a Little Boy" can be found here.)
Of course, second-hand shops and consignment shops offer a bunch of gently used gear at lower price tags. You can even consign things you don't need anymore to get some cash for newer items.
I also am a big believer in shopping clearance and sale racks for new things. One year after Christmas, I bought a bunch of Christmas shirts for both twins at Kohl's for just a few dollars each. I bought size 4 tops, figuring eventually they would wear them! This year, we are now happy to have a closet full of things with tags on from that sale two years ago! I also shop Gymboree sales racks with coupons when it is worth it. Last year, after the holidays, I was able to get a cute dress for Bunny Twin for this winter, as well as a few tops and a new sweater for Buddy Twin. The sweater is perfect for the holidays this year, which means I don't need to find a holiday outfit for him. I also try to buy things slightly big with the hopes they can get two seasons out of them; I just roll up the sleeves. Last year's sweaters will hopefully fit Buddy Twin again this winter.
Don't feel pressured to push through milestones to get to new gear with twins. My kids are still eating in high chairs; not booster seats. It works for us. And believe it or not, they will be 3 in December yet still are in their cribs! I know big kid beds are in our future, but that said, the cribs are working fine for us. Yes, they can climb in and out of them, but they also have plenty of room to sleep. The cribs take up less room in their room. And it is saving us money, slightly, when you consider we are going to avoid toddler beds and go straight to twin beds, probably sometime after Christmas. And even then, we won't use beds -- likely just mattresses on the floor until we make decisions on furniture and/or find hand-me-down furniture. Big Girl transitioned to a mattress on the floor initially, and it worked well with the adjustment so I have no problem repeating this plan.
Which brings me to this: Ask for what you need for the kids for their birthdays and Christmas when the kids are small. My toddlers have so many toys; we really don't need another thing. But grandparents like to spoil, right? My suggestion, if this can be done in your family, is to tell grandparents to gift money, gift cards to be spent at another time or ask for specific needed items for birthdays and Christmas. Since my little ones are December babies, you can imagine the chaos of two birthdays and two Christmas gift hauls. Luckily my mother offered to buy the twins' new twin bed quilts for their big birthday gift (whew! one expense handled!) and for Christmas, I'm thinking money to contribute to the purchases of mattresses might be a good gift.
As for now, one of the largest expenses in my babies' lives was this: formula, and diapers. We used generic for both. After a lengthy conversation with my pediatrician, we settled on using Kirkland brand formula (from Costco), which cost less than half the cost of Similac/Enfamil. It was a necessity, and my pediatrician assured us that it was all made in the same factories and regulated by the government. Of course, breast milk is free, but that was not my decision for my babies who ate around the clock as it was.
As for diapers, everyone has likely read my love affair with Up & Up diapers from Target. They are the best deal around!
As for the holidays and birthdays, so far we try to keep it simple. The tots are only just going to be 3. The simplest things make them happy and excited. No iPads for our twins just yet. They are too young to have a wish list, so Santa has been shopping early to get good deals. I try to tell myself that when it gets out of control with the presents, who is it to please? You? Or the children? Of course, as they get older, they want more specific, and often more expensive things. But I have always told Big Girl that Santa does not get everything on the list; he tries to pick what will suit you best, and that usually only includes one "big" -- a.k.a. costlier -- gift. Everything else are less expensive items.
And as the kids grow, it's good it be honest that money does not grow on trees. Especially when you are expecting your twins to head to college some day!