The Benefits of Raising Baby on the Cheap

A few weeks ago, I celebrated my fortieth birthday. As I savored the moment, I contemplated the prediction from Amy Dacyczyn, author of The Tightwad Gazette, that a life of thrift will start to pay off at about age forty. And after four decades of tightwaddery, I have to say that she’s right.

This year we have suddenly found ourselves with disposable income, but we can’t seem to bring ourselves to dispose of it! It’s finally feasible to go out to eat a bit more often (and order beverages other than water). We could even start buying clothes and household items brand new instead of always hitting the thrift store first. And luxuries like cable television, cell phone plans with texting, and fancy coffees are no longer out of reach.

And yet, our skinflint lifestyle is so ingrained that it’s tough to shift beyond it. Other than the idea of frequenting local restaurants, which does sound alluring most of the time, I’m perfectly happy living life in thrifty mode. In full honestly though I do have to confess that we made big investments in equipment this year such as a used Prius, an older van, and a new computer. Other than that, our habits are pretty much the same as they have always been.

Oh, I also have to disclose that I still sometimes slip back into bizarre schemes to use every possible resource to its fullest. Like spending two hours trying to creatively save sour milk. In the end it was a flawed scheme and only resulted in two hours of lost time and a large pot of scalded milk. So, I can still be a bit over the top at times!

Hopefully, my kids are picking up on our thrifty habits and realizing that this alternative lifestyle isn’t really all that demanding–when I’m not doing weird things with souring milk–and that living with less can be a grand adventure!

As the kids have gotten older our budget has definitely grown, but that was the gift of raising our babies according to our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide. According to cost comparisons with typical American families, Rebecca’s family and mine saved about $6,000 per year by buying used, cloth diapering, and minimizing our purchases. All that saved cash means that now we can plan family vacations, go out for the occasional ice cream cone, and enjoy making memories with our children–that they will actually remember for years to come! (Whereas they’ll never remember what diapering supplies they used, which pack and play they owned, or how many pacifiers they possessed.)

Are you doing your best to raise your baby on a tight budget? Or are you on a limited by necessity or are you saving money just for the fun of it?

Try Cloth Diapering Without The Risk!

Jillian’s Drawers offers a terrific cloth diaper trial program for families who want to give it a go without the risk. You pay $154.54 for a pack that includes new prefolds, fitted diapers, one size diapers, and all in ones (12 pieces in all!) and use the diapers for 21 days from the day they arrive. Then, if you don’t like any or all of the diapers, send them back at the end of the trial, stains and all, for a refund of $134.54. That means your total risk is just $10, although you will also spend $10 on shipping. Many of our readers have recommended the Jillian’s Drawers Changing Diapers, Changing Minds Program as way to get started since the company provides excellent phone support every day of the week for cloth diapering questions.

It’s tricky to recommend to anyone which type of diaper will work for their baby without actually having the chance to try them out. Since you can try all types of cloth diapers and send some of them back, you have the option of investing money in the diapers that work best for your family.

Have you tried the Jillian’s Drawers Diaper Trial program? How did you get started on cloth diapers?

Part-Time Cloth Diapering

What do I say to new moms who have an interest in cloth diapering but don’t know if they’re up for the switch? Buy a few cloth diapers (new or gently used) and try it out! You don’t need to make sophisticated choices about pre-folds or all-in-ones. It’s not necessary to use just one type of cloth diaper for your baby. Talk to some cloth diapering friends (and if you don’t have any, please write us!). If you have a baby boutique that carries cloth diapers in town, go see what your options are. It truly is incredibly easy–and you don’t ever need pins or plastic pants!

You will easily recoup the investment you make in a cloth diaper, simply because unlike disposables, it will have a resale value! Also, the more you use those cloth diapers, the more your savings will add up. You save over $1000 for each child that you diaper with cloth, and if you even use cloth diapers part of the time, you’ll be saving a few hundred dollars each year.

If you’d like more in-depth information on cloth, our website has dozens of posts on cloth diapering and our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, is loaded with information on everything from how to select diapers to how to care for them. For those trying to master diaper vocabulary, there are plenty of charts explaining the variety of cloth diapers on the market.

Are you diapering full time with cloth or just wanting to give them a try? Next week’s post will have some great info on how you can try cloth diapering for 21 days with very little financial risk and lots of diapering options!

Last Minute Holiday Gifts for Expecting Mothers

What do you get the woman who is transitioning into motherhood? Should you focus on pampering her or welcoming that new baby into the family? Maybe you can do a little of both!

The Earth Mama, Angel Baby “A Little Something for Mama-to-be” is a terrific gift set for a new mom at a great price! (It’s currently on sale for $15.99.) The company is based right here in Oregon and the products are naturally luxurious. The kit includes organic wellness tea, happy mama-to-be hand to toe wash, happy mama spray, earth mama body butter, and natural stretch oil.

For baby, you might want to buy a Christmas Polka-Dots Small Fitted Diaper by DaMory Diapers. This adorable little number is just $8.00, with a print that is fun enough to wear throughout the year.

Have we mentioned that we wrote a fantastic book entitled, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, about going green on a budget? With an emphasis on buying quality, buying used, and repurposing what you already have, this book can save families thousands of dollars. It’s also funny, humble, and packed with anecdotes from green moms from around the nation.

If you’re wanting to buy a bigger gift for that mom-to-be, an Ergo Carrier is a great investment. Compared to other carriers, my back was far happier toting my babe in the Ergo. It also allowed me to breast feed (hands-free!) while I wheeled the card up and down the grocery aisle. Ergos have a high resale value too,..and if you can find one used to give as a gift, that’s even better!

The best gifts I received as a new mom were all direct acts of support such as meals, babysitting, and offers to clean my bathroom. Did you welcome those offers into your house in the early days of parenthood or would you rather have gotten a few more supplies for baby?

Our Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to Manda, Jasmine, and Kat for winning the gluten-free flours of their choice from our Gluten-free Gourmand Giveaway! Your flours should be arriving shortly.

flours from the Gluten Free Gourmand

 

And congratulations to Alix, who won the wooden toy assortment from our Papa Don’s Toys Giveaway. Alix, I emailed you!

Thank you to the Gluten-free Gourmand and Papa Don’s Toys for sponsoring our giveaways!

Top-Rated Green Gifts for Babies and Toddlers

This holiday season, I’ve been searching for the products that new parents are raving about in online reviews. It’s best to trust those currently in the trenches of early child-rearing for the gifts that children (and parents) will really love this holiday.

The Itzy Ritzy Snack Happened Snack Bag is an overwhelming favorite. Families love that it zips shut (unlike other reusable bags that seal with velcro), that it can easily contain an entire sandwich, and that it holds up well after several trips through the washing machine. The product would be perfect for baby finger foods and would easily transition to preschool within a few years. It’s a great stocking stuffer for a child too as parents are reporting that kids love the designs on the bags.

The Green Toys Fire Truck is another great value that parents rave about. It’s sturdy, adorable, made from recycled plastic and is currently on sale for just $20.22. (My son got the Green Toys Recycling Truck when he was two and is still playing with it as a six-year-old!)

The Melissa and Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit of Blocks is on sale for about $53, and is a great gift that will provide years of creative play for children. Parents recommend the product because of quality, durability, and the flexibility of the design options. These blocks are recommended for children above three years, but I can imagine my kids would have been chewing on them in their first year.

Chewbeads are a GENIUS gift for a new mother (and her baby!) The chic necklace is made from 100% silicone beads free from BPA, phthalates, cadmium, or any other scary stuff. The necklace can be tossed in the dishwasher to rinse off the baby drool and can be slipped over an adult’s head without having to deal with a clasp.

What gifts are you planning on buying for baby or other new parents this year? Help us share great products with our readers!

Giveaway! Win an adorable wooden baby toy from Papa Don’s

I like to imagine Diana and Garth of Papa Don’s sitting in a snug little cabin next to a wood stove, whittling toys by hand. Their cabin looks like something out of Hansel and Gretel, with a thatched roof and gingerbread walls, protected by gigantic firs and pines. When they’ve polished up one of their hardwood toys–a wobble pull puppy, for example–a team of elves swoops it from their snug little Oregon cabin and delivers it to a deserving young child.

The amazing thing about my story is that it’s all true. I mean, maybe not the part about the gingerbread or the elves, but Diana and Garth really do live in the coastal forests of Oregon, crafting their heirloom-quality toys out of locally-harvested alder. “We make them with joy and hope that they bring countless hours of delight to the children in your life,” they say about their products.

We have always stood by the claim that wooden toys look better and last longer than the cheap plastic junk made in China and sold in Wal-mart. Often times, though, it’s hard to justify spending hundreds of dollars on the high-quality heirloom stuff. That’s another great thing about Papa Don’s: the prices aren’t outrageous. In fact, they are down-right affordable. The most expensive toy in the whole store costs only $65 (this wonderful wooden train set).

Now for the giveaway! One lucky winner will have the chance to choose one of the following toys:

Lawnmower push toy ($38 value)

Tumbler floor toy ($18 value)

Baby toy assortment ($19 value)

You can enter up to three times. Here’s how:

1. Simply post a comment letting us know which toy you’d most like to win: the lawnmower toy, the tumbler, or the toy assortment.

2. Like us on Facebook or sign up for Papa Don’s newsletter. Make sure to post another comment telling us you did it.

3. Visit Papa Don’s shop and tell us what caught your eye in the comments.

Great luck!

Halloween-themed Baby Swag: Orange Diapers, Ghost Onesies, Skull Diaper Bags—and more!

I’ve been seeing babies around town sporting floral and sailboat prints–and it’s well after Labor Day. That’s just embarrassing. Everyone knows that October is the month to dress your little monster in orange and black. Let’s get started:

Planetwise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag Orange Woods ($29.99). It’s orange and festooned with cute little trees.

Planetwise Wet/Dry Bag with Carnival Skulls ($24.95) Spooky!

Rockabilly Mom Punk Rock Skull Tattoo Design Diaper Bag ($39.99). Most diaper bags just aren’t cool enough, amirite? You definitely need the Rockabilly Punkrock diaper bag.

Dadgear Backpack Diaper Bag (on sale for $88). I’m not sure this qualifies as an eco-friendly product, but how could I exclude an orange and black diaper bag in this round-up?

Belvah Quilted Damask Diaper Bag ($19.95). It’s one of the most affordable Halloween-themed diaper bags I found—yet so fancy!

Patricia Ann Designs sweet skull burpcloth ($17.00).

JJ Cole Diapers and Wipes Pod ($34.49). This BPA-free, phthalate-free tote attaches to your stroller or car seat.

Ghost onesie ($21.00). Your baby really needs this organic ghost onesie.

Green pirate princess design baby one piece bodysuit ($10.99). Printed with “eco-friendly ink”!

Happy Heinys one for all one size cloth diaper black ($18.95). Basic black diaper, suitable for Halloween and black tie formal events.

Blueberry by Swaddlebees 6 piece baby cloth wipes orange ($12.95). If you don’t have orange cloth wipes, you won’t match your new Halloween-themed diaper bags!

Motherease duo all-in-two cloth diaper cover ($18.75). Not a Halloween print, but it is orange. Close enough!

Now you and your little goblin are ready to parade around town with pride. Happy haunting!

Should You Buy an Organic Crib Mattress or Save Up for a Bigger Organic Mattress?

The good news is that prices on organic crib mattresses have gone down in the last few years and there are now several inexpensive organic crib mattresses available for less than two hundred dollars. But what if you end up co-sleeping most of the time? Or what if your child shifts to a bigger bed early and spends just a short time on that organic crib mattress? Should you just bypass the organic crib mattress and invest in a twin or queen organic mattress from the beginning?

The cost of any organic mattress makes this a very valid question. The strong>Natura World Organic Foundation Twin Mattress is one of the most economical, and it costs about $575. strong>Naturepedic’s 2 in 1 Organic Twin Mattress comes in at about $700. Still, if you think about your child using the mattress for fifteen years, the cost per year is far less than buying an organic crib mattress that they would use for a fraction of that time.

You might be surprised to learn that you could buy a strong>Keetsa Eco-Friendly Memory Foam Queen Mattress for just $681, which is less than some organic twin mattresses! If you go with a natural latex product like the strong>Ultimate Dreams Latex Queen Mattress, it will cost you $600, but it won’t be certified organic. On the other extreme strong>Naturepedic’s Organic Cotton Queen Mattress costs nearly double that at about $1200.

We have had a few readers share that they’ve spent a large chunk of cash on an organic or latex queen mattress and been disappointed by its durability or comfort. Have you found a larger sized organic mattress that was worth the investment? Since we spend at least a third of our lives sleeping, it seems worth the money to purchase an high quality, organic product, but what is the best value? Is it worth it to just go for a larger mattress and skip the organic crib mattress? Or just to buy an organic crib mattress pad? Please share your experiences!

Is Your Baby Carrier or Sling too Complicated?

Mine was. I once became trapped inside my Baby Bjorn Carrier with my snoozing infant snuggled on my chest. I was desperate for sleep and wanted to lay my baby down so that I wouldn’t roll on top of him, carrier and all, but I was utterly unable to figure out how to get it off. Instead I sat on the couch and cried until my husband got home. Was sleep deprivation a factor? Absolutely! But this was my least favorite baby carrier. Did other moms have this experience with complicated slings or baby carriers?

Don’t get me wrong, I loved wearing my baby. Slings and carriers calmed colic, allowed me to cook dinner with two hands, and put my babes to sleep like nothing else. But some were just so much simpler to use than others. Luckily I borrowed almost all of the slings and carriers we had and the ones we bought were purchased used. It was nice to experiment with so many slings without having to shell out heaps of cash.

Carriers like the Moby Wrap look really cool in theory, but seem to require an advanced degree in fabric wrapping. Still, many moms swear that the Moby Wrap holds their babies more snugly and comfortably than other carriers. Just looking at the directions makes me feel the need to nap.

I even managed to wear the Maya Wrap incorrectly at times, which is one of the easiest slings to use! At first I would always put it on in the wrong direction and my baby would slowly sag down until he was hanging near my hip. To be fair, once I watched the instructional video that comes with the Maya Wrap, I was far more successful!

Our favorite sling, simply because it required no adjustment whatsoever, was the Kangaroo Korner Pouch Sling. We had one in fleece that we used with our first and bought a cotton one for our second. Sadly, I think that company has now gone out of business. Am I right? I guess the Peanut Shell Adjustable Sling or the Dr. Sears Adjustable Sling are somewhat similar, but don’t have snaps to change the sizing. Apparently they have a flexible elastic that allows the sling to carry a growing baby without buckles or straps. Has anyone tried them?

If I had to recommend any other carriers to new moms, I would say that the Ergo Carrier was pretty fantastic and far more comfortable than the slings we used. It works for infants as a front carrier and older tots as a back carrier. I could breastfeed my infant in the Ergo while grocery shopping without anyone ever knowing and loved that it came with a zip pockets for keys or a wallet. The downside was that I never figured out how to strap my son on my back with the Ergo carrier without help. I have seen other mothers perform this miracle in supermarket parking lots and been amazed, but my son was far too wiggly for me to successfully accomplish this acrobatic feat on my own.

The Baby K’tan Baby Carrier looks like a nice fusion of sling and carrier and seems to distribute baby’s weight more easily since baby it is carried on both shoulders. It offers over six positions to carry baby from newborns to 35 pounds, but it’s hard to tell from the information on Amazon if it’s easy to use. Has anyone tried it?

Have you discovered any new carriers that surpass the ones I’ve mentioned? Do you have a baby, like Rebecca’s, who is utterly unwilling to ride in any sort of carrier or sling? Please share your discoveries with our readers!