Archives for September 2015

6 Halloween Costume Hacks for Budget-Conscious Parents

With Halloween just around the corner, parents and kids are already eyeing the racks at stores for that perfect costume. From Disney characters to Marvel comics to irresistibly cute animal outfits, the choices are endless and it’s understandable how families get wrapped up in the spooky celebration. While Christmas is still the most spendy holiday, the cost of Halloween has been climbing. The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates Americans will spend about $950 million on kids costumes alone this year.

1. DIY.
Undoubtedly your child may be set on dressing as one of the hottest characters this season. While there will be plenty of Minions and Star Wars characters patrolling the sidewalks Halloween night, you don’t have to pay a lot to achieve these looks. Ashley Ann Photography has some great DIY tips for Star Wars costumes, while many costume ideas use simple apparel that you can find at craft stores for less.

2. Raid The Closet.
Chances are your child already has something in his or her closet that can be repurposed for Halloween. A ballet leotard is an easy base for a number of costumes, and an old pair of overalls is perfect for a Minion costume. Old costumes from years before can also be re-worn and redecorated to make something new. For more cheap and easy costume ideas, check out this blog post of over 50 ideas for kids and adults.

3. Be Thrifty.
When it comes to Halloween, thrift stores are your best resource. Many stores like ARC and Goodwill sell Halloween costumes for popular characters like Disney princesses and superheros. You’ll pay a lot less buying these gently used than you would from pricey costume stores. Also check out ThredUp.com; during October, the online consignment store hosts a costume exchange so parents can swap outgrown costumes for new ones. Grab ThredUp coupon codes for even more savings from deal sites like Coupon Sherpa.

4. Create a Challenge.
A fun way to let your kids have a blast creating their own costumes is to make a contest out of it! Money Crashers suggests setting a budget for each child and letting them explore the stores. Dollar stores are a great place to let them create, since most things will be cheaper and they can get more for their money. For a little competitive fun, you could host a costume contest afterwards and award the winner a prize.

5. Wait.
If you’re serious about Halloween saving, consider waiting until the last minute to purchase a costume for your child. Most stores mark their Halloween inventory way down a few days before the holiday to make way for Christmas merchandise. Though this method may not work if you need the costume in advance, it can mean big savings for those with flexibility. Also check the stores right after the holiday for savings of 50% or more for next year’s event.

6. Swap with Friends.
Every year, children request to dress up as their favorite cartoon character or animal for this one-day celebration. Since most kids don’t want to re-wear the same look the following year, parents are stuck with unusable costumes. Instead of letting those popular looks collect dust, set up a swap with family and friends to trade gently used costumes and accessories at no cost. Serve light snacks and request that each attendant bring at least one item to exchange.

Baby Items You Don’t Need

There’s no question about it: Babies are expensive. From nursery furniture to car seats to clothing, the cost of raising an infant can really add up. And let’s not forget the monthly expense of diapers, wipes, and food. While there’s no getting around certain baby-related expenses, you can cut corners and save money by being smart about the things you buy. In fact, there are plenty of popular baby items out there that you can easily do without. If you’re on a budget, here a few you’ll probably want to skip:

Wipe Warmer

It’s natural to want your baby to be as comfortable as possible, but here’s the thing: Wipes were designed to keep babies nice and clean, and they do their job just fine at whatever natural temperature they come in. Unless you’re storing your wipes in the refrigerator (and why would you?), there’s no need to warm them up before applying them to your baby’s bottom. Save your $30, or, if anything, spend it on a nice warm blanket.

Baby Bullet

There’s no need to spend $60 or more on a food processor with cute packaging. Want to know what does a fine job at pureeing baby food? A regular food processor. If you have one already, there’s no need to spend money on the baby version.

Plush Stuffed Animals

Sure, stuffed animals are nice and soft, and they’re perhaps fun to look at, but there’s no need to buy your infant an expensive one. In fact, many stuffed animals are actually unsafe for babies, as they come with removable eyes and other hazardous components for infants. Instead of stuffed animals, invest in some learning and development toys for your little one.

Shopping Cart Covers

Germs are a part of life, and while it’s natural to want to keep your baby in a virtual bubble, one day you’ll realize that you can only do so much to prevent your child from catching whatever’s going around. Until then, do yourself a favor and save your $30 or $40 by taking that shopping cart cover off your list. Not only does it only serve a limited purpose (your child can still reach out and touch other parts of the cart), but it’s also going to add to your already out-of-control laundry pile.

Crib Bumpers

Crib bumpers are cute and all, but these days, doctors actually advise against using them. The logic is that young babies can roll over and get caught in them, thus creating a hazardous sleeping environment. There’s no sense in spending extra money on something that’s not even safe for your baby.

Sheet Savers

Sheet savers are only effective if your infant stays absolutely still during the night. Once your baby starts squirming around in his or her crib, those sheet savers are rendered completely useless. You’re better off spending money on an extra set of sheets.

Remember, the people who market these baby products are very good at what they do. Give them a chance, and they’ll have you convinced that you absolutely need these products to give your baby the best start at life. In reality, there are plenty of so-called baby essentials you can skip, and your infant isn’t going to suffer one bit in the process. Stick to the basics, and use whatever leftover money you have to make your life easier. Or put it toward your baby’s college fund. Just don’t waste it on useless gear you’ll only regret buying.

How to Spend Less on Diapering

Whether you have a single baby in diapers or multiple children in diapers at the same time, the cost of keeping little ones clean and dry can really add up. A single diaper can cost anywhere from $0.20 to over $0.50 depending on the type you buy, and since most babies go through 5 to 8 diapers a day, that’s a lot of money all in. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to reduce the amount you spend each month on diapering supplies.

Get a Diaper and Wipes Subscription

Common baby supplies like diapers, wipes, and ointment are available via monthly online subscription programs. Retailers like Amazon and Diapers.com offer these programs which make diapering supplies not only more affordable, but more convenient. Rather than have to run to the store all the time, you can sign up to have the supplies you expect to need each month delivered to your home automatically. Best of all, you’ll pay considerably less than what you would at most physical stores.

Use the Same Brand and Collect Points

Many diaper companies offer rewards programs to encourage brand loyalty among their customers. Once you find a diaper brand that seems to work for your baby, sign up for its rewards program online. Then, collect the codes that come on your packaging and enter them into your account, and before you know it, you’ll probably have enough to snag some free supplies.

Search for Coupons

There are tons of coupons out there for diapers, wipes, and other such supplies—you just need to be willing to look for them. A simple online search will probably reveal a number of them, but you can also look for coupons in baby magazines, newspapers, and local circulars.

Look for Warehouse Club Deals

Warehouse clubs tend to offer discounted pricing in exchange for buying in bulk, and diapers are no exception. While warehouse clubs don’t always carry a full range of diapering supplies and sizes, it pays to check if your local club has the diapers you need in stock. You may be able to buy them at an even more discounted price than a subscription program offers. As an added bonus, some warehouse clubs offer monthly specials or coupons that allow you to score a discount on top of their already reduced prices. If you’re not already a member of a warehouse club, it may not pay for you to join one just to save on diapers; but if you’re paying that yearly membership fee anyway, you might as well take advantage.

Don’t Always Use a Wipe

It’s natural to want your baby to be clean and comfortable, and if your little one pops a stinker, there’s no question about it: You’ll need to use as many wipes as it takes to get your baby nice and clean. But in the absence of a poop situation, there’s really no need to use a wipe every single time you do a diaper change—especially if your baby’s diaper is only slightly wet. Being a little stingy with wipes can save you a nice chunk of change over the course of a year.

While the cost of diapers may be taking a toll on your finances now, there’s good news: Your child will be potty-trained eventually, and when that happens, you can kiss those diapers goodbye. Until then, be patient and hang in there.

Creative Ways for a SAHM to Make Money

When I became a SAHM, it wasn’t long before I felt the need to contribute in more ways than just changing diapers, washing clothes, and being on-call for 24 hours a day.  (You know, like new moms need more to do!) I realized that in order for me to stay at home, it was important for me to also contribute financially—and that meant even if I couldn’t work in a traditional job.  Pinching pennies in order to stay at home with the kids is nothing new for families scrambling to make it on one income, but there are some ways you can actually bring in some money- or at least recoup money you’ve spent.

Sell All the Things

My husband is a giver.  He wants to give things away to people.  It’s a really nice trait, but I’m not a giver.  I’m a seller.  When our son grows out of clothes, I sell them.  Toys?  For sale. That stroller he outgrew?  Sold.   Any and everything that can be sold will be.  It takes planning and organization to sell items on Facebook sites, Craigslist, or eBay and you’ll need to be prepared.  Or you can look in your area to find a resale shop that takes gently used kid’s items.  You’ll make more money if you sell things on your own, but if you try and no one’s biting, take them to a resale shop for a quick cash pay day in your pocket.

Become a Freelance Writer

The Internet is huge.  Websites are begging for new content all the time so they can stay relevant and competitive.  In order to do so, they need to post original posts several times a week, if not every day—sometimes multiple times a day.

And while they just might seem like words on a screen on a website, those words–that content–was written by a person, most likely a freelance writer.

Freelance writing is a fantastic way to earn extra money as a SAHM.  The vast majority of positions allow you to take on as much or as little as you’d like, while working from home.  There are lots of websites out there that can link you up with companies interested in writers, such as elance.com, creativecircle.com, and problogger.com.

Don’t forget to put aside some money for taxes—most freelance jobs are 1099—meaning they don’t take out taxes for you and the position is considered a contractor.

Offer Services If You Have a Talent

Just because you aren’t working in your career field anymore doesn’t mean your experience and knowledge aren’t valuable.  If you worked in education, you could tutor students in subjects like math, English, social studies, or foreign languages.  Other ideas include:

  • Doing hair/nails/massage out of your home (for former hairstylists/cosmetologists)
  • Data Entry (Some companies offer data entry jobs that can be done from home)
  • Lesson planning
  • Making crafts—Are you talented at making something? Could you open your own Etsy shop and make it worth it?
  • Childcare—Take on a few more kids—it doesn’t have to be all day—but what about moms who want to just get away for a few hours?

Being a SAHM in itself is a full-time job, whether you have one little one at home with you, or several.  If you find yourself in a position where you’re able and willing to take more on, there are opportunities out there for you that are fun, flexible, and make sense financially.  You might have to put in a little more legwork to find ways to make extra money from home, but it is possible!

5 Things You Really Need When Having Your First Baby

Seeing the results of a pregnancy test can leave you feeling shocked, overwhelmed, excited, and anxious. But those feelings pale in comparison to how you’ll feel after taking your first trip down to your nearest “baby” store.

After losing yourself (and possibly your mind) for hours and hours in aisles filled from top to bottom with all things baby related, it’s likely you might leave the store questioning if you’re fit to be a parent. After all, don’t good parents buy things like wipe warmers and ergonomically designed pacifiers for their babies? And if you don’t or can’t, what does that make you?

A complete and utter parental failure. The baby hasn’t even arrived yet and you’re already letting it down. Way to go mom and dad.

The truth is most of the thousands upon thousands of items in those baby stores are not necessary for raising a thriving, healthy baby. Sure, there are lots of products that will help you in your quest to become the parent you’ve always wanted to be, but in general, there are just a handful of “must-haves” when it comes to taking your first baby home.

#1-A Good Crib Mattress

You don’t need the latest, greatest, state-of-the-art crib, but the crib mattress?  Well, that’s another thing altogether. Pinching pennies on a crib mattress may very well result in a saggy, unsupportive mattress in just a few months’ time and you’ll find yourself once again spending cash on another mattress. Save yourself the second trip and just get a better quality mattress to start with. You’ll sleep better and hopefully, so will your baby.

#2- A Video Monitor

The first few months of parenthood?  You might find yourself going a little insane.  You’re tired and constantly worried about this tiny little person you’ve just brought in to the world.  You might be so anxious about SIDS that you actually find yourself sleeping on the floor next to your baby’s crib as if you’d be able to fend it off.  Some parents get a monitor that lets them hear their baby’s cries and later, baby’s babbles.  I’d suggest taking it a step further and getting a video monitor so you can actually see what’s going on.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard a few sounds, ran into my son’s room to see what was wrong, only to find out he was  making sounds in his sleep and my running into his room in panic mode only resulted in waking him.  A video monitor lets you see and hear your sleeping angel—giving you much needed reassurance.

#3-A Sling

It’s no secret that babies like to be held.  Some of them will make you hold them forever.  And if you’re lucky enough to get one of those babies, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to have dinner/a clean house/a chance to do laundry for a few months.  Get a swaddle, wrap, or sling, bundle your little guy or gal up in it and enjoy hands’-free parenting at its finest.

#4- A Quality Stroller

Your baby will spend quite a bit of time in his or her stroller in the first year or two of life, but make sure it’s one you really like too. There are so many options out there, it really just depends on your lifestyle and what you plan on using the stroller for.  My go-to was the City Mini.  Everything about this bad boy was easy—and it made traveling a snap with its quick release fold handle.  My favorite trick was when we’d be in the security line at the airport.  No one likes to get behind a family with a kid and stroller, right?  Well, they’d be shocked when I’d just yank the handle up on the stroller and the whole thing just collapsed like a house of cards.  Mic drop.

#5-Earplugs

For you, not for baby.  Sure, it’s kind of a joke, but also kind of not.  Shrill baby cries got you down?  Earplugs.  Is it your shift to sleep, but every whimper or sniffle wakes you up?  Earplugs.  Has your spouse’s voice inexplicably become extra annoying (this will return to normal in a  few months.  Maybe.) Earplugs.  Take the edge off and be that super-parent you’ve always dreamed of becoming.

Don’t buy into the hype.  Babies are simple little creatures that don’t need much—it’s us parents that over-complicate the situation by thinking we need it all in order to be a gold star parent.

How to Save Money Dining Out With Kids

 

 

 

No matter where you go or what you order, eating at a restaurant is almost always going to be more expensive than preparing a meal at home. Whether you dine out with your children once a week, once a month, or just several times a year, there are a bunch of steps you can take to keep your costs to a minimum.

Look Out for Specials

It’s common for family restaurants to offer promotions ranging from discounted appetizers to a free child meal for each adult meal purchased. One of the easiest ways to save money on dining out is to take advantage of these specials, even if it means going out a little earlier or on a weeknight instead of a weekend. Similarly, check your local mailers for coupons issued by the
restaurants you tend to frequent.

Share Entrees

Children don’t tend to eat as much as adults, so if your kids are small and not particularly big eaters, consider either having them share entrees or having you and your spouse share your entrées with them. If you’re worried that it won’t be enough food, try ordering one extra side dish as a supplement.

Skip the Kids’ Meals

Kids’ meals aren’t always all that economical. Sometimes a kids’ meal will cost only a few dollars less than an adult-sized meal, but will also consist of a lot less food. If you dine at restaurants where the adult-sized portions tend to be generous, try having your children share a single full-sized entrée.

Drink Water

Going out to dinner is a nice treat by itself; you don’t have to load up on overpriced, unhealthy beverages to enhance the experience. Though some restaurants do offer free soft drink refills, the cost of buying a round of sodas can really add up. Instead, stick to water, and save the sugar for dessert.

Don’t Pay for the Things Your Kids Won’t Eat

Children—especially younger ones—tend to be picky eaters. If your child orders a meal that comes with a side or accompaniment that you know your child won’t eat, ask your waiter to have that item omitted, and politely request a modest discount on the meal price as a result. This is often more economical than asking for a replacement side, as restaurants tend to charge extra for substitutions.

Say Yes to Leftovers

Restaurant portions tend to be large, so if you wind up with untouched food on your children’s plates, ask to have it packed up to go, even if it is a small amount. You can probably serve it as lunch or as part of your kids’ dinner the next day, which means you’ll avoid wasting the leftovers while trimming your food costs.
Dining out with children doesn’t have to cost a fortune if you employ smart strategies and pick restaurants that are reasonably priced. Besides, it’s nice to occasionally treat yourself and your family to a different dining experience, and there’s certainly something to be said for not having to do all the cooking and cleaning up yourself.