Thursday, June 30, 2011

Making Changes: Easier Said...

Since M was born, I haven't blogged much. My blogging break was partly due to having little time to blog, and partly due to not wanting to blog. On my days off, I sing silly songs, make animal noises, jam to inappropriate music while on stroller walks (Lil Wayne and I will have to take a break when M learns to talk), swing at the park, make Monkey Madison food, and collapse into a nap time heap with my daughter. I like those days best.

Adding a baby to our household has meant that we have to change our habits. We play more. We work less. We plan our time around our baby. We spend our money in different ways. Becoming a frugal family while I was on maternity leave seemed easy, but we weren't growing out of our clothes, using large quantities of diapers, and needing new gadgets. We could simply do without. While I don't feel that we have gone overboard with baby things, I do feel that we could have done without certain baby items.

1. We would not have bought a co-sleeper. While it was nice to be able to scoop our every-three-hour-eater right into my arms, we found that we woke each other up, had a harder time transitioning into a crib, and packed the sleeper away after only 3 months of occasional use. That does not scream frugal.

2. We would have returned some gifted clothing. This sounds harsh, but even a newborn baby does not need 30 newborn, short sleeved onesies--in November. Even if she had worn a new one each day, she would have grown out of them before getting through each one! As new parents, we were so grateful that our friends, neighbors, and family were so generous. Now, we know that the money in our savings account doesn't grow as fast as our baby.

3. We would not have bought such an array of baby seats, swings, and bouncers. While our daughters Brown Cow Fisher Price Bouncer has served her very, very well, her matching swing has barely been used. Her tented baby seat has also barely held a baby. We went gadget-crazy. Not frugal.

Did you purchase baby gadgets that seemed like a great idea at the time, but turned out to be an unnecessary expense? What did you do with those items?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Maternity Leave Stock-Up Plan

In August I began to plan to stock-up and financially prepare for maternity leave. I am due in November, giving me 4 months, maybe only 3, to prepare for being a one-income family and having the added expense of a newborn.

I decided that during the months of August and September, I would stock up on pantry items, meat for the freezer, toiletries, baby items (wipes, newborn diapers, bath products), and paper goods. I invested in a few large storage bins, cleaned out a few cupboards, and reorganized the rest to accommodate all the extra stuff.

For the first time in my life, I actually sat down with my grocery circulars, coupons from Sunday's paper, and a note pad to plan out my shopping trips, meals, and what would be set aside for stock-up storage. I also began to print online coupons, something I had never felt was beneficial before.

During the months of August and September, I didn't contribute to our savings. I spent the money we would normally save on stocking up and on paying our car insurance for the entire year. As we near the middle of September, I have a deep freezer that is nearly full of frozen veggies, meat, and bread, enough pantry items to carry our demand for coffee, cereal, spaghetti, rice, home made soups, and casserole dishes for my entire leave. I have enough toilet paper to last 3 months, enough laundry detergent to get us through, and enough shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and other necessary bathroom products to last for my entire time off. OR SO I HOPE!

My plan for October and November are to resume normal spending and begin to contribute money to savings again. Of course, if I find good deals on items that will easily keep, I will certainly purchase those items.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Making Changes

My husband and I are like many other families we know. We have a car payment, we have some credit card debt, we are paying back student loans, we are brand name shoppers, and have never given much thought to how we spend our money. We eat out now and then, stop for fast food when we travel, drive an SUV and a large truck, and buy new when what we have is no longer meeting our needs. We are lucky enough to be able to do that.

We do have some frugal habits. We bought a fixer-upper home 4 years ago. We remodeled the home little by little as we saved enough money for each project. Because we bought what we could afford and saved to make it our own, we do not have a mortgage. We cook our meals and do not eat out every night. We also buy ingredients to prepare meals and snacks, rather than purchasing high priced prepared meals and snacks. We make our breakfast and coffee at home, choosing not to stop at Dunkin Donuts each morning. We take leftovers for our lunches at work and our hobbies involve activities that are free and destressing, such as hiking, kayaking, and gardening. We feel very comfortable with our current earning and spending situation. We live the lifestyle we want and rarely go without. 

A year ago, my husband was stationed in North Carolina as his Marine Corps unit readied for Iraq. With only one mouth to feed (mine), a stipend for utilities, and a pay increase for being in a combat zone, we were able to save a lot of money. As our savings account grew, we began to discuss how we would spend that money. One of my husband's hobbies is farming. Our 190 acre family farm is a growing business. Most of our savings was used to purchase larger and newer equipment. It was important to us to leave a large chunk of our savings untouched. Saving became a habit while my husband was deployed and we both became very proud of the amount of money we were able to put into savings each week.

Two months after my husband returned home, we discovered that we were pregnant. We joked about "getting it right" the first time. We couldn't be more thrilled to begin our journey as parents. Six months into my pregnancy, I began to discuss my maternity leave with my human resources person. Since I am very new to my job, I only am able to contribute 15 sick days to my leave. 45 of my leave days will be unpaid.

Yikes!

We began to contemplate becoming a one income family for the duration of my leave. As I began to read articles and blogs about financially preparing for maternity leave, I discovered that I'm not the first new mom to experience anxiety about an unpaid leave. I also discovered that I could learn many tips and tricks from those who have successfully made it through!

I had four months to prepare. I'm a list maker. I'm a planner. I have faith and support from my husband. I can do this.

I decided that I needed to cut out our largest expenses--groceries, paper goods, cleaning products, and bathroom products. The stocking up began immediately. My goal is to spend now, not while I am on maternity leave. Follow me on the journey to becoming a frugal family!