Category Archives: Frugal Baby Gear

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).

 

 

Juice Box Heroes

Have you ever had one of those days when you just know that if you have to listen to one more Wiggles CD, you’re going to be escorted from your home by the nice men in white jackets?

And it’s not just the Wiggles. The Little People, Dr. Jean, Barney….they all make me crazy with sufficient exposure.

So a couple of weeks ago when I saw a deal for a different sort of children’s music on Plum District, I had to check it out. The deal was for two Juice Box Heroes CDs for $12.50. I had never heard of the Juice Box Heroes before but when I checked them out, I knew I had to get the deal.

To give you an idea of what their music is like, think Weird Al Yankovic for the preschool/toddler set. Most of the songs on the CDs are parodies of 80’s hits with a couple of 60’s/70’s songs thrown into the mix. Here are some snippets from one of the CD’s:

  • Cake is a parody of George Michael’s Faith. — “…because I’ve got to have cake, I’ve got to have cake.”
  • Mommy is a parody of Tommy Tutone’s Jenny (867-5309) — “Mommy I’ll sing my numbers, 123456789.”
  • We Are Going to Bake It is a parody of Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Going to Take It — “We’re right. You’ll see. One bite. Yummy!”
  • Don’t Worry, Take a Nappy is a parody, of course, of Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy — “You and your friends, you ran a mile. You’re so tired you can’t even smile. Don’t worry, take a nappy.”

These CDs are so much fun. My kids think the songs are funny and I can actually jam right along with them. To be sure, this is fluff, pure and simple. But if you want to dance around the living room with your little ones, this is the perfect music.

Disney Movies–Cheap!

Have you seen any of the Disney Nature movies? If not, you should check them out. They are beautifully made, educational, and entertaining for the whole family. We love them. That being said, DVDs and BluRays are expensive! We usually rent our movies from Redbox and we take advantage of free movie codes as often as possible.

Recently, though, we got an “invitation” to join the Disney Movie Club and the offer was too good to pass up. I usually avoid that kind of thing because if you are not very careful, you’ll lose money in the long run. But this offer netted us seven Disney movies for $20–shipped! We have to buy three more in the next two years but I figured it was worth it.

Not only was this a good way to add to our own BluRay collection but at less than $3 a piece, we got a couple of really inexpensive birthday presents for other children!

Now, this club works like any other in that they offer you a “featured selection” every month or so. If you do not respond (you can do it online) to tell them you don’t want the movie, they will send it to you anyway. So you have to be disciplined enough to keep up with it. But they send emails each month with a reminder to respond to the featured selection one way or the other which makes it easier.

Oh, and in addition to Disney animated films (new releases and classics) and documentaries like the Disney Nature films, the club also offers episodes of Disney Channel original shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Little Einsteins–so there really is something for everyone.

New Car Seat Recommendations From the AAP

The American Academy of Pediatrics released new car seat recommendations today. They are now advising that babies ride in rear-facing car seats until two years of age or until they outgrow the carseat manufacturer’s recommended weight requirements. Depending upon your seat, that could be as much as 35 lbs.

Previously, the AAP recommended keeping your baby rear-facing until at least one year of age. They believe these new recommendations will further protect children from serious injuries in a collision. According to the AAP, babies and toddlers who are in rear-facing seats are 75% less likely to sustain life-threatening injuries in a crash.

If you want to try to contain your toddler in a rear-facing seat as long as possible, a convertible car seat like the one pictured below is a good option. It works as a rear-facing seat for children 5-35 pounds, then converts to a forward-facing seat for kids 22-40 pounds, and then converts to a belt-positioning booster seat for kids 40-80 pounds! You may spend a bit more on it in the beginning, but you’ll save money over the long haul by only buying one seat instead of three.

Keep in mind that while the AAP recommendations are probably the safest guidelines to follow, your state’s child restraint laws probably have not changed. Not sure about the laws in your state? Check out this information from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Save Those Scraps

Here is a great tactile activity for your baby that is free to make. Simply cut out scraps of fabric–left over material from sewing projects, a piece of an old ratty towel, a strip from a receiving blanket that you’re making into wipes or diapers, the denim left over after hemming up a pair of jeans, etc. Any fabrics will do but try to include a variety of patterns, colors, and textures.

Put the fabric pieces into a container (an old baby wipes box works well) and put it in front of your baby. The scraps will stimulate her senses of sight and touch (and maybe even taste!) as she explores the different pieces in the container. To keep it fun for her, be sure to change out the scraps from time to time and add unexpected textures or colors like a scratchy piece of lace, a sparkly sequined material, or a soft strip of velvet.

Want Something for Nothing? Try a Baby Swap

No, this blog post isn’t about swapping your baby for another (although at 3:00 a.m., the idea might sound good for a moment)! Instead, I’m talking about get-togethers in which baby items are swapped with other moms. This is a great way to update your baby’s wardrobe, acquire some new age-appropriate toys, or snag some baby gear–all for free.

The principles behind it are simple. One, babies don’t wear their clothes long enough to wear them out. Two, babies outgrow toys and gear while there is still a lot of life left in them. It also doesn’t hurt that babies and children seem to be mesmerized by other people’s toys.

While the theory is simple, however, the execution takes some planning and organization. Here are some easy steps to get you started.

  • Create a guest list. Think of all the moms (or dads) you know with babies and toddlers. Ideally, these parents will collectively have children ranging from newborn on up to two or three years of age. The greater the variety, the more likely it is that there will be items for everyone.
  • Decide on a location and a date for the swap. If you are inviting 10 or fewer moms, you can probably host it in your own home. If you are inviting a much larger crowd, you might need to come up with a more spacious location for the event.
  • Invite guests to the swap. A written invitation is best because you can outline exactly how the event will work and what each participant should bring. Here’s an example:

You are invited to a baby swap!

Bring your gently-used baby clothes, toys, and baby gear and swap them for nearly-new things you need. All items should be in excellent condition and meet current safety standards. Clothes should range from newborn to size 2T and all toys and gear should be appropriate for a child who is two or under. 

Refreshments will be served and your children are welcome to attend. 

Hostess Name
Date/Time
Address
Phone Number
RSVP

  • Plan a “menu.” Food is completely optional at a swap but it does give moms a chance to mingle and eat while you set up the items (see below). If you do decide to serve refreshments, keep them light and simple to make things easier (and cheaper) for yourself.
  • Organize the items. On the day of the swap, plan to spend a few minutes (more if it’s a large swap) organizing the items. Designate an area for each type of item (clothes, shoes, toys, or gear). Then when possible, separate the items by age or size. Don’t hesitate to recruit help for this part of the process.
  • Let the swapping begin. Invite the moms to begin browsing and choosing items they would like. You might suggest that they bear in mind how many items they brought as a guideline for how many items to take. But don’t feel like you need to police the other moms. This should be a fun and casual event for everyone.
  • Close up “shop.” When everyone has picked the items that they want, it will be time to dispose of remaining items. The owners of each item might decide to take their items home but you might want to encourage them to leave them to be donated to Goodwill or other charity. Then you can box up all remaining items and drop them off at your convenience.

You will know your swap has been a success if everyone leaves with something they can use. The best part about it is that it won’t have cost them a cent. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself being invited to another swap soon. These swaps tend to catch on quickly because after all, who doesn’t love getting something for nothing?

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik, Creative Commons License

10 “Must Have” Baby Items You Can Live Without

For a first time mom, it can be extremely overwhelming to look at the never-ending list of “must-haves” for your new baby. These lists are everywhere–in books, in parenting magazines, and in the stores where you register. Unfortunately, these lists often include items that are not necessary and some that are down right frivolous.

To be sure, there are many items that you will need for your baby’s arrival–clothes, diapers, car seat, etc. There are also some items that, while they may not be necessities, are so helpful that you wouldn’t want to be without them–baby monitor, a sling or wrap (learn how to make your own for just a few dollars), baby wipes (make your own reusable wipes for less than a penny a piece), etc.

Before I get down to the list of things you don’t need, let me say this: most of the items on this list are helpful to some degree. Many of them would be nice to have. But if you’d like to save a little money on baby gear, you can safely cross these items off your list and you’ll likely never even miss them.

Boppy
Boppy is simply a nursing pillow. It is in a horseshoe shape which is designed to sit around your waist while you’re nursing. By resting your baby on it, you bring him up to breast level. People also use their Boppies to prop up the baby while she sits on the floor during play time. It’s a nice idea in theory and many moms love their Boppies. Personally, I have found that the Boppy really doesn’t do anything more than what a small pillow would do. The difference is, a Boppy costs about $35.

Wipe Warmer
A baby wipe warmer is exactly what it sounds like. It is an electrical device that keeps baby wipes warm. While I can’t deny that there are some mornings when those wipes come out of the box pretty cold, just holding the wipe in your hand for a moment will warm it to a tolerable temperature for your baby. It is also worth noting that wipe warmers have a tendency to dry out your wipes, leaving them unusable. Most wipe warmers cost about $20.

Diaper Genie
The Diaper Genie is the brand name of one of several diaper disposal systems on the market. Essentially, this is a diaper pail that seals each diaper in an odor-trapping film to eliminate diaper smells from your baby’s room and to keep messy diapers from touching the inside of the pail. While these are nice to have, they are expensive to use. The pail, itself, costs around $30 but the film refills cost as much as $10 and you’ll need almost two refills per month. A traditional diaper pail with baking soda sprinkled at the bottom can be a more cost-effective alternative.

Diaper Disposal Bags
Diaper disposal bags are handy to take along when you go out, so that you have a way to dispose of your baby’s dirty diapers. These small plastic bags are usually scented to eliminate diaper odors and as a result, some people use them at home to dispose of poopy diapers. The problem with these is that they can cost as much as several cents a piece and they create a lot of unnecessary waste. Instead, save your plastic grocery bags and toss a few of them into your diaper bag for easy diaper disposal on the go. If you use reusable bags at the grocery store, ask around. You may have friends and family who would be happy to save the plastic ones for you.

Changing Table
If you thought a changing table was a necessity, think again. These pieces of furniture can be handy as they are at an ideal height to change a baby and most come with storage area perfect for storing diapers and wipes. Unfortunately, changing tables take up additional space in your baby’s nursery and will easily run you $100 or more. Ironically, many parents who have changing tables end up changing their babies on the floor or on a bed, at least occasionally.

Nursing Covers
I have nursed two babies and have never used an actual nursing cover. I do, however, see how they might be handy to have. Unfortunately, they can cost you $10, $20, or even more. The frugal alternative is to simply use a lightweight baby blanket and drape it over your shoulder and your baby as she nurses. If you prefer the idea of a nursing cover, I found a free pattern you can use to make your own nursing cover for about $5.

Baby Bath Tub
Sure, these tiny tubs are adorable but they are a huge pain. After each bath you have to empty or drain the water, dry out the bath tub, and find somewhere to store it. In addition, very little of your baby’s body will be immersed in the water, leaving him exposed and cold. I have found it much more practical to bathe my babies in the kitchen sink. It’s the perfect size and you don’t have to worry about storage. Not only that, but use your sink and you can save yourself the $20 or so you would spend on a baby bath tub.

Bottle Warmers
 This is perhaps the most frivolous item on the list. Bottle warmers are appliances that simply warm up a bottle of formula or breastmilk for you. It usually takes about five minutes for the bottles to warm. While it is not safe to warm bottles in the microwave, there are other, cheaper ways to get them warm. If you have a crock pot, fill it with a couple of inches of water and turn it on to low. Then, when you’re ready to warm a bottle, just drop it in the crock pot for a few minutes. You can also warm a bottle by immersing it in hot tap water. That’s a lot cheaper than buying a $40 bottle warmer.

Sterilizer
Back before dishwashers were found in most homes, moms had to sterilize their baby’s bottles after every use. This entailed boiling the bottles and all their parts in a pot of boiling water on the stove. Then, some enterprising inventor came up with the idea for an electric sterilizer. Quicker and easier than boiling on the stove, this became standard baby gear for many parents. Today, it is recommended that you sterilize bottles and pacifiers before their first use. After that, the dishwasher will do the job for you. Don’t have a dishwasher? A good washing in hot municipal tap water will also keep your bottles sanitary and safe. And if you don’t have a dishwasher and your tap water comes from a well? The good old fashioned method of boiling bottles on the stove is a lot cheaper than shelling out $70 or more on a sterilizer.

Playmats/Gyms
Playmats (also known as gyms) are brightly colored mats that usually have a variety of toys dangling above them. The idea is that your baby can lie on the mat and reach up to grab or kick the toys (baby exercise, hence the term “gym”). The problem is, most babies don’t want to lie on their backs on the floor for very long, even if there are toys hanging above them. You could use the mat for tummy time but then the toys are pretty much useless. A soft, brightly colored blanket on the floor plus a little playtime with mom or dad is a good, frugal alternative. Playmats generally run from about $30-$60.

Help For Baby Photo Overload

Show of hands: How many of you have hundreds (maybe thousands) of photos of your baby stored on your computer? It’s so easy to snap, snap, snap those photos and then upload them to your computer to deal with “later.”

With my firstborn, I did okay. I uploaded the photos and then sorted them into folders by his age in months. That worked pretty well until he was about nine months old. After that, I uploaded my pictures into an assortment of new folders: “photos from camera,” “photos to sort,” “photos to print,” and “photos to organize.” Things got even worse when I got a new computer. Then I transferred all of my pictures from my old computer to an external hard drive. I never managed to transfer them from the hard drive to my new computer so now I have countless photos on the external drive and countless more on my current computer.

One of the problems I have is deleting pictures. Nevermind if I have five pics of the exact same shot. And nevermind that my daughter’s face is so blurry I can barely identify her. No, I just can’t bear to delete pictures of my children. I am getting better about that, though. It helps to remind myself that deleting them just sends them to the recycle bin. There, I can always restore them if I need to. Then there’s the problem of emptying the recycle bin but that’s another issue.

Anyway, the deleting issue aside, my photos were still a jumbled mess. Until I discovered Picasa. Some of you are probably familiar with Picasa but I had never heard of it until a few months ago. It is a Google product and it’s free. To sum it up briefly, Picasa is photo editing and organizing software. It has all the basic photo editing functions but in my opinion, its the organizational features that are so impressive. First, after you download it, it locates all of the pictures on your computer and immediately begins to sort them.

I’ve blurred the screenshot to protect the privacy of my family who might not want to end up immortalized on The Frugal Baby 🙂  I still think you can get an idea of how it works. The majority of the window shows thumbnails of every photo on your computer. On the left, you can probably see the list with an icon beside each list item. This is actually a list of people that appear in the photos. When you first set up Picasa, it will show you a set of photos and ask you to identify the people in them. After you identify a person a couple of times, Picasa then identifies them for you! It then sorts the photos by person. This is probably my favorite feature.

Interestingly enough, it will sometimes confuse one person for another. For instance, it had a hard time telling my babies apart–when they were babies. The more you manually identify, though, the more accurate Picasa gets.

Anyway, I have really enjoyed this organizational tool so I thought I would share it with you. I think it’s a safe bet that most moms have far more photos than they know what to do with so maybe you can put this software to use, too.

Make Your Own Baby Wrap

Want to make your own baby wrap for less than $10 and with no sewing required?

First, a little background info.

The best baby gift I ever received was a Moby Wrap. When James was born I was given one of those front pack carriers that was a cheaper version of a Baby Bjorn. James hated it and so did we. It was uncomfortable to wear and uncomfortable for him to ride in. We tried it twice and then never used it again. At the time, I had no idea that there were other options out there. I never saw other women wearing their babies and I didn’t research it further.

Two years later when I was pregnant with Maya, though, I began to see women carrying their babies in wraps and slings. I started researching available carriers and after a lot of agonizing, I decided that I wanted to use a wrap–specifically, the Moby Wrap.

The problem was, the Moby Wrap was going to cost me about $40 and I was just way too cheap frugal to buy it. Lucky for me, one of my friends knew I wanted one and bought it for me as a gift.

Before I received the Moby Wrap as a gift, however, I had decided that I would try my hand at making one. Now understand that I have absolutely no sewing skills but I always like a challenge. So I began scouring the Internet in search of an easy to follow pattern. Not only did I find a pattern that even I could sew, but I also found instructions for a no-sew wrap! I tucked this knowledge away for future reference and happily used my Moby Wrap (which, by the way, is easy to use once you get the hang of it and very comfy for mommy and baby).

Although I’m not currently expecting, I do anticipate another baby before my child-bearing years are up and I was thinking about how nice it would be to have wraps in a couple of different colors. Still being the cheap frugal person that I am, I’m obviously not going to go out and buy some more Moby Wraps. So I decided to go find those wrap-making instructions and try my hand at it.

The basic no-sew wrap instructions were very simple. I bought a piece of cotton knit fabric that was 5 yards long. I got it for $2 a yard for a total of $10. This is actually enough material for two wraps, bringing each one to $5. I cut the fabric in half lengthwise so that I had two 5 yard strips that were each 30 inches wide.  

Ta-da! That’s it. Seriously. I now had two wraps. The edges of the cotton knit don’t fray which is why it is a no-sew wrap.  So I tied it on like I would my Moby and borrowed one of Maya’s dolls for demonstration purposes. Here it is:

So for $5, I have a brand new wrap. How cool is that? The only addition I would suggest is marking the middle point of the wrap. It is necessary to know where that mid-point is for wrapping purposes. The Moby has its label at the mid-point but a small simple stitch would do the trick.

If you want to see the instructions I used or get instructions for making a wrap with sewn edges, visit wearyourbaby.com.