Budgeting when you have twins

03 January 2014

It's that time of the year again. All the eggnog and champagne induced haze has cleared out and it's time to face life and money matters and what better time to do that than beginning of the year. 

When I set my annual goals, I also like to set spending goals and since we had twins, they've been a big part of that spending equation. I'd like to share a few steps that go into the process for me.

Set an amount you'd like to spend on the kids for the year. I find that an annual budget works easier for me when I work in percentages. After taking out the percentages for taxes, savings, insurance, housing, daycare and transportation; what's left is discretionary spending for clothes, vacation, gifts, furniture, renovation and of course kid stuff. Depending on what our income vs expense profile is for the year, I have a budget of 1-5 percent of our income for kid stuff.

Prioritize the twins' allocation to their needs; with the order of priority being:

  • Necessary big ticket items: 

    • College savings is number 1 on this list. Considerations for this include the kids' age, academic leanings and how much you think the cost of college education will be for them. In Canada, the federal and some provincial governments will partially match education savings for kids under 18 years so this is a compelling reason for us to put a minimum in the college savings plan every month. 
    • Car seats also fall into this category. Because I have a leaning towards Britax seats which are not cheap, the cost of buying 2 car seats can easily take a sizable chunk of the budget in years we plan to change car seats (like this one).
    • Winter clothing. Not a negotiable item in Calgary and considering how long our winter season is, it makes sense to buy quality brands. Twin mom tip: Look out for coats and snow pants that have adjustable lengths and could be worn for more than one winter season
    • Big kid beds and mattresses is another expense that comes here; however I don't consider it as high priority as the first two. The girls are still doing fine in their toddler beds and I envisage we can stretch their time in there for another year if need be
    • Babyproofing costs  and other safety expenses

  • Nice to have items
    • Netflix or other TV media subscription: All my kids' tv-watching is done on Netflix and I actually got the subscription as a gift for them.
    • Organized sports and art activities: This is a nice to have and not a need to have because quite frankly, kids can get all the physical activity they need without me spending a dime. Twin mom tip: Because the Canadian revenue agencies give tax credits for certain kid activities, it's a good idea to make sure whatever activity the kids are signed up for actually qualifies for this credit (this credit is suspended with the change in government)
    • Kid furniture and gear: Swings, playsets, high chairs etc. For school-age kids, this will also include school supplies Twin mom tip: Some items in this category are worth buying from other parents via a club or trading website 

  • Discretionary aka whatever is leftover
    • Whatever is left goes to clothes and toys. I have this under discretionary because the items in those two categories are affordable at any price range. I know that I can get a year's worth of clothes for $50 or for $500 depending on where I shop and how many items I buy. Same goes for toys especially considering how cheaply my girls can entertain themselves. 
    • Live-shows, concerts, zoo passes etc

That, in a nutshell is an overview of my strategy for setting budget goals while parenting twins. It's not fool-proof and I haven't always stuck to the budget, but it is a decent starting point.

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