How Much Should You Budget for Twins?

Current estimates state that a family with twins should plan to shell out nearly $26,000 per year—but that's not entirely accurate. Still, it's a great motivator to set—and maintain—a family budget. 

Mother Holds Infant Newborn Twins Together at Home on Lap
Photo: Getty Images / Jill Lehmann Photography.

I had read that the average cost of raising a child was $1 million right before I found out I was pregnant—and panicked. And when I found out I was having twins? Well, I had resigned myself to a lifetime of debt.

Thankfully, that million-dollar estimate is exaggerated—in its 2017 report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that middle-income families who had children in 2015 would spend approximately $233,610 from birth to age 17 (previous years fluctuated by about $10,000). While that figure is less intimidating than the million-dollar number, it's still jarring for families of multiples—especially considering that the average cost per child per year breaks down to $12,980.

Does this mean that a family with twins is resigned to shelling out nearly $26,000 per year on clothes, food, education, and insurance? Not necessarily. But these estimates are great motivators to set—and maintain—a family budget.

When creating a budget, "the first step is to consider your income," says Justin Nabity, CEO and founder of Physicians Thrive. Nabity suggests calculating everything both parents are bringing in, including earnings and bonuses, and setting that figure "at the top of your budgeting spreadsheet." From there, list out all expenses into categories—such as food, entertainment, clothing, household, diapers, and child care—and put down your spending, or an average of for items that vary, alongside each item.

If creating a spreadsheet doesn't feel intuitive, twin mom Rachael Burns, CFP and founder of True Worth Financial Planning, recommends exploring alternative options, such as budgeting apps. "I encourage people to try to find an option that works best for [them] and try to have an awareness of how much they're spending, so if there is an area where you need to cut back or you need to free up cash for savings, you know which areas you can take it from," she says.

When it comes to budgeting for twins, it can be helpful to include the following categories: insurance, food, breastfeeding and formula, diapers, child care, education, clothing, and gear. Ahead, we'll break down what to consider for each category.

Health insurance

Insurance is far from a sexy topic, but it is a necessary one. How much you pay will vary depending on where you live, the type of coverage you choose, and whether your plan is employer-sponsored or unsubsidized. A study from the 2021 Milliman Medical Index found that the average family of four spends $28,256 in healthcare costs each year with an employer-sponsored PPO plan.

Hypothetically, MMI finds that a family could reasonably pay around $12,000 in contribution and out-of-pocket costs. For families of four with unsubsidized healthcare paid an average of "$16,776 in annual premiums and faced an annual deductible of $8,440," according to eHealth's August 2021 ACA Index Report on Unsubsidized Customers.

But just because you should have insurance doesn't mean it all has to come from the same place, says twin mom Natalie Diaz, who founded Twiniversity, an online resource and community group for parents of multiples and authored the parenting book, What to Do When You're Having Two.

"[My husband and I] both have to pay our own health insurance, but my kids are on a different health insurance plan because kids are so much less expensive," Diaz says. She estimates that her family saves $800 per month by taking an unconventional approach. (Of course, staying on the same plan could be cheaper for your family; shop around!)

There are other ways to save, too. Pre-tax accounts such as flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) can be used to cover co-pays, medications, first-aid kits, and even sunscreen, up to $2850 and $7300, respectively. And under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies must cover some breast pump purchases or rentals, lactation consultations, well-baby visits, and gestational diabetes screenings. Always check to see if your care is mandated.

Diaz says she, her husband, and her kids are all on separate plans. She estimates that the set-up is about $800 less expensive than if they were all on the same plan.

In addition to health insurance, Diaz stresses that families should also "figure out if it's possible to have a life insurance policy." "As far as budgeting goes, that should be a deal-breaker," she adds.


Having multiples eats away at your budget—literally. However, "there are a lot of strategies you can use" to keep your grocery budget in check each month, Burns says. For starters, she cautions not to fall into the "bulk trap." Reserve bulk purchases for items you go through consistently, and always be sure to check that you can't get a better deal elsewhere—bulk doesn't always come with a cheaper price tag.

Familiarize yourself with the products you most frequently use and the prices for each at various grocery stores. "It pays to pay attention and to do the majority of your shopping at a discount grocery store and save the specialty items for more expensive stores," Burns adds.

Another thing to watch out for is the allure of the single-serving snack. Think about what you can prepare—whether that's blending your own purees or simply divvying up crackers from a family-size bag into reusable snack containers—and reserve the prepackaged convenience items for special occasions.

That said, parents need to be realistic about what you are capable and willing to do and budget accordingly, says Diaz. "If you hate cooking and you only want to buy four rotisserie chickens from Costco, that's fine," especially if it prevents you from ordering out or frequently splurging on grocery delivery fees, she adds.

If staying within budget at the grocery store is difficult, Diaz also says that buying a gift card "is an easy way to put a limit on yourself without the hassle."


Whether you use cloth or disposables, parents of multiples can never have enough diapers—truly. When my twins were first born, we easily did 20 changes a day. Big Diaper knows that you need them, and they know you'll pay a premium. "We estimate that the average twin family will spend $7800 on diapers through the age of 4, and that's not even using top-shelf diapers," Diaz says.

Costs of diapering vary widely, so it's important for parents to research all of their options. Cloth diapering can seem costly upfront (could be upwards of $600 for all supplies), but could save you money in the long run. If you go the cloth route, you have to decide if you're washing at home or sending off to a service. If you're using disposables, decide on which kind: conventional, unscented, sensitive, or biodegradable.

Pick the method that works for you and your babies, and budget for slightly more than you think you'll need each month. Do the same for wipes. Diapering is an area where buying in bulk makes sense, Diaz says.

For parents who want to cut costs while also occasionally enjoying the convenience of a disposable, Diaz recommends trying a hybrid diapering approach. "If you could cloth diaper, you will save thousands upon thousands of dollars, even if you only do it during the day and use conventional diapers at night," she says.

Breastfeeding & Formula

Contrary to what many people say, breastfeeding is not free. Even if you never bottle or formula feed, breastfeeding is an investment that requires countless hours, physical and mental energy, and time management, especially if you have another job. If, for whatever reason, you bottle feed and need supplies such as milk storage bags, add these items to your budget. One-time or infrequent purchase items such as breast pumps or nursing bras can likely be omitted. (Always check with your insurance provider to see which equipment and services, such as breast pumps and lactation consultations, are covered.)

Keep in mind that breastfeeding one child burns approximately 500-700 calories per day, and with two or more, you'll need to maintain a healthy diet to fuel your supply. I saw an increase in my grocery bill per month long before my twins started solids.

Those who are formula feeding will likely spend $310-$360 a month on formula, according to Twinthusiast. There are ways to save, though. Purchasing in bulk, finding coupons, signing up for rewards programs, and asking your pediatrician for free samples can help cut costs that add up over time.

As with diapers, Diaz says parents could cut costs by trying a hybrid formula-and-breastfeeding approach. Breastfeeding just once a day could save parents a few dollars a day.

Child care

Since the government can't seem to provide families with universal child care and pre-K, families really need to consider all of the options available to them and weigh the monthly costs. The Center for American Progress estimates that a families who send one child to a center-based child care will pay $1,230 for an infant and $910 for a toddler.

While some day cares and preschools do offer small discounts for siblings, Burns says that "hiring an in-home nanny was actually cheaper than having two kids in day care." If you do hire a household employee, you will need to factor in insurance and taxes into your monthly budget, as well.

Families who know they will spend a significant amount on child care "should contribute to a dependent-care account," says Alex Williams, a Certified Financial Planner and CFO of FindThisBest. These accounts are tax-free and available through many employers, he adds.

Clothing, Gear, & Toys

Babies and kids grow so quickly, and keeping up with the constant demand for clothes, toys, and gear can feel overwhelming. The flood of marketing parents are exposed to every day doesn't make it any easier on organziation or budgeting. But when it comes to monthly spending, really narrow in on the essentials.

For babies, that could look like swaddles, easy-to-change footed onesies (remember, you're going to feel like you're always changing diapers), hats, bottles, cribs or bassinets, and burp cloths. For toddlers and older kids, purchasing mix-and-match pieces that can be worn across seasons can cut down costs and save you from the stress of getting them dressed every day. Invest in a few weather-appropriate staples, like boots, jackets, waterproof outerwear, and hats.

Also, remember "there's literally no reason to not get hand-me-down clothes," Diaz says. Shopping at consignment stores, joining local parents of multiples groups, signing up for your local Buy Nothing group, or starting a clothing and gear exchange at work or in the neighborhood are great ways to cut down on monthly spending, get great new-to-them gear, and meet parents nearby. And, if your savings allows, you can always spend a bit extra for specialty items.

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