How to Afford Twins: Get Your Finances in Order

Hearing the ultrasound tech tell you that you aren’t expecting just one baby, but two, or three (or more!) is life changing.  And somewhat terrifying!  Twins and other multiples can decimate your finances.  That’s why it is more important than ever to get your finances in order.

I am by no means an expert on most of these things (read: not a financial adviser), failing horribly in some of the following suggestions, but I know that the following things can help you know how to afford twins, triplets, and more. (Disclosure: Affiliate links are used below.)

get your finances in orderGet Your Finances in Order

Say No (more) to Debt

It is so super tempting to splurge on all sorts of baby gear, decor, and supplies for your newest arrivals, but I hope that the other posts in this series will help you avoid doing that!  Don’t go into debt (more than absolutely necessary) for your kids.

If you currently have debt (which we did when we found out we were expecting twins), work hard to get rid of it.  There are numerous financial experts and advisers out there who can work with you to aggressively pay off your debt.  Dave Ramsey is supposed to be the man when it comes to this.

My best advice to getting out of debt, is to stop charging on your credit cards!  You won’t be able to get out of debt if you keep charging more debt on your cards.  And debt is horrible and suffocating.  I know firsthand.  And it’s part of the reason I wanted to put this series together.  I wish we would’ve done things different when we were planning for our twins’ arrival.  But, the good news is, thanks to an unfortunate car accident and tax return money, we’ve been able to get rid of all of our revolving debt (thousands of dollars of credit card debt and two cars).  Tax refund money is a great way to pay down debt quickly by the way!

Budget

This is my weak point.  The furthest I get in budgeting is usually knowing exactly where all my money goes (I check our statements religiously), but not how much should go to fluctuating expenses like gas, groceries, clothes, and entertainment and then sticking to them.  However, it is very beneficial if you have never done so to categorize your expenses.  How much are you paying on eating out? On clothing? At the pump? At the grocery store? On utilities?  It can be very eye opening.

Mint.com is a great website to use to really break down and organize your monthly expenses.  Mint.com securely connects with your bank accounts, credit cards, auto loans, and student loans, allowing you see exactly where you sit financially (which can be depressing, fair warning).  It also allows you to make custom categories, separate transactions into different categories, and more.  And it does it all in a very visually pleasing and easy to use and see way.  A lot of banks have similar online banking budgeting tools as well.

Once you see where your money is going, try to establish limits (the hard part!) to certain spending categories.  Some prefer to do this with a cash envelope system – Literally put cash into envelopes marked by categories (clothes, food, gas, eating out, entertainment, etc) and only spend what is in there.  If you run out, then you can’t spend anymore until the next month (or pay period) begins.  I still have yet to do this, but it sounds like a great budgeting method.  I just never have cash or get cash from the bank.

Insurance

It won’t matter how much you save on clothes, diapers, and food if you are suddenly hit with disaster.  If you don’t have health, car, life, house or renters insurance, then get them now!  And shop around.  Get the best deal for your buck.

Save Money

This one is super hard when you don’t have much money coming in, but is very important.  Try to have at least $1000 in a savings account for emergencies, like when your car needs an unexpected repair, someone gets sick, or an appliance breaks.  That way you don’t need to resort to your credit cards.  After that initial $1000, think about making some more long-term savings, savings enough to cover all your expenses for 3 months in case of a financial emergency, like losing your job. How you save will be left up to you and some professionals.

Other savings you should have in place is your retirement, especially your 401(k). Fully fund them, with matching employer contributions.  The tax-free money and interest put in them will pay off way quicker than any other savings method out there.  And don’t use it until you actually retire!

And lastly, think about saving for your children’s future.  There are several ways of saving, some specific to college expenses and some just for when they turn 18 or graduate high school. Upromise.comJoin Upromise! offers cash back for online purchases, restaurant tabs, and more. The money you accumulate in your account can be put towards a high-yield savings account, or a 529 College Savings Plan (among other pay-out options).  529 Plans, Kids Savings accounts, or other investment accounts are all great options, no matter how you decide to fund them!

One of the best ways to save, when you don’t have a lot to save, is to put aside any extra “income” you make, so I really like the Upromise.com program.  I’ve even heard of people who figure out how much they save with coupons, and then move that money over to a savings account of some kind!  Others put all birthday or holiday money into savings.  Saving money doesn’t have to be overwhelming or make it hard to live now.  But, preparing for your own future and your child’s future will mean more options and stability later.

Get a Great Bank

After we moved to Indianapolis, we found ourselves without a local branch of the bank we had been using.  So, it was time to start shopping around.  I looked at many different national banks, but also many local credit unions.  And I have fallen in love with credit unions, ours specifically.  We get a killer interest rate on our savings account (2%), checking account, and more.  I follow my credit union on Facebook and Twitter where they often offer special promotions.  I’ve scored several of them – from a 6 month Certificate of Deposit(CD) with 2.14% interest (a Valentine’s Day special), to $25 for tweeting about how I’m prepared financially, and $5 just for using an online budget calculator.  The people are awesome to work with, giving financial advice, hosting Dave Ramsay Courses, and even customer appreciation days where there is free music, food, and more.

The great thing about a great bank is that they will help you save and earn money without having to think about saving.  Make sure you shop around for a great bank, otherwise your savings and investments won’t be working for your favor like they should.

Donate

This always seem counter-intuitive, but make sure you give money away, whether to a charity organization, a stranger (I’ve been the recipient of stranger’s good will before), or churches.  I regularly pay a 10% tithing to my church, even though I make very little, and even when money is extra tight that month.  And I’ve been blessed for it.  It is always amazing how giving away money actually correlates to more financial security.  Plus, it’s good to give!  (Don’t be a Scrooge!)

And that’s my advice!  How did you get your finances in order before/after your twins were born?  What are you great at?  What are you not so great at?

ldskatelyn is the mastermind behind this week’s money-saving series “How to Afford Twins.”  She knows firsthand what it feels like to be part of a low-income family. But, she’s risen to the challenge time and again.  She loves the thrill of paying off debt, saving money, scoring great deals, and bringing in some extra money.  She blogs about parenting, family, and more at What’s up Fagans?

How to Afford Twins: Making the Most of Memberships and Subscriptions

If you indulge in every potentially cost-saving membership offer that crosses your path, you may very well end up with a bunch of cards you’ll never use, magazines you’ll never read, and emails you never wanted. You may even find yourself shelling out more cash than you would have otherwise. However, choose judiciously, and you’ll find yourself making the most of memberships and subscriptions and stretching your bank account farther than you thought possible.

making the most of memberships

Types of Memberships and Subscriptions

So, what are we talking about? What kind of memberships can save us money or save our sanity? What subscriptions are worth the annoyance of filling out yet another form?

Community Resources

While many great community resources, like parks, don’t involve or require memberships, signing up, often for free, can open up additional opportunities.

Library

We’re big fans of public libraries here at How Do You Do It? In addition to books, music and movies you can borrow, there are often story time opportunities, game nights and other community events going on. If your children can have their own library cards, often connected to your account, managing their own library materials can serve as a great lesson in responsibility.

Gym or Rec Center

There’s likely a gym or recreational center near where you live. Prices are often quite reasonable, and gyms can often serve as community centers. Our local YMCA not only has a complete gym with extended hours and unlimited group exercise classes available to all members, it also runs an excellent full-day and after-school childcare service on site and at local elementary school. The savings I get on childcare for being a Y member more than pays for the membership fee. Getting to go to the gym and having free childcare while I exercise is just icing on the cake. We also get access to swimming pools, splash pads, and other facilities.

Mother of Multiples Club

Mothers of multiple clubs are more than just a safe haven with other moms who understand your life! These moms can clue you into the hidden gems in your community. If your local club hosts a consignment sale, members will likely have pre-sale browsing privileges. If your family falls on hard times, there is no group that will jump to your aid faster than your local MoMs.

Religious Group

Churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are fixtures of the community. Like MoM groups, they can clue you into what’s available in your community and are there for their members in their joys and troubles. Not religious? That’s okay. I’m actually openly atheist, and have found the evangelical church I attend to be immensely welcoming to me and my kids. We have opportunities to volunteer, share parenting tips and tricks, and have made amazing friends. I am raising my kids Christian, as I committed to my now ex-husband when we conceived, so having a church community is essential for that to work. It does take a degree of open-mindedness and tolerance to really participate in a congregation where you don’t share the faith, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Entertainment venues

If you’re going to be frequenting some local entertainment with high frequency, a membership may very well be worth it. There’s a coffee shop/indoor playscape that we go to all the time, whether it’s because it’s too hot to play outside, because I need to catch up on work on the free wifi while my daughters play, or because I want to chat with a friend without the kids being the centre of the conversation. You can bet that I invest in their multiple entry package!

We have a Gatti’s pizza parlour/arcade locally that we go to only rarely. I don’t buy the membership because we don’t go often enough for it to be worth it. Plus, with each game costing a few cents, the price can easily add up. Instead, we go on the free entry coupons my daughters earn at school for high academic performance. They spend their own allowance on loading up their game cards. I’ll talk more about how to decide whether to invest in a particular membership over a one-time entrance fee later in this post.

Types of entertainment venues that offer memberships include:

  • Arcades
  • Playscapes
  • Theaters
  • Zoos
  • Museums

Shopping

Katelyn talked about saving on shopping earlier this week, so I won’t get too deep into this topic.

Amazon

If you do a lot of your shopping online, Amazon offers a couple of membership/subscription options that can really save you a ton. Amazon Prime requires an annual fee, unless you’re a student, so make sure that it’s worth it to you to spend that money. It gives you free shipping, movie streaming and other perks. Amazon Subscribe and Save doesn’t cost you anything additional and saves you money, but is designed for scheduled recurring purchases like diapers or food.

Wholesale

Discount and wholesale clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco can be a great investment if you are interested in buying in bulk and have a location nearby. The cheapest Sam’s membership is $45, and you get $15 back as a gift card if you’re active duty military or a college student. However, if you’re not going to save at least $30 ($45 if you don’t qualify for one of the special programs) shopping there during the life of the membership, it’s not worth it… unless the other stores in your area don’t have double-seat shopping carts. In that case, $45 may be worth the store having carts that can accommodate twins! Costco memberships are $55.

Store Loyalty Cards

Store loyalty cards are usually free and can add up in savings quickly. I frequently get 25% off coupons when I shop at CVS, in addition to product-specific coupons I use more rarely. Walgreens has a similar loyalty program. I just carry my cards on my keychain, but I wouldn’t want so many fobs on there that I had to search through them when shopping. No thanks. I just signed up for Ikea family. The Swedish meatballs there are my cheap cheat when I just can’t get dinner on the table.

Restaurant punch cards are another variation on this theme. If you go somewhere often, it doesn’t hurt to get every 10th sandwich free. I have a few cards to restaurants near my office. I’ve worked at the same place for over 8 years. I’ve had time to earn those punches, even though I try to bring lunch from home.

Exchange Services

I love, love, love PaperbackSwap.com, which LauraC told me about years ago. Here’s how they describe themselves:

We help avid readers Swap, Trade & Exchange Books for Free.
  • It’s easy: List books you’d like to swap with other club members.
  • Once a book is requested, mail it to the club member.
  • In return, you may choose from 4,790,612 available books!
  • Books you request are mailed to you for free.
  • No late fees. No hidden charges.

When you ship by media mail, the shipping prices are extremely reasonable. Do you know of other similar services?

Travel

Do you travel a lot? Look into frequent flier programs. Those miles can add up quickly when you travel with multiples. Hotel chains also offer loyalty programs.

Choose Your Memberships Wisely

All these programs are well and good, but always use this rule of thumb: The membership must save you money. If you wouldn’t pay for the service without the membership, then avoid paying for the membership.

How far/convenient is it?

What will you spend on gas, food and accommodation? The farther away the location is, the more hidden costs you’ll accrue on the way. I seriously considered buying annual passes to SeaWorld, but San Antonio is just too far to be worth it for us. My old neighbour’s mom lived in San Antonio, so they were down there often anyway. For them, the membership made sense.

How often will you go?

Realistically, will you frequent the location often enough during the lifetime of the membership to warrant the cost? If the membership costs twice a single day entry, but you only end up going once, you’ve wasted your money.

How big is your family? How many are allowed on the membership?

A lot of family memberships assume a family of 4. My family has 3; sometimes it’s cheaper to go with single entry passes. If you have more than 4, will you have to pay extra for the additional family members?

If you can legitimately share a membership with another family, that may be worth your money. Read the fine print and confirm that it’s allowed. Can you bring guests? Some memberships may be worth your money if you need to entertain out of town guests.

Is a membership the cheapest option?

Sometimes non-membership discounts come out to be cheaper than investing in a membership. Do they offer a discount on multiple kids? For military service? Are children younger than some cutoff free? Maybe adults are free. Do your research.

When does the membership expire? Are there blackout dates?

There’s nothing worse than showing up somewhere expecting that you’ve paid for entry, only to learn that you’re going to have to pay full price.

Will your kids be old enough/lose interest during the lifetime of your membership?

Many memberships last a year. Realistically, will the location hold interest for all your kids for that whole year? If not, you may spend more than it’s worth.

What are the benefits?

Do you get discounts or food and lodging? Some memberships are worth the side perks alone.

Are there hidden costs?

Think about childcare costs, parking, monthly fees, lodging, gas and food. Is it really going to be worth it?

What memberships do you have? Have you ever bought one you regretted?

* Some links are Sadia’s affiliate or referral links.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

From the Archives: Saving on Food for Families with Multiples

Food expenses can really add up. The Moms have talked about their approaches to saving on nutritious meals over the years.

Baby Food

Making your own baby food is one option to bring down costs.

  • Making Baby Food:  breaks down exactly how she fed her babies their first solids, including calculating her savings over store-bought food.
  • Homemade Baby Food:  talks about how she made homemade baby food work at home and at daycare. (Yes, I just referred to myself in the third person. Because I can.)

What’s your approach to saving on food?

How to Afford Twins: Buying New for Less

When you don’t want to or can’t buy things second hand, or you can’t make it yourself or do it yourself, it can still be hard knowing how to afford twins, triplets, and more. It is these times when you need to know some saving strategies. Here are some great ways to get a great deal on non-second purchases. *Disclosure: Some of the links are affiliate or referral links.*

Here are some ways of buying new for less:

buying new things for lessMultiples Discount

Some stores, like Babies ‘R Us offers 10% off two of the same item (e.g. two cribs, two bedding sets, two strollers, etc.). The discount applies to the following categories only: furniture, bedding sets and baby gear, including car seats, strollers, travel yards, highchairs, swings, gates, exersaucers/walkers and backpack/carriers. Double strollers and matching infant car seats are also eligible for the multiple birth discount. This offer is not available on any special purchase items. Other stores, like shoe stores, may also offer multiples discounts. Have you found any stores that do? Have you ever asked?

Military Discounts

If you or your spouse is in the military, whether active or reserve, always ask whether there’s a military discount before your pay. Many stores, such as Payless Shoesource and Home Depot, give a standard 10% off. That Home Depot discount can save you a ton on home improvements or new appliances. Others have military discounts on particular days of the week. Some stores don’t have a military discount policy, but will give you a break at the cash register to say thank you. You just need to show them your military ID at checkout. Note that many times the military discount won’t apply on top of clearance prices or other discounts. In those cases, choose the discount that saves you the most. Also, if you shop through the AAFES website or on base at the commissary, you don’t have to pay local sales tax. That can save you a ton on big ticket items like appliances.

Clearance and Sales

I was raised on the notion that you should never, ever, buy something at full price. An item will always go on sale, and eventually clearance. And it doesn’t even matter what type of item it is. While some items will never drop 90% off the price on clearance (like new sofas and electronics), the prices will drop at least some. Being taught this, I also learned a sense of restraint. I didn’t need an item that day, that moment. It wasn’t going to sell completely out. If I was patient, I would be rewarded with a sale in a week or a month. And sometimes, I would just end up forgetting about it, and not spend any money on it anyways.

Price Adjustments

However, did you know most stores will do a price adjustment if you do buy an item and the price drops over the next week or month? That is why I often keep my receipts. If I later notice that it is cheaper, I go to the customer service desk and they will adjust the price for me, giving me the cash back. Sometimes it may not be much, but that dollar here and there add up quick!

Price Match and Online Comparison

That is also why price matching can be very helpful! I don’t do this a ton, but for bigger purchases, it is a must! And I also like to stop and look online for the best price. You don’t need to buy from a store anymore, or accept their prices. I have saved lots of money on items like contact lenses (contactlensking is my recommendation), text books, diapers, and more from shopping online. Just make sure the site is authentic.

Buy at the Right Time

There are certain times of the year when it is the perfect time for buying new for less. I don’t know them all (so please share if you do!) but generally buy post-season items. That means buying swimwear in September, coats and boots in March, and school supplies the end of September. Post-season items go on clearance, because they have to get rid of them to make room for the new season. If you are patient, and willing to perhaps not have the first choice of designs, it can save you lots of money. But, there are times when buying in-season can be a great idea. Buying linens when it’s back-to-school season can save you money, as bedding and towels don’t usually go on sale every week or even every month.

Haggle

While some people hate confrontation of any kind, sometimes it pays (literally) to be slightly edgy. If you are buying an expensive item, like a new mattress, couch, or car, you should seriously consider haggling the price (if buying a car, you really really should). If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, bring in your mean, scary, intimidating husband, boyfriend, mom, sister, whoever, to help you out. But, even if buying a small ticket item, if you see that it has any sort of flaw, haggle. If you see the same item marked down but only in a different color, haggle. If you are on the fence, haggle. A sale is a sale. Stores want your money and your business.

Online Deal Websites

Yes. These really can save you money. And a lot of it. If you need an oil change, a hair cut and style, a date out, a dentist appointment, a new mattress, furniture, pampering, house cleaning, or photographs, online deal websites can be a great way to save! Some of these services or goods are rare to come by at such low prices. And some may just be for your favorite place anyways, making it a total score (because you shouldn’t buy things you don’t actually need or use; that won’t save you money). Some of these sites include:

Loyalty Cards and Rewards Programs: Pile on the Discounts and Savings

There are just some stores where it is easy to save even more. Kohls is one of them. Old Navy is another. If you have a favorite store where you are buying all your clothing from anyways, you might want to look into how to save even more. Many stores offer loyalty cards (often at no charge) and store charge cards. I know credit cards are a hot topic for some, but if you are one who always pays balances in full, then you might want to consider getting one to your favorite store.

For example, I have a Gap Card. With that card I can save an additional 10% on Tuesdays when I shop in stores. I also often receive higher discount percentages than non-card holders. And the more I spend there, the quicker I save there, as points accumulate to earn me $10 rewards cards.

When I buy from Old Navy, I wait until they have a “take an additional 30% off” sale to buy from them, and then buy as many clearance items as possible, and then a few items already on great sales. Plus, if I go in on Tuesdays, I can save another 10%. If I shop online, I then go through a third party cash back site like Upromise.com where I can receive 5% cash back of my purchases from oldnavy.com). I recently scored 22 items for under $65, or about $2.49 an item after all the discounts were applied. I stocked up my twins and my son with some cute new clothes for the same price I would be paying at a second hand store. I love buying new for less!

Cable, Internet, Phone, and Other Services

While you aren’t exactly “buying” these items, I have learned that you should try to get the lowest price possible. I once wrote on my blog about how it took me three phone calls to get the price point I wanted for my phone and internet bill. Always threaten to leave when calling customer service. Ask to speak to a manager. And if you need to, call again. And then call again. If you get the right person, you will get the right price. It’s also how you can get those promotional or introductory prices to stay past the initial period. See my post for more info.

Coupons

I’m not talking coupons for food (that’s coming), but coupons for services and retail stores.  Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby usually offer a 20% off one item coupon!  This is a great way to buy new for less, especially on big purchases like cribs, strollers, and car seats.  Get two coupons and use them in two separate transactions (if allowed).  I know we used a lot of these to buy things for our twins.  Also, Babies R Us will sometimes offer coupons for an additional 40% off clearance clothing and other awesome deals (which is the only way I shop at Babies R Us because they tend to be pricey).  Whenever you are planning on going shopping, look online for store coupons, no matter what store it is.

We all like shopping and getting great deals, buying new for less, so tell us, what tricks have you learned buying new for less?

ldskatelyn is the mastermind behind this week’s theme week of saving money, trying to help others learn how to afford twins. She loves saving money and making ends meet and is so excited that she is sharing some of her knowledge with others this week! She blogs about her family and parenting over at What’s up Fagans?

How to Afford Twins: Secondhand Shopping

Buying great items for well under what stores sell them for is one of life’s great pleasures. Having something you really want to get, pouncing on it when it appears on Craig’s List, haggling a little with the seller, and then bringing it home for a fraction of the store price (legally I might add). Pure. Joy. In case you haven’t broken into this unknown glory, let me help you get your feet wet.second hand shoppingI have a TON of things that I’ve bought secondhand. There are so many options available for buying secondhand these days too. Consignment sales (such as the M.O.M.’s bi-annual sales), individual garage sales, community garages sales, secondhand stores such as Kid-to-Kid and Goodwill, Craig’s List, eBay, Freecycle (totally free), and more that I’m sure I haven’t even tapped into yet.

In my experience children’s secondhand stores tend to be a little more pricey than I like. For example, I went to one in my area called Cottonwood Kids and found a Leap Frog music table that I had been wanting for my son, Cameron. Normally these are about $40. The one in Cottonwood Kids was being sold for $20, which is still a great deal, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pay it. I resisted and the next day was rewarded at a garage sale. There it was in the dewey morning grass. I rushed over to check their price on it as if it was the last one on the shelf at Black Friday and low and behold, $3. THREE DOLLARS??!! I snatched it. Oh man, that little table still puts a smile on my face.

I have had success with a couple pairs of shoes at some children’s secondhand stores though. If you want a nice looking pair of name brand shoes, these kinds of stores are a good place to look. I also got a bumbo from Kid-to-Kid for $20 and they are $39.44 on Wal Mart and $43.99 on Amazon. It was something I really wanted, so I was willing to settle for 50% off.

Craig’s List and garage sales are where I most often strike gold. Partly because if it’s not the perfect price you’re looking for, you can haggle. I probably haggle about 95% of the time. I’ve talked people down $10 on a 250 piece Mega Bloks bin, $5 down on a Little Tikes lawn mower, $50 down on our couch, $100 down on our bedroom furniture set, and the list goes on. That’s all on top of the money you’re already saving just from buying something used instead of brand new. Don’t be afraid to put an offer on the table!

The other beauty of Craig’s List is that if it’s a fairly common item you’re looking for and you don’t love the price the seller is stuck on, you can just pass it over and wait for another one to pop up. Your Craig’s List shopping can be as leisurely as you want it to be.

For instance, I’ve been checking Craig’s List about once a week for the last month looking for a great deal on a double umbrella stroller to use when we travel. Most of them are in the $40-$60 range and since I don’t need it right now I’m fine just hanging out for a smokin’ deal. If nobody gives it to me by the time we travel for Thanksgiving, I’ll settle for the $40 range.

My last suggestion for any secondhand shopping is to know your prices. I normally refer to Amazon for customer reviews and Wal Mart for price matching because they generally have the lowest prices. My handy-dandy smart phone makes this super convenient as well. If I see something at a garage sale that I’m interested, but don’t know a lot about I can just look it up right then and there to make sure I’m getting a great deal.

Shopping secondhand does take more effort because you have to do a little more research and hunting, but it can save you loads of money. Plus, the bragging rights are sometimes priceless.

Shop on, Mom.

Saving Money with Multiples Theme Week Round Up

Thanks to all the bloggers for sharing their posts on our theme of saving money with multiples.

Here’s a summary of what’s been posted over the theme weeks:

I hope you enjoyed the Theme Week. We’re planning to do more, so please let us know what you’d like to read about it.

DIY Haircuts

Our twin girls are now 2.5 years old.  They didn’t get their first hair cut until they were 22 month old.  Their first haircuts were done by my hairdresser. She did my hair when I started kindergarten, when I graduated high school and when I got married. She gave our older son his first hair cut at 14 months. There was no doubt in my mind that she’s the one I’d choose for their first hair cut too.  She was willing to come to my mom’s house and cut their hair while they sat in their booster seats at the table.

At that point, they barely had any hair. They just need the bottom trimmed to make all the hair the same length. About 6 months later, I started thinking they needed another trim. We weren’t travelling to where our hairdresser lived, so that wasn’t an option. Our girls are quite shy with strangers and new situations, so taking them to a new place with unfamiliar people didn’t appeal to me. I also thought about the cost, not just of this haircut, but of getting their few hairs trimmed every few months for years and years. It costs at least $10-15 at the cheap place where we take our son for haircuts. At the fancy, kids salon it is $15-20 per child, and I can only imagine how overstimulating it would be.  So, I decided, I could probably manage the basic hair trimming myself.

S - Before

R - Before

I turned to the Internet for help. I found a series of youtube videos.  I watched all 4 videos, and figured I could do it. The equipment needed was minimal: a good pair of hair cutting scissors (I paid $10 on sale for mine), a towel, a comb (I had to buy a package for $3 because mine had all disappeared), and a spray bottle for water (optional). I set them up in their booster seats, one girl at a time. I let the other girl hold the extra combs and the water bottle. It took less than 15 minutes to trim each one’s hair.

Was it perfect? No. What it fancy? No. Were the spots I wanted to fix after? Yes.  Did it look much better than the shaggy, stringy “style” they had before? YES!  By the time they start to care how their hair looks, I’ll have had lots of practice. I think there’s got to be away to make their hair cuts different enough it will help people tell them apart. With practice, I’ll figure that out too. Cutting our son’s hair concerns me more than our daughters’ hair. I don’t know how to use electric trimmers and the equipment that seems to come with boys’ hair. That might be something to try another day.

S - After

R - After

Do you cut your children’s hair?  What advice do you have to share?

Homemade Baby Food

This post on homemade baby food was previously published on my personal blog in April 2009. Still, I decided to commit the sin of republishing a stale post in the interest of this week’s theme of trimming the budget with multiples.

A very messy baby.I made a lot, though not all, of our twins’ food when they first started solids.

I had nothing against jarred baby foods, but I wanted to provide M and J with fresh foods and more variety than I could get from the baby food shelves at the store. I started out using the jarred stuff, but soon realized that with two enormous baby appetites, it was far cheaper to make purées in larger quantities. At age 18 months, our twins averaged an even 12 lbs in weight, but could down the equivalent of three jars of baby food per meal, three times a day, each. That could easily have me spending over $100 per week on baby food.

The girls’ daycare didn’t start providing meals until kids started table foods, and was very accommodating of the frozen or fresh purées I’d bring in every day. It actually wasn’t that much work. Once M and J were exposed to a pretty large variety of foods, I’d simply leave half of each dish unpuréed, salt it, and eat it myself. I don’t think the girls were any better nourished than kids fed Gerber or Earth’s Best goodness, but it worked for us.

There were definitely folks who found my choice to minimize prepared baby food in the girls’ diet to be pretentious. Perhaps it was. One thing that raising identical twins who are far from identical has taught me is that there is no right way to parent.

When new and expectant mothers tell me that they’re considering it and ask how I made it work, I give them a list of my favourite tools. Here’s what goes in my baby shower gift for friends who’ve asked my advice on how to start making their own baby food:

  • Annabel Karmel‘s book, Top 100 Baby Purees. The recipes were good, but even more helpful to me was the idea that baby food didn’t have to be bland. Onions and garlic in baby food? Cinnamon in fruit purées? Why not? I didn’t introduce salt or refined sugar until after Jess and Mel’s first birthday, but used other more mature flavours with abandon. Note that Karmel is British and follows Great Ormond Street guidelines on introducing new foods to children, so the age guides don’t always correspond to the recommendations of the American medical establishment.
  • KidCo food mill. This produces food that corresponds to a Gerber Stage 2 texture. The mill comes apart completely and can be washed in the dishwasher. There are no sharp edges, which is a necessity for someone as clumsy as me. It’s perfect for taking to restaurants so that you can share your meal with your baby. You turn the mill upside down, pop in your food, insert the base and set it on the table. Then you push down gently while turning the handle, and the ground up food gets pushed up into the bowl at the top of the mill. You can feed baby straight from the mill, and then pack it up in its carrying case to take home and wash. It’s the perfect size for one child; I did have to refill it to get enough food for both girls.
  • Ikea flexible icecube trays. Unfortunately, Ikea no longer carries the triangular icecube trays for portions that fit perfectly in Ziplock sandwich bags. Whenever I made a new batch of baby food, I’d keep out enough for a couple of meals, and freeze the remainder. Once the cubes were solid, I’d pop them out and store them in the freezer in Ziplock bags labeled with the contents and date. Three to four fully defrosted cubes made a full meal for both J and M.

There are a few generic tools that I consider a necessity.

  • A good quality blender. This is how you get the smoothest purées for a first introduction to solid foods.
  • A full-scale food mill. I used a handcrank food mill that I still use for applesauce and apple-pear-sauce. When I first started to introduce texture in the girls’ food, I’d process half of each batch of food through the blender and half through the food mill and mix them back together. Once they were ready for chunkier foods, I switched to the food mill.
  • Small bowls with lids and, yes, baby food jars. You’ll want to transport baby food from time to time. Baby food comes in jars for a reason! They’re a great size and very sturdy. I reused baby food jars many many times. I also loved Gerber Bunch-a-Bowls with lids.

Do you have any other tips or recommendations for cutting food costs without compromising nutrition and taste? Please share!

Saving Money with Multiples Theme Week

coins in a jar

We’ve decided to have another theme week. With the costs of back-to-school and the upcoming holiday costs, we thought that you’d appreciate a  week all of posts focusing on saving money with multiples.  You can look forward to posts about saving money on diapers, saving money when shopping and saving money on activities.  If you have any money saving tips to share, post them in the comments here.  I’ll do wrap up post at the end of the week to bring all the posts together on one page.  I hope you are enjoying our theme weeks. Please email me hdydiblog AT gmail DOT com if you have themes you’d like to see us feature.

Photo from stock.xchng

Pinching Pennies Part II

Last month I wrote about financial stress and the toll it can take on a family. Read Part I here. This month I would like to share some specific money saving tips I have employed this week. For the sake of time and convenience, I am simply listing these suggestions.

* Pack your own food. Whether is is going to the mall, zoo, or park, packing your own food saves money. If you aren’t a fan of packing your lunch/dinner, it still would be a good idea to pack food for your kids. The two of my 14 month olds, eat as much together as one adult. The more kids you have, the more expensive it is to eat out. Simple as that. I can buy a lot of groceries for $30-$40, which is a rough estimate of how much it would cost the 4 of us to go some place other than the Pita Pit or Bob Evans!

* Choose outdoor activities. Parks, picnic areas, walking paths, pools, farms, outdoor concerts and festivals are all great activities that cost very little money. Search your counties website for weekend activities or festivals. We are planning on trying out a Greekfood festival this month, and a movie-in-the-park night.

* Invite people over to your house. As a SAHM, the fastest way to crazy-town is to be isolated with few social contacts. Make friends with your neighbors, invite them over, blow up the kiddie pool, pass out iced tea and enjoy another adults company while the kids run and play.  Being social doesn’t have to mean fancy dinner parties or expensive restaurant meals.

* REDBOX. Have you heard of this wonderful gem? Perhaps not if you live in a more rural area, but I bet it will be coming your way soon! Redbox is just that, a red box in various locations (ie grocery store). You use your email address and debit card to rent a new release movie…for $1! If you don’t return it by 9pm the next night, they charge you another $1, but still, it is a great deal. Reserve your selection online and you can be confident that the movie you want is in the box.

* Shop around for car insurance. When our rates went up (again), I started shopping around. Would you believe I found a reputable company that will cost us 50% less!? Many car insurance companies factor in your credit rating, so if you have less than perfect credit, shopping around could be especially helpful for you. Bundling your homeowners insurance can increase your savings.

* Save your leftover coffee. Making your coffee at home has been splashed all over the news as a great way to cut costs. So much so, that the coffee giant, Starbucks, is now offering incentive programs! I love my morning cups of coffee, but if I only have time to drink one, I pour the leftover coffee into a pitcher in the refrigerator. Voila! Instant iced coffee for MoM in the afternoon when I am hot, tired and am in need of a treat!

Okay, I know those were random tips, but I employed all of them in the past week. Which means I am not going to feel too guilty when I go get a pedicure tonight with my new mom friend/neighbor!

Feel free to post your best money saving tips in the comments section! We love hearing what you have to say!