Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Anticipated Expenses for my New Baby

Newborn Ike and big brother Lee in Sept 09.
My, how time flies! Ike is older than
Lee was in that pic!
I can't believe it. I'm midway through with my third trimester of pregnancy already. Our new family member will be here rather soon. My kids are already getting impatient, asking when the baby will come out already, but I've told them that its better for the baby to stay in there at least for the next little while. (Don't want a preemie after all!)

Having kids, even for the very frugal, is getting to be more expensive all the time. From sky rocketing healthcare costs to tuition that goes up every year (cross your fingers for improvements in online graduate degree programs!), a child can empty a bank account in the blink of an eye. However, and thanks to the internet, it is possible to share lots of little tips that can add up to a big difference in savings.

When it comes to living frugally, its always best to be aware of what expenses are bound to crop up. A new baby is definitely an expense. Even if you want to do the bare minimum and stick with the absolute bare basics when it comes to baby supplies, you can't kid yourself and think that babies are free. Having babies cost money, even if not what the "official books" say. When there are expenses coming up, its best to plan them in advance, budget them in, and set aside a little money each month before the fact, so that you don't go into debt to pay your new baby bills.

I have 2 kids already, so you'd think that I'd pretty much be set when it comes to baby products this time, especially since I cloth diaper and you can reuse those from kid to kid, but no... I do have baby expenses this time around. I thought I might share with you what our planned expenses are, and why we need those things.

Cloth diapering needs. 
When I first started out cloth diapering, I ordered a bunch of prefold diapers (about 36 in each size if I'm not mistaken), 4 Bummi's Whisper Wrap velcro diaper covers in each size, and 2 Snappis. A few friends augmented my stash with some pocket diapers, a few more covers, and some fitted diapers.
In the smaller sizes, I didn't have more than 4 diaper covers per size, though, and the ones that I had were fabric on the inside, so if there was any baby poo that leaked out of the prefold, the cover would get dirty and need to be washed... and I only had 4 of them. I was constantly running out of diaper covers.
To make things even more of an issue, I did not follow the recommended procedure for securing the velcro when washing the diaper covers, which ended up pretty much destroying, or near destroying the velcro on most of my diaper covers...
Therefore, the few diaper covers that I have don't work so well anymore (and some are completely unusable) because of my irresponsibility, and as it is I didn't have enough.
Replenishing my diaper cover stash is of the utmost importance, because I don't want to start using disposable diapers because I am running out of covers left and right (as happened with my last two kids; we never were 100% cloth diapering for this reason. I kept some disposables for emergencies).

Search & WinTo try to keep the outlay for this new cloth diapering expense as low as possible, I am buying my cloth diaper covers on so that I can use my Swagbucks to pay for them. I get Swagbucks for searching the internet and from referrals (people joining Swagbucks using my referral code), and then I trade them in for gift cards, which I can use to purchase whatever I want on . (Yes, the gift cards also can cover shipping.) This way, even if the prices on Amazon aren't necessarily as low as I might possibly find elsewhere on the internet (but very often they are), it's still worth it for me to buy there because it means I don't need to take any money out of the bank to pay for it.

Also to keep the costs low (in anticipation for the fact that I'll likely forget to take proper care of velcro tabs again...), I plan on buying diaper covers with snaps.
I also want to use diaper covers that are either one size fits all, or two sizes fit all, so I don't need to buy 4 or 5 different sized diaper covers.
I've scoured the internet for reviews, and checked out some of my friends' cloth diaper stashes, and decided on the diaper covers I will be buying.
The first type I'll be buying is Thirsties Duo Snap. The biggest plus for me with this is that unlike the Bummi's Whisper Wraps, the inner surface of the diaper cover is a waterproof layer, not fabric, so it won't absorb any poop that leaks onto it. Instead, you can just wipe it down with a sponge or rag or whatever and reuse instead of needing to chuck it in the wash. That should help me not run out of diaper covers like I constantly was last time.
It also has leg gussets (extra material around the legs) to help prevent leaks. (As it is I love cloth diapering because cloth diapers tend to leak newborn blowout poops much, much less than disposable diapers.)
And of course, the snaps instead of velcro, so I don't ruin them like I did my other covers.
These are not one size fits all, they're two sizes fits all, so I'll be getting 2 of them in size small and 2 in size large.

The other diaper cover I plan on buying is the Flip Diaper Cover. Or, at least I was until I was writing this post, looked at the link, and saw they were sold out. Drat! The Flips are a one size fits all system (fitting from birth to potty training) with a wipable inner layer, and they got rave reviews. I also saw them when a friend who uses them came over and showed them to me. I was suitably impressed. But darn it. Back to the drawing board.

I'll probably end up getting Mommy's Touch One Size Fits All Diaper Covers with snaps. My good friend and next door neighbor has them, and they look good. The big plus with them is that they're one diaper that should fit from infancy through the toddler stage, so I don't need to buy them even in two different sizes like I'll need to do with the Thirsties Duo.
The drawbacks of this type of diaper is that its not wipe clean on the inside- the inside is a layer of fabric, so if it gets dirty, it'll need to go in the wash.
It also doesn't fit from newborn- the baby needs to be a little bigger than newborn to start being able to wear these diapers.
But really, one thing that annoys me about these diaper covers is that they're more expensive than the Flip would have been. Oh well... That's what I get for not ordering the diapers a month ago when I decided what I wanted while they still had them in stock.
Fortunately, these diapers seem to get good reviews. If you want to see Mommy's Touch diapers in action, here's a link with a bunch of pics of all different aged kids in the diapers, with instructions on how to get each fit.

I also need to get some more Snappi Cloth Diaper Fasteners, as mine are all stretched out.

Aside for cloth diapering needs, what do I need?

Baby Transportation System- Strollers and/or Baby Carriers
We live without a car, and I don't send any of my kids to daycare or school, so I have different needs when it comes to transportation my baby and kids than other people may have.
I do a lot of schlepping around with both my kids currently. With three, I plan on continuing that way. They come on errands with me, go shopping with me, come with me to appointments, and come on general fun trips with me. All with no car.
I have a decent double stroller that I'm happy with, but it's quite a bit heavy and difficult to take on the bus, so I generally use it just when walking far distances in my community. (Its a Kolcraft Contours Tandem Stroller, by the way.) I bought it second hand from someone who had never used it before Ike was born 2 years ago, and it hasn't had so much use from me either (because Lee was big enough to not need to ride in the stroller all the time.)
I also have a Peg Perego stroller that I bought second hand before Lee was born, and that really has seen heavy use and a lot of wear and tear. Its definitely not in good condition, that's for certain. I actually thought it was completely broken, but it started working again fortunately. (Before it was collapsing whenever I'd bounce it down the stairs.)

What I really would like to do is to sell my double stroller, and use the proceeds from that to go towards buying a Phil and Ted's double stroller, because I've been very impressed with what I've seen of the Phil and Ted's. (2 of my local friends have a Phil and Ted's, so I've seen it in action plenty.) I like that the Phil and Ted's is light enough, easily maneuverable, and can be converted to a single stroller, all areas in which my current double is lacking. If I'd buy it, I'd probably get rid of my nearly broke single stroller as well.
But for now, that's not happening. I'm trying to spend as little as possible at the moment, because I have other baby expenses aside from this, and even if I sold my current double, there still would be a large monetary outlay, which I'd rather not do if I do have something workable, even if not ideal.

In the meantime, what I plan on doing is keeping my current strollers, and investing in a good baby carrier. I'm due in the winter, and I think that if you will be taking a newborn child outside in the winter, it's better to wear the baby in a baby carrier close to the mother's body for warmth instead of bundling the baby up in a stroller.
Not only that, but a good baby carrier can largely eliminate the need for a stroller at first. (Once the baby is heavier you may prefer using a stroller for longer distances, but for quick jaunts, baby carriers can be much easier with infants, especially if you need to go anywhere with steps or are traveling on a bus.)

A good baby carrier, in my opinion, is an essential purchase for me, because it'll help me continue living the type of extremely frugal lifestyle that I'm living now, which I wouldn't necessarily be able to do with a newborn infant otherwise.
I forage for wild edibles, sometimes in places where it's too rocky to be able to push a stroller, and a good baby carrier will allow me to go foraging with a baby.
I do many things around the house that take two hands including cooking from scratch among other things that I can't do while holding a cranky baby... and both my children so far have been cranky babies who wanted to be held constantly... I'm hoping that because I'm on a gluten and dairy free diet, my baby will be getting gluten free dairy free breastmilk and won't have a constantly irritated upset tummy, which is what I'm suspecting made my other two kids irritable and always wanting to be held... but I'm not counting on it. Being able to wear my baby while doing things around the house will definitely make my life a lot easier and make the transition to mothering 3 children easier than it would have been otherwise.

The simplest baby carrier, and what I have already, is a stretchy wrap made from 4 yards of tee-shirt fabric that you can easily and cheaply make yourself, even if you have zero sewing skills. (See here for details on how to make one from scratch, and here for some of the many, many ways to tie your stretchy wrap- click the other links at the side for even more ways to tie it.)

What I loved about the stretchy wrap is that I could use it to carry my baby on my back, my front, or my side. It was very comfortable and distributed the weight evenly over both my shoulders, so I didn't get painfully stiff shoulders after wearing my baby for a long time, the way I would get painful shoulders after wearing a heavy backpack for a few hours. I loved being able to snuggle with my baby and nurse discreetly while wearing the baby (I've nursed hands free while walking around the grocery store with no skin showing anywhere, and no one even being able to tell that I was nursing). I loved how my cranky babies would just melt into my chest while positioned on me, calm down, relax, and fall asleep while I was wearing them.

What I didn't like was that because the fabric was stretchy, once my babies were a bit bigger (6 months or more), they started sagging down in the baby carrier, because it was stretchy, and I wasn't able to comfortably wear them anymore. I also didn't like the miles and miles of fabric entailed. While fine indoors, when I'd try to put on the wrap outdoors, especially in the wet, rainy winter, the ends would drag on the ground and get wet, muddy, and dirty. There also was the aspect that the baby was tied up so tightly and so complexly that when I'd try to take it off with the sleeping baby inside, the baby would wake up, and again, I'd have to deal with a cranky, overtired baby, so I pretty much was stuck with a baby on me throughout the duration of his nap.

I decided to buy a mei tai baby carrier when Ike was born, specifically because of these issues with the stretchy wrap, most of which weren't an issue with mei tais. Mei tais aren't really sold locally, and can only be purchased for a lot of money from the name brand baby carrier companies, like Baby Hawk. (They're sold for 90-140 dollars usually.)
Instead, I went to Etsy and found a cheap, decent looking mei tai made by a work at home mom, who sold them for 30 dollars on her now defunct websit. I was so excited. I had a friend who was flying to the US in 2 weeks time, and spoke to this WAHM who said she could ship it overnight to where my friend was staying, so she'd be able to get it in time to bring it back to me and not need to pay for overseas shipping. I paid an extra 20 dollars or so for this special service...
Only, she only overnighted the mei tai after my friend had already returned from the US, so it got there after she had left, so the people living there told the shipping company to return it to the sender.
And that was that. The WAHM got her carrier back.
I was out 60 bucks, and with no carrier. I tried calling her, I tried emailing her, but she didn't answer the phone and wouldn't respond to emails. I paid extra money for overnight shipping and it was only mailed out 3 weeks after I paid for it to be overnighted. (Come on?!?! Why would anyone ship something overnight 3 weeks after it was supposed to be shipped out? Overnighting is supposed to get there maximum 2 or 3 days later, not 3 weeks later!)
She got her carrier back, but refused to refund me the money for the carrier which I never got. And of course, she never refunded the money I paid for overnight shipping which didn't happen.
So basically, I got pretty burned out about buying a mei tai, since I had a really bad experience with a small WAHM company, and couldn't really afford a name brand one. So I gave that up as a lost cause, especially since I didn't want to have to spend money twice on the same thing.

At this point in my life, though, I really do need a decent baby carrier, and this time I think I found the solution. A friend  and neighbor of mine started a company that sells a really cool type of carrier.
It's like a mei tai, only it's got wide straps like a baby wrap, but ones that are only stretchy in one direction so the carrier doesn't sag. Because of the types of straps that it has, it actually is quite good for your back, and osteopaths and other back specialists who are familiar with it are recommending it to anyone who wants to baby wear. It's such a comfortable carrier; I tried it on with my 2 year old Ike inside, and it was totally doable to wear him for long periods of time. The straps also aren't miles long as they are in a wrap, and its relatively simple to tie. And they can be used for front, back, and side carries, just like baby wraps and mei tais.
The only thing is, these aren't the cheapest in the world. In fact, they're around the same price as the aforementioned baby hawk.
But I decided that getting one will help my quality of life with a new baby, and will make me be able to function as close to full frugal capacity as possible even with a newborn, so I'm guessing that that will be a worthwhile investment that will allow me to save money.
And because it works so well, its quite possible I won't feel the need to upgrade my stroller at all, and will save money there as well.
Even so, I did manage to get this baby carrier on sale 25% off at a "X Brand baby carrier party" (like a Tupperware party).
And while this is more expensive than buying a WAHM mei tai from the US, in my opinion, the better quality, and the fact that I know I can count on actually getting the carrier and not just throwing my money in the trash like last time, and the fact that I don't need to pay for shipping makes me feel it still is worthwhile and not such a splurge.
Or maybe it is. But I think I deserve it if it will dramatically enhance my quality of life.
Sorry, no pics of it yet, as its hard for me to find any online as its relatively new... and I'm sorry, unless you're local, I can't tell you the name of the company either because it would give away my location... but once I get the carrier, I do plan on taking a picture and posting it.

Any Other Anticipated Expenses?
I plan on paying a midwife for a homebirth, and anticipate we'll need to pay to get my baby's tongue tie snipped as I had to with my other two kids, but the whys and the hows of those will be expanded on in other posts.

Yes, I have 2 kids already, so I'm pretty set with most other baby bare basics, plus many other non needs but nice to haves, like baby bouncers, baby toys, nursing pillows, baby towels, baby bassinet/crib/pack'n'play and baby blankets. But even having had kids 2 times before doesn't mean that I can get away with spending nothing this time on a new baby. Babies cost money, that is for sure, even when you're not first time parents, and even when you're not decorating a nursery or spending extravagantly. That's why we started budgeting in for a new baby a long time ago, even before this pregnancy was even a slight thought in our mind.

How many kids do you have? If you have more than one kid, did you find you were mainly set with things for your subsequent babies after you made the initial purchases for your first child, or like me, did you find that you needed to buy new things with the birth of every child? Which things lasted from child to child, and which new expenses came up each time you had a child?
What type of stroller do you have? Are you happy with it? What type of baby carrier do you use? Are you happy with it? Do you cloth diaper? Do you have any experience with any of the companies I mentioned (Bummi's, Thirsties, Flip, and Mommy's Touch)? I'd love feedback on any of the above if you've used them.
How much money minimum do you find you have to lay out each time you have a child?

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