Welcome To The Frugal Baby!

Babies are expensive–in fact, some studies suggest that a baby’s first year costs more than $10,000 on average (and that doesn’t include the cost of the birth!). The good news is, there are so many ways to save money on all of your baby expenses: baby food, child care, diapers, baby clothes, formula, babysitting, and more.

The Frugal Baby is chock full of money-saving tips for all of these things, plus ways to save all around the home. Take a look around and explore the many ways to raise a baby — frugally!

Frugal Prenatal Vitamins

When I was pregnant the first time, I went to fill my prescription for prenatal vitamins and expected to pay the minimum co-pay my insurance would charge. I mean, they were just vitamins, right? How expensive could they be?

As it turned out, they fell under the category of the highest co-pay allowed. This meant my prenatal vitamins were going to cost me a whopping $40 per month. But, knowing how important they were, I filled the prescription anyway. At my next appointment, I mentioned it to my OB who quickly informed me that I could buy prenatal vitamins over the counter for around $10. As far as she was concerned, any prenatal vitamin that would give me at least 800 mcg of folic acid a day was acceptable. I later learned that some OBs even recommend Flintstone vitamins to their patients as these don’t typically cause nausea like some prenatals can.

These days, I take prenatals as a regular daily multivitamin. This insures that if I were to get pregnant, I would have adequate stores of folic acid built up. They are no more expensive than a regular multivitamin but they keep me and any future babies protected.

Those Icky Shopping Carts

When my first baby was old enough to sit in the shopping cart, I didn’t bother with a cart cover. In fact, I kind of considered moms who used them to be over-protective. I’d always wipe down the handle with the store-provided wipes, but that was the extent of my concern. Until I read some startling statistics according to a study by the University of Arizona:

  • 72% of shopping carts have fecal matter on them
  • 50% of those tested positive for E. coli
  • Overall, shopping carts harbor more bacteria than public restrooms.

Yuck! With statistics like that, a cart cover is a no-brainer. The good news for frugal parents is that they can be very reasonably priced. I recently spotted one for less than $10. Or, you can get one that does double (or triple) duty like the one pictured above. It also works as a high chair cover to use in restaurants AND it lays flat as a mat (perfect for diaper changes or tummy time).

 

 

BOGO Baby Toys at Toys R Us

On Friday and Saturday, Toys R Us is running a buy-one-get-one-free sale on Fisher Price baby toys. This sale is available online and in most stores but call your local store to verify. Even if you don’t need any baby toys for your own little one, this is a great opportunity to buy gifts for upcoming birthdays or baby showers. The sale also includes gyms/playmats and some mobiles and crib soothers.

The Incredible, Somewhat Edible Egg

Eggs are a great source of protein and iron but unfortunately, some young children are allergic to them. The good news is, the common allergen is found only in the egg white, meaning egg yolks are an acceptable and nutritious food for infants. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, egg yolks can be introduced to babies as young as six months.

To do so, hard boil an egg and once cooked, remove the yolk from the white. You can then mash the yolk and add a bit of water, breastmilk, or formula to thin it to the desired consistency. Because of its mild flavor, mashed egg yolk can be blended in with many foods to add an extra boost of protein and iron. Try adding it to pureed apples, green beans, and spinach. You can even add it to yogurt and rice cereal.

If there is no history of allergies in your family, it is generally safe to introduce egg whites at one year of age. If allergies are a problem in your family, though, the AAP recommends waiting until age two.

Saving Money on Glasses for Infants and Toddlers

Considering how poor mine and my husband’s eyesight is, it’s a wonder our kiddos don’t need glasses yet. There are many infants and toddlers out there who do need glasses, though. If your child is one of them, guest blogger Sara Roberts has some tips for saving money on them.

If your baby or toddler has vision problems, it’s not easy to keep them in glasses. Not only is it difficult to find frames and lenses that fit them properly and stay put, but it’s also expensive to continually replace their glasses when they’re growing so fast. Here are some tips to help you find the perfect glasses for your baby while saving money, too.

What you should look for when buying glasses for your baby?

  • Durability–Because your child is so young, he or she will have no sense of responsibility for their glasses. Babies just want to explore their world – crawling, walking, and running – so their glasses need to be extremely durable. Look for glasses that are soft plastic to provide some give when they’re bumped. The lenses should be scratch and impact resistant to withstand constant abuse.
  • Comfortable Fit–If your baby can’t talk yet, they can’t tell you how their glasses feel. It’s up to you to ensure their glasses continue to fit comfortably. Plan to replace them every few months, because your baby’s head will do 80 percent of its growing during the first two years! Check for redness or lines on your baby’s face each day to make sure their glasses aren’t becoming too tight. Look for frames that offer special features for babies, such as a durable outer shell with a softer layer of plastic on the inside for added comfort. You’ll also find many styles with cable temples, which wrap snugly around the back of the ears for stability.
  • UV Protection–Since your baby’s eyes are still developing, it’s very important to protect them from the sun. Look for lenses that have UV protection built-in. Transitions lenses are an option for many styles of baby frames. These lenses will automatically adjust to the level of sunlight your child is exposed to.

 

 

Where you can buy them?

There are a lot of different styles of glasses on the market for babies and toddlers, but unfortunately you won’t find too many of them in any given store. To save time, call around to your local vision centers and ask what kind of selection they offer for infants and toddlers, and find out how much experience they have working with children this young.

Another great place to look is the internet. One of the leading providers of eyewear for babies and toddlers is Solo Bambini (www.solobambini.com). They offer a wide selection of frames in many colors and styles that are suitable for infants and children through six years of age. They can even make prescription sunglasses for your baby!

How much do they cost?

If you purchase glasses from your local vision center, expect to pay around $150 per pair without insurance coverage. Make sure you check to see if you have any coverage through your employee benefits package. Look through the available opticians in the coverage network to find out if any of them specialize in infants and toddlers. If there aren’t any, research the out-of-network costs if you choose your own doctor. Either way, you’ll still save money over paying for everything out-of-pocket.

If you don’t have coverage through your job, consider purchasing a vision plan, but in reverse order. Instead of purchasing a plan and then finding out which doctors accept your new insurance, find a doctor who specializes in pediatric optometry and ask them which insurance plans they accept. By participating in a vision plan, you’ll save in the long run on exams, fittings, frames and lenses, and you’ll find the glasses will usually be automatically covered under an extended warranty instead of charging extra for it.

Before you purchase frames in a local store, do some comparison-shopping on the internet. Online stores offer the same high-quality frames you’d find at your local vision center, but at a much lower cost. Once you have your child’s prescription, simply mail or fax it in with your order, and your child’s new glasses will be delivered to you within a week or so. Respectable online retailers offer generous return and exchange policies, and many frames come with warranties as well. You can also submit a claim to your FSA or insurance company to be reimbursed for your costs.

Sara Roberts writes for Just Eyewear, a discount eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses online retailer.

Milk Nursingwear Review and Giveaway (Ended)

***Congratulations to Lisa L.! She won the $50 gift certificate from Milk Nursingwear! Thank you to all who entered!***

I have nursed two children and loved almost every minute of it :-)   One of the biggest challenges for me was nursing discreetly in public. I tried various tactics but I always felt slightly exposed. If my breasts were covered, my tummy was showing and vice versa. And I’ve never been a fan of nursing covers because I hate the fact that my baby would be covered up by them.

So, when I was given an opportunity to try Milk Nursingwear, I jumped at it. If you’re unfamiliar with Milk, they are a line of very stylish nursing wear with nursing panels built right in. You simply pull one layer of fabric aside for easy nursing access. It’s extremely discreet. In addition to its functionality, these clothes are really cute, too! So cute, in fact, that you could wear their clothing even when you’re not nursing. And that’s exactly what I did.

I’m between babies at the moment so I got a chance to see if the Milk top really would pass for a “normal” top. I was reviewing the Chic Crossover Top in teal. I wore it to church one Sunday morning with a pair of black slacks. It looked GREAT. At church, the top was really put to the test. I was working in the nursery that day so I had kids climbing on me, I was holding babies, and I was running around. Amazingly, the nursing panel stayed in place the whole time.

 

The fit of the top was excellent, as well. When I first opened the box it came in, it looked like it might be too short. But when I tried it on, it was honestly a perfect fit. My only complaint (and it’s a small one) is that the material was rather clingy. This made it harder to hide bulges but since the overall shape was flattering, I thought it still looked great. In fact, I loved the top so much that I’m planning to go back and buy the sleeveless Ruffle Top (so cute!).

And if you are currently pregnant, many of Milk’s items can be worn during pregnancy, too. Since they do double duty, this makes them a good wardrobe investment.

Now, how about a chance to win a gift certificate from Milk? One lucky winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to Milk! Here’s how to enter:

Mandatory Entry: Like Milk Nursingwear on Facebook (if you don’t mind, let ‘em know The Frugal Baby sent you!)

Optional Entry: Tweet this: “WOW the nursing wear by Milk Nursingwear is so pretty http://www.milknursingwear.com

Optional Entry: Visit the Milk Nursingwear website, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the Facebook “like” button (this is different than liking their Facebook page).

Optional Entry: Tweet this: “Enter to win Milk Nursingwear at The Frugal Baby. http://bit.ly/jiDCk8”

Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry and be sure to include your email address. You may enter through July 14, 2011. A winner will be drawn randomly from all entries on July 15, 2011 and the winner will be notified by email that day.

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me at no charge for the purpose of review. I was not compensated in any other way and this review reflects my honest opinion of the product. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.

 


Fourth of July Fun

I love the 4th of July. It’s a day to remember our many freedoms and it brings out the patriot in many of us. If that wasn’t enough, we celebrate this holiday with cookouts, swimming, and fireworks. What’s not to love?

I wanted to get festive with the kids but so many crafts are too hard for toddlers and so many treats are full of sugar. So I did a little brain storming and came up with an age appropriate snack and craft idea. They are both very simple but your little ones will still enjoy them.

Salt Fireworks

This is an alternative to the standard glue and glitter fireworks that kids make at this time of year. I prefer using salt to glitter because it doesn’t make the mess that glitter does. Let’s face it, if you turn your toddler loose with glitter, you’re going to be cleaning it up for weeks to come. The salt cleans up much more easily. That said, be sure to watch your child carefully because you wouldn’t want him eating the salt!

Anyway, I dyed two small bowls of plain ol’ table salt with gel food coloring. I left the thrid bowl white. Let the salt dry out thoroughly so it doesn’t clump together. Then, just pour the colored salt into salt shakers.

For toddlers, take a black piece of construction paper and make fireworks designs with white glue. Place the paper in front of your child and let him shake away. Preschoolers and older kids can make the glue designs themselves.

Be sure to do one firework at a time and shake off the excess salt before beginning the next firework.

Red White and Blue Kabobs

This is such a simple, yet healthy snack. Best of all, the kids will actually eat it! Just cut off the pointed end of some strawberries and cut a string cheese stick into 7 or 8 sections. Then, using festive tooth picks, layer a strawberry, cheese chunk, and a blueberry. Voila!

The Trouble with Sleep

Ah, sleep. You remember that, don’t you? It’s that 6 to 8 hour period of rest you used to get each day before you had babies. These days, it may feel more like a nightly crapshoot that leaves you groggy, irritable, emotional, and just plain exhausted. The irony is, after giving birth, your body needs time to rest and recuperate. But this is precisely the time when you aren’t going to get anywhere near enough sleep. Go figure.

When my first baby was born, I had no idea what I was in for. He didn’t want to sleep from day one. He wanted to eat and be held around the clock. This grew old fast. I was running on fumes most days and there were times that I would fall asleep while sitting with him in the rocking chair or while playing with him on the floor. I was sleep-deprived and miserable.

I researched all the information I could find on getting a baby to sleep and helping a baby sleep through the night. The problem is, there is a lot of advice out there. There are special CDs that promise to lull your baby right to sleep, there are countless books each with their own unique spin on baby sleep, and elaborate programs that each claim your baby will sleep through the night. Do these programs work? Sure–some programs will work for some babies. And then there are babies like mine.

Of course, part of the problem probably had to do with the fact that I never stuck with any one program! The poor baby didn’t get any nighttime consistency so why would I expect him to sleep well? In the end, I believe it was a combination of a consistent nighttime routine (bath, feeding, singing, rocking) and his age (about 8 months!) that finally allowed him to sleep through the night on a regular basis. Those were a rough few months in the interim, though.

God took pity on me the second time around. When my daughter was born just two years later, I was prepared for the worst. I anticipated months of sleepless nights and sheer exhaustion during the day. But by day three, she was sleeping through the night. It wasn’t anything I did or any program I followed. She was just a natural sleeper.

So the point is, if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, it’s probably not anything you are or are not doing. Sure, are there are techniques that can help but don’t beat yourself up over it. If you want to try the advice of experts, go for it. But only use what feels right for your and your family. Most importantly, remember that you will eventually get a good night’s sleep again.

Saving on Summer Camp

Got a big kid who is going off to summer camp this year? Guest blogger Alvina Lopez offers these tips for saving money on this big expense.

With the summer heat comes the summer spending. With kids out of school, summer days are full of movie outings, museums, amusement parks, summer vacations, and so much more. While all of these activities can be extremely fun and entertaining, they can also be a major damper on the family budget. On top of family activities and vacations, many parents opt to send their kids to summer camp. Though summer camps can be pricy, they don’t have to take a major chunk out of your carefully configured summer funds. Try these simple ways to save money and allow your kids to have a fun and enriching time away from home.

1. Book Early: One of the best ways to save money on summer camps is by booking your child’s stay early. Many camps offer a reduced rate for reservations made up to 6 months prior to the start date of the camp. Also, most camps provide a discounted rate for families that pay the entire amount of the camp early rather than waiting until the last minute. This seems like a no-brainer reserve your child’s stay early and possibly save as much as $100 dollars or even more. Moreover, by reserving the slot early, you can now plan the remainder of the summer around those dates. Just be sure to plan ahead for the camp dates. Many camps may have a no-refund policy somewhere in the fine print, so be careful.

2. Find Discounts: While this advice may sound silly: save money by saving money. Many camps offer different discounts that many parents don’t know about. This is one of the easiest ways to make your kid’s summer camp fun more affordable. Many programs offer discounts for individuals who are teachers, police officers, firefighter, or military personnel. These discounts vary depending on the organization through which the camp is run, but it is always worth asking. Discounts are also typically offered for families enrolling more than one child in the camp. While sending your kids to different camps during the summer may encourage more independence, sending your kids together can save you a significant amount of cash. Furthermore, many camps may also count towards a tax break. Summer camps can qualify as a childcare tax break. So, if you kid is 13 years old or younger, you may be able to deduct the cost of the camps from your taxable income. Be sure to check with your tax professional to make sure that your specific situation qualifies for the break.

3. Save on Gear: One of the biggest price tags associated with summer camps is the gear your kids will need. Unfortunately, many parents are so hung up on the cost of the camps themselves that they overlook how expensive buying gear can be. Thankfully, there are several ways that you can save during the process of gearing your kids up for their summer adventure. First, try to find the best deals look online and shop around. This can be somewhat stressful and time consuming, but will definitely pay off in the end. Also, try talking to friends with kids or family members about borrowing whatever gear you can. If you have a close friend with kids the same age, try sharing gear each summer and save significantly. Keep your kids from losing their pricy gear by labeling their things before they leave. Losing expensive things (as we all know) is just like throwing money away. Keep their things carefully labeled and find a good way to transport them so that things can stay organized. Keeping track of your things is key to saving on buying gear for next year.

Though sending your kids to summer camp can be an expensive endeavor, there are several ways to cut the cost and make it a worthwhile investment. Try these three tips to help save some money during the process and allow your kids to get the full summer camp experience.

Alvina Lopez is a freelance writer and blog junkie, who blogs about accredited online schools. She welcomes your comments at her email: alvina.lopez @gmail.com.

 

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