Baby Talk…. Tuesday, Sep 21 2010 

Many thanks to writer Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick of for asking me to contribute to her fabulous “Saving on Baby Gear” article, just released on ! Thanks, Elizabeth – it was a lot of fun!

Click here to get taken directly to her great article!

“Mary Talks Money” piece airs tonight: Saving on Baby! Wednesday, May 19 2010 

Good afternoon, fellow frugalistas!

A great opportunity to work again with the Live Well HD / 6-ABC crew for another “Mary Talks Money” went beautifully, and the first nationwide airing is tonight at 8:30P. The best part is an extraordinarily handsome 2-year old I adore running thru just about every shot. Camera shy? Not so much! 🙂 He ran thru so many shots they found a way to beautifully incorporate him into the piece!

Thanks again to Executive Producer Susan Barclay & cameraman Sean Bernard for their amazing work! If I did this right, a sneak preview copy should be at this link. (if clicking it doesn’t work, yes I’m pathetic. just cut & paste!)

Another “Mary Talks Money” episode wrapped up! Thursday, Apr 22 2010 

Had SO much fun with the Live Well HD crew back on the 15th – fabulous time! I think they got some great sound clips for their “Saving On Baby” segment. Many thanks to Executive Producer Susan Barclay for this opportunity, and THANKS to cameraman extraordinaire Sean Bernard for working with not only a cluttered playroom but also two little ones who “just want to see the cool camera ONE more time…”.

Not sure when this episode will air; if it’s anything like the last one, we should have about 18 nationwide airings over the course of June. SO excited!

Saving on Baby! The first (frugal?) year… Friday, Apr 9 2010 

Hey all – Happy Friday! Just wrapped up a truly fun week, and getting excited for Katie’s first T-ball game tomorrow morning. Hysterically cute.

Received an e-mail from LiveWellHD/6ABC about another possible “Mary Talks Money” piece, which would be SO much fun. They suggested a segment regarding saving money on baby the first year. This is an outstanding subject; I often get questions about this at my workshops. I’ve also got a 5 year old and a 2 year old, so I’ve experienced this firsthand, and rest assured, made just about every mistake in the book…

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it can cost between $9000-$11,000 to care for a child in their first year alone! When it comes to saving money on baby, there are some excellent places to start:

Formula: Yes, we’ve all heard that it’s best to nurse a baby for the first six months; if it’s feasible in your household, it will save a tremendous amount of money. However, some women are physically unable to do this, and sometimes work schedules make it utterly impossible. If you’re unable to, the average cost of formula can come to $200/month. I was a Mommy who was physically incapable of nursing, however, I did find our brand name (organic no less) baby formula at our local discount gourmet grocery for approximately 75% off on a regular basis. Often the reason for the discount was a small tear along the label. As a result, we spent $50/month for formula our first six months. Money saved compared to national average: $150/month for 6 months = $900 saved

Diapers: When I had Katie, my wonderful family had a “diaper shower” for me, in which we received six months worth of disposable diapers – very appreciated! However, in the time it took to get Katie potty trained (at age 3), we went thru approximately $1500 in diapers. Ouch! Would prefer to have that in the bank, thanks very much…that’s an average mortgage payment!!! For Robbie, in an attempt to keep that money in the bank, I decided to go the cloth routine (see earlier blogs). Today’s cloth diapers are ingenious, and very easy to use. They’re also an average of $20 each retail! RIDICULOUS! It can cost $400 just to get started! If you’re planning on using cloth, and can count on receiving them as gifts at a baby shower, by all means, get new. When I myself shopped for them, I found them for $3 each on Craigslist. I purchased $80 worth, which gave me 3 days worth of diapers. They have worked beautifully. Many mention the savings from cloth diapers is offset by drying them in the dryer, however, I dry mine on a clothesline outside, so it’s not such an issue. Money saved yearly compared to national average: $400+

Food: Once baby is ready for solids, forget the ridiculously overpriced jarred foods, and pull out your food processor. Chicken, beef, pasta, vegetables, fruits, soups – whatever you’re eating, chances are excellent (if it’s not too exotic), it’s fine for your baby. Add a touch of baby cereal to the repertoire, and you’re in fine shape. If you have any questions about foods or potential allergic reactions, ask your pediatrician. A word about juices – more and more pediatricians are warning against giving too much to your baby, as it’s usually empty, sugary calories, and expensive to boot. Try water & milk for your child’s needs. Money saved compared to jarred foods / juices / etc = hundreds of dollars

Furniture: Beautiful furniture, well built, can cost hundreds, if not thousands. We all want the best for our kids, but paying retail is insane. Start with Craigslist listings in the towns near you. I’ve seen every possible type of baby furniture (cribs, rockers, changing tables, dressers, etc) for up to 90% off, in wonderful shape. Often, the current owners are simply desperate to get rid of it and free up space. The only caveat is that you will usually have to pick it up yourselves. Ask a neighbor with a truck if he/she will help out in exchange for a tank of gas – no doubt they’ll be glad to lend a hand. Money saved = hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Clothing: There are dozens of resources to tap when you’re looking for children’s clothing. Outstanding resources I’ve found include local thrift stores, Church sales, and by far, the best resource: Craigslist. This last year, I’ve purchased dozens of outfits for both of my children, and clothed them both (including special occasion outfits) for less than $50 total, thanks to Craigslist. My kids are dressed like royalty for approximately 90% off. Money saved = hundreds of dollars

Daycare: Today’s trying economic environment is transforming a lot of two-income households into one income households. If there is any silver lining to this, it is that the cost of daycare for pre-school age children in these households is now zero. If the stay-at-home parent is Dad, I recommend a “Mr. Mom” movie night. If it’s necessary for both parents to work, start thinking outside the box with regard to daycare. I’ve connected with parents in which one took a job working primarily weekends, the other week days. Another couple alternated working nights & days to ensure kids were supervised. Another family had a wonderful, energetic grandparent move in to ensure proper supervision. With the cost of daycare topping $200/week for babies, finding an at-home solution with family will save a significant amount of money. Money saved per child: $200/week for one year = $10,000+

Baby Gifts – most of us are very blessed in that the wonderful news of a new baby will often send loved ones into a frenzy of gift-giving. If possible, try to steer them towards useful items, ones that will benefit the baby for years to come. You’ll notice the above items (furniture & clothing in particular) are not only top gift items, but ironically are also rather easy for a parent to acquire for next to nothing nowadays. With that in mind, you might want to steer family & friends into a slightly different type of gift, the “not glamorous but AMAZINGLY helpful gift”.
Some examples:
– When I was born in 1968, my folks had a lock on just about everything I needed with regard to clothing, furniture, etc. When family & friends asked what to buy for me, my parents recommended (brace yourself) Savings Bonds. Dozens of (middle class) family & friends did just that – these small bonds (for between $5 & $50) then went into the bank where they sat untouched until they came to maturity. I redeemed them my junior year of college at Penn State, where they pretty much paid my tuition for an entire semester. Not a bad gift, and those same family & friends were delighted to hear from me at age 20, touching base from college and thanking them (with a laugh) for my incredibly helpful BABY gift!
– Insurance covers a big portion of the average maternity stay, but there’s usually an amount due by new parents when they come home. If you’ve got family & friends each eagerly looking to give a $25+ gift, explain how you’re looking to pay down the amount due the hospital, and set up a special bank account for it. I’ve spoken to “Brilliant Frugal Living” workshop attendees who knew of people who did just that – and received over $1000 from family, friends & co-workers. Rather than a hodge-podge of well-meant but somewhat useless gifts, they were instead able to pay down a good chunk of their hospital bill. Fantastic stuff.

If you have other ideas/suggestions regarding saving for baby, I would love to hear them – please send them my way!

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Diaper “Jeopardy” – I’ll take Cloth Diapers for $1,000, Alex! Tuesday, Oct 20 2009 

Hey all!  Important date in the “Keeping Up With The Hagopians” calendar: Our FREEDOM FROM DIAPERS day!  No, 2-year old Robbie isn’t potty trained yet, BUT, we’ve tried something new that is clearly going to pay off huge – the “new” technology known as CLOTH diapers.  My daughter Katie (now 5) was a disposable diaper baby all the way.    Three years of disposables put us back about $1500 (yikes!).   Robbie is two now, and will probably be in diapers for another two years.  Hmmmm, another $1000 if we go the disposable route.   Ick.

Okay, okay.  I decided to give cloth diapers an experimental run for their money, BUT ONLY if I didn’t have to use the ones that required pins.  All I could envision was me constantly sticking the baby!  No no no, I could only do this if I used the cutsey, practically-like-disposable-diapers out there, and at a reasonable price.  Could NOT believe the retail outlets were charging $20 apiece for these things!  No way Jose!  

Went onto Craigslist, and within a week found a Mommy goddess who was getting rid of hers for about $3 each, so I bought all of hers, along with the eco-friendly flannel wipies and rubber pants she included.   Truthfully, I’m not as into the “eco-friendly” as I am into the “bank-o friendly” aspect of all this, but HEY, if it’s good for the planet as well, what the hoo.  

A meeting setup at a mutually convenient place – and $80 later – we were the proud owners of a box full of diapers & acroutement that I had pretty much no flippin CLUE how to put together.    Too mortified to ask for help, I put the college degree to work and finally figured out what’s what.  Actually, these Bum Geniuses are kinda cute!

Okay, so if Robbie blitzes thru these at the same speed as disposables, I’ve got enough for three days.   Robbie doesn’t mind them…much.  Much poofier on his backside, and now he’s walking like an extra in a B-rated cowboy film.  “Howdy, pardner!”.   But he’s a trooper.  However, when I attempt to put the plastic pants on him, he becomes all kicking legs and grabbing hands – THIS we don’t like.   Truthfully, it DOES sound like he’s dinner leftovers that I’m wrapping up in plastic wrap.    Unnerving at best.

Okay, first day, so far so good – and then we do our first cloth diaper poo.  All right, I was expecting one of these.  But Good LORD.   Wait, are my eyes supposed to water like that?…  Okee dokee – instructions say to “flush everything we can down the toilet…” YA THINK?!  Okay, got a lot into the toilet.  And there’s a LOT LEFT on the diaper.  Gloriosky.   This is Robbie’s revenge for me putting plastic pants on him.  Well done, my son.   Bleah.

Okay, got as much off as I could, then into the washer they go – my new rule (brand new upon this first pooey diaper) is that as SOON as we have a pooey diaper in the inventory, we WASH DIAPERS.   One warm-water “Heavy Duty” cycle later, and I wince as I pull them out with pinched fingertips…HEY!  All clean!  Whaddaya know?! 

Now, critics of cloth diapers mention that any cost savings are eaten up by drying them in the dryer.  Understandable, but not such an issue for us since we started hanging our wash out to dry (see earlier blog!).    My bigger gripe is the cost of cloth diapers retail – purchase 20 of them to get yourself started, and you’re out $400! That’s almost one year’s disposables right there!  If you’re in the market for cloth diapers, hit your local Craigslist instead – chances are good you should be able to find them for MUCH less. 

Okay, so bought $80 worth of cloth diapers two months ago today.   Two months of disposables would have cost about $80 as well.  So today, here we are, break even day!  After today, the diapers have paid for themselves, and are now saving us money.  If Robbie uses these for another two years, we save approximately $1,000.  Good stuff. 

If you’re tempted to give cloth diapers a try, I think you’ll like it!  The savings are tremendous, and the hassles are much less than you’d think. 

Happy Diapering!  Kris