Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Canning again!

Saturday Mike and I went and did the Freecycle produce pickup. It has been months and months since we've been involved, but they needed help, we had a gift certificate to use for the A&W near the pickup spot and I'm in serious nesting/cooking mode. Made sense to volunteer!

We ended up picking up 5 cases of nectarines, 2 cases of green grapes (most were composted right away), a flat of strawberries, probably 20 or so pounds of large onions, and a decent sized box of tomatoes. The benefit of doing a Saturday pickup is that the amount of total produce is lower, so it is easier to manage going through it and composting what is not in good shape without feeling the need to build six more compost bins. I expected to find the quality to be a lot lower, but it turned out to be in fairly decent shape overall. I was especially grateful for the onions since prices have shot up considerably in the last two weeks and we have completely run out of onions with all my pre-baby cooking.

The oddest part is that today, April 27th, I find myself canning. Nothing is really in season yet here in Wisconsin and I have 5 cases of nectarines to deal with. Some are not good, many are a bit discolored inside, but overall they taste good and can just fine. I've done two cases and have 17 quarts done, but I have to work tomorrow and still have 3 cases to go! I'm not complaining, just trying to figure out how to balance canning, being a mom to a very active and not very helpful around boiling water toddler, work and my NEED for a nap after work. Crazy times!

I'm just grateful that our family has a very full freezer, some shelves of home canned goods and full bellies. And when you can get produce for free it is even easier to be grateful for all we have!

And for anyone interested, I'm okay with using this fruit even thought it isn't organic. We eat a lot of organic/home raised fruit and I figure that some of this sprinkled in is okay. When it is free or basically free (see moral dilemma: carrots) I'm not willing to turn my back on it!

For more grateful people visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Have a great day!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Moral Dilemmas

Have you ever had a moral dilemma in a grocery store? A while back I had one and then this week I had another...

We are working hard to eating a more real, healthy, local, organic diet. We are also a family working hard to live and eat frugally. I am caught trying to navigate those two worlds as best I can and sometimes, I've discovered, it leads to moral dilemmas in grocery stores!

I ran into Aldi for some milk and discovered they had marked down a huge pallet of carrots to move them quickly. (Total aside, did you know that our Aldi has hormone free milk? Makes me so happy!) Our local Aldi doesn't mark things down very often, but every once in a while they overbuy on some particular produce and I am able to get a great deal. Mike was thrilled with the $.25 avocados I came home with one time! One this particular day they had two pound bags of carrots marked down to $.35. Seriously great price.

Enter the dilemma. Carrots are on the dirty dozen list at number 11. As a rule I've only been buying organic carrots and I can typically get them for about $1/pound if I buy the five pound bag. However, this price is almost like getting them for free. And I really have an issue with not taking advantage of free or almost free produce! I stood and debated and didn't buy any. Then I went home and stewed about it. The next day we were going to be right by the store and I bought 8 pounds worth. Did I cave on my beliefs?

I decided to go with it and to use them sparingly along with my organic. They've all been blanched and frozen and will be stretched out to avoid eating them all at once. I know we've eaten many a carrot that was not organic in our lives. However, I will stick to buying organic carrots as a rule!

Then I went and did a huge grocery run this week. As in spent the equivalent of 2 months of grocery budget in one day...YIKES! I've never, ever spent $200 in one shot, but we will be well stocked for the baby and beyond. We will still need to buy perishables and milk and such, but most the big stuff is well stocked and the freezer will be chock full of meals before I am done!

At Sam's Club I was checking out their meat department to see if they offered any free-range, anti-biotic free meats. And (of course) the reduced for quick sale stuff caught my eye. There was a big piece of eye of round that was marked a decent price. Normally, I would never buy that cut and I have not bought CAFO meat in about 4 months. However, Mike loves chicken fried steak and I've only made it for him once. The farmer we recently bought beef from does not sell round steak or cube steak so I will not have access to it until our 1/4 is ready in November. I made the decision to buy the beef and cut it into steaks that can be pounded down for his favorite meal. Again, it was a compromise to what I want to be doing, but it is something Mike and I will eat and Little Guy will have a different protein. My husband will be happy and in the scheme of things it will be okay. In reality we'll probably eat it about once a month, if that, and all other meat will be farmer direct.

I've decided not to beat myself up too bad. This is a huge baby step for us and our budget. We are doing great and we will never be total purists. What an interesting position to find myself in, though.

Have you ever been in a moral dilemma in a grocery store?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lazy Saturday

Today is one of those days when I am fairly unmotivated, rather groggy and just feel like doing nothing (for the most part). And today is also one of those very rare days when I do not HAVE to do much of anything!

So, I'm taking advantage of this wonderful intersection and am just letting myself be fairly lazy. I've got a load of clothes in the washer and need to hang them out at some point and I've got a huge stack of dishes that I really want to get washed. Other than that, I've got dinner going in the crock pot and Mike is away for most of the day playing at a library. I'm planning a quick nap here shortly while Little Guy is down for his and then we are going to putz around and try and get those dishes done at some point.

I know my days like this are really pretty numbered as I've got a list of things to do before Baby 2 gets here. I'm going to take advantage of it!

And so I don't make this a habit, here's the list of things to get done before Baby 2 arrives!

Freezer meals, breads, and snacks (got the groceries, just need to get cooking!)
Move co-sleeper and other newborn goodies out of attic space
Wash newborn diapers
Organize new scrapbook area---this could take years!
Get all 2009 tax stuff put away
Get garden area/pots ready and planted if at all possible
Practice, Practice, Practice our relaxation methods!
Finalize plans for Little Guy and pack up stuff for him while we are at birth center
Pack up newborn needs and assorted other suggested items to take to birth center
Get details together in the event we would transfer to hospital (insurance, birth plan)
Call insurance and beg to have midwife covered under gap coverage (here's hoping!)
Continue journal for Baby 2, walk everyday, drink my tea, eat protein and get ready for birth!

We can't wait for Baby 2 and yet I know it will mean less time and energy for other things. I just need to remember to get things done while I can and still enjoy these last weeks before our little one joins us out here!

Have a great weekend,

Friday, April 9, 2010

Babies on a Budget--Diaper Edition

Diapering...one of those things you just can't avoid if you are having a baby! Never all that pleasant to deal with, but very, very necessary. Unless you have a child who comes out potty trained. In which case I am incredibly jealous! :)

When we got pregnant with Little Guy I decided fairly quickly that I was at least somewhat interested in using cloth diapers. The more I researched, the more interested I became. It really started out as a way to save a lot of money. Then I learned about the environmental impact of disposables. And that you were supposed to empty the 'contents' of disposables (just like you do with cloth) in order to prevent ground water contamination. Then I started hearing numbers about what disposables cost and I became even more convinced that we should cloth diaper. Seriously, I thought it would probably be cheaper, but as I researched and price checked I found out how very, very much money I could save our family! Average cost of disposables per child $3240 and average cost of cloth $600 for all children in the family.

So basically, the 'eeewww' factor should be the same (dealing with contents and such), the environmental impact would be less and the cost would be substantial less. Why not give cloth a shot? Then I discovered the entire new language I would need to learn to decide which cloth to use! Talk about overwhelming....

So there are pre-folds, Chinese pre-folds, diaper service quality pre-folds, one size, pockets, all in ones, contoured, fitted, covers, wool soakers, snappis, microfiber inserts, hemp inserts, bamboo inserts and then there are all of the same choices, but in organic and then there are the name brands, and those made by at home moms and all the used choices and then there abbreviations that people use, but I didn't understand. I'm sure I've missed about 45 other different terms I kept hearing, but all in all my head pretty much started spinning. I am college educated and actually really like researching things, but I was way overloaded! It may have been because I was pregnant and had mommy brain, but it just seemed more confusing than it needed to be!

I started talking to Mike about options, prices and the whole idea. He was onboard and supportive from the beginning. Mike never baby sat and had never changed a diaper. He figured if he had to learn and he learned with cloth he wouldn't know any different. Have I mentioned that I love my husband? And we knew there would be laundry, but I work part time and Mike is at home when I'm at work so we figured we could probably keep up with it. Really it is one load every couple of days, not too much all in all. Really, really love that man!

I finally figured I should keep it simple and make a decision. I read many good things about Kissaluv 0s for newborns, especially those who are breastfed. These diapers were the kind that needed covers and there were a ton of different recommendations. I read many more good things about using one size diapers since they can take a baby from 8 pounds up to about 35. Basically kids can use them until they are potty trained, so it is truly a one time investment. I kept hearing about bumGenius and Happy Heiny diapers and decided to focus on those. Their one size diapers are pockets, which just means that they have a slit on the inside where you put an insert. The insert is what actually does the absorbing and the diapers come with inserts. Of course, you can always buy more inserts or ones made of different materials (hemp, bamboo, etc) but the basics are there when you get started.

I focused on finding those three brands. The Kissaluvs for when Little Guy was newborn and one size diapers to move into as he got a little bigger. I was open to finding used diapers in order to further lower our cost. I also figured if I bought used and it didn't work out I could resell them and we wouldn't lose any money. I knew we'd take a hit of some sort if I bought new and we decided we didn't like them. I ended up searching on craigslist, diaperswappers, and even asking at rummage sales when I saw things that indicated a possible cloth diapering family.

In the end we bought 5 used bumGenius 2.0s. They were in perfect shape (seriously doubt they were used more than once or twice) and have held up very well. I think bG are diapers that continue to look really nice inside and out, but we've heard from many friends who bought new 3.0s that they have issues with the velcro. We are glad ours are older even if they only came with one insert (the new ones come with two). We also bought 12 used Happy Heinys. These came with two inserts which is helpful at night as we could double Little Guy up as he became a heavier wetter. These looked rougher when we bought them, but they are our work horses. My husband prefers these and overall we seem to have less leaking when using our HH. We were also gifted 2 of these new and very quickly we could not see any difference between the new and the used. The lining of Happy Heiny diapers just gets more beat up more quickly, but it does its job! The velcro tabs are also much bigger which makes for a more secure fit around the waist. (I should mention that ours are all velcro, but there are versions that use snaps as well. The only snaps on ours are the ones that adjust the rise in the front...making it bigger as he grows.) All of these diapers were bought from craigslist listing here in Milwaukee.

We did decide to also get Kissaluv 0s for the early days. I bought a lot of 20 of these from diaperswappers. The person was patient with me as I was such a newbie! The days these came I was in serious nesting, momma mode and just fell in love with them. They are so tiny and such soft colors and I was totally excited to have my baby and put him in them! I believe we got a cover or two as part of the package, but I knew we'd need a few more. I found a mom through rummage sale asking who sold me another 6 Kissaluvs and a couple of covers. Then she suggested I also buy her 12 prefolds. I wasn't sure about those, but decided the price was low enough that they would be my insurance. If we didn't like them, I'd sell them and we would have them on hand in case laundry became overwhelming during the early days when changes happen so, so often. It turns out we didn't love them, but they did help out a few times. We've kept them, but if we don't use them more with this baby we will be selling them. I figure I'd rather use the money to buy one or two more one size diapers. We used our KL0s for about 2 months and do not think they were absolutely necessary, but I'm glad we had them. They fit during those little days and I'm not positive that the one size would have.

We spent less than $400 for all our diapers and wash cloths that we use for wipes. The diapers were all used. And they are still being used! And they will be used even more shortly! Now we are working to build up our stash for when Baby 2 and Little Guy are both in one size. We've added another 5 Happy Heinys I found on craigslist and we figure we still need to add some more. I'm guessing we'll spend less than an additional $100 on diapers for this baby. And really, we could just use what we have, but like to have enough that we do not wash a load of diapers every day.

There are many ways to save on disposables (coupons, store brands, etc) but the best way to save money on diapers is to use cloth. We figure we paid for our stash by the time Little Guy was about 4 months old. And we've had almost no expense since then. We wash our diapers in Charlie's Soap, in case you are wondering about caring for them. We hang them out on a line or in our basement (during the winter) and only very occasionally dry them in the dryer (again, in the winter.) We love them so much we've been known to hog the conversation around new parents and extol the virtues of cloth diapering if they are at all interested or asking questions. My husband actually talks about it with his friends! And yes, my husband washes diapers! Love him :)

If you have any questions or comments about cloth diapering or the love and care of them I am more than willing to answer questions. Some wonderful moms responded when I was asking questions and were more than happy to answer my questions. I'm more than willing to continue paying it forward! Be warned, some people do become cloth diaper addicts and get very into the different styles, prints, and options which can become very pricey. We may love our diapers, but we've kept it simple and I've worked to keep our budget low!

Happy Diapering!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Babies on a Budget--Feeding Edition

Feeding a baby can be very, very expensive or it can be very, very inexpensive. The choice is (hopefully) up to you!

The best choice for any baby is to be breast fed by mommy. I realize this may not always be possible, but in most cases it is. Many women think they cannot breastfeed or think it will be too hard or think it will be inconvenient or think it will cause some kind of harm to them or the baby. Personally, I have a really hard time hearing these excuses as many of them can be overcome with education and persistence.

Breastfeeding is not always easy. In fact, it is often quite tricky and even painful in the beginning. My sister struggled (and I do mean struggled!) with my nephew for 5 months before they developed an easy nursing relationship. I've had friends who've dealt with incredible raw nipples and soreness and bleeding when nursing their babies. I know women who have had big discouragement from their workplace and have had to overcome major issues in order to be able to pump and continue breastfeeding. I've heard a woman explain that her doctor told her that she would increase her own and the babies chances of getting breast cancer if she nursed because she would pass it on through the milk. I've struggled with many challenges of nursing including the early loss of my milk. I've been handed the 'breastfeeding mother's gift pack' that included nothing but a few tips on a card and samples of formula and coupons for more formula. There are about 9,359 reasons that breastfeeding can seem like the harder choice.

However, there is nothing like breast milk for a child. The milk is made perfect for that baby's needs at that moment. Preemies get what they need most in order to survive, toddlers get the nutrients that keep them going during their very active days, and sick babies get perfect antibodies to help them get better or protect them from getting sick in the first place. The milk is always safe to drink, always the right temperature, it is always available as long as mom is there, and it is free!

I can't help but point out that even with buying a very nice breast pump, buying lots of little storage bags and nursing bras the costs associated with nursing are dramatically less than those associated with formula. There is no more frugal way to feed a baby!

Of course, there are cases when formula becomes necessary. We ended up using formula (and some donated breast milk) for about 5 months due to loss of milk. We worked like crazy for over a month trying to build up my milk supply after a very sudden loss, but even with great lactation consultants and using many different herbal remedies there just was no increase. (I was hit by a distracted driver while sitting at a red light. My car was totaled and my very full, biggest producing left breast was injured by my seat belt. The stress of the accident didn't help, but chances are the loss was really was due to trauma to the breast tissue.) Some mother's do not produce enough milk no matter what they do. Some families adopt and cannot nurse their new baby. There are situations when formula is a saving grace.

If you have a baby that requires incredibly specialized formula the costs are going to be significant. You can get samples, but chances are you will need to shell out some serious cash to feed your child. However, if you are able to use traditional formula with your baby there are ways to keep the costs down.

1. Ask for samples. Chances are you got a ton when you delivered, in the mail unexpectedly, from your pediatrician (in the breastfeeding mother's gift) and possibly from other places. We had given ours all away when we found ourselves needing formula. I started asking when I went for well baby checkups. I was always able to get a can or so and every day of free formula was a blessing. You can also request samples from manufacturers and retailers on their websites.

2. Go generic. Formula is regulated and must meet specific nutrition marks. As we tried different brands (generic and different store brands) it quickly became apparent that Target's brand was like one big name and Wal-mart/Sam's club's was like another. And really, how many different plants are really producing the formula? Chances are many are made at the same location, just labeled differently. When you break down the unit cost it becomes obvious that there are huge savings by choosing generics.

3. Do not fall for the 12 months and up formula. Seriously, what a smart way to make you spend more money than you need to! Switch to milk as you child is ready, typically around 12 months. Feel free to buy them the best organic milk you can and still save money over formula!

4. Don't forget freecycle! I posted that I needed formula and was graced with a few sample cans that other families didn't want. I also found a set of sample cans at a rummage sale and was able to buy them for $1. I wouldn't take open formula, unless it was from a friend, but if it is sealed, there are no issues with the can and it is not expired why not save some money?

5. Forgot this, but it almost seems to easy....buy the powdered and mix your own formula. I cannot believe how expensive the pre-mixed, pre-measured formula is. What a crazy amount to pay for a few seconds of convenience!

Again, the most frugal way to feed your baby is with your own body. The relationship is wonderful, even if it can be challenging at first. Get help, get advice, and get educated. The more you learn about the benefits of breast milk to baby and benefits of nursing to mom the more obvious it becomes that breastfeeding is the way to go! And the cost savings are incredibly significant as well. The average costs of basic formula for 12 months is approximately $1,500. Of course, you then have to add in the costs of bottles and other equipment. And personally, I found it to be much more challenging to deal with formula and bottles. The diaper bag was so much lighter and easier to pack when I was nursing and could just run out the door!

As mom's we are all doing the best we can and I am not trying come off as judgmental towards those who use formula, especially in light of the fact that we ended up relying on it too. I just want to point out that the most frugal way to feed your baby is breastfeeding. Families who can, should and as a society we should be supportive of those moms. It would be great to see breastfeeding become the norm for every baby. Can you imagine how different it would be if it was unusual to see formula or bottles? If there were only 2-4 people in a hospital that could really explain how to feed a baby using formula? If it was highly unusual for WIC to ever pay for formula and there was no need to budget for it? If people gave you 'looks' if they saw a can in your diaper bag? Feeding babies would be a very different experience. Oh, so much more than I should be talking about in this post :)

If you have no choice, then do all you can to keep the costs of formula low and snuggle in for every feeding just like if you were nursing. Babies become toddlers very quickly! And (from what I hear) toddlers will soon become teenagers who eat me out of house and home...

Happy Frugalness,

To read other mom's experiences with breastfeeding check out Modern Alternative Mama's link-up.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Babies on a Budget--Clothing Edition

I figured this was a great place to start in light of a recent event. Clothing a child can cost a small fortune, it can cost next to nothing or somewhere in between. It all depends on how resourceful and how particular you are! ***Warning--seriously long post!***

I know parents who are VERY particular about the clothes they put on their child. For these parents it isn't about making sure their children have clean, nice looking and presentable clothing. It is about making their children the fashion plate they would like to be or see themselves as. Their children can only wear the newest, most fashionable, perfect clothing. Anything less would not be acceptable. I'm sure some of you think I'm kidding, but I'm not. Personally, I would really have thought only those parents with huge amounts of money or celebrities who felt some kind of pressure to be perfect would put that kind of attention into what their kids wear. However, I was surprised to learn that sometimes everyday, average families feel the need to dress their children in nothing short of the best. Someone I know sent me an e-mail from a mom-to-be talking about her upcoming shower. She specifically wanted people to know not to buy clothes for their baby since she only wanted him to wear certain brands and certain looks and knew that no one else would be able to get it right. She commented on outfits that her husband had bought and had to return because she would never put their child in them. It was an eye opener for me. Obviously families with this philosophy would spend the most when it comes to kids clothing!

Then there are families or groups of friends who have awesome systems down that prevent anyone from having to put out huge sums of money for kids clothes. A group of people I know (who are all related) have totes of clothes for boys and girls in all the different sizes that they rotate as each new baby is born. This system saves any one person from having to buy everything for their child. Of course, the oldest boy and girl have the most to acquire. After this it is an amazing money and time saver for all of them. I think this is an amazing system! This is probably the cheapest way to outfit a child (with the exception of the oldest of each gender).

For the majority of us we are somewhere in the middle. We want our children to be dressed in decent clothes. We want them to wear things we find presentable and are pleasing to our taste in clothing. We do not want to spend a fortune on kids clothing, but we also do not have a constant source for free clothes. So, how do you outfit a child without spending a fortune?

Here are some of the ideas we've used to avoid spending much on outfitting Little Guy:

1. Be organized with what you have and what you want to have. Make a list of some sort so that you know what you are working with. Some people like them to be very detailed, but I just use tallies with a few notes when needed (color of winter coat so I can find snow pants that match, dress clothes specifics, etc.) I try and find clothes for at least the next year so that I can avoid too many in season rushed purchases. Before Little Guy was born I focused on 3-12 months, last summer (when he was wearing 12 month) I focused on 18 months-2T with a few 3T thrown in. I'm now working on filling in 3T and finding 4T items, he is wearing 18/2T. By staying ahead I avoid last minute shopping and save money.

2. Join Freecycle if there is one in your community. This is an easy way to be able to post what you need and to respond to those who offer up clothing that you may be able to use. (Basically on freecycle people post things that they no longer need and do not want to send to a landfill. If you are interested you e-mail them and arrange pick up if they select you.) Many months ago I responded to a woman who had some toddler clothing. She didn't get back to me forever and I had forgotten about it. Then I heard from her and we discussed sizes. Then it took a few more weeks until I heard from her about pick up. We went the next day since I didn't want to drag it out anymore. The sad thing is that Little Guy is pushing the size limits on what she gave us. The amazing thing is that she gave us about 5 big boxes of clothing. Seriously, there were more clothes than he has ever had for any single one size and it may even rival all of what he has for 12 month-24 month put together. So we've gone through it and are keeping some things for him (probably way too much) and we are passing on the others to a little guy who is about 6 months younger. If they can't use it I've got another baby in mind who is even younger and may be able to fit into some of them. Now, they are not all perfect and some are pretty old, but there were still enough really cute, in great shape clothes, some even pricey brands that it totally made it worth my time to wash and sort them. And for FREE! I love that price.

3. Make friends with people who have kids older than yours. One of the girls I used to work with has one son who is almost 3 years older than Little Guy. She has been storing everything from his toddler years and finally decided it was time for a yard sale. Since she knows I love bargains she called me first. She is overwhelmed at the idea of going through everything to sell it and I was able to help her pair down her inventory before she even started pricing. As we went through her totes I was able to help put like things together and I was able to find some things that are often not easy to find at rummage sales. (We won't be buying any socks for a few years!) She has already told me that each time her son outgrows a season she's calling me first. While I pay her a bit more than I would in normal garage saling I figure it is worth it to have first pick, not spend any extra in gas and also have some girl time at the same time. It is a real win-win for both of us.

4. Rummage or Yard or Garage Sale, depending on where you live! I really find these to be a key to our money saving technique. You can read a whole lot about it here if you haven't already. I keep my list up to date by adding to it as soon as I get home from bargain hunting so I don't get too confused. (I am sooooo ready for rummage sale season to start even if I might be a bit later than normal on getting in on it with the little one coming in early June.) Basically I focus on finding sales that have great prices. If a sale is asking $1-$5 per piece I'm out of there, but if a table is marked "everything is $.25" then I'll be there for a while! I am not afraid to spend some time when I find what I like and the price is right. It is amazing how often you can bring home clothes that still have tags on them for just a few cents.

5. Craigslist or eBay. This is a good way to find specific things that you need and do not want to spend too much time looking for. You can find brand names with an easy search and do not have to spend any time at the mall! The benefit to craigslist is that you do not have to pay any shipping, but it is only available in certain areas. eBay has been a good resource for my sister to outfit her twins. She could find lots of clothes in styles she liked, often in 'twin sets' and it saved her the time required for garage saling. Often these options will be more pricey than some of the others above, but they can still be great deals.

6. Clearance racks are your friend. When you want new clothes and have a favorite store or brand clearance racks can be an amazing place. Many department stores have great kids wear now and when you combine end of season sales with already marked down prices you can score some great deals! It is always smart to shop at the end of the season for next year's needs. Even if you miss once or twice on sizes or styles chances are great that you will come out way ahead. If you do end up with one of those new, with tags outfits you can always try and sell it on craigslist or eBay!

8. Second hand and consignment stores. There are a plethora of thrift/consignment/new to you type stores out there. Some are focused on kid's items, others like Goodwill have a huge variety of things. I consider these to be my 'mall' of sorts. When I haven't found what I need through any of my other venues I'll look there. The prices are not as good as many other ways I find clothing, but they are better than full price at Target or A Child's Place! This winter I had not found snow boots for Little Guy. Since he was able to go out and play in the snow he needed boots, but I did not want to spend $25 at Target to get them. I ran through a new Goodwill and found exactly what we needed (matched his coat and snow pants and everything) for $2.99. Most of his shoes I get for $1, but these were the right size, matched and were there when I needed them!

And last, but certainly not least...

8. Get real. Kids grow out of clothes really fast. Babies spit up on pretty much anything they wear. Toddlers like mud. Older kids fall off bikes, skin knees and ruin clothes in the process. Clothes will probably not look all that great within a few wearings. They may stay nice for the entire growth spurt, but even then they may only fit for a few weeks or months. Kids want to explore the world they are learning about and that means they will be dirty. Their clothes shouldn't be more important than their learning. I do not want to stress about keeping my babies clothes perfect, I want to enjoy their childhood with them. When I spend $.50 on a shirt it doesn't matter so much if it gets ruined or even just stained. If I spent $30.00 on that same shirt I would be stressed. Buying nice used clothing is really smart for a family's budget, a mother's sanity, and is good for the environment as well. You will get clothing as gifts, especially for babies. Be grateful, exchange what doesn't work, and for goodness sake do not buy any newborn clothes yourself! We ended up with about 40 newborn-3 month sleepers...no one needs that many. People are generous, especially with first babies.

I think some of the best things that we do to save money on Little Guy's clothing is to realize he doesn't need all that much, he doesn't care if they are used so we shouldn't either, and believe that we can outfit him for a few dollars each year. And for Baby 2 we have not bought a single item. See 40 sleepers comment! If Baby 2 is a girl, I'm sure I'll be enjoying the rummage sale season even more. However, our kids will hand down a lot of clothes, regardless of gender. PJs, jeans, sweatsuits, shorts, etc can all be worn by either girls or boys. And if we have another boy he'll be wearing a lot of his brother's clothes for years to come! They probably weren't new for Little Guy anyway :)

Please add any other ideas you have in the comments! This is not an exhaustive list, just some things that have worked for us and for others we know. I am constantly trying to learn more ways to save money and look forward to hearing your ideas!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Babies on a Budget

I've actually got a category called Babies on a Budget, but I haven't been doing too much writing about how we are able to have our babies on a tight budget. I find that there are so many ways to keep the costs of raising a child under control, but that our society doesn't tend to focus on them.

In some ways I think a lot of men seem to understand the minimal needs of an infant better than a lot of women. I know this sounds odd to say, but when we went to register for Little Guy's shower my husband was shocked (and appalled) by all the aisles and aisles of baby things in Babies R Us. He looked at the wall of bottles, the rows of safety devices, the racks and racks of clothing, the multitude of strollers and car seats and on and on and on and just about walked back out of the store. I handed him the gun and we did the best we could as quickly as we could. At one of our Bradley birth classes he and a few other dads were discussing how crazy it was. I believe they made more than one comment that boiled down to the fact that there should be one best of everything. Like one great, safe car seat. One stroller that is the best there is. One type of bib, one great type of bottle, etc. They didn't feel the need for the most contemporary, hip print that was coordinated throughout the stroller, car seat, diaper bag, and crib set. They didn't feel the need to add 4,962 new gadgets that promised to make the baby cry less, sleep more and remove laundry stains. I've seen a few soon to be dads and new dads roll their eyes when it came to all the stuff that we think we need to raise a baby here. I kind of think they've got it right.

I'm going to be devoting some writing in the next few weeks to things we've done to keep our stuff and costs in check as we've raised Little Guy and as we are preparing for Baby 2. I welcome any and all ideas that you have as well!

As an aside, we were crazy warm again today. But as they say the winds of change are a blowin! It seems that a storm will be arriving sometime tonight and tomorrow will be about 25-30 degrees cooler than today.

Ah, spring in Wisconsin!