How To Save Money With a Baby – Part 2

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In my last post I was sharing some tips that would save you money if you are trying to keep your costs down after having a baby (or just trying to be a good citizen of the Earth).

Many of us can’t resist a good deal, especially for things that we somehow determined our baby “will need”. If we must, let’s build a strategy! In the light of upcoming Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and winter Holiday sales, here is my way to keep things real:

  • Make a list of things you need. It will keep you in line:)
  • Once you have your list – rework it! Put the ‘needs’ on top and put the ‘wants’ at the bottom. Re-reading your draft will surely reveal some doubles and some non-essential items.
  • Visit shops that carry your items and see them in person (well before the sale and the stampede starts!). Some things look “bigger and better” in a catalogue or on-line. Some items will make you wonder, why they’re on your list at all once you see and touch them.
  • Write down prices and compare them in different stores and on-line.
  • Shop on-line if possible – this is about those big stores where people behave like herds of headless beasts on sale days. Battle for the Middle Earth belongs on your TV screen!
  • If you choose to hit the stores, have a bottle of water and a snack in your bag. I’m serious. It would be worse than a trip to IKEA 🙂
  • Spend your time wisely – don’t waste 3 hours running to 5 different stores to find a $5 toy for $4.50. Your time is also money! Big ticket items are worth more time invested (think a stroller or a car seat).
  • Once you buy, keep the receipts. You will be able to return your purchase if for any reason you decide it’s not wanted anymore – if you find the same item somewhere else for a considerably better price, the size of the clothes you bought is not correct, you decide you have enough stuff already (well done!).
    Some shops have stricter return policies for items on sale or in clearance, so make sure that you are aware of it.
  • Know your budget. Do you really want to run up your credit card debt because of a “great deal”?

Happy hunting!

 

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How To Save Money With a Baby – Part 1

Save money with baby2

Having a baby in your world is life-changing. For some of us, it’s the most important event of our lives, it’s the very existence we have and are… and logically there should be nothing we would spare to make our baby/ babies thrive and make happy. We would bring the sun and moon for them!

But is it always good to give everything? If money is the question – shouldn’t we save some for later as well? If money is not an issue – is it correct to have and give everything the eye sees and the mind desires?

Everyone should have ways to economize, it’s good for our wallets and it’s good for the Earth we hope to give to our children (please no Whitney Houston song here, if it gets stuck in your head, I cannot be held responsible… enough that after typing this, it’s already whizzing through MY head). There are many ways to save money when you have a baby, some are surprisingly easy and simple! The following list is by no means complete and I will return to some points later again,  otherwise this post would go forever, saving you no time;)

1) Buy less

This seems like DUH!, but tell me honestly, aren’t you sometimes really, really tempted to buy that cute dress or that toy on sale even though we have a similar one already?
There are many things we are led to believe we will seriously need by toy makers and big baby stores. Sometimes you just need one of each (hey, that’s not the same as one of everything ;).
Here you have to think about your own setting and situations you will likely find yourself with a baby in. For example if you travel a lot, you might consider buying a travel basinet, but don’t buy a travel bed. They are bulky even when folded and who wants to pay extra luggage fees? You could use a folding bed in your parents’ house, if you plan to visit a lot – it will be out of the way when you’re not there.
Another example are books. I fully support little readers and personally think that teaching your child to love books is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, BUT… does your kid need 15 different lift-the-flap books? Or 5 bathtub books? Or “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” in 3 sizes board book, 2 paper AND a bathtub version? See where I’m going? Some books will be useful only for a short time (i.e. black & white infant books), why don’t you spend your money on children’s classics you will read before bedtime? And make a good use of that library card!
An easy way to save on baby clothes: don’t create a little fashionista! Don’t pretend like your 8 months old won’t wear anything yellow or grey, your child will wear what you put them in… (hello, celebrity moms!). Your child doesn’t need a new dress every Sunday either.

2) Be old-fashioned

Every generation of children has more and more toys, books and hi-tech gadgets. Sometimes it’s worth asking your parents or grandparents what they owned and how they played. Or you can just walk down the memory lane and remind yourself that you were happy with much less as well!
Buy things that are lasting and will become a heirloom, get multitasking toys and learn activities that encourage open-ended play. Teach your children how not to be bored. And get out often!

3) Buy on sale

There are days on American calendar that are supposed to celebrate important events, but lately became an epitome of shopping sprees. While I don’t support shopping till you drop in lieu of giving an appropriate respect (i.e. recent Veterans Day), but at the same time I believe that if you can buy something 50% off after New Year, why would you buy it full price.
There are lots of websites that offer discounted baby and children stuff all year round: zulily.com, babysteals.com, kidsteals.com, babyhalfoff.com just to name a few.

4) Use memberships and monthly delivery services

Many websites with baby products have member-only services to (lure you in) and to save money. It’s worth discovering sites like Amazon.com (their Amazon Mom program offers 20% diaper subscription and free 2-day shipping, plus other perks like 15% off baby registry items), Diapers.com (subscribe & save programs and frequent sales), Honest.com (the Bundles, like Diapers & Wipes Bundle, save you a lot every month plus the products are absolutely safe and Earth-friendly).

5) Breastfeed

Our whole species survived because mothers did what was natural – breastfeeding. I will never blame a mother who didn’t breastfeed because of a medical issue, but that’s for a different post. Here I am writing about saving money and boy, breastfeeding is actually the most natural way to save while doing the most natural thing for your baby! Have you ever looked at baby food prices? Yes, your baby will become a toddler in a few months and before you know it he or she will be eaten by an omnivorous beast pretending to be that same baby and set on to break your bank in the grocery department. But before all that, you can save a few hundred by not using formula.

6) Reuse and recycle

Some ways to reuse are: using cloth diapers or going completely diaper-free (aka Elimination Communication), using washable breast pads and cloth wipes.
Scour garage sales, bookmark Craiglist on your computer, ask friends with bigger kids if they’re downsizing. Thrift stores have sometimes amazing things and once you’re done with them, you can donate or resell them again. Keep the cycle going. Halloween was a great example in the days just passed by – parents spend high sums for readymade costumes while one trip to a thrift shop could have yielded similar results (no offense, but some ready-made costumes looked like they came out of trash bin already…).
Make your own toys and activities. Make them with kids! Pinterest is an amazing resource; you had no idea what all you can make out of cardboard boxes, fabric scraps or empty water bottles (well, buying bottled water won’t exactly save you money either, get a water filter;). Have you heard of the saying that if you want your child to play, give them the box their toy came in?

7) Support local and handmade

Handmade doesn’t always come cheap, but with a few key items you are getting furniture/ toys/ decor that will last longer then flimsy cheaply made pieces. You’re exchanging quantity for quality and you might be able to resell your pieces well. Or keep reusing with more children. Some one-of-a-kind items can be also of collectors’ interest.
Create a relationship with a local farmer – we keep going to the same stand at a farmers market and the lad selling there already knows us. After exchanging family stories from the past week, we hand him $15 and a bag and he fills it with whatever is in season. We used to pay at least twice that much at the beginning… Making the “I know a guy” work for you!

8) Get one – give one

Babies grow and develop so fast, it’s inevitable that your closet will be soon full, storage boxes overflowing and cleaning after playtime will take longer. You need to clear some space! Get one – give one is just what it says, for every new thing get rid of an old one. Donate or sell old clothes and toys (or keep them nicely organized and stored for your next child). Get rid of broken toys, destroyed clothing and items your child is not using. Donate to a family in need.

9) Take a clue from other countries

In many countries people live with much less. Yet their children are happy, they still become scientists and lawyers and teachers and they find love and have families. Material stuff doesn’t make them happier or more content. Some of the local traditions and habits actually do. Bed sharing, room sharing and eating from one plate are to name just a few.

10) Give what’s always for free

Your baby needs you, your time, your love and affection, your loving touch, your voice, your guidance. All these are already free!

 

Some of the categories definitely blend together and have some points in common. They all could be a version of “Buy Less”! And while trying to live with less, make sure that your family and good friends are on the same boat with you – who wants to fight over presents on a baby’s birthday?

What are your tips for saving some dough with baby?

 

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How To Choose Sunscreen for a Baby

Shopping for baby sunscreen can surely be very confusing. Here are what the labels say to lure you into buying a specific product:

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It’s surely a jungle!
Most of baby-targeted sunscreens have a warning “do not use for children under 6 months old” or “for children under 6 months old consult a pediatrician”. We live in South California and NOT wearing a sunscreen is simply not an option, especially now in summer. I’m trying to be outside with the baby every day, so I wanted to understand WHY are sunscreens supposed to be that bad for babies. This is what FDA says:

“Babies’ skin is less mature compared to adults, and infants have a higher surface-area to body-weight ratio compared to older children and adults.” (…) “Both these factors mean that an infant’s exposure to the chemicals in sunscreens may be much greater, increasing the risk of side effects from the sunscreen.” (source)

AHA! It’s the chemicals! Well, I have checked some baby products in our pharmacy isle and here are two labels just to illustrate a point:

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These two baby products (that are for DAILY use) contain a handful of ingredients that are not safe for adults, let alone children (hormone disruptors being the most questionable ingredients). But there was no warning to consult a pediatrician before use! Hmmm….. While I appreciate the FDA’s concern over baby sunscreens, I know there are some, that are much healthier than the products that the hospitals send young mothers home with as freebies!

Your best bet:

Visit EWG’s Skindeep Database (EWG is a nonprofit Environmental Working Group independently testing product safety) to check your product’s ingredients safety and find best options for yourself and your baby. There are lots of options and an organic sunscreen doesn’t always mean zinc-white skin or super thick formula. You will be pleasantly surprised!

Also check out the sunscreen DON’Ts here and COVER UP! And yes, follow the safe-sun tips from FDA:)

 

  • Keep your baby in the shade as much as possible.
  • If you do use a small amount of sunscreen on your baby, don’t assume the child is well protected.
  • Make sure your child wears clothing that covers and protects sensitive skin. Use common sense; if you hold the fabric against your hand and it’s so sheer that you can see through it, it probably doesn’t offer enough protection.
  • Make sure your baby wears a hat that provides sufficient shade at all times.
  • Watch your baby carefully to make sure he or she doesn’t show warning signs of sunburn or dehydration. These include fussiness, redness and excessive crying.
  • Hydrate! Give your baby formula or breast milk if you’re out in the sun for more than a few minutes. Don’t forget to use a cooler to store the liquids.
  • Take note of how much your baby is urinating. If it’s less than usual, it may be a sign of dehydration, and that more fluids are needed until the flow is back to normal.
  • Avoid combination sunscreens containing insect repellants like DEET. Young children may lick their hands or put them in their mouths. According to the AAP, DEET should not be used on infants less than 2 months old.
  • If you do notice your baby is becoming sunburned, get out of the sun right away and apply cold compresses to the affected areas.

Poop Proofing Infant Swimming Lessons

I was looking forward to the age I could take my baby for swimming classes. A local pool offered classes from 3 months of age which might seem too young, but our son really liked it from the first time we went in!

The pool, like most pools with infant and children swim classes, requires “double diaper” policy – meaning a reusable swim diaper over a disposable. We have been using cloth diapers since Aditya has been 2 weeks old (before that he was too small for the ‘small’ size) and one of the reasons was keeping a one-time item out of landfill. Plus have you checked out the prices for disposable swim diapers? Insane and insane!

So I have decided to employ my wits and figure out a way where I would respect the pool policy and keep my decision to reduce waste. And believe me, I wanted this to work, I would certainly NOT want to be the mom, whose baby cleared the pool;) And after all, I ended up triple-proofing my baby’s butt…

Now, if you’ve never used a swim cloth diaper, this is how it works: it’s not supposed to keep the pee in, just “numero dos”, the poo. So if you’re going to the pool, you want to change your baby into the swim diaper at the pool, not at home, or you might end up with a piddle pool in your car/ stroller/ carrier before you get to the pool at all. The swim diaper lets the pee out – if it held liquids, how would the diaper distinguish between your baby’s juices and the pool water unless it was completely sealed off (which it isn’t)? It is meant to contain only solid waste. And don’t be grossed out. The reality is that many adults pee in the pool too (!!!) and because urine is sterile, it doesn’t pose any health risks. Mostly. Sorry, if you didn’t want to know…

Here is what I do now even if we go to the pool in our community:

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First I use a cheap reusable diaper that I actually got as a gift when we were staying in some hotel (it was part of their kid’s amenity), very similar to “i play” brand. You can get “i play” at almost any kids store and major department stores.

I insert a fleece liner or a small cloth insert (also known as “doubler” or “booster” in the cloth diapering community) into the diaper. Reason? If there is a small poop in the diaper, I don’t have to wash the whole thing, but throw the liner into the laundry bag with other cloth diapers and rinse the cover unless it is soiled. It also gives me the feeling of security that there is an extra layer that will encourage the poop to adhere to. I use Bummis brand for cloth diapering, so I use their liners and boosters too (both available on Amazon and major cloth diapering sites).

Here you see the diaper on my son. My problem with pull-ups is that Aditya is quite skinny and as you can see, the diaper is not sealed properly around his thighs, which is the key for it to work properly:

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Next step is to wrap the cheapo brand cover with a reusable cover with hook-and-loop closure. I love this style, because it is easily customizable and your child is likely to use the same cover for a longer time as he’s growing and the little body is changing shape. The hook-and-loop seals the thigh and tummy area really well:

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Now the staff at the pool sees that we are really wearing two diapers – no cheating here:) And by pulling the top part up a little I am pretty sure that Aditya won’t get his skin scratched by the velcro (it doesn’t happen often, but some reviews mention it, so I  thought I didn’t want to find out, if it happens to my baby;))) – every child’s body is different, so even the diaper will fit slightly differently on each). Again I use Bummis, I love the prints they have (AND their reviews are great)!

And then we just top it off with a rash guard if we’re in the outdoor pool and voila! Happy poop-proofed baby!

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Here are Amazon links to the diapers I like using so much:

 

Liners:     

Diapers:  

 

This post contains affiliate links from Amazon.com. I never link to products I would not recommend based on personal use or products I believe are not healthy/ eco friendly/ ethical.

So Baby Boy is Supposed to Wear Blue?

When I was carrying this little bumblebee in my belly, me and my husband chose not to know if we’re expecting a boy or a girl. I am a bit old fashioned in these things – if God wanted us to know, He’d give us x-ray vision, you’d hear me saying.
“But how will you decorate the baby room?” I’d hear EVERY SINGLE TIME when people asked for the gender of the unborn baby. Well, first, this baby will not have a room (about that later:), second – I honestly failed to see a problem there… until I was a guest at a joined baby shower for two friends, who were carrying a month ahead of me. Nothing was gender neutral except for some books and toys. It seemed that every gift either had “Daddy’s little princess” smeared all over it or it had to have trucks and screwdrivers (one friend was expecting a girl, the other a boy).

I never noticed a ‘problem’ like this in Europe. Things are changing, of course, thanks to imported things that are popular in the USA, but in general, finding colourful and gender neutral clothes and decorations is not a problem. Nor it is a problem in India (my husband’s home country) – a country where any guy can pull off a pink dress shirt.

I think the big sellers and department stores are screwing with us, people. It’s like bad pharma, but in baby clothes and toys – good marketing is making victim of a nation.

And then there was my baby shower. You’ve never seen that many yellow onesies! I love yellow colour, it’s actually my (second;) favourite. But on everything, seriously? So boys have to wear blue and girls pink? And poor babies of granola parents like us have to put up with tons of yellow and green? Are there only 4 colours in this world?

Once upon a time childhood was the time of innocence. Time of play and freedom. Time where everybody wore cute white cotton dresses that mums could easily clean. Time when strangers didn’t have the need to see the gender of a baby the moment they laid their eyes on them. Time when babies and children wore baby clothes, not shrunken adult clothes.
European royalty and noble class had another reason for dressing little boys into dresses – male heirs were in danger of kidnapping for ransom. But when nobody could recognize young boys from girls at a glance, there was less chance of them being taken!
I find it interesting, that originally, when colours were introduced to baby clothing, blue was mainly reserved to little ladies, because blue is the colour of Virgin Mary, and pink was considered a strong, manly colour.
But now, when I have my own little man, I just moan every time I go baby clothes shopping. Why, why in the world, are the boy clothes so boring? And sad, colourless? Can a boy not wear flowers? I could buy many girl shirts and onesies, but many of the companies put cleverly some sort of girl detail on girls’ clothing – frills, bows, princess pictures…
Here is what I do. I always look in the girls’ section first. If the only girly detail is a bow, I buy it and cut the bow off. If there’s no specifically girly detail – well, it just became unisex.
Only one thing consoles me deeply despite boy clothes being excruciatingly boring: I have already saved so much money!
How about you? Do you have a baby boy and a problem finding fun clothes that don’t break the bank?