Category Archives: Frugality

How I Cut My Phone Bill in Half

I remember the day that I realized I was straight up angry at my phone provider for my exorbitant bills. While Verizon Wireless may be the largest mobile network in the nation, I was also paying an arm and a leg to make my calls with them.

How I Cut My Phone Bill in Half!I always loved my basic phones (I kind of prided myself on being backwards), but Verizon was phasing out the number of available “dumb” phones, and the ones that were left were of sub-par quality- to say the least. So not only was I paying a lot, I was paying a lot for a phone that was a piece of junk without any real features to speak of.

How much was I paying? My husband and I were part of a family plan (along with a couple other members), and we were paying about $100/month for two phones with texting plans. That was IT. No data, no fancy bells and whistles. All those little extra fees and taxes really added up.


I checked out AT&T (not much cheaper), T-Mobile (no coverage), and Sprint (limited coverage). I checked out a couple of small alternative companies like Republic Wireless, but none of them covered my area either. We’re not entirely in the boonies, but even the all-powerful Verizon couldn’t completely cover our patchy spots out in the rural hills near our home. I was trapped paying a ridiculous bill to the only company that gave me any real cell coverage to speak of.

That why I was all ears when a friend told me about Ting– a new mobile provider that she had recently switched to and fallen in love with. I did a lot of research, bravely made the switch (even opting to pay a fee to cancel my contract with Verizon), and haven’t looked back since.

The result? I’ve gone from paying $100/month for two basic phones to paying $54/month on average for two smart phones. And I’m not shy about my usage. What’s more, Ting is currently offering $25 off to new users to try their service, which means that you can roll that money right into your potential savings.

(BTW, this post includes referral links, like that one above. But I would recommend Ting even if they didn’t have a stellar referral program, because they’re just that great.)

It’s not just the cost that’s convincing- it’s also the company’s ideals. I pulled this quote from Ting’s website to share:

“What people are forced to put up with from mobile service providers just doesn’t make sense. It’s too complicated, too opaque, too adversarial, too expensive and frankly too inhuman. We’re changing that.” – Elliot Noss, CEO

June 2015 011So what’s the big deal about Ting?

1) The payment system is different- and fair. Instead of paying for a contracted amount of minutes/message/data, you pay only for what you use each month. (How novel!) You pay $6/month per phone line, then simply pay for whatever minute/data/message usage you happen to make. Usage costs are bracketed off into different sized “buckets.” E.g., the small minutes bucket (1-100 minutes) is $3, the medium (101-500) is $9, the large (501-100) is $18, etc. The rates for all types of usage are very reasonable- and it’s sure nice not to have to pay for unlimited everything when you just don’t use unlimited everything.

2) What about overages? Unlike other companies, Ting’s overage prices don’t skyrocket. Even if I go above the extra large bucket in data usage (2000 MB, $29), the extra usage is only 1.5 cents per megabyte. That works out to be $7/500 extra MG. Not too shabby.

Still want to stay within a certain budget? The nice part about Ting is that you can choose a usage limit in advance. Say I don’t want to go over 1000 texts/month. I can request a warning when I’m approaching that limit. And if I so choose, I can even ask them to turn off my texting abilities once I’ve reached it.

And you know something else exciting? There have been a few times I’ve gone just a little over my certain bucket usage. And Ting- get this- are you ready?- rounds your usage DOWN instead of up. What other company have you found who doesn’t jump at the chance to charge you a little extra?

3) Can I use WIFI for my usage needs? Yes! If you’re running off of WIFI for calls, texting, or data, it’s all free. In fact, that’s a big reason why I switched to a smart phone on Ting. I could use the Google voice app for free calls and texting, or Facetime with my friends who also have iPhones. I just access the wireless network in our house or at a store, and it doesn’t cost a cent.

4) How does coverage work? Ting now has both GSM and CMDA coverage- meaning that they now have more coverage options than they used to have! You can check your device’s network compatibility on Ting’s website (under “coverage”) and choose which option works best in your area. With my phone, I run off of Sprint’s CMDA network with free roaming to all other network coverage for calls and texting. Works for me. (FYI, free data roaming is not currently available.)

How is my coverage personally? I have a few patchy spots, but it is mostly very good. You must remember though, I had patchy spots with Verizon too. (The number one network for speed, reliability, and coverage. Yup.) That’s just what happens out where I live, and so far no network has it perfect. My friend’s husband, however, tested Ting while driving across the desert in Nevada, and had no problems.

5) What are my device options? Ting does not offer subsidized phones. That’s one downside to offering awesome rates in other areas. But, many devices are already compatible with Ting! You can check your device’s compatibility here if you want to bring your own.

Ting also has a shop of new, used, and refurbished devices that can be purchased quite reasonably. Make sure you keep reading to find out how to get $100 off the cost of your device (or of your service if you bring your own device) to try Ting.

6) How is Ting’s customer service? Excellent. In fact, when you call Ting, you will find no automated menu options or long waiting times. The phone rings once or twice, and a real person picks up right away to answer your questions. Don’t feel like calling? If you email, you will likely receive a helpful response within an hour or two. It makes everything so much easier- and more pleasant- when you don’t have to try to chase down the right person after talking to 50 robots first.

7) Are they trustworthy? YES! This is what I love about Ting- they are transparent. They’re a relatively new company, so they are always working on improving their services- and they keep their customers informed on the positive changes they are working on. If for any reason you don’t like their service, there are no contracts to wiggle out of. There are no hidden fees. There is no twisting your arm to buy more than you want.

Is Ting right for you? It depends on your area and your usage habits. If you really LIVE on your phone, maybe you want to pay through the nose for a plan that has unlimited everything. But if you’re like me and you want more autonomy in where your monthly phone money goes- and you don’t want to have to pay for what you’re not using- then you should give Ting a try.

If you want $25 off the cost of a device with Ting (or $25 off your first bills if you bring your own device), click here and sign up!

I love this phone company and what they stand for. I love that they save me money. I love that they are trying to “fix” the mobile industry with honesty, fair prices, and personal service. If I’m going to be paying anyone, I want it to be someone like this.

This post contains referral links. That means when you sign up and get money off your bill with Ting, I get money off my bill too. Thank you in advance for supporting my efforts with this blog!

Post linked up at Frugal Family Linky.

When Spending Less Became Less Glamorous

There’s this ugly gloating monster inside of me that loves to tell people how comfortably we can live on a low income. Yup, we’re near the poverty line. Yup, we’re homeowners. Yessiree, we eat organic food and don’t break the bank doing it, because- get this- we grow it ourselves! Sure, I can my produce- it’s how we survive. Mmmhmm, we paid for our kids’ births ourselves and cloth diapered and breastfed and we all wear hand-me-downs and we’re doing just fine, thank you very much.

It’s funny how frugality can become an idol. The lowest spender deserves a prize, right? It’s like a contest- who can get by on the least money without any help? Don’t get me wrong- I am all for frugal, prudent living. But it can quickly become a source of pride if you’re not careful.

When Spending Less Became Less GlamorousGod must have decided I needed a piece of humble pie a couple of years ago. It was the spring I was pregnant with my daughter, when Tim had only one year of grad school left. When we sat down to rework our budget and the painful reality set in:


We couldn’t make it on the money we were bringing in.

I checked and double checked it. We kept coming up a thousand or two short. I didn’t know what else we could cut. We already didn’t have TV service, we are smart shoppers, my clothing budget is practically zero, we grow a lot of our food, and we needed internet service so Tim could finish his degree.

He almost quit grad school, because he felt like maybe the money wasn’t worth having the degree. But he was SO close, and we had already invested thousands in this thing, and you only have so much time to complete your credits before the ones you already have become null and void.

We never do this- purposefully go ahead with something we feel we can’t afford- but we decided he needed to just finish the degree.

There went the dreams I had of not having to drive a half hour to teach every week. The hope of taking our kids for ice cream on the spur of the moment. The desire to let J have private piano lessons or go to camp in the summer or attend art class all the time with the middle class families.

Suddenly, I found myself compulsively hanging laundry on the line so that I wouldn’t spend the money on running the dryer. I would ask Tim to fire up the mud oven so I wouldn’t be paying to run our electric oven. I literally thanked God for the vegetables from the garden as I picked them. This was the summer I learned to bake sourdough. It was when I really took interest in foraging & my husband’s desire to fish (with a $1 lure and a broken pole). I needed all the free food I could get.

That summer, I wore my newborn baby as I canned the produce that came in from the garden. I had my mom and friends come over to help watch the kids so I could continue storing all the food that would get us through. Anything we needed for the garden or home was purchased second hand, traded for labor, or gifted to us. Any meals offered after my daughter’s birth or invitations to dinner were gratefully accepted.

That was the year we didn’t eat out much at all. It was the year I started writing drafts for this blog, in hopes that I could turn a long-time hobby into a business that would allow me to work from home while being with my kids. It was the year I was painfully conscious of our bank account.

I don’t know how it happened- maybe I picked up a couple extra students, maybe I saved enough on grocery bills, maybe we had enough people who helped us at the right time- but somehow, we never came short. We never had to worry. Everything always worked out- and we were still able to pay our midwife, still able to live with heat in the house, still had plenty of food on the table.

It’s funny- once we really needed to be frugal, it stopped being a game to see who could spend the least. I started getting quieter about my pride, because the whole thing was- frankly- a little embarrassing. Frugality wasn’t a choice then- it was a necessity, and it’s not exactly cool to keep turning down your friends on fun activities because you don’t have the money to join them.

But it also taught me to be more grateful. More hard-working. Less judgmental. A little bit quieter about my mad frugal skills. (Though now that we’re doing alright, it’s still easy to forget that sometimes. Me and my big mouth.) And more thankful for my sweet family.

familtphoto6I know that God provided what we needed to get us through, and I hope I don’t ever forget that.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers  of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.” –Matthew 6:25-34, Net Bible.

$25 Grocery Challenge: Lessons Learned

Last week completed four weeks of spending only $25/week on groceries. I am so happy that we saved as much money as we did, but I am also relieved that the challenge is over! I’m going to review how I did on my goals, and then share a bit of what I learned during the past month.

25 Grocery Challenge

Goals:

  1. To cut my grocery budget dramatically. I definitely did this. We stuck to $25 week, with the exception of grabbing cheap food out twice during the month. (I confess. One of those times was Wendy’s. That’s between you and me, okay?) I normally spend about $75/week, give or take, so I cut my bill by 66% and saved $200 this March.
  2. To use up the food that I already have in the house. Mission accomplished. We cleared out a ton of freezer vegetables and fruit, ate all the applesauce, and relied on our homemade jams to sweeten oatmeal and yogurt. I am surprised, however, by how much we still have left from our garden preservation!
  3. To make smarter, healthier purchases. I’d call this one half-accomplished. I couldn’t spend the money to buy super-fancy organics and the like. However, I shopped sales first and foremost (smarter purchases), and didn’t buy any snacks for the the month, so we were pretty much stuck with eating whole-food meals from ingredients we mostly already had (healthier purchases).
  4. To make and grow more at home than I get in the grocery store.  Check. I made yogurt and sourdough each week. I bought sprouting seeds and grew them to cut back on the price of greens. My husband started some of our garden seeds, which will help us to continue our money-saving/healthy-eating cycle for next year.

Now, on to some lessons learned.

The Bad and the Ugly. (Let’s get it out the way, shall we?)

  • I was listlessly pacing my kitchen one night, opening one cupboard door after another, and finally complained, “WHY don’t we have ANY snacks?!?” My husband kindly reminded me it was because it was my idea to do a $25 grocery challenge for the month of March. Right. Apparently I like snacking, and apparently I don’t have much experience in practicing self-control.
  • I’m pregnant. I want pickles. And brownies. And greens and crunchy salads. (Not all at the same time.) I have to admit, I had some frustration in saying no to every craving.
  • My kids threw no less than 2-3 fits on each trip through the grocery store about something they couldn’t have because it didn’t fit in the budget. I never realized how much I gave in to grocery-aisle-child-bargaining. Whoops.

The Good.

  • It really wasn’t that hard to have enough food for our family on $25/week. (Remember that the dollar amount could be different for your personal challenge.) This is largely due to my husband’s diligence in the garden, for which I am unspeakably grateful. It made me realize I could probably spend much less on a regular basis if I practiced a bit more restraint.
  • Shopping from our pantry first inspired me to continue doing this throughout the rest of the spring and summer, until this year’s garden begins to bear. Why not plan my meals around what I already have?
  • This month’s budget encouraged us to embrace moderation- both in eating and spending.
  • We all got a little better at not simply giving into every craving.
  • My kids heard a lot of “no’s” this month. While this was hard for them (and me), I think it supported the idea that they will not die if they don’t have the pretzels or the bagels or the cheese or the juice that they really want. That canned applesauce is really good, even if we couldn’t splurge on grapes. And that maybe they won’t miss the things they can’t have quite as much as they thought they would?
  • We realized how blessed we really are. Here we are, eating three square meals a day on what most people would consider a shoe-string budget. How many children around the world are literally dying to have a grocery budget of $25/week? And how hard is it really for us to cut back significantly on the things we like so much to save? We have SO much in front of us, and most of the time we are blind to the riches we already have.

It wasn’t a perfect month, and I won’t say that I completely enjoyed the challenge. But we learned a lot, we saved a lot, and we grew through the experience. I may make this an annual challenge for myself, or perhaps try to gradually work down my grocery bill on a regular basis.

Have you ever significantly cut back on your grocery bill? What did you learn during that time? Would you do it again?

 

$25 Grocery Challenge: Week Three Plan

It’s week three, and we are officially over the hump in our $25 grocery challenge!! Also, completely unrelated, in honor of this week’s holiday, I’m sharing a couple photos from a St. Patrick’s Day my husband and I were lucky enough to spend in Galway, Ireland seven years ago:

Here’s the line up for the Galway St. Patty’s Day parade- not nearly so busy as my hometown’s parade. (I love the building style.)galway3And here’s beautiful Galway Bay:

galway4Ahem, now that we’ve had that little detour… onto the challenge updates!


As with the first week, I had a couple of menu tweaks during week two. However, I managed to stick to my grocery budget (and avoided impulsive runs to the store). Here’s my grocery bill for week three:

  • Three packs of Thomas English Muffins, $4.39. I know, I know, it’s pre-made bread, probably with additives. But it was buy 1, get 2 free, it will make my life a little easier this week, and store-bought bread is a rare purchase for our household. Go ahead and judge if you will, but I feel okay about it. 😉
  • 4.35lbs bananas, $2.52
  • 4 lbs oranges, $2.99
  • 2 lbs gala apples, $2.99
  • 11 oz baby greens, $2.99
  • 5 lbs potatoes, $1.98
  • 2 lbs grapes, $2.99
  • 2 lbs onions, $0.98
  • 1 gallon milk, $3.63

Week Three Total: $25.46. Slightly over budget, but I’ll call it close enough.

I wasn’t able to get any organics today, because the cost is still prohibitive at this particular store. Alas! I take comfort in the fact that our canned and frozen garden food is all organic, and that has been the bulk of our menu-base this month.

Week three menu:

  • Monday: Turkey pot pie or casserole, depending on how much time I have (using my home-canned turkey soup as a base)
  • Tuesday: Shepherd’s Pie- St. Patty’s Day, of course! 🙂
  • Wednesday: Creamy Pumpkin Soup
  • Thursday: Cheddar Cheese Spaghetti
  • Friday: Fresh bread (maybe this overnight cheese bread?) plus fruit + veggies + a whole-foods dip. We will be out teaching this Friday night, and some days I just want a nibble dinner anyhow.
  • Saturday: Greek-style squash dinner with my leftover pumpkin from Wednesday. Inspired by this Greek-stuffed acorn squash recipe.
  • Sunday: Breakfast for dinner

Now, lest anyone is getting an unrealistic picture of me, I want to remind you that the point of this challenge was strictly to cut our grocery bill. We still spent money on other items over the past couple of weeks, like some improved maple sugaring supplies and a pack of disposable diapers for outings & nighttime. We grabbed some discounted hoagies at the store today between church and my  singing rehearsal because I forgot to pack lunch. (Should that be added to my grocery bill?) I want to keep it realistic!

Regardless, this challenge is still saving us about $50 a week- which will add up to $200 over the month! Only one more week to go after this one!

Anyone still with me? Have an idea for menu planning or frugal shopping tips? We’d love to learn from you!

25 Grocery Challenge

 

$25 Grocery Challenge: Week Two Plan

This month I am issuing a $25 grocery challenge to myself. If you’d like to know more or care to join me, you can read about the original challenge here.

It’s week two! So far, so good- we are on track and feeling more like this is a feasible goal. Let me give you a few updates from my week one plan:

  • I did buy sprouting seeds from a local health food store. They cost me $7.95 for half a pound (on par with what Amazon offered), but I figured I could try a particular mix without buying a whole pound first. This brought my grand total for week one up to $13.23. Under budget!
  • I felt like I was (figuratively) dying for fresh spinach and apples this past week. I made do with adding frozen greens to everything and eating canned applesauce. On the upside, I forgot how much I love good applesauce and I am now looking forward to eating the last jars of it from the pantry.
  • I changed my meal plan a bit. My bean and cheese burritos turned into black-bean and veggie burritos. Close enough. I ate tuna for lunch instead of dinner and replaced dinner with soup. And I (apparently) was out of chicken, so a beef-veggie skillet thinger replaced the roasted chicken and veggies. And I maybe added oatmeal to the breakfast plan. I imagine this won’t be the first time I change my plans this month. Hope you don’t mind too much.

That being said, here’s the plan for week two:


The grocery bill:

  • One gallon of milk (half for yogurt, half for drinking)- $3.55
  • Oatmeal- $2.48
  • Organic spinach, 10 oz- $4.98
  • 1 lb unbleached flour- $2.98
  • Bananas, 2.5 lbs- $1.38
  • Organic apples, 2 lbs- $3.97
  • Frozen corn, 12 oz- $0.88
  • Natural peanut butter, 26 oz- $4.27

Total: $24.49!

I just squeaked in under budget this week. I originally had a larger bag of corn in my hand, but then the apples were calling to me from their bin. I turned to my husband and asked him searchingly, “Apples or corn? Which is more important?”

“It’s up to you,” he replied. “Twenty-five dollars.”

After much hemming and hawing, I realized if I bought a small bag of corn, I could get the corn AND the apples and still come in under budget. Phew! Here’s what we’re planning on eating this week:

Meal plan:

  • MondayEasy Pea Soup from Cheap Healthy Good. I’m not really into pea soup but I love this recipe. Simple pea soup with a balsamic vinegar twist!
  • Tuesday– Pork, veggies (probably broccoli?), rice. (Do you like how specific that is?)
  • Wednesday– Eggplant Parmesan, using frozen & prepped eggplant from last summer’s garden, home-canned tomato sauce, and cheese that I happen to have already.
  • Thursday- Mexican casserole, inspired by this Mexican stuffed peppers recipe.
  • Friday- Pasta with home-canned tomatoes or tomato sauce. I’ve got a lot of that leftover!
  • Saturday- Leftover night.
  • SundayComforting Carrot Onion Soup from Syncopated Mama.

Breakfast: Oatmeal. Sourdough & eggs. Yogurt. Etc.

Lunch- Leftovers! The heroes of the real food kitchen, as Trina Holden says.

Snacks: Fruit & peanut butter, applesauce, smoothies, cheese, and whatever else I happen to have ready to be eaten.

Prep: I made sourdough and yogurt again this weekend. That’s pretty typical for us! I wasn’t able to make any new chicken stock last week (since I didn’t actually have chicken in the freezer), but thankfully I have a jar or two left in the pantry that I can use for this week’s soups.

If you’re joining in, drop me a line here or on my Facebook page, so we can encourage each other! I’d love to know how you’re doing.

25 Grocery Challenge

 

 

$25 Grocery Challenge

Alright, friends. I  mentioned in a previous post that I kind of fell off the boat this winter with healthy eating (and maybe smart shopping too?). Now that I am feeling (mostly) better with this pregnancy, I need to kick it into high gear and reform my grocery habits.

Also, besides my eating habits, I need to make sure that I’m not spending money needlessly at the grocery store. So, I think a budget challenge to myself is in order. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers do a “no spend” month challenge- I think this is a great idea! But this is a busy season in life for us, and I feel that planning an entire month of no-spending in all areas would be a bit overwhelming right now. So I’m deciding to focus on the one area that I can change most easily: my groceries.

Instead of my usual Saturday “Good Pickins’,” I’m going to take today to announce next month’s challenge to myself.


25 Grocery Challenge

For the month of March, I want to spend less, waste less, and eat smarter. This will break down into four main grocery goals.

  1. To cut my grocery budget dramatically.
  2. To use up the food that I already have in the house.
  3. To make smarter, healthier purchases.
  4. To make and grow more at home than I get in the grocery store.

Here’s my plan to accomplish each of the above goals.

  1. I’m going to give myself only $25/week for my grocery budget this month for my family of four. This will be to buy only the necessities that I don’t have preserved or laying about- milk, fresh produce needs, or the stray ingredient that I need more of.
  2. I will shop first from all my autumn preservation. This food will be my mainstay this month. I’ve got to empty out some of my pantry and freezer. What’s the use of doing all that work if it’s going to lie unopened?
  3. $25 a week doesn’t leave room for snacks and junk food. I’ll have to be more constrained with my purchases, and make sure I’m only buying that which is nourishing.
  4. No convenience items allowed this month. If I need bread, I will make it. If I need yogurt, I will culture it. If there’s no room in the budget for sprouts, I will have to sprout them myself. Etc., etc.

Rules of the challenge:

  1. $25/week is my personal challenge, because I know I can feasibly accomplish this with how well stocked my pantry is. If you have a bigger family or that number just won’t work for you, pick a higher weekly budget. The goal is not a competition to see who can get closet to starvation- rather, it’s to cut our grocery bills dramatically by eliminating unnecessary purchases for this month.
  2. I must shop from my pantry and freezer first. Now, for the record, I’ve got a lot of frozen meat, fish, and some chicken. I’ve got a few pounds of frozen cheese. I’ve got jars and jars of canned fruits and veggies. I’ve got pasta, grains, oils, etc. I’m starting off on a good foot. Maybe you won’t have this same luxury. That’s okay. Shop your home food store first anyway- you might be surprised by what you do have. But, as in #1, you can always adjust your budget target if your cupboards are bare. Just stick to a reasonably low bill for YOU.
  3. I will focus on budgeting one week at a time. I didn’t want to do a $100/month challenge… because, frankly, I think it’s hard sometimes to plan a month in advance- and to space out my budget accordingly. If I just take it one week at a time, it’s easier.
  4. I will plan for each week’s meals. This will be the only way to stick to it.
  5. I will report my weekly meal plan and spending. It will keep me accountable, and it will help give you some meal plan ideas too. 🙂

Does your grocery bill need some reformation? How do you save money, waste less food, and make smarter choices?

Will you join me in my challenge this month? I’d love to have you along for the fun. 🙂

This post shared at Frugal Family Linky, Fabulously Frugal, and The Homeacre Hop.

Why I Chose Cloth Diapers

This post was updated and adapted from my old blog. It was fun to see how my views on cloth diapers have evolved over four years of use on two (differently shaped) children. Some of our reasons remained the same, and others have changed a little. Regardless, I am still very happy that we decided to go primarily with cloth!

Why I Chose Cloth Diapers

When in my third trimester with J, my childbirth ed teacher asked our class if any of us were considering cloth diapers. I laughed and spat out a “No way!” for my response. I worked in a daycare at the time, and all I could think about was changing pooped-up underwear when one of my potty-training toddlers had an accident.


My teacher smiled, and instead of chastising me, went on to show the crunchier, more interested mamas some of her cloth stash. As she went over options, explanations, and reasons for cloth diapering, I realized I was becoming more interested as she continued to speak. Maybe cloth diapering isn’t as gross as I thought it would be?

By the end of the class, I was at least open to trying cloth. And by the time my son was about a month old, I was ordering a cloth diaper trial kit. And by the end of my two week trial, I was a total convert, ready to evangelize my disposable-using friends left and right. Now I’ve mellowed out a bit- and I even use disposable part time too (gasp!)- but I still love my fluff. Here’s why.

(This post contains affiliate links.) 

1) It’s WAY cheaper.

We paid around $200 for all of our diapers. That bought us 8 Flip covers and 24 liners- enough for full-time cloth diapering one baby. Some cloth diapering systems cost less, some cost more. While the initial investment may seem daunting, we figured out that we would have spent that much on disposables in about 3 months at the newborn poop rate (obviously that depends on your kid’s digestive tract). Since that initial purchase, we have also accepted hand-me-down used cloth to add to our collection.

The best part about a cloth diaper investment? We’ve reused most of those diapers for our second child. Some of our waterproof diaper covers have doubled as protection against the mess of bed-wetting for our preschooler. Also, when cloth diapers wear out, you can mend them yourself (or pay someone to do it) to extend their life for years to come.

2) Less leaks (usually).

We’ve noticed a remarkable advantage to cloth diapers in the blowout phase of diapering. Every time we had disposables on our newborns, they were soon wearing poop up their backs. Every time we had on a well-fitted cloth diaper, the poop was efficiently stopped in its tracks by the elastic bands. This has generally held to be true for us for both babies.

As a caveat, if you find your cloth diapers are leaking frequently, try a little troubleshooting. Is your baby wearing the right size diaper? Is the elastic or waterproof fabric worn out? Are you changing them frequently enough? Are they heavy night wetters? Certain culprits will create cloth diaper woes, but these causes can usually be sleuthed and solved without too much trouble.

3) Less diaper sensitivities.

My son had a constant diaper rash when he  wore conventional disposable diapers. Once we switched to cloth, the rash went away. We think he was sensitive to some of the ingredients in disposables. Instead of paying for the expensive, organic, chemical-free diapers, we relied on cloth to be kind to his bottom.

4) Better for the environment.

I’m not the greenest person you ever will meet on the planet. But hey- if I can make a simple change to help keep more waste out of landfills and reuse what I have instead, why wouldn’t I? I’ve found that my wash load has not increased greatly since switching to cloth, so I feel that my water usage is not a contraindication to cloth diapering.

5) It’s cute.

C’mon, you have to admit it’s cute to have diapers that match your baby’s outfit! (Okay, so this didn’t play a big role in the decision making process either, but again, it’s an added bonus!)

6) It’s not nearly as gross or labor intensive as I thought it might be.

I mentioned my horror at the thought of endless mushy poopy underwear and pants and shoes and shirts that have suffered the onslaught of potty training accidents. Thankfully, cloth diapering is nothing like potty training, and is, in fact, very similar to disposable diapering! It’s easy, no grosser than disposables, and only adds occasionally spraying off poo into the toilet and doing an extra load of wash every couple days.

7) You can try before you buy.

I highly recommend trying a cloth diaper trial kit to see if it works for you and your family. Make sure it’s a kit with good variety so that you can test several types of diapers- there are just so many options! I used Diaper Daisy’s Trial Kit for J to determine which types of diapers fit him best and worked well for our lifestyle. I was extremely satisfied with Diaper Daisy’s customer service!

jclothdiaper(J snuggling up with his cloth trial kit.)

Another company that I have ordered from and trusted is Kelly’s Closet. They are a larger company, but they quite the variety of quality diapering options along with some online diapering education for cloth newbies. Last but not least, a doula friend of mine has opened her own growing business, MotherBaby Naturals, that you can visit and order from online. (I couldn’t decide on just one diaper source to recommend when I have used several!)

Overall, cloth diapering has been a rewarding adventure, and has saved us a ton of money. Do I still use disposable sometimes? Yes! Do I beat myself up over it? No! 🙂 Disposables work better for us at night and on the road, but when we are home, cloth is still the way to go for us.

What about you? Have you tried cloth? Would you ever consider it? I’d love to hear your experiences!

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your support in this way!

Here are some great reasons to give cloth diapering a go.

Lessons From My 88 Year Old Grandmother (And Her 63 Year Old Toaster)

I am remiss. My mother corrected me this morning- my grandmother is only 87 until this coming February! When we visited her last weekend, she mentioned something about being 88. I mentally logged this number and fast-forwarded her age prematurely. My sincere apologies, Mam! Love you!

We are at a time in our country when most everything is made to be convenient and/or disposable. Food is meant to be prepared as easily as possible. Products are sold everywhere to make our lives easier. Expendable cutlery, paper products, cleaning aids, and home decor add to our modern day expediency. And above all, once things break, we get rid of them. Things are made cheaply and no one expects you to upkeep what you have anymore. Maintenance, after all, is a waste of time and most likely will drag your house into the dark ages of outdated style.

Amidst this culture of convenience and throw-away products, my grandmother stands out as a conservative example of good stewardship and care for her possessions.


mam1

(My sis and I hanging out with my grandma- Mam, as we call her, circa 2008.)

One of the best examples I can think of is her 1951 General Electric toaster. She bought this thing sixty-three years ago and still uses it every single day. And it still works like a charm! Why?

She takes care of it. It sits in her cupboard wearing a little cross-stitched cloth cover. Every time she wants toast, she lifts it carefully from the cabinet, removes the cover, unwinds the cord, and plugs it in. She always double checks the temperature and pop height settings. She always unplugs it as soon as her toast is made. She lets it cool on the counter for a while, then loosely re-wraps the cord, replaces the cover, and puts it back into its home. She also remembers to shake out the crumbs neatly into her garbage can on a regular basis.

At one point the toaster stopped working- did they buy a new one? No. My grandma and grandpa went to the hardware store, purchased a new cord, and made the thing as good as new again. How often do you hear of that happening these days?

Here’s a picture of a vintage advertisement for the very same toaster- you can find it on Ebay here.

GEToasterShe treats the rest of her home with the same level of care, and it’s amazing how well her furniture and appliances have held up. She doesn’t try to speed through cleaning jobs or buy a lot of gadgets to make her life easier. She just works, steadily and patiently, until she completes every job on her list.

What have I learned from my Mam?

To care for your things. To not be afraid of taking time to work. To be patient. To be orderly. To be faithful in your duties. To be willing to put in extra effort to save a little money. To not buy things unless they are a necessity. To value thrift and industry more than newness and convenience.

While I am a far cry from my Mam’s good example, she is still an inspiration to me! Much love for this wonderful lady. <3

mam2(My Pap and Mam)

 

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

As Thanksgiving is swiftly approaching, so also is the commencement of the most overwhelming time of the year for many folks. Black Friday. Holiday shopping sprees. Making a list and checking it twice. Jolly-making and money-spending. And so on and so forth.

The standard hullabaloo has become increasingly unappealing to this high-strung mama. (If you don’t think I’m high-strung, just spend more time with me.) All that shopping takes too much money and time, and it creates too much stress for all of us. We have found that the more gifts the kids receive the less grateful they become for what they have. What’s more, all that consumerism is a major distraction from why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

Over the years, we have been trying to move a simpler, quieter version of the Christmas gift-exchange tradition. In our own family, one main gift (or sometimes a small collection) is given to each person. We can’t and don’t spend a lot. We try to make our gifts thoughtful and meaningful, since each of us is only opening a couple at most.


What are a few of my favorite things?

christmas3

Homemade gifts are my favorite. From my mother’s beautiful hand-sewn wall-hangings and quilts, to my mom-in-law’s delicious baking and secret spaghetti sauce, to carefully-crafted trinkets from my nieces and nephews- homemade gifts make my heart happy. I know that whoever made it put in their time, effort, thought, and love with every stitch or paint stroke or flour scoop. And that, to me, is priceless.

I also enjoy making gifts to give away. Most of my Pinterest projects usually deserve a “Nailed it!” caption, but I can make some mean baked goods and wow everyone with my amazing ability to put food into a sealed jar. Homemade jams are high on my giveaway list each year, and this year most friends will be getting a jar of our home-tapped maple syrup. (Sorry to spoil it, folks.) We also get the kids involved in homemade gifts, like painted flowerpots, laminated watercolor bookmarks, or footprint art.

If you’re looking for more homemade gift ideas, you can follow my Pinterest board here:

Follow Abigail ‘s board Homemade Gifts on Pinterest.

Locally sourced gifts are a close second favorite. I love to use holidays and birthdays as an excuse to support local businesses and give back to our regional economy. I think it’s fantastic to give a unique gift while supporting someone from your own neighborhood. The source makes the present all that much more special!

If you don’t know what you would purchase locally, go browse the small shops in your town. Where you live will determine what kind of gifts are available, but you may be surprised by the wealth of possibilities. Food, drink, arts, clothing, home decor, practical gifts, or even ingredients for homemade treats… many of these can be sourced locally!

Read this article for several reasons why you should buy local whenever you can-at Christmas, and all year round.

Support small businesses whenever you can. While local businesses usually are small businesses, sometimes you may not be able to find what you are looking for in your own town. If you’re going to order something from far away, better to do it through a small business than a big box store when possible.

This is where sites like Etsy are phenomenal- you can buy from a small business owner easily, even if they live across the country from you. While they money isn’t going back into your own local economy, at least more of your money is supporting an individual family, rather than throwing it to large corporations.

Some of my own friends are small business owners, including Oak Street Studio
(lovely accessories, scarves, and all things pretty), None of Your Beeswax (natural health care and baby products), and Belluzzi Beads/Bitty Belluzzi (classy costume jewelry and super cute girl’s pieces). Don’t forget that many bloggers are small businesses too- by shopping via our affiliate programs and sidebar ads, you are also supporting our families.

Even shopping small and locally, however, can still suck you into a frenzied mindset. So take a deep breath. Promise yourself that you’re not going to stress over buying the right things for the right people at the right price.

This year, keep it simple. You don’t need to go overboard on spending- it’s okay to step back and participate a little less in the shopping madness. Try making some gifts, or get creative with free activities instead. When you do shop, keep it local or small whenever possible. You’ll be sourcing uncommon gifts, strengthening a diverse economy, and backing individual families.

And remember- it’s not about the presents, really. Right?

madonna mit dem gruenen kissen

happyhealthyholidaywithsite

Emergency Funds: Because Life Happens

It can happen to anyone at anytime. Everything is going swimmingly, when suddenly your car breaks down. Or your boiler stops functioning mid-January. Or you have an unexpected medical problem. Not only do you have the problem to fix, now you have another problem too-

Money.

emergencyfunds


Photo Credit

Dave Ramsey (who I highly recommend if you’re facing financial stress) recommends building a $1000 emergency fund that you strictly are not allowed to touch. Ever. Unless in case of emergency! He then recommends to continue building an emergency fund of 3-6 months worth of your income/expenses in case one of you loses a job or faces catastrophic circumstances.

We took this emergency fund advice seriously shortly after we got married, and I am SO glad we did. It has the amazing ability to help keep you ahead instead of behind. Although we keep dipping into it for various needs, we are usually able to gradually replenish it by the time the next mishap comes around. And it’s funny- there always IS a next time!

When have we needed an emergency fund? Just in the past six months, we have had several occasions. First, our water stopped working and we found out we had to replace our well pump. About $1900 later, we were functioning again. Fast forward a couple of months: a swarm of European hornets infested the wall in our kid’s room. It cost $150 to get them out from a bee removal company (which was actually a steal), plus the money to repair the hole cut into the wall above our daughter’s crib. Next, our car inspection cost a few hundred more than we expected. Recently, heavy rains revealed a leak in our roof. This week, our deep freezer went. Fun, fun.

Big or small, emergencies DO happen and can knock you into a major financial hole if you’re not prepared. Our emergency fund is not nearly as large as many financial experts suggest (we’re just not there yet!). But if we hadn’t had any fund, each of these unpleasant surprises would have put us in deep doo-doo with the bank and our bill payments. While financial upheaval can still be a shocker, the cushion of back-up cash (even a few hundred!) can make the unexpected much easier to handle.

How can you build up your emergency fund? If you have extra money, great. Prioritize your fund and put away a little at a time ($10 a month? $50? $100?) until you reach your goal. If you don’t immediately have extra money to put into savings, look for other expenses that you can temporarily eliminate and put that money towards your fund instead. Cable TV, Netflix, the newspaper, a gym membership, your morning coffee run or lunches bought on the go- all can be dropped to give you some substantial cash to keep on hand!

While it’s tempting (especially during the holidays) to make extra purchases out of stress, lack of time, or for gifts or convenience’s sake, it’s much better to take some of that extra and put it towards an emergency fund. It might save you big time one day in the future!

Here are more ideas to help you build a stash for the next rainy day.