Friday, March 26, 2010

Getting Creative with Cash

Having a baby is expensive. Having two babies is doubly so. We go through at minimum of 16 diapers a day, an economy-sized container of formula every four days, and a pack of wipes once a week, not to mention utility costs of washing bottles and clothes and babies! We also have two bouncers, two double strollers, two car seats, two Baby Bjorns, two cribs and two Pack n Plays.

With that said, believe you me, I'm always looking for a deal. Since I know I'm not the only parent who's looking for ways to keep more cash in the bank, I thought I would share some tips.

Comparison shop like nobody's business
Just because one place says they have the lowest price doesn't mean they really do. When I was looking for the cheapest diapers, I looked at Walmart, Target, K-Mart, Costco, Amazon, and With shipping costs and diaper pack sizes taken into account, Amazon looked to have the cheapest price with their awesome Subscribe and Save program. You set up an account to have items automatically delivered to you. There's free shipping and you save 15% using the program. Then I did the math, with the 15%, Pampers Swaddlers were $0.21/diaper. At, I could get a larger case for $0.18/diaper. What's three cents, you ask? A savings of nearly $15 a month.

Sign up for everything
Pampers, Similac, Enfamil, and Huggies all have programs. You get coupons, free samples, and points towards free stuff. It's great. Publix has a Baby Club where you receive coupons for the first two years of life. There's also where you can earn points for online purchases. Just last month, I used my points to get a $50 iTunes giftcard. (If you need a referral, let me know!) Bank of America has a cashback program. Babies r Us has an awards program. And if you give Carters your information, you'll get wonderful coupons in the mail nearly every month. I don't think I've paid full price for clothes at Carters ever.

DO NOT, though, sign up for things at Motherhood Maternity. They're evil and will send you subscriptions that are not free.

Brand names aren't all that
We are feeding the girls Similac Sensitive formula. It's right around $1/oz. Target's brand Up & Up is $0.60/oz and has the same ingredients. We're trying it this coming week to see if it works. If it does, that's a savings of $80 a month! Store brand diapers are also less expensive and sometimes work just as well. We're about to try out Luvs since I discovered they're made by the same company as Pampers but run about $0.16/diaper. Granted, Luvs are name brand, but they're discount.

Research, research, research
What's the difference between Good Start, Enfamil, and Similac? Is baby oil necessary? Where's the best place to get a baby gear? Do I need this or that? I didn't know the answer to any of these questions, so I started asking. I asked friends who are parents, I asked my mom and MIL. I signed up on forums (Twinstuff and The Bump being my favorites). I read a gazillion reviews online. (Always take the time to read the reviews on products, it's worth your time.) Do not be afraid to ask a million questions. You'll find lots of good advice (and some bad), but all of it will help you spend money more wisely.

For example, Tim & I bought our cribs at Walmart. We found the same cribs at other places for twice as much. It turns out the company who makes them distributes them to different places under different names--all the same quality and construction just with different price tags.

Coupons are wonderful
As I've already mentioned, sign up for stuff to get coupons. But you can also find all kinds of online coupons as well as coupons in your Sunday paper. Clip, clip, clip away!

Substitute where possible
Do you really need a diaper pail or will a nice sturdy trash can do the trick? Do you a need a white noise machine when you can get speakers for your iPod? Is separate baby detergent necessary when All Free & Clear is much cheaper and has no scent? Is there stuff you would like to buy that you (or a friend or family member) can make on your own? Always weigh the pros and cons of getting specific products versus general items that will do the same job. Sometimes it's worth it and will save you in the end.

Do not shun hand-me-downs
If it's clean, in good shape and safe, by all means, let people give or sell you their old stuff. Only trust a good friend or family member if you take a used car seat, though. You never know if it's been in an accident. Cribs older than five years should be carefully inspected and researched. Safety regulations have changed, and old cribs aren't always worth the money saved.

Definitely look for consignment shops and special sales in your area. There are tons of mommy groups that have huge sales once a year.

Sometimes the investment is worth it
I didn't spend money on diaper pails, mobiles, fancy sheets and such. But I wouldn't compromise on a very comfy rocker recliner for the nursery. Granted, I didn't pay for it (thank you, Walt & Marsha), but I would have willingly laid down the money for it. Having a quality piece like that will last long after the girls are out of their rocking years and will work in our family room where Tim will lounge and play video games. The same goes for convertible cribs. We did save by purchasing from Walmart, but we paid a little more so the beds would stay with Lillie & Dani through teen years (hopefully).

Save Money on Diapers!

This isn't really a blog entry as much as one more way for me to save money on diapers (and for you to do the same).

Parents, if you haven't discovered it yet, is a wonderful place to buy diapers and other baby products. I've searched everywhere (and I do mean everywhere) for the best deal on diapers, and it's on this website. What's also great is that they have fast delivery, a great return policy, and a plethora of choices. When the girls are running low on diapers, all I have to do is sit down in front of my computer and place an order, and since I'm always spending more than $49, I get free shipping. They carry everything from diapers to pacifiers to clothes.

Check it out by using the link over there to the right. If you order (and you really, really should), then use my referral code. You get $10 off and I do too!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Life, Three Hours at a Time

I've had the title of this blog floating around for a little bit, but I had no idea what to write exactly. The title is clever, albeit broad. It describes how I live right now--in three-hour chunks--on Lillie and Dani's eating schedule.

There are a lot of things that can be done in three hours. You can watch a good movie, catch up on some tv, take a nap, take a shower, wash dishes, clean a room, run a load of laundry. I know these are all things I can do, but do I do them? Sometimes. Should I do them? Always.

Eventually I will realize that the time between feedings should be used constructively. I used to be a person of schedule. I used to plan out a day so that I would use it to its best potential. Heck, I even planned in downtime so my normal procrastination tendencies could have a buffer. I now, though, must turn off the procrastination. I must learn how to be unfrazzled again and control my routine. If I've learned anything from the multiple books on multiples I've read, I will always hold on to this gem:

You control the routine. Do not let the routine control you.

Right now, I'm letting the routine control me. After feeding, burping, changing, and rocking back to sleep (except when they want to have awake time), I should do one of three things--sit and relax, stretch out and nap, or get up a do a chore. Most of the time, I sit and think about all the things that need to get done and when the hell am I going to do them while I listen for small noises coming from the Pack n Play, ready to jump on it before either daughter gets past a whimper, as I watch some pointless television. (Food Network and HGTV seem to be my staples when there isn't a SVU marathon on, but that's a different blog entry all together.)

Here's another gem I plan to keep in my head: The clock shouldn't be part of your routine.

Babies can't tell time. They have internal clocks, yes, but they don't know it's 4am from 4pm. You have to start basically ignoring the clock too. A routine should involve doing things in a certain order, not at a certain time. This is how babies learn to expect things. This is how parents cope. If you decide that you will always bathe your children at 6pm, fix dinner by 7pm, and watch your favorite shows until 10:30, you will always consider yourself a failure. Children are the great unpredictability. Things happen. You must always account for this.

What will make you feel successful is that the bath happened before bedtime. That dinner was eaten, and it covered more than one food group. That DVR was the best invention of the decade, and that you have made time for the important things and let other things (like taking the stacks of diaper boxes to the garage) wait for another day.

All of this I say as if I'm some seasoned pro. I am not. I've only been a parent for five weeks, three days. I can't even consider myself successful by my own standards since I'm not in control of my routine. But I am an overachiever. I will work very hard to become the parent of my own advice.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My First Failure

Let's get this straight. I do not think I'm a failure. I make lists. I make plans. If I don't achieve everything in my plans, I have failed at my plan. That doesn't mean that I have failed at the overall goal. It doesn't mean that I haven't found another route to success. What it means is that I was thrown a curve ball. Infant twin girls is quite possibly the biggest curve ball of my life.

So what's my first failure is this plan I had for parenthood? Breastfeeding. The great debate of mothers everywhere. We all know that breast is best, but some women take it a bit further than others. And those women make other women feel like--yep, you guessed it--failures.

The morning Lillie and Dani were born, a nurse came to tell me that they both had low blood sugar and needed formula to help them stay healthy. I didn't even think twice about it. I was still recovering from the surgery, and I wanted my girls to be strong and not spend one night in the NICU, so I said formula was fine. In the back of my head, I knew that I would be able to start breastfeeding later in the day.

Later in the day arrives, and Robin, the LC, comes to visit my room. She shows and tells me how to massage my breast and get the babies in a football hold so I could tandem feed. They both have a little trouble--Lillie more than Dani--but they both eventually latch on and start sucking. Success! Not only are my girls nursing, they're doing it at the same time!!!

Every day in the hospital, we practiced. Robin was encouraging and very helpful. Sometimes there was success; sometimes there was just crying (from all three of us). I repeated over and over again that the three of us were going to be breastfeeding rock stars, and I diligently tried at least three times a day to get them to nurse. (See, with preemies, you have to worry about tiring them out. We don't want to burn excessive calories trying to get them to eat just so they have to turn around and eat more because you burned too many calories getting them to eat.) When we checked out on Wednesday, I promised myself I would pump and keep trying to get them to nurse at home.

Oh, how home is different from the hospital! There aren't nurses there to take your babies to the nursery so you can rest. All the planning you've done to set up the house for the new arrivals doesn't prepare you for the onslaught of things you need at hand right away. (It probably also doesn't help that they arrived a little early so we were completely prepared.) Babies, no matter how hard you try to keep them on a schedule, do not believe in schedules. They will wake, cry, wail, scream whenever they feel it necessary. So getting away to pump or trying to struggle through a nursing session doesn't wear well on the nerves.

So, after being home for nearly a month, I've been mostly pumping--giving them about two ounces each of express milk a day and then supplementing with formula. Well, I guess I should say they get mostly formula, and I'm supplementing with expressed milk. Eh, semantics.

We try nursing every now and again, but it still doesn't go very well. And every day I think about it, it does hurt me a little inside that I can't give my girls full nutrition on my own. I know there are ways to increase my milk production--supplements (which I'm taking) and pumping more often (again, let's go back to that babies don't believe in schedules thing). But I'm starting to come to terms with formula, breast milk, and the pump.

If the nursing doesn't work this coming week, then we're done. I'll pump until six weeks, and then they'll be formula babies. There's nothing wrong with that, no matter how many people want to tell me differently. I would rather sit and hold my babies while they drink from a bottle than struggle with them as they kick and cry as I'm trying to nurse them. I would rather be there, in the moment, with Lillie and Dani rather than be stressed because one won't go to sleep or lie quietly while I go pump.

So, even though I've had my first failure in my plan of parenting, I know that there are many more failures ahead of me. In the end, I will not be a failure at anything because I'll always find a different route to success.