How to Afford Twins: US Government Assistance and Other Resources

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Categories Community, Finances and Saving, Financial Literacy, Medical, Organization, Parenting, Theme WeekTags , , 16 Comments

While this may be a controversial subject to many, the truth of the matter is that not everyone has helpful families, friends, neighbors, or communities.  Some new parents find that they lack much in terms of financial resources for their future twins, triplets or higher order multiples, especially when such pregnancies are unplanned or expensive.  For them, the question of how to afford twins is very real, and very tender.  And, it is for them, that we would like make aware of certain programs and resources that are available to help them afford twins and more.

Medicaid

If you are expecting twins and don’t have medical insurance coverage for your pregnancy, or you are uninsured, or costs get astronomical (as with high-risk pregnancies) then you may want to look into your state-funded Medicaid.  And after your children are born, they may qualify for medical coverage under Medicaid as well.  The coverage is based on income and resources and doled out by the state in which you reside.

How to Afford TwinsWIC

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a wonderful program with higher income levels than Medicaid.  WIC offers vouchers for supplemental nutritional foods for women, infants, and children.  Pregnant and nursing moms can qualify for food assistance.  Babies can receive free formula (talk about making twins more affordable), jarred baby foods, and cereals.  Toddlers and young kids can receive much of the same nutritional foods as Mom, like fresh fruits and vegetables, juice, cereal, whole wheat bread, eggs, cheese, milk, peanut butter, and beans. WIC is also a state-run program, and unfortunately, not all groceries stores accept the vouchers, but many large chains do.

WIC also offers many other services.  One of those that can be very helpful to mothers of multiples is an on-staff lactation specialist.  WIC offers breastfeeding classes before the babies are born, and then one-on-one help if needed (and a hotline!) after the babies are born to help make breastfeeding successful for you and your little ones, and all at NO cost! Some WICs may also offer a B.A.B.E. (Bed and Britches Etc) type program (Indiana does), where you can receive B.A.B.E. coupons for going to your doctor appointments, nutrition counseling, and other educational/health classes. With the coupons, you can then redeem them at B.A.B.E. stores for things like cribs, clothes, bottles, formula, diapers, and so on. You’ll have to check your state for such a program.

Car Seat Assistance Program

Having trouble affording two (or more) car seats?  You are not alone.  One of the most important things, and one of the things you are not supposed to buy secondhand is a car seat.  So, when you are faced with buying brand new car seats, you are faced with a large, unavoidable expense.

The good news is that you can take advantage of your state’s car seat assistance program, where you can often receive a free car seat, as long as you are income eligible.  You will usually be required to attend a class or have your car seats inspected before you will be given new ones.  My family took advantage of this program when our twins outgrew their infant carriers and we didn’t have money to afford two convertible car seats.  We went to a local fire department.

Each state runs this program differently, but a great place to start looking for more information on this program is a local hospital or Department of Human Services.  Hospitals, fire departments, police departments, and health care centers often administer this program.  I also suggest getting your car seats inspected.  Click HERE to find a local inspection station near you.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Food Stamps

Once your children start eating, the cost of all that extra food can be strenuous on the budget.  So, if you meet your state’s income and asset requirements, you may qualify for food stamps, which can be used at most grocery stores and even convenience stores and other locations.  Food stamps can help buy formula, baby foods and cereals, and just about any other food in the store, except ready-to-eat dishes, tobacco, and alcohol.

Lifeline Assistance Telephones

Being without a phone is almost unheard of today, but phones, even a basic, plugged in the wall phone, costs money to use.  There is a government Lifeline Program that helps low-income families pay for a phone, whether a small monthly payment towards your landline phone, or a low minute basic cell phone.

Section 8 or Federal Public House Assistance

Individuals with very low-income can qualify for a housing choice voucher, or section 8, so that they can rent decent, sanitary, and safe housing.  Unfortunately, many large cities and states have long waiting lists of applicants, or are not currently accepting new applications, so you may not be able to take advantage of this program.  To find out, contact your local Housing and Urban Development Agency, or your local Public Housing Agency.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

Have an apartment but can’t afford to keep it cool in the summer or warm in the winter? That is where the LIHEAP comes in.  Based again upon your income and assets, this program helps you pay for heating and cooling costs by sending payments to the utility companies in your behalf.

Meals for Children

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

If your kids are in school, you may be able to qualify to have your child receive free or reduced price lunches from their school.

School Breakfast Program (SBP)

The School Breakfast Program provides cash assistance to state to operate nonprofit breakfast programs in schools and residential childcare institutions.  Check to see if your local school participates.  Again, based on your income your child may receive free or a reduced-priced breakfast.  However, some schools and institutions provide free breakfasts to all children.

Summer Food Service Program

In the summer, when school is out, your child, under 18, can receive a free, hot meal from numerous free summer lunch program sites, regardless of your income.  You can try to find a local site HERE.

Diaper Banks

Huggies partners with different non-profit organizations and retailers to supply diapers to people in need through food and diaper banks.  To find a local diaper bank, click HERE.

Churches

Even if you aren’t a parishioner or member of a specific church, many churches have food pantries or offer other resources available to the general public.  Some have storehouses with more supplies (like diapers) than food alone.  They also may be able to assist you in other local organizations for more help.

Income Based Repayment Plans for Your Student Loans

It seems that just about anyone who goes to college anymore gets to walk away with some student loan debt.  If you still owe money on your student loans, and are expecting or have twins or higher order multiples and will have a hard time making payments, you may want to look into an income based repayment plan, or other repayment plan.  You can most likely claim a temporary financial hardship, because, well, twins or triplets, are a (temporary) financial hardship.  With less money going towards your student loans, you may have some breathing room financially.

Freecycle and Craigslist

On freecycle.org not only can you browse through local listings of items people are donating for free, but you can request for items as well.  This isn’t a guaranteed way to acquire things you need, but you may luck out.  You can also always check craigslist‘s local free listings as well for things you need.  You can sometimes score things like clothes, toys, baby food, formula, diapers, baby furniture, and much more.  If you are diligent in searching and able to pick things up, this can be a great way to get things for free, so you can afford twins.

Companies’ Multiples Programs, Discounts, and Samples

When I was expecting, I was told by my sister-in-law, who had twins ten years before me, that tons of companies had multiples programs and would send you free things in the mail.  When I investigated myself, calling or emailing many companies, I found that many had discontinued those programs.  However, some didn’t. Or if they had, they still sent me coupons, or samples.  I found this twin blog which outlined which companies did and didn’t and what they received.  You never know what a company might say, so it’s always worth a shot!  I received several cans of formula this way.

This list is not meant to be an inclusive, and there are still many local resources that may be available to you. We hope the question of how to afford twins doesn’t loom over you, and that you can instead focus on the blessing it is to have two (or more) bundles coming into your life.  You have enough craziness coming without having to worry about affording it all.

If you have other resources to share, please do so in the comments!

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!  ldskatelyn has also used some of the resources listed above and knows how hard finances can be.  She blogs about her family and parenting over at What’s up Fagans?

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How to Afford Twins: Free Used Stuff

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Categories Finances and Saving, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Theme WeekTags , , , , , 3 Comments

There’s a lot of free used stuff out there for kids, if you know where to look. Children go through stages and sizes so quickly that there’s often a lot of wear left in their things after they no longer need them.

Hand-Me-Downs

My girls, M and J, are small for their age, so they end up receiving hand-me-downs from their friends. I’m not too proud to accept used things from friends, or even strangers. I see both the offer and its acceptance as gestures of love.

Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: reinvented

One former neighbour kept my girls in shoes for 2 whole years. I didn’t buy a single new item of clothing this summer beyond splurging on birthday dresses for all 3 of us. My kids have had a constant influx of new clothes from an older girl on our street, a classmate and a former neighbour.

Of course, it helps that M has no interest in wearing clothes that match her sister’s. If your kids wear matching or coordinated outfits, this may not work for you. I do find, though, that many of my friends buy the same things in different colours for their girls, and there are usually 3 hot shades that are “in” in a given season. Completely different brands will feature exactly the same colour scheme. You might be surprised by how many coordination opportunities you can find with hand-me-downs.

When two of my ex-husband’s high school friends announced that they were both pregnant with girls, I split my daughters’ matching infant and toddler clothes in two and mailed two diaper boxes of gently used clothes to Washington State. I’d been holding onto them in case any friends had twins, but everyone seems to have b/b or b/g twins.

Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: EvelynGiggles

J and M determined told me that they no longer play with their doll house. I asked them to sit on their decision to give it away for a couple of months, but they’ve held firm. We’ll be passing their dollhouse and furniture to another little girl, the daughter of an old friend of mine from grad school. We hope she’ll also get many years of joy from it.

Trades

Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: Renee Silverman

My daughters’ dance school has a fantastic shoe exchange program. Since they teach tons of growing children and know how expensive dance supplies can get, they have a big  bin of ballet, tap and jazz shoes in the office. When a child outgrows their shoes, their parent can add them to bin and go through the shoes that are already there to find a replacement, one size larger.

I do still occasionally have to buy new dance shoes, but the majority of my girls’ shoes have come from the bin in the 4 years they’ve been taking lessons. If your kids dance, play soccer, or use other specialized equipment, perhaps you can look into setting up a similar exchange.

Freecycle Exchange

Here’s how the Freecycle Network describes itself:

It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free.

Participating in Freecycle groups has been a great motivator to keep me decluttering. If I don’t use something but it still has life left in it, I no longer hold onto it in case it comes in handy later. Unless it has sentimental value or I see a real use for it, I offer up unused things to people who will give them new life.

Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.com

I’ve been in 3 different Freecycle groups in my time. They work similarly, with some variation. Some groups allow pet rehoming posts, while others don’t. My two adult cats came to us through Freecycle offers. Their previous family had lost their home and couldn’t keep them. Some groups ask you to offer at least one thing for each thing your receive. Some groups are sticklers for you specifying the area of town you’re in, while others are less stringent. Some ban people from the list if they have a history of asking for stuff and then not showing up to pick it up. As long as you use good judgment about who to share your personal information with, you’ll be fine.

In general, you sign up for an email list and quickly learn the format and etiquette for offering your unused stuff to others for free. Watch the list, and when something comes up that your family needs, send a nice email to the offerer. Some people use a first come-first served policy, but I always took at least a day to try to identify the most needy people for my girls’ hand-me-downs. Clothes and shoes are frequently offered in Freecycle messages, but I’ve seen washers and dryers, exercise equipment and even food given by people who won’t use them to people who will.

Since I work outside the home, I often leave bags or boxes labeled with the recipients’ names on my front porch for them to retrieve at their convenience. There’s something very satisfying about blessing others with clothing that came to my girls through the generosity of strangers in the first place. I gave my girls’ cribs away, one to a newly widowed mom of 6 who had recently taken in a pregnant high schooler, bringing her brood to 8. That was a pretty great feeling.

Craigslist

Freecycle, mentioned in Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.comCraigslist is a service similar to that of the Freecycle network, except that the majority of things posted are listed for a price, often negotiable. Instead of being primarily email list-based, Craigslist has a public website for each region that it covers. In addition to stuff, people also advertise services, jobs, housing and ridesharing opportunities.

I don’t troll Craigslist looking for free stuff, since my Freecycle lists cover me on that front, but I have occasionally gone looking for long-term investments. I bought my daughters a fine electric keyboard at a fraction of its cost new ($250 for a $900 instrument) and have been keeping my eye open for the right playscape to go in my backyard. I had a coworker watch Craigslist for me for the keyboard. I’m a singer, not a pianist, and he fixes up older keyboards as a hobby, so he was far more knowledgable than I. He was able to point me towards a solid instrument at a decent price and I snatched it up.

As with any activity involving meeting strangers, be smart about who you share your address with and whose home you choose to enter. Consider meeting in a public place or bringing a friend with you. Meet during daylight hours. Don’t share a whole lot of information about your kids.

And please, don’t forget to pass your own things on to others when you’re done with them.

What’s your approach to free stuff for your family? Do you love it? Think it’s tacky?

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.

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