March 30, 2008

Baby on a Budget

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:18 am by bitsypieces

I’ve been making a list (I’m big on lists) of absolute necessities we’ll need before Baby arrives.  And I’m pleasantly surprised to discover that there are very few.

Things like high chairs and jogging strollers can wait until Baby is older, which means we don’t have to spend a bunch of cash at one time.

At this point, I’m thinking we need:

  • A crib plus sheets, mattress pads, etc.
  • A pack-n-play that we can use as a bassinet
  • A carseat/stroller
  • Diapers, wipes and diaper pail
  • Bottles and breast pump
  • Baby monitor

Those appear to be the only things we MUST have for a newborn.  We already have onesies and receiving blankets and some baby towels.  We received a lot of nice basics like that at our baby shower.

So, with any luck, we’ll be able to keep expenses to a minimum.

To ensure we stay on budget, I am also researching prices on those “absolute necessities” so we can start setting aside a little cash for the expense.

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March 21, 2008

Freebies for Baby

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:26 pm by bitsypieces

In my 20s, I was completely and totally strapped for cash. Paychecks never stretched far enough, and I struggled to make ends meet. During that time I discovered the joy of freebies. I’d scour the Internet for free samples and free goods during my lunch hour at work. I scored a lot of great deals, including free tee-shirts, free sneakers and free shampoo and soap. These offers mainly came from businesses–both big and small–that hoped to gain customer loyalty and recognition from these free samples.

The freebie offers dried up about ten years ago. There are still some available, but not in the same quality or quantity as they were 10-15 years ago. You can still get free shampoo samples and tee-shirts, but offers like free Asic sneakers are generally not found these days.

However, now that Baby is on the way, I’ve found myself revisiting the world of online freebies. I’ve decided to stay aware of baby freebies for two reasons:

  • Babies cost money, and Hubby and I are trying to pinch our pennies.
  • Many baby items are used for only a brief period of time, making them a “disposable” purchase. Why not get them for free whenever possible?

So far these baby freebies have arrived in my mailbox:

  • A plastic bowl and baby spoon
  • A plastic sippy cup
  • A Pampers newborn diaper
  • A folder/notebook for tracking Baby’s health records
  • A fingerprint kit for Baby
  • Two paper coloring books (one about fire safety, one about the eye doctor)
  • A free subscription to American Baby magazine

Sure… the actual savings doesn’t add up to a ton of money. But every little bit counts!

So where do I find out about all these freebie offers? I mostly visit www.TodaysFreebies.com, which is regularly updated with the newest offers.

March 18, 2008

Tid-Bits

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:58 pm by bitsypieces

  • Our taxes are finished, and we get a refund of $45!  Woo hoo!  Much better than the $6,000 we owed last year!
  • Baby is moving around a fair amount… some days she is more active than others.  I suppose this is normal, although I always worry a bit on the days she’s quiet.
  • Today is Hubby’s birthday.  Normally we would go out for a nice dinner (plus wine).  But tonight we’re sticking with a cheap-o Mexican restaurant.  It saves money, plus we haven’t had Mexican food in a while.
  • Still have made no progress on planning for Baby.  We don’t have a list of “needs,” we’ve done nothing to the nursery, and we haven’t registered.  We’re total slackers.

March 17, 2008

Breakfast For Dinner

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:50 pm by bitsypieces

Breakfast, in general, tends to be a less expensive meal than dinner*. (Just ask any breakfast waitress, who usually makes less in tips than an evening waitress.) One of our favorite money-saving tips is to serve breakfast foods for our last meal of the day.

My favorite is probably eggs, toast and fried potatoes. (I prefer my eggs over-easy, but have been eating them scrambled because of the pregnancy.) Occasionally Hubby will make pancakes (his favorite). Sometimes I’ll make an egg and cheese sandwich on a biscuit, bagel or bun. It’s definitely an easy and cheap meal.

The same principle can be applied to meals made primarily from eggs, too. Quiche makes an inexpensive dinner, as does egg salad sandwiches.

Even serving lunch for dinner–such as grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup–can cut costs.

Unfortunately, the meal we most often eat in restaurants is dinner, which usually means we have to order a traditional evening meal. If there were more restaurants that served breakfast all day long, we’d be able to use this principle to cut our “dining out” tab, too.

*As an interesting note, I’ve found that most of the people in my geographic area tend to call their evening meal “supper.” “Dinner,” on the other hand, refers to the noon-time meal. At one time, my town was largely a farming community. I think this may be a throwback to the era when the afternoon meal was, indeed, quite hearty. Thus, it was termed “dinner” and the evening meal was called “supper.”

March 14, 2008

Estate Planning

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:31 pm by bitsypieces

Both the upcoming arrival of Baby and my mother’s terminal illness have pushed the issue of estate planning to the forefront of my mind. I mentioned life insurance in a previous post, but now I am considering the changes Hubby and I should make to our will.

Our current wills are pretty basic. We had no dependents and very few assets to consider. However, the issue of guardianship of our child has become a new situation we must address.

Moreover, we must also consider how our finances will be handled in the event of our death. Will our money go to the guardian of our children? Or will we appoint a separate legal guardian and financial guardian? Or will we place the money in a trust fund, to be given to our child at a certain age?

Obviously, these questions require some thought. And, unfortunately, they also require knowledge that I don’t currently possess. We don’t have a financial advisor to ask… so I thought I’d pose the question to my fellow bloggers.

What kind of plan do you have for your children in the event of your death?

March 12, 2008

Paying For A Pool

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:08 am by bitsypieces

As my belly grows with Baby, I’ve been thinking about new ways to exercise. In the past, swimming has been a favorite activity. And I know lots of pregnant ladies who say the “weightlessness” of swimming is wonderful in the later stages of pregnancy.

Unfortunately, the only indoor swimming facilities in this area are part of the YMCA. I do have a few reasons to join the Y, such as:

  • Extra facilities that I could use right now, such as a swimming pool
  • Extra facilities and services that we might use in the future, such as racquetball courts and babysitting
  • Special events–such as Mom’s Day–that may help me connect with other mothers

However, there are some cons, too, such as:

  • Cost is $600+ annual fee, plus $100 sign-up fee
  • The nearest YMCA facility is a 15-20 minute drive… just far enough away to be inconvenient

I could try and get some part-time work in the babysitting center of the YMCA. This would give me a free membership. It’s worth considering, although I have no experience working in a childcare center so I might not get hired.

We could also try a month-to-month membership, which has a cheaper sign-up fee but is more expensive monthly. However, it would give us an opportunity to see if we’d really use the facility before we commit to a year-long membership.

And finally, we could pay the daily “guest” pass rate when I want to swim… which actually could end up costing us the least amount of money (although it’s not the most economical option) if I only swim once a week.

March 10, 2008

A Bento Lunch

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:00 pm by bitsypieces

As I mentioned in a previous post, I generally make Hubby his lunch and pack it in a Bento box. Here’s a photo of a recent lunch:

bento1.jpg

Since he works 12-hour shifts, I have to pack him enough for two meals. The top box–a traditional Bento box–contains a heart-shaped ham sandwich (made with leftover ham) and a heart cut-out of cheese. It also has a rice ball that I turned into a face with nori hair, eyes, nose and mouth. Green olives and some heart-shaped chocolates (post Valentine’s Day sale leftovers) complete the box.

The bottom box is less interesting. It, too, contains a ham sandwich with cheese, plus some leftover mac & cheese. You can’t see it in the photo, but I cut out some mini hearts from the leftover cheese slice and added it to the top of the mac & cheese (mostly to minimize waste). This box is just a plain ol’ disposable plastic food storage container that I’ve been using over and over again.

The meal is a little more “beige” than I would like. I usually try to include some type of colorful veggie or fruit. But I also like to use what I have on hand, so this is what Hubby got for lunch.

March 8, 2008

Bento Lunches

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:59 pm by bitsypieces

When Hubby finished school and started working, I decided to pack his lunches. Not only is it healthier than buying restaurant food, but it’s cheaper, too!

I was initially inspired by a blog called Vegan Lunch Box. The author of the blog created amazing and interesting bento-style lunches for her son. I decided to do the same.

I searched the web for more inspiration, and am a regular visitor at:

I have no real artistic ability, so most of my “creative” bento lunch efforts are really just copies of someone else’s idea. And, in truth, most of the time Hubby goes to work with a plain PB&J sandwich. The only concession I make to creativity is to cut a heart design into the bread with a cookie cutter.

But with Baby on the way… I figured I might try to exercise my creative brain muscles. Sooner or later she’ll be heading off to school, and I’d love to pack her healthy, cheap and fun meals like the kind featured in the typical bento box.

March 6, 2008

Free Labor

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:44 pm by bitsypieces

Paying for services like plumbing or house painting can get pricey.  Most contractors charge a minimum of $50 per hour for this type of work, although it’s sometimes possible to find an independent guy who will do it for a little less.  But even at the cost of $25 per hour, a small home project can cost hundreds in labor!

Hubby and I have obtained these free services in the past include:

  • Installation of laminate flooring
  • Interior house painting
  • Demolition to prep for bathroom remodel
  • Moving

And this summer, we plan to add on to our outside deck with free labor.

So, how do we get all these services for free?

Well… free may be a bit of an exaggeration.  We do pay out in food, beer and reciprocated labor.

We’re fortunate that among our close friends are a group of very handy guys.  Their skills include carpentry, electrical work and plumbing, as well as all the basic “man skills” for the average home improvement project.  The rule among our group is simple:  Beer and food is provided to all workers, and the favor is returned when needed.

To reciprocate, Hubby and I have helped install flooring, demolition kitchens, paint walls and build decks at our friends’ homes, too.  So it evens out in the end, and it’s an agreement that serves us all.

Cooperation and close friendship has many benefits beyond simple money savings, but the financial perks are a nice extra!

March 1, 2008

H2O Savings

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:23 am by bitsypieces

I admit it.  I occasionally purchase bottled water.  I oftentimes buy a single bottle when I’m out running errands, and I usually have a case in the house (so I can grab a bottle when I leave the house).

But I firmly believe that bottled water is both a waste of environmental resources and money.  So I started carrying around my own water in a refillable bottle that’s similar to a Nalgene bottle.

Then, of course, came the information that these hard plastic bottles may release a chemical that can affect a body’s hormonal system.  (See article about this issue here.)

So I’d love to switch to stainless steel bottles, but they’re so darn expensive!  The most popular brand is Klean Kanteen, and a 40 oz. bottle is about $26 (plus shipping).  That’s a huge chunk of money for a reusable bottle.  And to meet the needs of both me and Hubby, I’d probably need to buy at least 4.  Frankly, $100 for 4 water bottles seems way unreasonable.

For now, I’m limping through with a couple of plastic bottles and one stainless steel bottle.  In the meantime, I’ll stay on the lookout for any clearance sales or secondhand deals on stainless steel bottles.  If you hear of a great deal, please let me know!