Category Archives: Smart Shopping

$20 Amazon gift card for $10

You’ve probably already seen this, but I just wanted to pass it along just in case. Right now, you can get a $20 Amazon gift card for just $10 on the deal site Living Social. It’s available in all markets, and if three of you use my referral link, mine is free. :)

Don’t forget to pass it on to everyone you know! If three people use your referral link, yours could be free, too!

How much do disposable diapers and formula cost?

Oh, hey. It’s a post about money!

This weekend, Judah turned three weeks old. For the first two weeks of life with a newborn, I tried to keep things as simple as possible. I was still recovering from the birth and getting used to taking care of a baby, so I was okay with using disposable diapers. We received a case of size 1s from a generous family member at the baby shower, so we have plenty to use up anyway.

Last week, though, I decided to switch to cloth diapers during the day. I’m thrilled with how well they’re working out, and they’re so much easier than I expected. I was committed to making it work from the start, but part of me was nervous that we might not be able to keep up with it. After a week, I can definitely say that we won’t be using disposables at least 95% of the time.

After three weeks of successful breastfeeding, I think it’s safe to say that we’re not going to be buying formula, either.

I’m curious about how much money we’re actually saving by using cloth diapers and breastfeeding. There are so many variables that it’s hard to come up with solid numbers. If I’d spent any time buying diapers or formula, I might be able to come up with some rough averages.

I know if you work really hard like Kacie at Sense to Save did before she had her first baby, you can stockpile a ton of diapers for as low as 5 cents each. I also know that if you buy the most expensive, fanciest brands at regular price, you’ll pay 25 to 30 cents a diaper.

As far as formula goes, I’ve read that generics will run you about $10 a can, which will last about a week for a baby Judah’s age. Or you can easily spend $30 a can on more expensive name brands.

Before I can really figure out how much I’m saving, I’ll need to see what all this laundry does to my water and electric bills after a full month of cloth diapering. I’m not looking forward to that increase, but I’m confident it will still be less than I’d pay for diapers.

I also need some rough averages on costs. I’m looking to all of you for your insight. If you’ve used disposable diapers or formula, how much did you spend per month in an average month?

Photo by chrisirmo

Are you familiar with your car’s warranty?

A little over three years ago when Tony and I moved from Indiana to North Carolina, we had to make a tough decision about our cars. At the time, we were both driving old cars with 100,000+ miles on them. Both cars had recently had some issues. My car needed about $600 in work that I’d been putting off.

We had to make a choice: buy a used car, buy a new car, or keep both of our old cars and hope that they’d keep running. We were really nervous to buy a used car with a payment. We didn’t like the idea of making a payment on a car that frequently needed to go to the shop. Because we were sharing a single car, any car problems would have left both of us without a vehicle. We were afraid to risk buying a used car when we were moving 800 miles away from all of our friends and family.

In the end, we made the decision to buy a brand new car — a Hyundai. The 100,000-mile, 10-year warranty and 5 years of roadside assistance sold us. We knew if something major went wrong with our car, we wouldn’t be stranded, and we wouldn’t have to come up with the money to fix it.

Of course, we made this decision before we had an emergency fund saved. If I had to make the decision again, I’d say it’s smarter to have enough money saved to cover repairs instead of counting on a warranty. But the car has served us well, it’s been very nice not having to worry about anything but basic maintenance since the car is new, and we’ve had it for almost 3 years with no issues other than a replaced battery and a few tires. It was also very reasonably priced, so I have no regrets.

It seems now we’re facing our first non-maintenance repair. Today on my way home from an appointment with my midwife, the vents stopped blowing air. My first instinct was to check the fuse. I went to a parts store to buy a new fuse, and one of the customer service representatives was nice enough to bring a fuse checker out to my car to confirm that the fuse was in fact blown before I purchased replacements. The fuse was fine. His hunch? Our blower motor was out.

I called my dad (a former mechanic), and he confirmed it: if the blowers aren’t working and the fuse isn’t blown, the blower motor likely needs to be replaced.

This wasn’t the news I wanted to hear. Thankfully, we have an emergency fund, so coming up with the money wasn’t an issue. But we’ve been working hard to replenish our emergency fund after a summer with no income. The last thing I wanted to do was pull a bunch of money out of our savings for car repairs.

Then I remembered: we bought the car because of its supposedly awesome warranty — a warranty that we haven’t yet used because items like tires and batteries are not included in the coverage. I thought to myself, “I bet this part isn’t covered either. Wouldn’t that be just my luck?”

A quick call to the Hyundai dealership proved otherwise. If the problem is the blower motor, the repair will be covered. We have an appointment tomorrow to have it checked out and hopefully get it fixed.

I was hoping they’d supply a loaner vehicle as part of our warranty as well, but no. If it’s going to take longer than a day to fix, we’ll have to borrow a loaner car at a rate of $10 a day. Hopefully we won’t have to do that, but if we do, $10 a day is less than we’d pay at a car rental place, so it’s better than nothing.

If you’re driving a car purchased new in the past 5 (or even 10) years, don’t get anything fixed without calling the dealership first. You may be surprised to discover that your warranty covers the repair.

The other moral of the story? Don’t buy a new car unless you intend to drive it for a long time. These days it’s common to buy a new car every 3 years. Because warranties are non-transferable, any warranty is void after the car is sold. Because new cars are unlikely to have problems for the first 50,000-75,000 miles, you’ll never get to take advantage of new car warranties if you get rid of the car too soon.

We plan to keep this car for at least 10 years so we can get the most for our money and avoid another car payment once it’s paid off.

Finally done shopping for baby

For the past four months, I’ve spent a lot of time researching, second-guessing, and making decisions about what we need, what we want, and what brands/models/sizes of each item we should buy for the baby. It seems like every item from the big stuff like the car seat and the crib to little things like bottles and diapers comes with at least 20 questions before you can make a decision. Oh, and you better not make the wrong decision, or YOUR BABY WILL DIE.

You may think that washcloth is perfectly safe, but no. According to Internet forums or Consumer Reports or whatEVER, it is the most dangerous thing you can possibly have around your baby. You might as well just blow cigarette smoke in your child’s face if you plan to use that washcloth.

No, I was never actually told that a particular washcloth could endanger the baby. I am exaggerating. But still! I felt like every little decision we made was life or death.

Today I made our final pre-birth purchase: the crib mattress. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I spent the better part of four hours browsing retail sites, reading reviews, and researching my options. But I finally made a decision, placed the order, and we are DONE shopping.

I’m so relieved to say that part is finally over. The crib will be here by next week, our diaper stash is complete, and the car seat is just waiting to be installed. Our incredibly generous friends and family gifted us with everything from the Pack n’ Play to a zillion adorable clothing items. In short, I feel like we have all of the stuff we could possibly need for this baby.

Does that mean we’re ready? Not by a longshot.

We have about a hundred loads of baby clothes, blankets, and diapers to wash. We have nursery furniture to assemble. Well, first we have to clear some space in the nursery for the furniture to fit, which is going to require several hours of cleaning and organizing. This weekend will be devoted to clearing junk out of the baby’s room, and next weekend we’ll be assembling furniture. We have cooking and cleaning and packing to do. And then there’s the small task of actually delivering the baby without pain medication. You know, little stuff.

Despite the fact that everything is coming together nicely, I still panic when I remind myself that we could be meeting this baby in as few as, oh, 30 days. I will be 37 weeks — which is considered full term — in THIRTY DAYS. He may decide to show up around my due date in 51 days. Or he may be stubborn and arrive in 65 days. That’s a nice wide margin, huh?

I’m hoping he’ll arrive somewhere between 30 and 50 days from now, so I’d like to have everything ready in about a month. Yikes. That is so soon. Excuse me while I go freak out now.

Photo by danielflather

Gifts from a yard sale master

When we first announced that I’m pregnant, Tony’s incredibly sweet grandmother asked hesitantly how I felt about used items. Apparently, she didn’t want to offend me by giving us used baby stuff if we weren’t into the idea. Pfft. Of course, I told her we LOVE to buy used things and that we’d be incredibly grateful for any gift she bestowed upon us. If it’s used and she can get it for a good price then all the better.

Tony’s grandmother spends a lot of her weekends in the summer hopping from yard sale to yard sale. She finds used items in good condition and haggles the seller down to an even better price. If it’s an item she needs or she knows someone who needs it, she keeps it or gives it away. Otherwise she resells it at her own yearly yard sale for a profit. She’s a smart lady!

Last weekend when we visited Tony’s family, she told us she’d be bringing over all of the baby stuff she scored at yard sales for us this summer. I told her we’d love to see her, but if she’d like to wait until the baby shower to bring the items that would be fine. She said no, she’d rather bring it before the baby shower because she wasn’t sure we’d have room to take everything back home with us in addition to any baby shower gifts.

I assumed she’d picked up a few outfits here and there. Imagine my surprise when Tony and his dad carted in three enormous boxes packed full from his grandparents’ car.


Included in the stash:

  • A metric ton of baby boy clothing in various sizes from newborn to 12 months, including sweaters, onesies, jeans, and pajamas. (The clothing is stacked by size in the photo, so each visible outfit is covering up a ton of other outfits.)
  • A bag full of baby socks in various sizes.
  • Several bibs.
  • Two snowsuits.
  • At least 25-30 cozy blankets and receiving blankets (Maybe more. I didn’t count.)
  • A set of crib bedding with a cute jungle theme.
  • A jungle-themed musical mobile for the crib.
  • Some cute stuffed animals.
  • Not pictured: A bouncer seat, walker, and three strollers.

All of it is in excellent condition (some items even still have store tags on them!) She even pre-washed all of it for me, so the newborn and 3-6 month stuff is ready to be folded and put into his dresser for his arrival home. The rest has been organized by size and stored for future use.

I am absolutely blown away by her generosity and incredible thrift. I’m definitely going to need to get some yard sale-ing tips from her!

We still have TWO baby showers coming up (one for each of our families since they live several hours apart). I almost feel like we’re set for baby clothes, but I know there will likely be more clothing from our friends and family members who attend the baby showers. I have a feeling I’m going to be writing a post about creative storage solutions for small apartments in the near future.

Our cloth diapering game plan

Since we’ll be using cloth diapers, and cloth diapers aren’t particularly easy to add to a registry, I’ve already started to stock up.

Here’s what I’ve collected so far:

I’ve spent about $100 on diapers so far. All of them are brand new.

I think I’m done buying covers and fancy diapers. I may get a couple of Thirsties covers since they’re highly recommended and I’d like to try them, but we’ll see.

Since the Flips, Econobums, and Bummis are all waterproof and easy to wipe clean, they don’t need to be washed after every change. I’ll be able to reuse them a few times a day and just change the prefold diaper. I got the pockets and all-in-one to try them out, but I’m hesitant to stock up since they’re more complicated to wash and take longer to dry. I may buy more later if I really like them, but I’m hoping to mostly use the covers and prefolds method since it’s more economical, and they’re easier to wash and more durable.

Here’s what I still need to buy:

I’m estimating that it will cost another $200 for me to complete my stash. That puts our cloth diapering supplies total at about $300. Not too bad considering these should last us until our baby is potty-trained and perhaps even last until baby #2.

My mom is very skilled with a sewing machine, and when she visited a couple weeks ago, we looked at some patterns for cloth diaper covers together. I know how to sew, but I’m terrible at following the diagrams in patterns. She promised to make me a few diaper covers and diapers and then show me how to do it. I’m excited at the possibility of making cloth diapers for myself at a fraction of the cost, so we’ll see how that goes.

You may have noticed that all of my diapers are “one-size.” According to the manufacturers, all of these diapers should fit babies that weigh 8 pounds and up. If you’re experienced with cloth diapers, though, you probably know that long, skinny babies usually don’t fit into standard one-size diapers until they’re 10-12 pounds. And what if my newborn is only 6 or 7 pounds?

Tony and I both have a family history of big babies, and since we’re having a boy, I’m pretty confident that our little guy will be at least 8 pounds at birth. But who knows? I could go into labor a couple weeks before my “due date” and end up with a tiny 6-pounder.

My point is, we won’t be using cloth diapers from day one. There are “newborn-sized” cloth diapers on the market. However, these diapers are just as expensive as the one-size diapers, and depending on how big my baby is at birth, he may only fit in them for a few weeks. Not a good deal compared to the one-size diapers that will presumably fit him for 2-3 years.

Instead of investing in newborn-sized cloth diapers, I’ll be using newborn and size 1 disposable diapers for the first few weeks until our baby is big enough for his one-size diapers. This will give me a chance to get used to caring for a newborn before I need to learn to care for his cloth diapers.

I want to bargain shop for a few packs of disposable diapers, but it’s so hard to know how many and what size to buy. If he’s at least 8 pounds at birth as I suspect he will be, then he’ll skip the newborn size entirely and immediately fit into size 1s. And he’ll only wear size 1s for about 2-4 weeks. If we end up having a small newborn, he might need a few packs of newborns and more packs of size 1s.

Rather than stressing about it, I’ve decided to keep an eye out for really great diaper deals. If I can get them for cheap, I will, and I’ll save the receipt so I can exchange sizes or return them if necessary. If I don’t have enough disposables to last until he fits into cloth, I’ll suck it up and pay a higher price for a few packs. No biggie. He’ll be in cloth for 2-3 years. Buying a few packs of disposables at regular price won’t kill me.

Do you use cloth diapers? What’s your stash like? Did you use them right away with your newborn?

Photo by vincentmartinez

Cotton Babies clearance sale

Update: I received my order (about two days after I placed it), and honestly, I cannot find a single thing wrong with these diapers. Supposedly there are “minor imperfections,” but I couldn’t tell you what they are after a thorough inspection. The current stock of seconds is almost gone, but if you didn’t take advantage this time, I highly recommend you order some next time they’re offered. It’s a fantastic deal.

If you’re in the market for cloth diapers, check out the huge clearance sale at Cotton Babies. BumGenius, Flip, and Econobum diapers are marked down around 30% off. Use the coupon code BESTDEAL for an extra 5% off. Economy shipping is free.

These diapers are “seconds,” which means they’re on clearance because they have minor imperfections. I’ve never ordered Cotton Babies clearance diapers, but according to the website, they have minor imperfections such as slightly uneven edges and imperfectly sewn binding. I’ve been very happy with products I’ve ordered from Cotton Babies in the past, so I trust that these imperfections won’t affect the performance of the diapers (as the site promises).

However, keep in mind that Cotton Babies clearance diapers are non-returnable.

I ordered four Flip covers and a BumGenius all-in-one. After the 5% coupon code, my total came to about $54, or about $10.80 per diaper.

Advice needed: Choosing an infant car seat for our tiny car

Thanks to the reviews in Baby Bargains (affiliate link), extensive research, and a visit to some baby stores to test them out, we’ve narrowed down our choices for infant car seats to two options.

We opted to choose an infant car seat instead of a rear-facing convertible that will last longer because we’d like to have the option to use the seat as an infant carrier. With the history of giant babies in our families, I doubt we’ll want to lug him around in an awkward 10-pound car seat for very long. But I think in the very beginning it will be handy to be able to lift him out of the car and carry him without uncovering him, especially since he’ll be born at the beginning of a very cold Midwestern winter.

A few weeks ago, we were pretty sure we were set on the Graco SnugRide 35 (affiliate link). It has an A-rating for safety and usability in Baby Bargains, and it’s a top seller. I like that it’s safe to use until the baby is 35 pounds or 32 inches, which means we should be able to get through most of his first year without replacing his car seat. We probably won’t be using it as a carrier for that long, but the longer I can use this seat, the better. I also like that it’s compatible with a wide range of stroller frames and other baby gear. We’re opting to skip the travel system and use a sling exclusively for at least the first few months, but I like having the option to get the stroller later if for some reason baby wearing just isn’t working for us.

We made this decision without ever seeing the car seats in person, though. So Saturday, we took a short trip to the nearest baby store (about 45 minutes away), and checked out our options.

We liked the SnugRide 35. But. For comparison, we also looked at another high-rated infant seat/carrier: the Chicco Keyfit 30 (affiliate link). The Keyfit has a weight limit of 30 pounds and a height guideline of 30 inches. It won’t last quite as long as the SnugRide, but I think the difference is negligible.

The biggest difference between the two is size of the actual seat. The Keyfit felt much lighter. I found out when we got home that the difference is only about a pound, but it felt much lighter than that. I’m guessing when you add a 10-15 pound baby to the seat, every pound counts.

More importantly, it was about 2-3 inches more compact than the SnugRide 35. It’s also safe to leave the handle up when the Keyfit is installed in the in-car base. The SnugRide 35 handle must be down in the locked position, which adds even more length to the seat.

We weren’t able to take the seats out to our car to test the fit. This is our main concern: we share a single vehicle, and it’s a Hyundai Accent. It’s a four-door, but it’s still a pretty small, sub-compact car. We’re concerned that the extra bulk and the handle on the SnugRide 35 might make for a tight squeeze in our backseat.

Tony much preferred the Keyfit. He said it felt lighter and easier to carry, and since he’ll likely be saddled with lugging the infant carrier more often than me, I’m inclined to let him choose. But I’m bothered by the compatibility issues with the Keyfit. We’d rather avoid getting a stroller frame for the infant carrier, but if the need arises, I like that the SnugRide offers so many options. Our options for the Keyfit are pretty limited.

Do any of you have any experience using the SnugRide 35 or the Chicco Keyfit 30 in a sub-compact car (particularly a Hyundai Accent)? Or do you have any feedback on either seat in general? I’m hoping your feedback will push us over the edge for either seat, because right now we’re torn.

A few things on my mind

Forgive me, but I don’t have a regular post lined up for today. I do, however, have a ton of things on my mind. So how about I share them?

  • I feel like I’m melting. It’s another 90-degree day in Indiana (as I’m sure it is in many other parts of the country), and the heat is 100 times less tolerable now that I’m pregnant. For the past three years when we were living in North Carolina, the temperatures were even warmer than they are here, and we lived on the third floor. Yet I was reasonably comfortable with the thermostat set on 78-80 degrees. Now it’s set on 75 degrees, and I’m so uncomfortable that I’m fighting the strong urge to turn it down to 70 and sit under a vent. I am counting down the minutes to fall.
  • I’m transitioning to a work-at-home schedule, and I’m slammed with work this week. I’m glad that there’s a lot for me to do right now, but it’s a lot harder to organize my time now that I don’t have clear boundaries between the office and home. I’m working on it, but I think it’s going to be a struggle for the first few weeks.
  • Now that I’ve got a little more time on my hands (and we’re trying to save more money), I’m back into the drugstore game. I briefly tried my hand at couponing and drug storing a few years back (when I cleared out my coupon organizer, most of them expired at the end of 2008), but it was kind of a flop. I just didn’t have the time or motivation to devote to it. But it went really well this week! In fact, I got all this for $25 today. And we went ahead and subscribed to the Sunday edition of the local paper so we don’t have to worry about running out to pick it up every week. (It’s also about $1 cheaper per issue than the newsstand price.) Here’s hoping I can stick with it this time.
  • For the first half of my pregnancy, I didn’t have a hard time giving up all of the things I’m not supposed to have. Now, though, I’m missing Diet Coke pretty desperately. I wasn’t even drinking that much of it in the months leading up to the pregnancy, but for some reason I’ve been craving it lately. Even though I know a little caffeine is okay at this point, I can’t bring myself to ingest the aspartame. And sadly, sugar sodas just don’t cut it. Harumph.
  • A mix-up at the post office has led to all of my in-laws mail coming to our address. This is the second time the post office has screwed up mail forwarding for us in the past three months. Ugh.

In short, I’m in a bit of a funk. What’s new with you?