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One missed call to Samantha Grill, and you’ll be instantly thrown in the middle of her world.
“If I didn’t answer, I’m either feeding, burping, wiping butts or napping,” a rushed voice sounds over a babbling background ensemble. “Please leave me a message, and I’ll call you back, if I ever get the chance.”
That’s best described as the soundtrack to her and her husband Jason’s life over the past six-and-a-half months, the moment the family (which includes two-year-old son Orion) expanded from three to six after Samantha gave birth to daughters Juniper, Flora and Birdie — triplets.
Families around the world have been able to parachute in on Samantha and Jason’s milestone, in little moments the couple has packaged and shared with the rest of the world on YouTube and the pandemic-popularized social platform TikTok.
A teary-eyed, expletive-blurting video of Jason went viral in May 2020 when Samantha first broke to him the news, an iconic exchange for its emotional range.
“Baby A?” Jason uttered in confusion, Orion perched against his shoulder.
Any parent can easily empathize with what happened next.
“Oh no,” Jason finally said, wide-eyed and flushed. He took off his baseball cap to process the news. “Triplets?!”
“I feel like I don’t have any brain memory of that whole moment. I kind of blacked out a little bit,” Jason says of the video today, nearly a year later.
The video is almost a byproduct of the pandemic, the couple says, with Orion and Jason unable to accompany Samantha at the gender-revealing ultrasound appointment due to virus-related restrictions.
“It is really fun because I can just tell I was losing it, which usually doesn’t happen,” Jason says.
“But that was it,” Samantha interjects. “That was the only freak-out.”
Reality — and uncertainty — sets in
Few moments in life have bigger shock value than discovering that you’re soon-to-be-parents of multiples.
Yet, the signs were there all along, Samantha says. The couple named Orion after their favorite constellation, Orion’s Belt — known for the three stars that are also sometimes nicknamed “the three sisters.” The babies were all born at 33 weeks and three days, each of them just three minutes apart.
Some of the family’s most emotional moments played out in scenes that went undocumented. Samantha recalls her husband having to go for a drive to process the news, then later that night packing a notebook full of bullet-pointed reasons why his employer should let him adjust his role as a foreman for a construction company, which put him on the road a lot.
He pitched the proposal to his boss the following week, but only got about halfway through before his manager interrupted him, reacting in a way that almost mirrored his own.
“His eyes got really big, and he said, ‘Oh my god.’ It was kind of like talking to a friend about it,” Jason says. “Everyone’s reaction is very similar, but instead of them thinking, ‘What is this going to do to me?’ it’s ‘I’m glad this is not happening to me.’ I feel like a lot of people would say that: ‘Better you than me.’”
Those unshared moments were also some of their most vulnerable. Samantha today still has trouble recalling them — the contractions that started at 18 weeks and resulted in four scared trips to the emergency room; an almost emergency cesarean section all alone after doctors discovered Birdie had marginal umbilical cord insertion; and the triplets’ almost month-long stay in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after they were born prematurely.
“It’s something I have not really been able to revisit a lot yet,” Samantha says. “We were in constant fear that I was going to give birth at any minute.”
Expanding family, expanding financial priorities
Those behind-closed-door moments all happened along with important financial milestones — events that would be stressful whether a family was expecting triplets or not.
The couple had to buy a used minivan to fit their growing family, and also sold their home in Iowa (“Our house isn’t big enough for us!” Jason quipped in the viral video, gesturing at the three of them.)
The couple says it was a combination of luck and being smart with their money that put them in the financial position to buy a bigger home and new car. The couple always writes down a pros and cons list together before they make any big-ticket purchase, the most expensive project at the last house being a kitchen remodel that Samantha says significantly upped its resale price.
Samantha also comes from a family of Realtors, and her mother represented the couple not only in selling their old home but also in negotiating for their next property. The sale helped them cover the down payment on their new house and purchase the minivan outright with cash. They started their move early, and enlisted family members for help.
Jason is able to support the family as the sole parent working, which allows them to save a significant amount on childcare costs. A Bankrate survey from June 2019 found that parents planned to spend $1,000 on childcare costs that summer alone.
The couple has tried to limit non-essential purchases, and their main expenses continue to be investment projects around the house that can increase their property’s value. Though they cloth-diapered their son to save money, that hasn’t been feasible with the triplets.
“You have to choose sanity over saving a couple bucks,” Samantha says.
Look for ways to save, but be flexible
New parents looking to save money on everyday essentials might want to consider buying in bulk, particularly if you’re a family with multiples, says Jarrett Suddarth, CFP, of Solid Ground Financial Planning, who specializes in helping families plan and budget. You might also find success in thrifting to save money on clothing your children will quickly outgrow.
Along the way, don’t forget about estimating the costs associated with prenatal care and delivery. As soon as you find out you’re expecting, Suddarth recommends contacting your health insurance and calculating your deductible. Incorporate those costs into your budget and start saving for them now, if you can.
After that, it all comes down to tracking your spending. Thomas O’Connor, CFP and senior wealth advisor at Keel Point who specializes in helping families navigate financial milestones, suggests looking at all of your bank statements and receipts for 30 days. You might be able to catch items that you can eliminate to free up more cash. Over the course of your entire pregnancy, eliminating those expenses will really add up.
“You definitely don’t want to wait until the baby or the babies are born and say, ‘OK, now we need to do this,’’ O’Connor says. “The sooner we track that and really commit to layering that budget with the spending that needs to happen, the better.”
When it comes to childcare costs, see if your workplace has a flexible spending account that you can build up all while reducing your taxable income. Tax credits such as the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) can also help offset some of the costs for eligible households.
Married parents might also judge that having one parent stay home to care for children is more valuable than if they would’ve worked, similar to the Grill family’s situation. It all starts with analyzing your finances and having a conversation with your partner.
In addition, many parents will undoubtedly want to take their children on vacations or even save for their futures. Consider opening individual accounts for each objective, says Steven FOX, CFP, of Next Gen Financial Planning. If you’ve already established an emergency fund and can account for your essential expenses, then you’ll know when you can afford to spend that “fun” money.
“If there’s something you want to buy, and if you have the money to get it, you don’t have to worry about having spent it,” Fox says.
Many new families looking for a home might be able to take advantage of first-time homebuyer programs. Shopping around for the best mortgage can pay off in the long run by scoring you a better rate and terms.
If you can’t afford to upsize right now, however, it’s best not to financially stretch yourself, Suddarth says.
“A used car or something you can pay for with cash makes a lot more sense than buying a brand new [Chevy] Tahoe or [GMC] Yukon,” Suddarth says. “The last thing you want to do is move into a new house and sacrifice some of your long-term goals, whether it’s saving for your kids’ college or retirement.”
New parents, though, should also be easy on themselves when it comes to working their budget around new children.
“It’s a huge change, and things are going to be different for a while,” Suddarth says. “There’s ways to catch back up and get back on track.”
‘Embrace every second’
Moments before filming the viral video that would help Samantha amass a following of 14,900 on Instagram and 66,500 on TikTok, she brainstormed with her ultrasound technician the best way to break the news to her husband. The technician helped her prepare four separate envelopes (the first three were of each child; the fourth was of them all together) and even rallied up a crew of receptionists and nurses to cheer her on as she walked out to the car.
That moment, and all of the others in between, paint a vivid picture of what it’s like to be in the Grill family — or “the Grill gang,” as Samantha and Jason like to call themselves.
“We just sit back and look at our lives in disbelief over how lucky we are,” Samantha says. “Even during all of these hard days, the quote I love the most is, ‘Days are long, but years are short.’ And it is so true — it goes by so fast. We’re trying to embrace every second, even if it is difficult.”