Baby on the cheap

Before I begin, I just want to state that the information in this post isn’t meant in any way to be a judgement on parents who do things differently from our family. It is solely a means of information for those searching for frugal baby tips and ideas. Everyone’s situation is different and what works for some parents would never work for others. I definitely don’t want to add to the judgmental “mommy wars” that plague social media sites and blogs. I only hope to help seeking parents find frugal tips that they maybe wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. So without further adieu….

We do baby on the cheap-very cheap. So cheap we haven’t spent a dime of our own money (besides Christmas gifts and his crib) on our youngest baby, born in August 2012. I feel kind of bad typing that but I think I would feel worse and more wasteful if we didn’t do what we’ve done. I constantly hear that having a baby is so expensive, but i just don’t find that to be true. It’s only expensive if you choose expensive things. Now, I do have to say that family and friends have blessed us beyond belief with gifts of baby items, both new and used, and I realize that many people may not be as fortunate as us. But we also do work hard to try to make decisions that are overall best for our babies, family, and our wallets.

I would say the first frugal decision I made when I found out that I was pregnant with our oldest was that I was going to breastfeed. Not only is breastfeeding the most frugal way to feed your baby, it’s also the most sustainable (no packaging or energy used during production or shipment) and a better food for babies couldn’t be created. While you could breastfeed your baby for absolutely no cost, most women choose to spend some money upfront and purchase accessories such as a breast pump, milk storage containers, nursing pillow, nursing cover, etc. This cost is very nominal considering the cost of formula for a year. It is estimated that a woman can save $1200 by breastfeeding her baby in the first year, let alone the savings we’ve created from not having to go to the doctors for many sick visits. Since we practice full-term breastfeeding, I estimate that I will have saved around $3,000+ from breastfeeding my two children. My oldest who is 2 1/2 is still nursing and doesn’t really prefer cows milk. Now I do tend to eat way more when I’m breastfeeding, so there may be some cost for additional food.

The second frugal parenting choice I made was my decision to use cloth diapers and cloth wipes. I went back and forth about this for quite awhile. At the time I was pregnant with my first, I knew no one who was cloth diapering and I was very intimidated by all of the different types and styles but I decided to jump right in and I never looked back. I now have 2 children in cloth diapers at the same time and I have no idea how we would ever be able to afford disposable diapers if we didn’t! There is definitely a significant upfront cost to cloth diapering (I’d say plan to shell out anywhere from $300-$500) but the long-term savings is incredible. And since we are washing cloth diapers every few days, I decided it makes sense to use cloth wipes and throw those in along with them! In fact, it’s actually more hassle to pick out disposable wipes and throw them away. I estimate that using cloth diapers on 2 children until potty training will have saved us around $6000!!! Not to mention how much landfill space we will have freed up. Our cloth diaper stash is a mixture of Fuzzybunz pocket diapers, Econobum prefolds and covers, and Grovias. We also have 2 washable diaper pail liners, a wet bag for on the go, and a diaper sprayer that hooks to our toilet. We use cheap baby wash cloths as wipes. Pretty simple stuff and all of these items could be on your baby shower registry.

The next decision I made was to make my own babyfood. Dustin’s Aunt bought us the Baeba baby food maker and it works great for steaming and purée-ing fresh or frozen vegetables and grains into delicious and wholesome baby food. This could also be done with a steamer basket and food processor or blender. It feels great to give your baby homemade food while saving tons of money at the same time. A food mill is also a great tool to have for mashing and grinding food for baby.

Clothing, toys, and other items can become quite an expense for babies and children. We have been extremely blessed by family and friends with clothes and toys for both of our children!! I could probably count on one hand how many articles of clothing we have bought for them!! If you do find yourself needing these items, the first place I suggest looking is Freecycle. Actually just today we scored a trashbag full of beautiful clothing for our son- all name brands like Hana Anderson, Ralph Lauren, and Gymboree- for absolutely nothing! Here’s a picture of the mountain of clothes:

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We also received a very nice jumperoo off of Freecycle that someone was willing to part with for nothing and a great set of duplo blocks for our daughter- for free!! If you have a need for a baby item (or any other item) I’d say put a request out on Freecycle first. If you can’t find it there, thrift stores, consignment shops, Craigslist, garage sales, and the Old Navy Snap Appy are great places to find cheap, if not free, baby clothes and items. We try to buy all things second hand, if possible. There is an over abundance of baby and children’s items on this planet and most of them are hardly used. We purchased our son’s crib from Craigslist and I believe all of his nursery decor was previously used or came from thrift stores.

Having children has actually saved us money. We don’t go out to eat/shopping as much as we used to because it really isn’t practical with a toddler and an infant. It has inspired us to conserve and save in ways we never would have thought had we not had children. Honestly, I think it’s fun and we are saving now so we can hopefully be out of debt to help them out later!

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Free Shopping Friday

Free Shopping Friday is here and today I’m going to tell you about a great little app that helps me earn more free Amazon gift cards!

It’s called Free My Apps. It’s an app created to test out new free apps for points. Again, if you are signing up for this app, would you please use my referral link? Every little bit does make a difference!!

After you download the app, it will give you apps to download and try. Free My Apps will work with any idevice or android. Once you download the app (most are free and be sure it is free before you download) run it for 30 seconds to get the points. Each app is usually 100-130 points. A $1 Amazon gift card can be redeemed for 300 points, so it usually takes about 3 apps to earn $1. After I have received the credit, I just delete the app from my iPad (or you could keep it if you like it!) I started using Free My Apps in October 2012 and I have made around $100 in Amazon gift cards. Yesterday I made $3 using it!

Are you earning money/gift cards from a particular site/app? If so, please share your methods in the comments below!!

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Update: freezer/pantry challenge

Well, it’s been awhile since I posted, but I thought I’d let you all know that we successfully made it through our freezer/pantry challenge and I didn’t even buy that gallon of milk!! So $176 extra got thrown at our debt!! Let the snowflakes keep falling!!!

I do have to mention that a few days into it I was whining to my friend Dana about not having any chocolate in the house and she hooked me up with a good amount of it- so I’m not sure I could have made it through without her help!!! Also, it probably was an easier week to do this challenge because we were in Ohio the entire weekend. It’s likely we wouldn’t have made it through the weekend otherwise!!

Here’s what we ate for dinners strictly from our freezer, pantry, and refrigerator:

Freezer/Pantry Challenge Meals

2/7
Veg Burritos
Cilantro Lime Rice
Guacamole & Chips

2/8-2/10
Went away for weekend (used eating out & vacation fund)

2/11
Homemade mac&cheese
Salad

2/12
Green Chile Stew
Rice
Multigrain rolls

2/13
Veg lasagna
Frozen pizza

2/14
Zucchini leek pie

It freed up a good amount of freezer space for the new freezer slow cooker meals I made this week! I haven’t been that thankful to go grocery shopping in a long time!!!

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Pay for Christmas without cash…

It’s Free Shopping Friday!! And today I’m going to attempt to explain how I pay for Christmas without cash (and NO I don’t use credit!!) I know it seems a little early to be thinking about Christmas, but if you’re going to use this method, it will take about a year for it to work.

Last year I stumbled upon a website called Swagbucks. I had signed up for survey sites before and really didn’t feel that they were worth it, but there were so many good reviews about Swagbucks I just had to try it out. I soon learned that I could earn gift cards fairly quickly without a lot of work (I’ve never filled out a survey for Swagbucks.)

You’ll first need to sign up for an account. If you are new to Swagbucks, I would really appreciate if you would sign up through my referral link. I receive extra Swagbucks for all of my referrals.

I usually earn about 70-80 Swagbucks a day. Here is my daily routine to get there:

1. I take the daily poll. This takes about 5 seconds and earns me 1 Swagbuck.

2. I click through the No Obligation Special Offers. This takes about a minute and earns me 2 Swagbucks.

3. I use the Swagbucks search bar to do web searches. This usually takes about a minute. You win various amounts when searching. I’ve won as low as 7 swagbucks and as high as 50. The best time to search is in the morning and right before bed. Just search for things as you normally would, only using Swagbucks’ search engine,

4. I use the Swagbucks TV app on my iPad. It’s an App that runs various movie trailers, advertisements, and little segments. To tell you the truth, I really don’t know what it plays because I just let it run while I’m cleaning, cooking, charging my device, or sleeping. If you let it run long enough, you can earn up to 50 Swagbucks a day.

5. I find swag codes. Swagbucks will randomly put out swag codes you can enter for points on their blog, Facebook, or twitter. If you catch them before they expire, you can get extra Swagbucks.

I usually redeem my Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards, as they are they best deal. A $5 Amazon gift card is 450 Swagbucks so it takes me about a week to earn that. I estimate that I can earn about $400 in Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks a year (I also earn Amazon cards from different sites that I’ll explain more about in another Free Shopping post.)

If you’re not a fan of Amazon, there are many other prizes and gift cards to chose from such as Starbucks, PayPal, restaurant gift cards, and Home Depot. Note: these are usually all egiftcards that come in the form of electronic codes.

I’m sure some of you will laugh and think that it is hardly worth it to earn $5 a week, but I really don’t do much work and these “snowflakes” do help at Christmas time!! It’s my goal to not use any cash for this year’s Christmas. We shall see!

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The only way you’ll ever be rich

As I watch my daughter jump in the air, wave around her arms, and make silly noises just to make her baby brother laugh, I’m filled with inspiration to write a post on how fortunate our little family of four truly is. This post is both a thank you to all of our family and friends and an important reminder for me to take a few minutes out of every day to celebrate our many blessings.

While my blog’s tips on free shopping, debt reduction, and budgeting might certainly help one get out of debt and manage finances, I believe the only real way to become rich is to learn to be content. Happiness only comes with contentment. I believe contentment is born out of identifying all of the blessings in our lives, no matter how small. Living simply can help do this along with freeing up a lot of our time, thoughts, energy and money for things of real value.

I once read somewhere (I can’t remember where) that if you own a car, you are one of the wealthiest people in the world. In all of my moments of driving, filling my gas tank, washing my car, and getting angry at the huge SUV that cut me off, I had never looked at my vehicle in that light. My little dinky car was a luxury that most people of the world would never experience. In America it’s really considered kind of weird when someone doesn’t have a car, isn’t it? It’s most certainly a major inconvenience when you don’t have one. We just jump in our vehicles, start them up, and head to our destination. We only really give them a thought when something is malfunctioning. I’m not saying that we need to think about how wonderful it is to have a car all day long, but it’s kind of nice to sometimes think “I’m thankful that I don’t have to bike/take a bus with 2 children to go to the grocery store” as you sit down to buckle up. My car is just one example of the many blessings I take for granted every day.

Our culture today is hyper-focused on what we don’t have. This is largely due to successful advertising. It has actually molded the way we think. Everything, everywhere is telling us we’re not happy or we haven’t made it to where we need to be until we have something else. There are some real geniuses out there reworking our thought processes and most of the time we don’t have even a moment to consider what we’ve processed.

Don’t get me wrong, “things” are definitely needed in our lives. We absolutely must have “stuff.” I’m not saying that it is wrong to own and want possessions. There are necessities. But for most of us fortunate Americans it would be a challenge to walk around our house and come up with something that we truly needed. It would probably also be a challenge to come up with 10 things we could give away without thinking about it. Do you really need more than 1 pair of tennis shoes? How many dish towels would it really take to get you through to the next load of laundry? As I look around my house, it overwhelms me that most of what we have has been given to us in some form. We are extremely blessed with family members who truly spoil both our children and ourselves on every major holiday. We also have amazing friends who have given us many meals, clothes, toys, cloth diapers, etc. We don’t want for anything and I’m ashamed to admit that I still definitely have those days where I am just itching for something else. On those days, I find it helps to clean something out-whether it be a basement shelf or our entry closet. It feels great to donate, sell, or repurpose stuff that has just been lying unused for a while and miraculously that itch is usually soothed!!

But back to advertising and how it affects our thinking- my daughter doesn’t watch television commercials. I’ve always especially loathed advertisements specifically targeted toward children, but my feelings on this matter were completely solidified this past Christmas when Santa came to our neighborhood. Ingrid sat very wide-eyed on his knee and very much in awe of the big jolly man in the red suit. When he asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she really didn’t know what to do. She sat there for a few moments and then said in her sweet, small voice, “pinecones.” Just the thought of it warms my heart. If we could all have that complete innocence. I know that, despite my best efforts to shield her from the ploys of Mattel and Fisher Price, it will not last much longer. But I do hope I can help her preserve at least a small part of that love for the simple things in life.

America’s Ultimate Cheapskate, Jeff Yeager (I highly suggest you check him out) frequently says that material possessions lose their value over time but experiences seem to do the opposite. For me, this is absolutely true. I don’t remember much of what I received as gifts for Christmases and birthdays but I do remember going to my grandparents’ houses and slumber parties with my friends. I guess that means that a lot of us are just filling landfills with meaningless junk and not focusing on the real moments of our lives. These memories are where contentment lies. These experiences help us build happiness and wealth.

At the end of the day, what makes me the happiest is when my children are sound asleep with full bellies, my house is uncluttered and cozy, and I can recall at least one thing I did for another being in the past 24 hours. It’s easy for me to become wrapped up in what still needs to be done but I feel so much better when I focus on what is already accomplished. This also holds true when I think about our journey in becoming debt-free. I am rich beyond measure and if you’re reading right now, you most likely had something to do with this. :)

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The SnapAppy

This Friday’s Free Shopping tip is the Old Navy SnapAppy! This post is only relevant if you have an Old Navy close by (it can’t be used online) and if you have an idevice or Android with a camera. The following instructions are for an idevice, as that’s what we have.

Step 1: Download the Old Navy SnapAppy

Step 2: Find an Old Navy Logo. I’m a nerd and save an Old Navy tag in my kitchen cupboard just for this purpose. But you could use one from clothing, the Old Navy ad, or do a Google search.

Step 3: Run the app. A screen will first appear that looks like this:

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Step 4: Click on “snap.” You’ll want to have your camera pointed at the logo. When you snap it, a wheel starts spinning, like a slot machine.

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Step 5: You’ll land on different pictures. You’re looking for the “snap 5 Red take $5 off a purchase of $5 or more” but at first you’ll probably land on a tile like this:

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I just click “no thanks” and keep playing.

Step 6: One of two things can happen- you can use all of your chances up for the day and become “snapped out” which looks like this:

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Or you could land on a Snap 5 and win $5:

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If you land on Snap 5 be sure to save it to your surprises!!!!
Dustin and I both land on Snap 5 once a week, giving us $10 a week in Old Navy merchandise. Note, do not redeem the coupon until you are in the store!! The app will work without internet! We take our devices to the store and the cashier scans the coupon at checkout. Thats all it takes to walk out of the store with loads of merchandise without paying a cent!! Old Navy kids’ clothes are usually marked down below $5. And here’s a hint: the item doesn’t have to be $5- it will work on stuff less than $5 as well!! It’s also great for picking up little gifts here and there.

So, everyday, we Snap 5, hoping that its the winning day! Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work right away. Everyone I know who has tried it has gotten one Snap 5 per week. Ooh, and see that “goodie bag” tile above?? I’ve never landed on it, but I heard there are great surprises in it, like a $50 shopping spree!!

So get snappin’!!!!!

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Freezer/Pantry Challenge

So I’m on sort of a clean-out/donate/minimalist/pay things off kick this week. With our tax refund, we paid off Dustin’s car yesterday (3, 2, 1… We’re car debt free!!!!) and we also paid off the remaining balance from the birth of our son in August (thank you cesarean section). We had about $2000 leftover to throw at our next snowball- a small ACS student loan which will hopefully be paid off completely by the summer. All of this paying off stuff has motivated me to see how we can become even leaner in our daily lives in hopes that we can find a few “snowflakes” to throw at debt. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dave Ramsey’s term “snowflake,” it means finding little unexpected chunks of money to add to your debt snowball.

So I got to thinking- our freezer is looking mighty full and our pantry seems stocked with quite a few odds and ends- why don’t I challenge myself to not spend any grocery money (with the exception of one gallon of milk because we are almost out) until our next payday- Feb 15? Right now, I have $176 sitting in my grocery envelope. I’ll take out $5 for the milk, and if I meet my challenge, I should be able to throw an extra $171 at our snowball. I’m pretty sure I can do it, as I love to be challenged!

I got so motivated this morning by my challenge that I made a complete list of fridge, freezer, and pantry inventory. It is pages long!!! Who knew we had all that food!!?? Now we need to eat it!

I will keep track of what we have made and eaten (and hopefully NOT spent) and update you all on the 15th! Anybody want to join me in this challenge??

Ooh, and don’t forget to check out my Free Shopping Friday post tomorrow to see how I turn a simple Old Navy tag into free wardrobes for both of my children!!

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