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#906 Thrifty Baby: Cloth Diapers Save Money (A Lot!) And Landfill Space

8 Apr

baby in a cloth diaper

Cloth diapers save a lot of money over their lifetime.

I have been challenged by acquaintances over the four years since I’ve had my first child to prove that that cloth diapers save money. They like to think there is no way cloth diapering could have saved us a couple thousand dollars over the diapering life of my two children. The argument for disposable or “paper” diapers, as we call them in our house, is that the water and electricity usage to wash the diapers eats up any savings. I say, “Not so.” And here’s proof of thousands of dollars worth of saving from using cloth diapers.

First, water and electricity: Our water bill went up by $2-3/month after our first child. But, keep in mind our laundry load got bigger overall now that we were also washing baby clothes and clothes with massive amounts of breast milk burp-up, poop and drool. Soon after we had our second child, we bought a high efficiency front loader to replace our broken top loading washing machine. Our water bill actually went down $10 a month. I have always lined dried my cloth diapers, so the dryer electric usage for my cloth diapers has been zero.

Cloth diapering, does it save money or not? Can it save you thousands? Let’s explore my journey and expenses. Before I knew what I was doing or what I needed for my first born, I bought Kushies Ultra All-in-One (AIO) cloth diapers. Never again! I’m sure they are fine for chubby babies, but mine was far from chubby, and we had terrible leakage problems. I resold them on eBay for $50 less than I bought them, but had gotten three months of use out of them for those $50 (and lots of soiled clothing as well).

bumGenius logoI decided rather than make the same mistake again; I would buy a sampler pack with several different kinds of diapers. I can’t remember the exact cost, but it was about $30 for 5 diapers. I didn’t have my large group of real life and online mom friends to ask for advice back then. That was when I fell in love with bumGenius All-in-One and pocket cloth diapers. No leaks! I am still using the medium and large bumGenius AIO cloth diapers that I bought (on sale) four years ago for my first child on my two-year old. The initial cost was $350 for 30 cloth diapers (24 AIO diapers, 6 pocket diapers), which meant I would only have to do laundry for diapers every two to three days.

We use the AIO cloth diapers during the day, and the pocket diapers for night time because they can be stuffed with several inserts to absorb night time pee. I have replaced the elastic around the leg and back on the cloth diapers so they would last longer. I won’t be reselling the cloth diapers I used for both kids, as they have been very well loved and used by two little boys. I intend to give them away to someone who may want to get a few more uses out of them, or use them around the house to clean up messes.

For the little, itty-bitty stage for my second child, I bought bumGenius AIO cloth diapers in size small on clearance. I paid $139, delivered to my door. I used them for 6 months and sold them on EBay for $122. I spent $17 for six months of diapers! So, in total, I spent approximately $450 on cloth diapers for two children. I use a Diaper Genie Elite (a hand me down) for the diapers. Liners cost $6 a month so I’ve spent approximately $300 for the diaper liners. Estimating my cost of disposable diapers at $50 a month for three and a half years for my oldest, and two and a half years for my second (and still not potty trained), my total cost for disposable diapers would have been $3,600. My total savings by using cloth diapers comes to $2,850!

thirsties logoCloth diapering can get expensive. There are so many companies and so many cute prints, anyone can get carried away. Plus, the initial cost of the diapers seems intimidating compared to a $15 mega-pack of disposable diapers. But it’s better to think about the lifetime cost instead of the one-time cost. The diapers we chose to use were a more expensive type, but they made the idea of cloth diapering less overwhelming for my husband, so it was worth it for us. I shopped sales and clearance. I never paid full price, which can be upwards of $15-20 per diaper. Ouch! The least expensive route is to buy prefolds and covers such as Econobum or Thirsties. Both of which can be bought used on eBay. If the idea of buying used cloth diapers from a stranger grosses you out, you can buy Econobum (or similar) for $50, which includes 12 prefolds, 3 covers, and a wet bag. This will definitely get you started in the right direction.

If I was to do it all over again, I would buy the one-size diapers with adjustable snaps that grow with the baby. This would have decreased initial start-up cost, but also been more convenient. My husband never complained, but always handed off the poopy child! I would just dump the poop in the toilet, and put the cloth diaper in the Diaper Genie. We never had an issue with a smelly diaper pail. I haven’t felt that I have wasted my time by choosing to cloth diaper my children. I view it from the perspective that I saved $2,850 for minimal time. Let’s say I spent 30 minutes a week doing laundry for the diapers. That’s 7,020 minutes, or 117 hours, over four and a half years. That’s $24.36 per hour I paid myself for my troubles to use cloth diapers.

This calculator will help you figure out what your approximate cost savings would be should you decide to use cloth diapers.

It’s safe to say that our family has saved thousands by using cloth diapers. It also makes me feel good that we have kept thousands of “paper” diapers out of the landfill… diapers that stick around and take an estimated 250 to 500 years to decompose.

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Dr. Kirstin Sippel, who is a physical therapist, budget fiend and thrifty baby expert. She, her husband, two boys and two dogs enjoy long walks on the beach under the Texas sun.


#907 Thrifty Baby: Breastfeeding Is Best…And It’s Free

5 Apr

breastfeeding baby

Yup, breasts are for feeding babies for free. Photo via flickr by Mothering Touch.

I was really looking forward to the last month of eating blueberry pancakes at midnight during my pregnancy. Then my daughter decided she didn’t want to wait any longer to say hello to the world. I was briefly disappointed by the fact that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy extra calories with impunity until I found out that breastfeeding took as many extra calories per day as pregnancy.

The extra calories needed for both pregnancy and breastfeeding is typically between 300 and 500 calories a day, so it’s really not license to gorge yourself and the food should be healthy, but I was excited that breastfeeding meant I could still snack freely throughout the day.

pile of avocados

My healthy snack of choice. Photo via flickr by ollesvensson.

Breastfeeding provides a unique blend of exactly-right that is made just for your baby. It protects against illness and helps development like no formula can. Formula also costs anywhere from $60 to $100 a month. Breastfeeding is free. Breastfeeding is by far the best thing for baby and the cheapest option for mom. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for the first six months, but their statistics show that less than 40 percent of  infants are exclusively breastfeed until six months.

la leche league logoMost women start out with the intention to breastfeed, but how do 85 percent of new moms who intend to breastfeed fall to less than 40 percent of infants who are breastfeeding at six months or even three months. A lot of women get discouraged or feel at a loss or abandoned when in the hospital or upon return home. Women get overwhelmed and abandon breastfeeding. It’s too bad the overwhelming number of women who want to breastfeed then don’t get the support and education they need to succeed. Here are some challenges and ways to succeed:

  • “It seems like it should be natural and easy, and it isn’t.” Not every baby takes right to breastfeeding like a champ. Not every mom knows what to do. The best thing to do is to educate and prepare before hand so that when challenges come up, getting discouraged and quitting is less likely. Some good resources to find support are La Leche League, which is an international organization to support mothers and breastfeeding. They are far reaching and have local chapters that meet for support. It’s a great idea to connect with the group or the organizer of the group while pregnant. Going to a few get togethers beforehand allows for getting to know other moms, and it’s more comfortable to seek help once help is needed. It’s harder to ask for help from a stranger. Especially about breastfeeding. La Leche League is free, so if a lactation consultant isn’t covered by insurance, there are other resources. Another great resource is KellyMom, which has lots of great information. Don’t rely on nurses at the hospital to be knowledgeable, encouraging or helpful.
  • “It hurts.” In theory, it’s not supposed to hurt. The best thing I learned is that if it hurts, then something is going on that is incorrect. That’s not to say there isn’t some adjustment. Some raw or chapped nipples happen, but it should clear up within a few days after correcting anything. The best thing to do is make sure everything is right and then deal with any pain or adjustment that should go away quickly.
  • “I don’t want saggy boobs.”
    pushup bra

    The right bra will have the girls perky and pretty again. Photo via flickr by angel with horns.

    I’m embarrassed to admit I watched some episodes of “16 and Pregnant.” One girl didn’t want to breastfeed because she didn’t want to make her boobs saggy. The doctor answered, “Pregnancy makes your boobs saggy.” So really, pregnancy and age make breasts a little less than perky. Not to mention, your whole body is different post-baby. Most women actually have more body image issues with c-section scars or their stomachs than their breasts. There’s nothing a sexy pushup or under-wire bra can’t fix.

  • “I have to work.” If you’re a stay-at-home-mom or work from home, breastfeeding without pumping should be relatively easy. Working might pose some challenges, but don’t stop because of work. I was lucky to live in a country that if I returned to work, I would have a legal right to breastfeed or pump at work and the employers followed the law without question. It’s sad to read about women who quit breastfeeding because they couldn’t pump at work. In the U.S., protecting mothers in the workplace is woefully behind other countries. But with the new health care provisions in 2010, every woman is allowed time and a private place to pump. Fight for your right to do so if you get resistance, it’s federally protected. You’re fighting for your baby, other women and yourself. Women are underpaid significantly compared to men. Mostly because they don’t fight for their worth. You are worthy, you are valuable, you deserve and have a right to be able to pump at work.
  • “I’m supposed to love it, and I don’t.” It’s fine not to be totally in love with breastfeeding. Most moms absolutely hate pumping that’s for sure. I didn’t totally love breastfeeding, but it was best for baby. When I look back, I know I’ll look on it fondly even though, I might not have been crazy about it all the time.

Those are some challenges. If a women is determined to stick with it, then it should work out. And here are some awesome things about breastfeeding:

  • It’s free. Ok, that is the whole point of the post, but really, who would pay for something you can get for free? Another great thing I learned was that you don’t need all the special equipment that everyone adds on nowadays. I didn’t have a special pillow, pump or bra. It’s possible to manually pump. You can use pillows you have already. A special bra makes it easier but isn’t absolutely necessary. I had a couple of bottles for occasions when I did leave some with dad. If you’re going to pump significantly for a work scenario than equipment for storage is good. You can rent a pump from a hospital for the best pumps.
  • Your kid will get sick A LOT less. The stats show that breastfeed babies are sick significantly less and for a shorter period of time than formula fed babies. Any breastfeeding mom will tell you her kid is sick a lot less than babies who are formula fed. My daughter first got sick after she turned one. She had the usual doses of traveling, public places and day care, so I was amazed that she never got sick until after she was a year.
  • Your pregnancy weight will be sucked right off. This varies by woman and depends on the calories consumed, but breastfeeding does show evidence of helping moms lose weight. Statistically breastfeeding moms lose pregnancy weight faster and are less likely to be obese than formula feeding moms. I got back to a weight I was in high school, which I never thought was possible. It happened quickly without any diet restrictions on my part. I have room to bounce back a few pounds and still fit my pre-pregnancy clothes.
  • It’s convenient. Always the right temperature and immediately available to a hungry baby. No fumbling with hot water, powder, bottles, ect. Even pumped milk in a bottle doesn’t have to be heated up. Some babies will drink cold breast milk. Travel is easy with a breastfeeding baby because there is no need to haul extra stuff and the baby is happy anywhere with the breast.
  • Babies love the boob. Nothing comforts baby like mom and the boob. Babies all love the boob because it’s natural. It makes you feel special that only you can provide this comfort and food source for the baby.

#908 Thrifty Baby: Buy As Little As Possible Pre-Baby

2 Apr

baby feetI know – after a dream wedding comes the next gimmick – a dream nursery. Truth is, despite modern culture’s insistence that it knows better than nature, having a baby is simple and intuitive. In the first few weeks of life, all the baby needs is to be kept warm, eat and sleep. The one and only person who can exclusively provide this for a baby is the baby’s mother. One of the most beautiful and powerful thing about women is that they not only bring life to earth, but they can sustain it in the first six  months to a year when no one else can in this same manner. Meaning, if everything on Earth was brought back to the basics, and any modern convenience was no longer available, a mom could still provide everything needed for a baby.

Now, I’m not saying that having a baby isn’t a huge learning curve or that men can’t participate and support or that challenges will not arise, but I’m saying that babies don’t need many of the things that modern culture says babies need. This of course is all applicable for your first kid. By the time you have another, if you do, you’ll have all the stuff and know exactly what you’re doing and what works for you, right? Let’s take a look at what goes into a nursery and typical baby supplies:

  • baby crib

    Even if you don’t intend it to be the case, the crib may end up sitting empty. Photo via flickr by miguelb.

    Crib/Bassinet: Yes, stick a baby who’s been attached to his or her mother 24/7 in a cold bed, far away and have the baby be totally cool with it. The dirty, little secret of parenting is that EVERYONE co-sleeps. O.K., maybe there are people out there who insist on the crib, but that’s not what baby wants or what’s easiest. Especially in the first few weeks after birth. I know that everyone co-sleeps, because as soon as my husband and I had a kid, EVERYONE then admitted to co-sleeping. Nurses in the ER whispered, “I know you’re not supposed to, but we had our kid in bed with us.” And all male and female nurses and doctors chimed in with a knowing “yeah.” Our parents, who were in the height of the Ferber and “cry it out” school of thought as the best thing to do, admitted to mom sleeping in the nursery with baby. What everyone figures out is that it is so much easier (and natural) to sleep with the baby. It can be done safely. It’s been done for centuries and still is the norm in many cultures. I started out not wanting to co-sleep. I got a crib, but before we could assemble it, I had my baby sooner than expected. The crib stayed un-assembled for a long time.

  • Changing table: Hmmm…never had one or used one. The bed, the couch, the bathroom rug all served as changing places. I did have a day bed with drawers underneath that I planned to use as a changing table and dresser with all the diaper supplies in one drawer and clothes in the other two drawers. I mostly ended up sleeping on the bed with baby. The drawers were handy though.
  • Dresser/Closet: See above. I had a multipurpose piece of furniture to hold all the clothes. Baby clothes are so tiny, I had almost a year’s worth of clothes in two drawers. We’d bought this piece of furniture several years before and re-purposed it for the baby’s room.
  • baby stroller

    Don’t think automatically, “I need this.” You might not. Photo via flickr by Joe Shlabotnik.

    Stroller: Not everyone needs or uses a stroller. I carried my baby in the beginning and then she was walking. We basically skipped the stroller altogether. Some locations are not convenient for strollers, and the fact that you need a monster truck to haul your monster stroller around doesn’t make them all that easy to carry around.

  • Diaper bag: I carry around a giant purse anyways, so it certainly fits a small, zip up thing that holds three diapers, re-packaged wipes, a little flannel changing mat and dog bags (not just for canine use!). I just this little, zippy thing that slips into my purse for free in some mom samples that I got at the OB-GYN. Diaper bag be gone. I do have a huge bag of clothes/shoes and diapers that rides in the car back and forth to day care. The bag is one of those grocery-store, reusable bags I somehow ended up with from my mother-in-law. As it rides in the car, it’s always there for outings in the car. And the free, mini-diaper bag that goes in my purse has never failed to provide everything I need when out and about.
  • Decorations. We were renting so there was no point in doing something up that we’d have to paint over or put a lot of work into something that wasn’t ours. If you do own, decorating is something that parents-to-be can really enjoy. I’d be totally into a DIY paint and stencil job in a theme that I knew would carry over into kid years. I personally love the Miffy bunny and the Little Prince. Decorations are an easy DIY job if you want to make a special space for your child.
  • baby pacifier

    Some babies just say no. Photo via flickr by thesoftlanding.

    Baby bathtub. What happened to stick the baby in the sink? It took us such an embarrassingly long time to bathe our baby beyond the washcloth “top and tail” that we told people we’d bathed her even though we hadn’t done a full bath. I’d read in the literature in pre-baby preparations that there’s no rush to wash a baby. There’s lots of great micro bacterial stuff going on from contact with the mother and birth from which babies benefit. I don’t remember the details, but the impression was there’s no rush to wash. When we did start regular baths, I usually just jumped in the tub with the kid. Then she took a bath while I supervised.

  • Pacifiers. Our baby absolutely refused one. The pediatrician looked at us like we were crazy when we said she hated it. She’s never had a pacifier in her mouth for more than one second before spitting it out in disgust. Some babies don’t like them. The original ones we tried were free samples from the OB-GYN pack – that thing was loaded. It’s intended to make you buy stuff, which I ignored.
  • A minivan or bigger car. Unless you’re having triplets or you own a two-seater, you don’t need a bigger car for one or two kids. We still have our five-seater sedan. It holds two adults, a dog, a baby and lots of stuff. If we had another kid, and the car was still going strong, why bother getting something bigger and less gas efficient?
  • A billion other items… most of the stuff you don’t need. I went through BabyCenter’s cost calculator and started eliminating pretty much everything.

I ride with mom. The baby carrier was handy.

You don’t need much to start out. If you go into a buying frenzy before the baby is born, chances are you won’t use a lot of the stuff because you can’t predict what you’ll need, what your baby will want or be like and how things will be different than you imagined. It’s better to wait until after the baby is born to see which baby carrier you like best and fits your baby best. If you have use for a stroller. If you love co-sleeping. If you need something that you didn’t expect or don’t need something you thought for sure was essential. Just wait, and tailor what you buy for baby to what becomes applicable once you have the baby. You’ll save money and won’t end up with a closet full of unused stuff. Plus, you can start to get confident taking baby on outings and socializing him or her. Or there’s Craigslist, eBay or mom forums to peruse at home.

The best thing to do is prepare yourself mentally. Not with stuff. Learn about and research your birth and parenting decisions. And be comfortable and happy with what you choose. Don’t be pressured by family, friends or society by what you think you should do versus what you want to do. Be confident. Because nothing can prepare you for your own unique experience, but being confident will help you and your partner take on whatever comes with surety. Mental preparedness and a lot of frozen meals will go a long way.

I  started out with re-purposed furniture, an unassembled crib, second-hand clothes my mom had bought me, gifts from other people and a pack of diapers. I got the pack of diapers with my grocery store points. I don’t think I bought anything new. I wanted to save the money for more important things.

baby smiling

What? I didn’t have a fully-equipped nursery upon arrival? Oh, well.

Things I did use right away that I acquired for baby:

  • Car seat. You have to get home from the hospital or birth center.
  • Diapers. I had grocery store points where you could buy things at the mega-store with the points. Previously I had used them to buy a new purse or sweater. Now I was more practical. Diapers it was.
  • Clothes. Even clothes buying pre-baby is unpredictable. Our baby was born during a rainy, cold summer. She never wore a lot of the tiny summer clothes that were so cute. We layered her in short-sleeved cotton “bodies” and those baby one-pieces with feet. Of course, it was all thanks to yard-saleing grandma and gifts from friends and colleagues.
  • Front carrier. I had a used BabyBjorn and a ring sling. I’d like to try an Ergo next time – borrowed or yard saled, of course.
  • Blankets. It was freezing. Baby blankets were great. One was from the hospital and another a gift

Seriously, that’s it. Anything else we used we already had in our lives. Our daughter is in no way deprived. We adore her. She is thriving. She’s not yet two, and we’re amazed at how much she’s grown up since she was a newborn. She is already bi-lingual; can spell her name verbally; count; has doting grandparents, aunts and uncles; wakes up with a smile; and never wants to go to bed because she’s having so much fun.

What did you think you’d totally use and then you didn’t? Or what turned out to be a great baby thing that you were surprised by?



Holy #@%$! Babies Are Expensive! Not Really!

1 Apr


baby sucking on fingerAre you tired of reading about whiny, New Yorkers who say they can’t afford a kid on a six-figure income? Or scared that Idiocracy really will come true? Don’t worry smart people of the world (I know you’re smart because you’re reading this)! You can use your brain to figure out that babies and kids can be as cheap or expensive as you make them out to be depending on your life choices and whether you choose to be thrifty. Coming up, I’ll look at some ideas that make babies a little bit less expensive. I hope to help you make some great thrifty baby choices…or share your ideas in the comments.