Why I Buy Used: Money Series Pt 2

Now, everyone knows I do my fair share to stimulate the economy. I can be quite the profligate spender – especially when it comes to buying fruit from Costco. I have often come back from a trip to Costco after throwing down a ton of money only to be asked by Hapa Papa, “Where is the food?” Because all he can see are piles and piles of fruit. What can I say? I’m Chinese. We eat fruit. Lots of it.

But even with Hapa Papa being my personal money train, we do still live off of one income (albeit, very generous) and have a mortgage and preschool and utilities so at some point, there is a limit to my spending. One time, in despair, Hapa Papa asked, “Why don’t you love me? Do you want me to work until I die?” After that, I started to watch my spending as a way to love him. He asks for so little, you know. The least I could do was throw him a bone.

Anyhow, even though Amazon and Costco are kept in business almost single-handedly by me, I do try to limit my spending without hampering my desire to hoard and get stuff. What I do, however, is buy used.

For those of you who have had the dubious honor of coming to my house, you know that it is a giant toy store. I own pretty much every toy known to man and the beauty of it is that around 80% of them were purchased used. I’m sure my kids think my day job is a drug dealer because I constantly go to people’s houses, give them cash and get something in return. People also come to my house to buy things I sell. I don’t think Cookie Monster or Gamera realize that we can go to stores to buy toys. They think toys come from other people’s houses.

It has actually come to the point where I no longer troll craigslist or the various Facebook virtual garage sale pages because I OWN EVERYTHING. (This helps a lot because now, I don’t really buy anything anymore.) When I go to real garage sales, I go for fun and rarely spend more than $20 because again, I OWN EVERYTHING. (Of course, my house is crammed full of toys, so you know, there are downsides to owning everything.) I justify having so many toys because I will have so many children they are bound to be used.

For clothes, I often buy used to supplement clothes I buy on clearance and clothes swap with friends. I think Cookie Monster’s baby clothes have gone through at least five (soon to be six) babies so far. The majority of them have held up just fine because babies grow so quickly, they really don’t wear them long enough to do enough damage.

I buy ahead for the next year or two when clothes go on clearance at the end of each season because why pay full price for clothes if I don’t have to? Who’s going to know they were purchased on clearance? Do kids’ clothes really go out of style? (Not the clothes I’m buying.) Plus, as the kids get older, the clothes wear out more quickly because they are more actively running, jumping, climbing, and therefore falling. I have bought many an iron on patch! Also, Cookie Monster grows so quickly that he is sometimes in between sizes in the spring – but I know he will be out of them by fall or winter. Why buy brand new pants if he’s going to be wearing them only for a few months?

Here’s my secret to buying used things: go to the super-nice, rich neighborhoods. People often have a glut of barely worn, brand name clothes that they want to get rid of quickly. I have purchased a bag of clothes for $25 that contained nine pairs of pants/shorts, ten shirts, and a sweater or two thrown in for good measure. When you consider that often, a pair of jeans from Old Navy is $15, that’s a really good deal.

The same goes for toys. Usually, used toys start at 50% retail (and are sometimes lower). You will get better deals on toys at garage sales, but if you want something specific, you’ll have to wait a long time. If you don’t want to wait, craigslist or the Facebook pages will be a better bet (although a little more costly). Sadly, I know the going rate of almost any used toy (as well as their retail price). Why is my brain so full of useless minutiae? My family will HATE me for all this useless information in the coming zombie apocalypse.

As for books, I usually buy them when the local library has their book sales. Children’s books are usually $0.50-$1 and I also get to support my local library. Incidentally, I use the library a TON for my personal use as well as for my kids. I read at least 100-150 books a year and if I bought them all new or even used, that would be thousands of dollars. Instead, I am willing to wait for new releases and get pretty much all my books for free. That allows me to pay for the occasional new book in order to support an author or a series that I really appreciate and enjoy. Plus, I already paid taxes for my library access – why shouldn’t I use it?

This also keeps my house from accumulating hundreds of books every year. Between my brother and I, we had hundreds of books that I no longer had room for. I gave several boxes to the local library and sold at least twenty boxes back to various used book stores for either cash or credit. Nothing is sadder than an unread or no longer read book sitting on a dusty shelf, waiting to be noticed. Why not send it somewhere it can be loved or put to good use?

I also buy used furniture – but usually, I buy things that are made of wood because the thought of a used mattress or couch I find squicky. I know. I’m a snob. But all my dining tables have been used – and they were great deals! I once got a dining set with six chairs for $100. The guy even lent us his truck to move it! Hapa Papa was very sad when I sold the same set three years later for the same $100.

Ok, this post ended up much longer than I originally anticipated. To sum up in nice bullet-points, here are some reasons I buy used:

1) It saves money – sometimes at least 50%.

2) Helps the environment – reduce, reuse, recycle and all that. (But it seriously is not a very important reason for me, personally.)

3) I can get more for less money – therefore, it frees up more money for things I really want but cannot get at reduced price. (It’s the same basic premise as #1.)

4) I feel smug/brilliant every time I see something go “on sale” new and it’s STILL more expensive than I spent on a used item. Even better when I can’t tell the difference between the new and used item due to the previous owner’s awesomeness.

5) My kids end up turning new toys into “used” toys almost immediately. Why not just save myself the trouble? It pains me less when they batter something I bought used than when they batter something I bought brand new. Although, sometimes I get even more upset because WHEN WILL I EVER GET WEDGE-ITS FOR LESS THAN $1 EVER AGAIN?!

6) My kids don’t really know any better – they are just happy they get toys (and lots of them). Bonus: they don’t realize you can buy the toys at the store – so they never ask me for anything they see in a store.

7) DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH LEGOS COST BRAND NEW? OMG – it’s the biggest racket EVER. Even used, they are pricey. But let’s just say that I’ve spent about $200 in total on both the BIG and small Legos – and I guarantee for the same price, I would’ve come away with two, small, sad regular Lego sets. (Perhaps a slight exaggeration – but not by much!)

8) In addition, DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THOMAS TRAINS COST BRAND NEW??? It’s almost as big a racket as the Lego Conspiracy! I’ve spent about $8-900 used on various train related things since Cookie Monster started to like trains. This same stuff would have cost me several thousand if I purchased brand new. Yes, I realize $900 is A LOT of money already (not all at the same time, thank goodness), but for the same haul brand new? At least $3-4,000. This only makes me feel slightly better.

9) When my children finally are done with the toys and I start selling them, I can most likely sell them at the same price at which I purchased them – and possibly, even more. Granted, that’s likely another ten years down the line, but then I can claim “vintage” status so I can charge even MORE. It won’t hurt nearly as much as if I bought them brand new and I think to myself, “I’m selling these things at 50% off! GAH!! All my MONIES!!!”

Ok. I think you get my point. I buy used to save money and as a nice after thought, to save the environment. Either way, I’m a HERO. A SAVVY HERO!!!

What about you? Do you buy used? Why or why not? Tell me in the comments. 😀

How Am I Going to Send 3+ Kids to College?: Money Series Pt 1

The thought is terrifying from a monetary standpoint. In about twenty years, I will have three children in college AT THE SAME TIME. Talk about poor family planning (from a paying for college standpoint). And if I do end up having four kids, I will have three kids in college for at least 2-3 years IN A ROW. They’re on their own for grad school, man. Geez.

You’ve seen the numbers. From 1985-2011, college costs rose 500%. (I don’t even want to know what it will cost me in fifteen years when Cookie Monster starts college.) As for loans, I suppose I could have my kids take them out, but have you seen the statistics? Plus, all that brouhaha right now about student loans and interest rates and how I know people who are my age who are STILL paying off student loans (both for undergrad and grad school) and how much that hampers them financially.

So what am I to do? If I can help it, I don’t want my kids saddled with debt (at least too much of it). I can’t count on scholarships (especially not athletic) because who knows how smart or hard-working my kids will be? Since my neighborhood is half Indian/Pakistani and half Chinese, I really have no illusions of them being at the top of the pack. (And I’m OK with that. Hapa Papa was nowhere near the top of the pack in high school, went to a state school, and makes SCADS more money than I ever did because he works harder and smarter than I ever wanted to. That’s another post for some other day.)

And no, I’m not going to move to a less competitive neighborhood because really, who doesn’t want their kids surrounded by smart, hard-working kids? If I don’t like my kids’ grades, then they’ll just have to work HARDER, not move to an easier school. (White flight, I’m looking at YOU!)

The only other recourse (in terms of helping my kids with their education costs) is to save aggressively and to save NOW. (Of course, they can also work in high school – and Hapa Papa has big plans for that – and college, too. Those are absolutely on the table!) This is when it totally helps to be a financial advisor (and to have a mother for one as well).

Here is what we are currently doing and hoping to do so in the future. Hopefully, this will help you, but I do realize that I may be in a different financial situation than you and your family so please don’t feel too bad or too smug if you are doing better or worse than we are. There are many ways to pay for school. This is just what I am doing for now.

Disclaimer: I am a financial advisor and own a financial advising firm with my mother. I am not being compensated by any entity or company for the following information. I am ONLY explaining what I do for my own children. If you should so choose to take this advice, please realize that it is not customized nor tailored for your specific situation. I am not dispensing personalized advice for you or your situation. I am not responsible in any way, shape, or form if your investments rise or fall due to market conditions. YMMV. You have been warned.

1) 529 Plans – These are plans that accumulate tax-free and are dispensed tax-free as long as you use them for qualifying higher education costs. The funds remain in our custody and we can switch the beneficiary at any time. (So, if Cookie Monster gets a full ride and doesn’t need this money, then I can transfer the funds to Gamera or Baby3.)

We opened an account for each child as soon as I got their Social Security numbers. I seed it with some money and then contribute about $100/mo per account. I would put more in here, but because it can only be used for higher education costs, I don’t want to put TOO much money in here just in case the kids don’t end up at college or whatever.

2) UGMA/UTMA Accounts – These are just regular savings/investment accounts for my children. I am the custodian but my kids are the ultimate owners when they hit either 18, 21, or 25 (For CA). (I am pretty sure I chose 21.) After that, the money is theirs to do with HOWEVER THEY WISH. Somewhat terrifying, but hopefully, I will have taught my children how to handle their finances well and to make good decisions. I do have to pay taxes on these accounts, but since they’re children, the tax rate is not as horrible.

Any gift cards/checks/cash I received during baby showers, gifts, birthdays, Chinese New Year, etc., I put in here. (In the case of gift cards, I just use the gift card and deposit a corresponding amount into their account.) As with the 529 plan, as soon as I get their Social Security number, I open an UTMA for my kid and deposit a “seed” amount. Then, when they receive money, I put it in their accounts – even if it’s as trivial as a few dollars for a birthday or Chinese New Year. (Usually, I round up and add something on top of it.)

If Hapa Papa gets a bonus at work, or sells some stock grants, or whatever, I will take either all or a portion of it and apply it equally among the kids. If we happen to get a really nice financial gift from family, I do the same. Whatever “extra” money that comes our way, I will always consider putting it in the kids’ accounts. (Unless, for some reason, we need to replenish our emergency fund, our IRA contributions are coming up, or property taxes are coming up, I usually put some in the kids’ accounts.)

Also, any time there is a new baby, I will not only seed money in the new baby’s account, I will also add some money into the older kids’ accounts. Not as much, of course, but some.

3) Aggressively pay down all other debts. That’s pretty self-explanatory. We paid off our mini-van last year ahead of schedule thanks to a stock grant, and we pay extra on our principal for our mortgage every month. Every now and then, we also send in a fat chunk of a bonus or severance or stock grant to pay down the mortgage principal even more. Our goal is to pay off the mortgage before Cookie Monster starts college. We are very lucky that currently, our mortgage is our only debt. This may change if we have to buy a new car later down the road or if we have to get a bigger house when the kids become teenagers.

4) Save aggressively for our retirement. This may seem strange to include as part of the kids’ education savings, but it makes perfect sense to me. The more we save now, due to the time value of money, the less we will have to put away when we’re older and much closer to retirement. In other words, when the kids are in college, we will not have to be scrambling any more than usual to come up with money both for college AND for retirement. The retirement money (barring some horrible economic downturn AGAIN) will already be there.

5) Have the kids work. My parents paid entirely for my education and as a result, I don’t think I took it very seriously. I have been coddled pretty much all my life. Hapa Papa, on the other hand, had some scholarships and worked his way through college without any substantial help from his family. I would like my kids to have something in between.

My current plan is to have the majority of tuition and board as well as some “fun” money for my kids covered. I will give them a monthly stipend and if they run out, they’re out. If they need more money, they can work for it. Also, Hapa Papa is thinking that some day, he’ll start his own consulting firm and farm out work to the kids. He’ll pay them and yes, they can spend some of that money, but a good portion of that will be forced into their college savings account so that they will also pay for their college in that way.

This, of course, is the highly speculative portion of my plan. The kids obviously cannot work now. (Such slackers! Their fellow Chinese kids are making clothes right now! Lazy bastards.) We have no idea if Hapa Papa will ever open up his own shop. We don’t know if college will even be relevant in the future (although, likely yes). But that is our plan for the moment.

I know that we are very fortunate to have so many options. Many folks do not have enough money after necessities to set aside for their kids (let alone for themselves). I would say in terms of priorities, take care of your daily needs first, then emergency funds, then retirement, then kids. No one will give you a loan for the first three, but the last one, there are plenty available.

Again, when I think of all these resources I have available for both myself and my children, I am overwhelmed with gratefulness and guilt and relief. We always want the best for our children – no matter what our circumstances. So I have no doubt that the folks who cannot provide as much for their kids would OF COURSE, do so if their circumstances allowed it. Ultimately, money is important, but there are plenty of children who grew up without a single financial want who have huge holes in their souls due to other unmet needs.

Hrm. Didn’t mean to get all Hallmark on you there. I just know that because of Hapa Papa’s job, we are able to provide much for our family without too much hardship. It isn’t fair; I’m sorry. My only hope is that we can be generous to others as well as ourselves.

Now That I’m Done Judging, Perhaps I’ll Actually Be Helpful: New Baby Series Pt 4

Alrighty, folks! Lazy post today. (I think I’m allowed. I just had a new baby, after all.) We are finally at the last of the series (and hopefully, you haven’t been bored to tears and found some of the information useful). Here are several sites and books that I found invaluable when I first had Cookie Monster. I referred to them less and less as I had subsequent children (mostly because I stopped caring and worrying about every little thing). Although, the Ferber book has been constantly referenced in the last 3.5+ years since as soon as you get something down, your kids change. (Those bastards!)

Anyhow, thank you for being patient with this series, and rest assured, folks with no kids (and with no intention of ever having them), this is the final section!

Disclaimers: As usual, all the opinions are mine. YMMV. I used Amazon Affiliate links.

Helpful Books:

1) Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems – Richard Ferber

2) The Happiest Baby on the Block – Harvey Karp

3) The Wonder Weeks – Hetty Van de Rijt

4) NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children – Po Bronson, Ashley Merryman

5) What to Expect: First Year (and Toddler Years) – Sandee Hathaway

Helpful Sites:

1) Babysteals.com – I would sign up for it now because you often see deals ahead of time (eg: Ergo for 50% off). However, very dangerous because they have a lot of cute things!

2) Albeebaby.com – great site for deals on strollers, car seats, etc.

3) craigslist.org – Sounds stupid, but I would buy a LOT of stuff used. I wish I did. Especially for toys. Always search for the RICH areas/neighborhoods. They give things away practically for free.

4) nickisdiapers.com – great for cloth diaper deals and information.

5) amazon.com – Clearly a no-brainer – but also for the amazon Mom function! Like amazon prime but FREE!

6) http://parents.berkeley.edu/ – So much helpful information. A lot is Bay Area specific, but I’m sure the parenting advice can be universal.

7) kellymom.com – Super helpful re: breastfeeding and parenting.

Ok. Now your turn. What were some helpful books and sites that got you through the first years? Let me know in the comments.

You Might As Well Flush Your Money Down the Toilet As I Mock You: New Baby Series Pt 3

I know. By now you get it. I’m an ass – and not only that, judgmental as well! Since the cat’s out of the bag and well on to making kittens, I might as well tell you what I think are total wastes of money. I’m sure I’m bound to insult pretty much all of you since most likely, you have at least one of these products for your child (if you should have any).

However, I never said this judging should be one way only. I have now given you at least three posts with which to judge me mightily and scoff at my purchases and obviously poor uses of money. So, have at it! If I can’t take it, I shouldn’t dish it out. But until then, here is a non-all-inclusive list of Baby Stuff that I think you don’t need.

Disclaimer: YMMV. Sorry ahead of time if I bruise your delicate feelings. No amazon links because I am feeling particularly lazy today and don’t care enough about these products to link to them.

 

What You Don’t Need

1) Diaper Genie/Champ, etc – although the actual genie/champ is cheap, it’s the replacement bags that are expensive. I would recommend you just get a covered trash can (preferably electronic or a step one for convenience, but that’s not necessary, either). Ours locks in the odors just fine and I use cloth!

2) Wipes warmer – it’s nice, I suppose, but seriously, a total waste of money. Plus, when you’re on the road and use a cold wipe, your kid is gonna be SUPER pissed.

3) Bottle warmer – putting the bottle in a cup of hot water will do the trick.

4) Diaper changing table – really, any flat surface will do. We just use our bed. The diaper changing PAD is useful, though. (Keeps potential spills and accidents off your bed.) Just buy two covers and you’re good to go! With Gamera, our changing pad disintegrated so I just started putting a small towel under her butt. Worked just fine, too.

5) Dreft (or any BABY laundry detergent) – They’re a rip-off. All you need are fragrance free and dye free detergent. I just buy the Costco/Kirkland kind. Wash bedding, clothing, diapers, etc, and all mommy clothes in this.

6) Baby Food Mill (or any BABY food maker) – They’re a rip off. If you have a blender, food-processor or magic bullet, you don’t need anything else.

7) Splat Mat – It sounds good in theory (a mat on the floor to pick up stuff your kid throws down), but it’s just easier to clean the floor. I can see this being useful if you have carpet in your eating area, though. So, I guess, YMMV on this one.

8) Shopping cart cover – It’s lame. One more thing to carry/forget/wash. I get WHY people have it, since it’s comfy and seems cleaner, but totally not worth the hassle. Just wash your kids’ hands!

That’s it. My judgmental list is short and sweet today. (Ok, I guess eight things aren’t exactly a small list, but considering how mean I am in general, this is SMALL. Be grateful!!)

If you’ve managed to steer clear of all these products, congratulations!! You are well on your way to being more awesome like me! YAY!

Your turn, now. What do you think is/was a waste of your money?

The Next Best Thing to Sleep: New Baby Series Pt 2

Of course, if you can get extra sleep with a new baby, I’m sure it’s awesome!! However, I’m more thinking along the lines of baby products. With Cookie Monster, because he was my first baby, I got a ton of brand new stuff. In retrospect, I wish I had just gotten gift cards or cash and gone straight to craigslist. When I see what people are selling their super-expensive baby items (that I, too, own) for dirt cheap, a little part of my soul dies. I just think to myself, “I could’ve put all the money I would’ve saved into a savings account for Cookie Monster’s college fund.” (Hey, with 3+ kids, I’ll need all the help I can get. But that is a different post for another day.)

Anyhow, last Monday, I posted about What You Really Need for a New Baby. This week, it’s all about what is nice but not vital.

Disclaimers: Of course, the usual YMMV et al as well as my using copious Amazon Affiliate links. Do what you see fit.

Now, without further ado, what is NICE to have:

1) Baby swing – I would borrow a friend’s or buy this used. You only end up using this 3-4 months (until the baby is too big/heavy for it). They are really expensive new – and only about $40-75 used on Craigslist. Just wash the washable part and you’re golden. One caveat: don’t make the mistake I did. Get a swing that can go both back and forth as well as left to right. You never know what way your kid will like. Furthermore, your kid could hate it. Another reason to borrow/buy used.

2) Exersaucer – I would borrow a friend’s or buy this used. And I would get Bright Starts Around We Go Activity Station instead of the regular kind because then your kid can practice walking and not go anywhere! I’ve seen these at Costco for $70 and used for $30-50. I am convinced this is the reason why Cookie Monster and Gamera both started walking so early. When they no longer need the walking part of the exersaucer, you can take the seat off. My kids STILL play with the table almost every day. (Mostly drive by playing, but it’s still used.)

3) Bouncer – I would borrow a friend’s or buy this used. You only end up using this about 6 months because once your kid can sit up, it’s dangerous! They have all sorts, from super cheap to super tricked out. But you really don’t get your money’s worth.

4) Activity gym/playmat – I would borrow a friend’s or buy this used. Although, if you do buy it, you do use it more about 9 months, but YMMV.

5) Sophie – Teething giraffe. Splurge and get this! Super cute – don’t get the weird alien kind. That one looks phallic and most babies I know prefer the Sophie. Keep in mind though, that if your car or the temperature is super cold, let the thing warm up before you put it in your kid’s mouth. Otherwise, someone, say Cookie Monster, might bite off a big chunk of the ear and choke (he didn’t). Also, it can get pretty gooey on the snout and ears (with sticky stuff because I think the rubber gets a little degraded and soft and warm and attracts lint).

6) Covered Baby Food Ice cube trays – Nice to have if you’re making your own food. Yes, you can just use a regular ice tray, but then those aren’t covered. I find that squicky.

7) Mother’s Milk Tea – tastes kinda bland (like chamomile) but SO HELPFUL in making milk. Whenever I stopped, my milk supply dropped.

8) Boppy or My Brest Friend – Both are good. The Boppy can be used not only for nursing though. It’s a good baby support to help the kiddo sit up before they know how. I preferred the My Brest Friend for Cookie Monster – it was firmer and easier to use at first. But I preferred the Boppy for Gamera because it was easier to get in and out of. (There is no belt buckle in the back.) If you end up getting two (one upstairs, one downstairs), I would get the second one used.

9) Aqueduck – It’s a faucet extender and everyone always wants to know where I got it. You can see my review here.

10) Swaddle-MesI totally sucked at swaddling. These were helpful so I didn’t have to figure out how to do it. However, honestly, I only ended up swaddling the babies for the first month or so. After that, I got lazy and they were just fine.

11) Food mat – Great for eating out and you don’t want your kid to eat off the table – or break plates. I’ve seen people use the kind where you tape a plastic mat onto the table, but I just find that wasteful. This one you can use again and again. Although, I must say that I used this more for Cookie Monster and didn’t bother at all with Gamera. Not sure whether it was because I had given up on eating out with two toddlers or if I just stopped caring about hygiene or other people’s plates.

Ok. That was my list of NICE to haves. What do you think? What are yours?

Yes, I Totally Am Judging You (and You): New Baby Series Pt 1

I freely confess: I totally judge what people put on their baby registries. Totally. I make snide texts to my mommy friends and we laugh and scoff and mock people who buy baby socks and items I personally find useless and stupid just to show off how brilliant I am with my “years” of collected wisdom. Of course, this is totally unfair. After all, how do you know what you will need if you’ve never needed it before? Even though I, in all my genius, went with a friend who had a kid and she did all my baby registry choosing for me (ie: she told me what I would need and what to get), I still had craptons of stuff I never used and never needed.

So, in honor of Baby3 coming in mid-August (still haven’t figured out what his alias will be, after all, it’s usually based on personality but all I know is that this kid kicks like nobody’s business), I thought I’d have a post on what new parents really need (after surviving two small children).

Disclaimer: Obviously, YMMV and this is my personal opinion. Plus, I think I used an Amazon Affiliate link or two. You’ve been duly disclaimed.

What You Need

1) Crib – preferably one that is convertible to a toddler bed as well (so you don’t have to buy one at a later time). Of course, you can just go straight to a twin bed instead. There is no real need to get one that’s super expensive. Walmart has them for $150 and are still really nice. (Although, I’m not a fan of Walmart but you get the idea.)

What I recommend you splurge on is an ORGANIC baby mattress. That will set you back a good $200+. Mattresses off-gas for their lifetime and since babies are sleeping 90% of their life for so long, I would go with the organic mattress. The beauty of this is that you can use it for multiple babies so the cost factor goes down.

2) Yoga ball – super helpful for calming a baby down and putting them to sleep. We used to have four. Now, after giving most away, we only have one. (Maybe we have another hidden somewhere in a closet.) But whatever. Very useful.

3) Onesies/Footie Sleepers – At least for the first 3 months or so – especially if your baby is a winter baby. Your life will be much easier if you just keep them in PJs. Much easier on EVERYBODY. Once they are a bit older, maybe 3-4 months and are more alert, then you will likely start changing them into more daytime and night time clothes. But otherwise, what’s the point?

4) Burp cloths – I would use very good quality cloth diapers. The cheapo thin ones won’t soak up anything at all.

5) Video Monitor – Ok ok ok, I suppose you don’t NEED it – but once you have it, you won’t want anything else. The best one (after trying several to Hapa Papa’s great annoyance due to high cost), is the Motorola MBP3. Otherwise, audio only monitors are perfectly fine and if your house is small enough, you might not need a monitor at all.

6) Diapers – for newborns and size 1s, they usually have diapers where there is a wetness indicator. GET THOSE. They are SUPER helpful. Once the umbilical cord falls off, you may want to consider cloth diapers. It sounds gross, but it is super easy, saves a LOT of money (initial outlay of about $3-400, but when you consider that our first month of Gamera, I just went with disposable diapers and I already spent over $100 in diapers, that is NOTHING). I have a whole post on cloth diapering if you are really interested in checking it out.

7) Breast pump – if you plan on breastfeeding. They are pretty expensive but can come in handy – especially if you go back to work. If you’re a SAHM, you might not need it as much, but I still pumped milk when my kids dropped a feeding and ended up donating gallons of milk. (Also, breastfeeding is so much cheaper than formula – Formula is $25+ a can. That’s at least a can a week!) Also, less stinky poop! But ultimately, your baby will be fed and healthy and fine regardless of formula or breastmilk.

8) Pack n play – I would use this instead of a bassinet the first few months. It’s cheaper and more portable and useful in the future. Don’t buy the expensive kind. Get the cheapest one (usually around $60). We initially bought three because I thought I would need one at my office and my mom’s house. They were barely used and cost us at least $150 each because we bought the fancy kind. We ended up giving one to my brother, and the fancy one does have a cover that came in handy, but ultimately, the cheapo one we used more. Also, Costco sells pack n plays for cheap.

9) Car Seat – Most likely, you will start off with an infant car seat and base. Any company will do (We used Graco).

Your baby will be in that for at least the first 6 months. After they get too big, you will want to switch to a regular car seat (which is safer). Infant car seats are super handy – especially if you get a travel system (which is a stroller that goes with the infant car seat). You just pick up the car seat, put it on the stroller and go. Just beware that travel system strollers are REALLY HEAVY. They are cheaper than the super nice strollers, but their resale value is lower. So you’ll likely pay $150-200 for the stroller, and then re-sell it for $40.

In retrospect, I would’ve gotten as light weight an infant car seat as possible. I think the lightest weight ones are Maxi Cosi brands. The Gracos and Chiccos clock in at about 25lbs. Add on a 15lb baby and that’s 40lbs you’re carrying on one arm. Not fun.

When the baby is bigger, switch to a convertible car seat. You want to have as high as possible weight limit for rear-facing (they now recommend up to 2 years rear facing). Cookie Monster was rear-facing until he got close to the 40lb weight limit (and not because he hit the height limit). This is because it is much safer to have them rear-facing in case of an accident. Although Cookie Monster’s legs were bent and perhaps he could’ve broken his legs in an accident, I would rather have broken legs than a broken neck! When they get too big for rear-facing, then it “converts” to forward-facing.

These suckers are EXPENSIVE. Wait until they go on sale (either at Amazon or albeebaby.com). I would NOT buy used because you never know if they’ve been in an accident. Once they’re in an accident, the integrity of the car seat is no longer there so don’t risk it.

Also, it is tempting to put the car seat on your Baby Registry. RESIST THE URGE. Mostly because it will be almost a year before you will likely use it and then, you have burned a year and now, you are one year closer to the expiration date. Yes, car seats expire. It really pisses me off. Let’s not get me started on that bullshit. But what can you do? Are your really going to risk your kid not being “safe” in a car seat just because you’re a cheap ass?

10) Strollers – you can go the expensive route or the cheaper route. If you go the cheaper route, just buy the stroller that goes with the infant car seat. Those are usually hefty (25lbs) but have great built in options like cup holders, great baskets, one button close, etc. They’re great but heavy.

If you have two or more kids, then I would fork over the cash for a SUPER nice one. The one we have now is the Baby Jogger City Mini Double Stroller. It can be extremely expensive so I would recommend buying on a great sale, used, or opt for an older version. Obviously, you don’t need that now, but it is 25lbs and awesome.

You can get the single version, too. These are $250 new, but they have great resale value on craigslist. You can probably re-sell the single stroller around $150. (Or you could buy it used.) If you’re not the jogging type, you don’t need to splurge for the joggers.

Another popular kind is the Phil and Ted. Also great re-sell value. Plus, when you have a second kid, you can just buy a kit to add on vs. buy a totally different stroller. But for two kids, the bottom kid gets kinda cramped.

The best site I’ve found for buying strollers, car seats, etc is: albeebaby.com. Sign up for their mailing list and you will get their sales. However, if the sale prices are comparable to amazon, I just go with amazon for the 2 day shipping. The more expensive strollers, you have to buy their accessories (eg: cup holders, bars, car seat holders). But I would dare say it’s worth it on the second kid. Plus, you don’t have to buy their brand of holders.

11) Ergo Baby carrier – Super helpful!! You will need the infant insert for when the baby can’t put their legs around your torso yet. I would also get the teething pads so they end up chewing something soft vs the harder canvas. I would buy used, perhaps. The main cons are that the carrier tends to run warm/hot, and the baby only faces you.

A lot of people use the Baby Bjorn – but that is bad for your back (everyone I know who uses it, their back hurts), and bad for the baby’s spine. But, it is nice because the baby can look out.

Now, again, these are what I think are necessary for a baby (and by necessary, I suppose I more mean supremely useful to have). I guess one doesn’t really need a crib – just a drawer or a laundry basket to put the baby in Benjamin Button style. But you get the idea.

Next week, I’ll post about What is Nice to Have for a Baby and the week after, I’ll post what I think is a total waste of money.

What do the more experienced parents think? Agree? Disagree? Did I forget something that you think is amazing? Tell me in the comments.

Let’s Talk Sh!t: Cloth Diapers

So before you write me off as a tree-hugger or hippie or granola person, please know that although I do love trees and the environment and granola (note: I do NOT love hippies), I really value cost and expediency MORE than any of these things. I’ll do my part and recycle and compost and eat organic and make my own granola occasionally, (Ok, that’s a lie. I make my mom make it for me.) I am not all that committed to the lifestyle. I mean, how much for an organic, cage-free chicken? Give me the sad, imprisoned, beakless chicken, please. Good Lord!

So if I am neither super environmental or granola, why did I choose cloth diapers? I chose cloth diapers mainly for two reason: the idea of my kids’ poop and pee sitting in a landfill a bjillion years from now was kinda gross, and the cost of buying disposable diapers for FOUR kids (I had plans, man!) until potty training made me ill. (A box of 120 newborn diapers is $40 – and as the babies get bigger, the diapers in a box get fewer but the pricing stays the same.) So, I threw down about $3-400 on a bunch of cloth diapers and accessories and watched YouTube videos and practiced cloth diapering my teddy bear. (Yes, it’s true. No, there is no video.)

I was pretty chicken about it with Cookie Monster because hey, disposable diapers are HANDY and he was my first so I was trying to get the hang of a lot of stuff, but after about two months, I bit the bullet and started using the cloth diapers. After all, I paid a lot of money for them, I was at least going to try. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that much more difficult than disposable diapers and even Hapa Papa went along with it. Of course, there was a learning curve (on lack of sleep, too!), but now after 3.5+ years and two babies, it’s second nature.

At first, I would only use cloth diapers at home and switch to disposables outside. But then I got annoyed at having so many left over disposable diapers in my hall closet that I just put my big girl panties on and started using cloth diapers outside, too. Except for when we travel or for overnight, I pretty much always use cloth diapers. (See, I’m flexible! I’m not a cloth diaper Nazi!)

Also, I must say, one side benefit of using cloth diapers is that when other moms see you using them, they think you’re a saint or just an awesome mom because they think it takes so much work. I admit, it strokes my ego and I feel somewhat smug. (You try avoiding that feeling when you are a competitive jackass by nature.) But I try to disabuse them of the notion because I like cloth diapers and I think more people should use them (just for the cost savings and fewer poosplosions!).

I wash the diapers every 2-3 days on the Sanitize with an extra rinse setting on my fancy washer and then throw them in the dryer. Someone actually thought I hand-washed the diapers. If I had to hand-wash cloth diapers, I guarantee you, I would either become one of those Elimination Communication people or I would cough up the money for disposables. I am not hand-washing shit. (Pun intended!) That’s it.

Since I do laundry almost every day (how did this become my life??), I barely notice the “extra” work.

Disclaimer: By no means am I an expert on cloth diapering. I have pretty much only used Chinese/Indian pre-folds with a diaper cover and Snappi. That’s it. If you’re looking for reviews on All-In-Ones (AIOs) or different brands or pocket diapers, etc., this is NOT what you want to read.

However, if you are interested in what I’ve done for my first two children (and intend to do for my third), then by all means, continue! This will be the most brilliant and helpful and awesome thing you’ve ever read! (YMMV) Also, I am not being compensated by any site (other than Amazon affiliate links if someone should so choose to buy from my links). Personally, I bought most of my original supplies from nickisdiapers.com.

So, here is what I use (My total initial outlay was about $3-400):

Chinese/Indian Pre-folds (24 newborn sizes, 24 infant sizes, 6 organic infant sizes, 24 organic toddler sizes)

– These are just rectangular cloth diapers with an absorbent pad already sewn in. They are not waterproof and require a diaper cover. They recommend 1-2 dozen in order to avoid washing diapers every single day.

– I have also used these as burp cloths (much better than the crappy ones you buy from stores that just allow whatever spit up to slide onto the floor).

– I would buy the THICKEST available (usually 4x8x4) so that they are more absorbent and you don’t have to change the diapers as often.

– I also chose pre-folds because they were the cheapest and didn’t depend so much on how your particular kid’s butt is shaped. The AIOs I found would work better or worse depending on your kid, and I didn’t have the patience or time or money to figure out which worked. This, of course, does NOT mean that they are not perfectly reasonable options.

– In retrospect, you could most likely do just fine with the infant sized diapers. I bought the newborn sizes because I didn’t want to spend time folding and re-folding down to a smaller size. I used those until my kids hit ~13lbs then switched to the infant sizes. I bought the toddler sizes because Cookie Monster was tall and he was getting too many poosplosions in the infant sizes when he hit 2ish. It also made it easier for me to have Gamera in infant and Cookie Monster in toddler sizes so I didn’t have to wash them every day.

– $1.75/each or $15/dozen

Waterproof Diaper cover (8 one-size diaper covers from Blueberry – fits from infant to toddler)

– I chose the Blueberry ones because I liked their designs. I haven’t found them to be much of a problem even though I purchased it based on such a shallow reason. Furthermore, I like how I didn’t have to buy various sized diaper covers – these can adjust to three different sizes and I’ve never had a problem with fit.

– Some folks prefer snaps (because allegedly, they last longer, but I never really liked them because I feel as if they are less flexible in sizing and can tear the cover due to straining), I prefer the hook and loop kind (ie: Velcro).

– They recommend 6-8 covers for a child. I started with 6 and bought two more for Gamera when she as born. I thought she should have something new – plus, I had a period where the kids overlapped in diapers. Once Cookie Monster was potty-trained, 8 diaper covers became incredibly superfluous. I mostly just rotate 3-4 of them at a time.

– $12-18/diaper cover

Diaper liner

– These are just thin, flushable liners that I put on my cloth diapers to make it a bit easier to remove poop from the diapers and drop them in the toilet.

– I only tend to start using these once my baby starts on solids. For breastmilk poop, I don’t do anything with it because it’s water-soluble and I wash it out in my washing machine (on Sanitize, of course).

– $27/6pack

Snappi

– These are super handy little hooks that hold the diaper in place. They can rip out seams pretty easily so be careful around your bedding or clothing. But on the whole, much easier to secure a diaper in place than actual safety pins. I thought I could get away without them with my firstborn, but once I started using them, poosplosions ALSO stopped. Made cloth diapering that much easier because I didn’t have to constantly wash the diaper covers.

– $8-15

Diaper Pail Liner

– Reusable, washable diaper pail/waste can liner that holds soiled cloth diapers

– I use mine in conjunction with an automatic garbage can with a lid lined with the liner

– I have never had a problem with smell, leakage, or general ickiness. The liner has lasted 3.5 years (and counting).

– $15-20

Wet/Dry Diaper Bag

– I use this to hold clean cloth diapers/liners/covers as well as store the used, soiled diapers. There are two pockets: one for the wet stuff and one for the dry stuff.

– I have found this bag to be incredibly useful. But only if you plan on using cloth diapers when you’re out of the house. Some people I know only use cloth at home and disposables when they’re out. I used to do that but eventually, I thought it was a waste of money so I am pretty much always cloth diaper except at night and when we travel out of town.

– $20-25

Diaper Sprayer

– I very rarely used this, but when I did need it, I found it invaluable. Mostly, I used this when my babies were just starting solids and their poop was super sticky and pasty and splattered all over the place. The diaper liner would get rid of some of it, but not all of it. Once past that stage, I don’t use it much. It’s a lot of money, but for the most part, worth it for when you need it.

– $50-70

Cloth Diaper Inserts

– I really only used these when the babies were newborns and didn’t sleep through the night (or just started to). It made the diapers more absorbent but also incredibly unwieldy and thick. I would put one or two in so that Gamera wouldn’t wake up due to wetness. But by 4-5 months, I think I only used it for naps and since she had already started sleeping 10-12 hours, I used disposable overnight diapers instead.

– Some women also use these as menstrual pads, but I don’t think I will be doing that. Yet. Who knows. I could get more granola as time goes by.

– $8-10/each

That’s it. I take out a pre-fold, put on a liner, put it on my kid and secure with a Snappi, and then put on the diaper cover. It takes about as much time as a disposable. If Hapa Papa can do it (and has been for 3.5+ years, 2 kids and counting), then so can you.

I usually wash diapers every 2-3 days on Sanitize and add white vinegar to strip the cloth diapers of any buildup (if you used a diaper cream for a rash or whatever) and generally, make it soft and more absorbent. Then I toss them in the dryer. If there are stains and you care about that, line dry in the sun. The sun will naturally bleach the stains out.

Although my cloth diapers are now starting to fray, that is mostly a cosmetic issue and hasn’t affected overall performance and quality. After 3.5+ years and 2 kids thus far, I think that’s pretty good. I’ve lent out the infant sizes at least once so those have gone through three babies thus far, but since it’s for such a short duration, it hasn’t affected the wear and tear much. I usually start once the umbilical cord falls off (at 2-3 weeks) and then it’s pretty much all cloth diapers until they require overnight diapers.

Clearly that was my opinion and how I use cloth diapers. What about you? Did you use cloth diapers? Why or why not? Did you start then stop? Use a diaper service? (I didn’t because that cut into the monetary savings.) Let me know in the comments. 😀