Having a baby can be an expensive prospect. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the average cost of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care at $18,865. The same study found that for mothers who give birth via cesarean section, the average cost climbs to $26,280. Then there’s the cost of raising a child to adulthood, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates at $284,570 when adjusted for inflation.
If you’re expecting twins, triplets, or even higher multiple births, you may be wondering how you’ll be able to afford it all. Knowing how to financially prepare can make welcoming multiple babies less stressful.
- The cost of giving birth can average close to $20,000, though it may be more expensive for mothers who deliver via cesarean section.
- Parents who have multiple births may have higher medical bills if their babies need to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after birth.
- Financial planning for multiples includes looking at your budget and everyday spending, understanding what is and isn’t covered by your health insurance, building up adequate savings for emergencies, and prioritizing your financial goals.
- Parents of multiples have various avenues for getting financial help, including Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for babies born with health issues, and other forms of governmental assistance.
Create an Expense Inventory
Different costs go along with having a baby. Some are one-time or short-term expenses; others are ongoing. You may feel overwhelmed if you’re trying to stretch your baby budget, but it’s helpful to have an idea of what you’ll actually need to spend.
“If you’re expecting multiples, it doesn’t mean all of your expenses will multiply,” says Rachael Burns, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and founder of True Worth Financial Planning in Folsom, Calif. Burns, a mother of twins, says that while there are some things you’ll need to double up on, such as car seats and cribs, other items can be shared to save on costs.
Making a list of anticipated expenses can give you a better idea of how to shape your baby budget to accommodate twins, triplets, or higher multiples. For example, some of the main expense categories to plan for include:
- Basic baby gear (i.e., car seats, cribs, strollers, etc.)
- Out-of-pocket healthcare not covered by insurance
- Breastfeeding or formula-feeding expenses
- Basic clothing
It’s also important to plan for unanticipated expenses. For instance, Burns says that even if you plan on breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in case formula feeding is necessary. There may be situations in which you’re unable to breastfeed or produce sufficient milk to meet the demands of multiple babies, in which case you may have to supplement with formula. That can get expensive quickly.
Neonatal intensive care is another cost for which parents of multiples may need to plan, says Greg Wilson, co-owner of the frugal mom blog ChaChingQueen.com, a chartered financial analyst (CFA), and the father of twins. A stay in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) may be necessary if multiples are born prematurely or have significant health issues that require specialized care at birth. The cost of an NICU stay exceeds $10,000 for approximately one in 11 families, according to research conducted by the University of Michigan School of Medicine.
“Not only are there medical expenses with this, but there is also the financial burden of your work situation and needing help from others, especially if there are other siblings,” Wilson says. “This is a big, unexpected cost, and common.”
If one or more of your babies requires NICU care because of a disabling condition that’s expected to last 12 months or longer, you may be eligible to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on their behalf.
Evaluate Your Income
Taking parental leave is an opportunity to spend time with your newborns before returning to work. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates 12 weeks of parental leave, but there’s one catch: Your employer is not required to pay you.
Eleven states have publicly funded paid family leave—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington—as well as the District of Columbia. In the rest, childbirth leave is unpaid.
When evaluating your income, consider how much it might drop if you’re taking an extended unpaid leave period. If there’s a wide gap between your expected income and projected new-baby expenses, you may need to either build up a sizable savings balance to cover it or find ways to supplement your income. For example, you might start one or more side hustles to bring in money from home while out on leave.
Also, consider how your income might be affected if one parent opts to stay home to care for multiples. Childcare costs can be steep enough for just one child; they can be even more when you’re paying for two, three, or more infants. Doing the math can help you to decide if it makes sense financially for both parents to go back to work and pay for childcare—or for one to stay home and forgo their income.
Review Your Insurance Coverage
Health insurance can help to ease the burden of financial planning for multiples, but it may not cover everything. Review your coverage to determine what your policy will pay toward prenatal care, labor and delivery, and postpartum care—and what you might have to cover.
Once the babies are born, you can add them to your health insurance plan. If you don’t have health insurance, having a baby qualifies you for a special enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Any plan you sign up for within 60 days of your babies’ birth can cover you, the babies, and any other members of your household.
Under the ACA, most health insurance plans are required to cover:
- Breastfeeding support
- Lactation counseling
- Breastfeeding equipment
Your insurance provider may require a plan of care from your doctor before it will cover these expenses. If they recommend breastfeeding or support your intention to do so, then your insurance plan should handle the expenses.
Carefully review each medical bill you receive for errors and discrepancies, and don’t hesitate to ask your insurance provider to correct them.
What if you’re expecting multiples and don’t have health insurance? You may be eligible for Medicaid based on your household size, income, and financial resources. You can apply for Medicaid through your local department of social services office. If you’re covered by Medicaid while pregnant, your babies are automatically covered at birth and will remain eligible for at least one year.
You can also ask the hospital about discount programs or charity care. Similar to Medicaid, your ability to qualify for financial aid may depend on your household size, income, and financial resources. If you don’t qualify for charity care or Medicaid, you may be able to arrange a payment plan with the hospital at a discounted rate.
Get Creative with Saving
Making your budget work with multiples may require you to flex your money-saving skills, especially if you expect your income to drop temporarily while on childbirth leave or permanently if one parent plans to stay home full time. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to save money when welcoming twins, triplets, or more.
Here are some of the money-saving tips that Burns suggests:
- Repurpose: Repurposing can save money—and space—if baby items do double duty. For example, adding a changing table insert to the top of a dresser means that you don’t need to purchase a separate changing table.
- Choose adaptable items: Certain baby items are must-haves. For example, you’ll need a car seat and crib for each baby. A simple way to save on those expenses is to choose items that “grow” with your babies. For example, you may purchase infant carriers that convert to toddler car seats or cribs that can be reconfigured into toddler beds.
- Buy in bulk: Buying in bulk can be a money saver if you’re paying a lower price per unit for baby essentials. For example, some of the best baby items to purchase in bulk include disposable diapers, wipes, and formula. It’s important to choose diaper size carefully, though, to ensure that you’re not wasting money if your multiples are growing quickly.
- Make your own baby food: A food processor and a few fresh ingredients may be all you need to make your own healthy baby food at home. You can prepare baby food in bulk and freeze it, which can save you from having to buy processed baby foods at the grocery store.
- Buy used: It can be tempting to buy all new items when expecting a baby, but that may not be realistic with multiples. Some of the things you can buy used include baby baths, baby clothes, and cloth diapers. Keep in mind that certain items, such as cribs and car seats, should always be purchased new for safety reasons.
Also, consider whether using cloth diapers makes sense as a means of saving money. A typical infant requires up to 12 diapers per day, costing parents $70 to $80 per month, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. Wilson’s family uses cloth diapers and says that it has been a money saver, as the twins are able to share them.
Local Facebook bargain groups or groups for parents of multiples can be a great place to find gently used baby items either inexpensively or for free.
How much should I save for twins?
The amount you’ll need to save for twins can depend on how much of your healthcare costs are covered by insurance, what you expect your expenses to be after giving birth, and whether welcoming twins will affect your income. It’s also important to understand which new expenses you may face, such as childcare, and how they will affect your baby budget.
Is it cheaper to raise twins than a single child?
Having twins doesn’t necessarily mean your costs will double, but whether it’s cheaper to raise twins vs. a single child can depend on what you anticipate spending. For example, with twins you might spend more on childcare but less on diapers because you’re using cloth diapers and the babies are sharing.
How much money should you have saved before your babies arrive?
It can be a good idea to save an amount that’s equivalent to at least three months of expenses before the babies arrive. Three months is the same amount of time that parents can take for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If you anticipate having less income during that time, a three-month savings stash could help with covering expenses until both parents return to work. With multiples, more than three months could be helpful.
The Bottom Line
Planning financially for multiples can feel a little overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time parent. Understanding what your costs are likely to be can help you formulate a plan for making sure that your newborns’ needs are met. You may also consider reaching out to a financial advisor or a CFP to get professional advice on long-term concerns, such as saving for college and planning your retirement.