Thursday, November 17, 2011

Double the Expense, Twice the Savings

Having twins is the ultimate two-for-one deal. If, like me, you underwent IVF, you know this is true. We got our twins for a bargain price at Johns Hopkins, and took advantage of the insurance-covered diagnostics and low-cost meds sold by our insurer to keep our cost of making babies low.

About 8 months after our matched set arrived, we suddenly realized we had two children to educate, simultaneously. College tuition per kid per semester ranges from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands, and don’t forget room & board.

Look at these tuition rates for 2011 at University of Maryland College Park, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Harvard University[i].

UMCP
UNC-CH
Harvard
Annual Tuition
$6,966
$7,008
$36,305
Room & Board
$9,689
$13,652
$16,345
Total
$16,685
$20,660
$52,650
Four years, Two Kids
$133,480
$165,280
$421,200
If our kids were at UMCP today, it would cost $133,480 for both for 4 years. When we realized the enormity of the expense, we started a savings plan.

Saving for college using a 529 Plan sounds like a good idea, but in practical terms it’s impossible to save the amount you will need when you can only put away $2,500 per kid and still get a tax break. (In MD, if you invest in a state-sponsored plan, you can write it off on your taxes.) At that rate, in 17 years we would save about $42,500 for each twin, plus dividends, enough for half their education at a respectable university. You can expect annual dividends at about 3%, invested conservatively.

Clearly we had to do something else. Although I could return to work, it doesn’t make financial sense for me to work so we can put our kids in daycare. Daycare rates range from $4,000 (MS) to $18,000 (NYC)[ii] per child, depending on your location. For two, that’s up to $36,000 per year in NYC. One would have to gross at least $45,000 per year just to cover the cost of daycare fees for twins in NYC, not including the headaches of shuttling your kids there and back in rush-hour traffic. Unless you have free daycare from a grandparent or other trusted person, parenting twins usually means it’s cheaper to stay at home than go to a job and turn over your paycheck so someone else can raise your precious charges. As an Attachment Parenting proponent, I also think it’s healthier for the babies in their first years of life for a parent to be the primary caretaker.

Working from home may be an option, but twinfants don’t leave much downtime for typing jobs, or telemarketing, or other popular work-from-home jobs, at least not until they are old enough for preschool. Even if both parents do work outside the home, it’s likely that most of your disposable income is disposed of quickly.

Which leaves saving money on disposables.

Which is what this blog is all about: Saving money if you have multiple kids.

Your rent or mortgage is somewhat under your control, but once you’re locked in it’s a fixed number. You can only save so much on utilities before you’re living in the dark without a phone. What is under your control is the amount of money spent on groceries, clothing, and other needful things. Our twins have grown at a phenomenal rate, which we’re proud of; but having twins who have outgrown 8 sizes in less than a year-and-a-half means we need to shop for those extras every couple of months.

To begin this discount blog, I’ll let you in on a well-known secret: the Twins Discounts. Many stores, including Toys/Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, OshKosh B’Gosh, and online retailers such as Preschoolians offer discounts to multiples parents. These deals vary widely, but are usually at least 10% off. BRU and Buy Buy Baby offer 10% off if you buy two identical (or very similar) items. Buy two cribs, two playpens, two pairs of identical shoes in the same size, and you’ll get 10% off in addition to any coupon savings. Always ask for a multiples discount at major retailers; take a picture of your twins with you; or take the twins! Preschoolians.com offers a 40% discount if you buy shoes in the same number as your multiples (two for twins, three for triplets, etc.). That is an unheard-of discount, and is almost a BOGO deal, but you have to prove your twins exist (photographic evidence will suffice) and call in for a special Internet code every time you buy shoes. Manufacturers will help you out too. Pampers, Luvs, and Huggies offer coupons to multiples parents for huge discounts on diapers, but you’ll have to provide copies of their birth certs to qualify.

Other lists of multiples discounts can be found at: http://multiples.about.com/od/dealsdiscounts/tp/aatpfreestuff.htm

Happy shopping!

[i] Harvard claims it grants most students scholarships in several forms, which brings down the cost substantially. ”More than 60 percent of Harvard College students receive scholarship aid, and the average grant this year is $40,000.”
[ii] http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-much-youll-spend-on-childcare_1199776.bc

2 comments:

  1. My father points out that the tuition at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem (where I got my BA) is now $41K per year. I suppose they're claiming to be the Harvard of the South. Duke University is $40,575 per year for tuition alone. These prices are outrageous.

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