Monday, March 31, 2008

dancing queen

Pin It

From the time that she was a newborn, we've played the song "Dancing Queen" (as covered by sixpence none the richer) for Elizabeth in the morning. Some days we dance around with her in our arms, other times she gets her own groove on. I love seeing her face light up when she hears "her" song come up on the playlist.

One thing all this dancing has taught me is that I am out of shape. She is not. She could dance forever (or so it seems). So, in an effort to improve my endurance, I dancing along, clapping my hands, hopping from foot to foot, and shaking my booty. Or something like that. If you're not an exerciser, but you have children, dancing with them is a great way to get yourself moving while having fun with your kids.

Try to keep yourself really moving for a whole song. There are lots of resources for exercise playlists. You can listen to your favorites, or take someone else's recommendations and hear some new tunes. I think you'll find that even just a couple minutes of vigorous dancing as demonstrated by any child will get you on that path to fitness!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Financial Friday: 5 things I just did to change my financial life

Pin It

My family lives pretty comfortably. We are not in any debt, we can buy things that interest us, and we have enough to share with charities and gifts to others. Still, I often wish we could put ourselves into an even better financial situation. After reading some inspiring blogs about personal finance, I just took the following steps to improve my financial life now.

1) I canceled my under-used consumer reports online subscription. I have used the online service many times in the past, but I use it inconsistently. And, since I was paying month to month, instead of by the year, I was being charged even more - $6 a month.

2) I downgraded my Blockbuster online subscription. We had been using one of the options that gave us the most features, but find that we don't watch near as many movies as we used to. So, downgrading to something that gets us more money in our wallet!Saving

3) My husband and I have decided to give investing a go - we've committed $50 a month towards an investment, perhaps in some kind of mutual fund/index fund. We're still in the research stages as this is a first for both of us, but it's a step in the right direction. For now, that money will just be saved until we know what we want to do with it.

4) We're increasing our savings by $25 a month. For us, this savings account is emergency/car/house fund all rolled into one.

5) We consolidate car trips, and car pool when possible. We own 2 vehicles - Jude's work truck, which guzzles gas, but we can't do without, and my '96 Saturn, which has been known to get me 42 mpg on the highway. Since the truck get less than half the miles per gallon that the car does, we save at least $3 per trip into town just by driving the Saturn instead of the truck. I have some neighbors with whom we're good friends. We make and effort to call each other and share rides when we have errands to do. Doubles as a nice way to have some adult conversation in a week filled we just mama and baby!

I bet each of you could find places you could change your financial life if you felt the need to do so. What can you change?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

consistency is not my name

Pin It

I've been trying to get a grip on this whole blogging thing. I've read that if I want to keep readers around, I need to be consistent about putting posts up. I'm not so good at consistency.

As I was talking to Jude last night, Elizabeth hauled out one of my journals and dragged it to the middle of the living room floor. "Is that your handwriting?" Jude asked. "I thought you wrote straighter than that." Thanks. Only on a good day. She opened it to one of the few pages where I was scrawling hurriedly across the page. I flipped through the book to provide evidence that yes, I can write in a straight line when I feel the wish to do so. I also happened to notice dates on some of the entries.

I skipped all of 2006. I only had a little bit for 2005, and my lone entry for 2007 is one I tried to complete at the beginning of 2008, but I gave up on it. Consistency is not my strong point, unless you look at it over the long-term. Maybe I'm like the stock market in this regard - you gotta stick with me as a long term investment.

I decided to dig out my oldest "diary" in my possession. I started writing in it when I was about 11 years old. That's what 11 year old girls do - keep diaries (as opposed to the journals that we old people keep). Even then, I obviously knew that keeping any kind of schedule on writing was chancy, at best. My second entry concluded with, "see you in the near (or late) future!" I also had already established a parenthetical fondness, which continues to this day. Unfortunate.

Anyway, I thought I'd include a transcription of my first entry in my book, just for fun. (As written, except where names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

this is my first entery so i dont really know what to right write. K my cousin has been here scince Saturday after noon. today played a game with play money from monopoly and wheel of forturn. I ran the bank and a store where you paid $1.00 for 5 checks. J ran a grocerie store and a store with other stuff. K ran a store with odds N' ends.

Nice. They improved significantly after that. Hopefully I'll be able to keep up the pace, and learn some consistency for once in my life!

death and taxes

Pin It

Today is tax day for us. We have our appointment set up with the Tax Lady, and hopefully, we have all of our paperwork gathered together. One major change for us this year is having a child. Our little tax deduction.

In some ways, I wish we would go back to doing our own taxes. I kind of like the experience of going through all the numbers, and calculating all the little forms and worksheets that go along with it. (Yup - I'm a dork.) We do that for the most part, anyway, just to get a rough feel for where we stand before we even take things in to the Tax Lady. So why, one might ask, do we even go to a tax person if we pretty much do it ourselves? Because it's been worth the money to have someone else fill out some of the forms like the depreciation form, or the one for figuring out annualized income (or something like that). Since the Tax Lady figured out some things we'd missed that noticeably reduced our tax bill, we keep on going back.

After we've gone to the appointment today, no doubt we'll come home crying a sad tale over the tax bill. Well, maybe not crying. It's not like we haven't done this before and don't know what to expect. It's taxes. One of the few things in life you can count on. That's just the way it is when you're self-employed. You can't escape your taxes.

To update: We just got back. I was right. I'm now sobbing in anticipation of the check we'll be writing some time next week. Oh well. At least I know I'm paying for nice things like... uh... my brother's Army pay, some road work grants, and my social security. Oh wait. I'm not paying for my own social security. I'm paying for your grandma's social security! But that's a whole other issue...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

the other show; or how I found an extra hour a week

Pin It

I've mentioned how there aren't many shows for which I will turn on my TV. I don't have cable or satellite (much to the shock and dismay of visiting children - what will Elizabeth do when she gets older?!) The only evening program other than Biggest Loser that I watch is Jericho. And since the season has just ended (and in all likelihood the series) that means that I have an extra hour every week that I had previously occupied with sitting on my backside!

Well, I won't say I really just sat on my backside. Half of the time, I would take advantage of the show to get some exercise in and chores done. Walk on the treadmill during the show, and hop off and do some household pick-up during the commercials. It's unfortunate that sometimes those hours seemed the most productive of the whole week. Perhaps it's not to my advantage that the show is off the air.

In all truthfulness, though, I'm a big proponent of reducing time in front of the television, especially for children. I've really latched onto the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation for television for children under age two: none. Does this mean that Elizabeth watches no television? nope. But, it does mean that I make I conscientious effort to make sure the TV is off when she is awake.

The added bonus for me is that I don't watch much TV, too! It's been a hard habit to break - I used to watch all the CSI's, Law and Order's, and a handful of other shows. When Elizabeth started to obviously pay attention, I knew it was time to cut more TV out. Now, if I can just wean myself from the Internet...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

in sickness and in health

Pin It

Sunday and Monday, Elizabeth and I were laid low by an unpleasant stomach bug. She didn't sleep well (which means we didn't sleep well), and she didn't keep much of anything down (poor kid). I felt particularly bad for Jude, though - he was not sick but Elizabeth thought he was the most absorbent surface, and she left her stomach contents on his person about 5 times. Yuck.

This experience made me grateful for several things:

1) Jude was home. It would have been totally unpleasant if it had been just the sick mama and the sick baby.

2) We weren't traveling in the car when we got sick, and we weren't away from home. I've been around enough of that to know it's even more unpleasant when not at home.

3) It wasn't severe. By the end of Monday, Elizabeth was feeling much better, running around and playing, and managing to keep things in. I only had one episode of unpleasantness, and the rest of the day just felt blah and achy.

4) It has been short lived. This is her first "major" sickness - we've only dealt with stuffy noses before now. I'm glad it's not drawn out.

Hopefully, we'll return to normal for the rest of the week!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

fitness starts in your head

Pin It

I read through Deanna Adler's site about her journey to health. She was minutes away from scheduling a gastric bypass surgery, and found herself giving one more shot at loosing weight the natural way - through hard work and determination.

I am inspired by her motivation to loose the weight without drastic measures. More importantly, I have found the need to take a closer look at the emotional issues that can drive weight gain, and difficulty in getting rid of unwanted weight. Shows like The Biggest Loser (one of the only shows for which I'll turn on my TV) put weight loss and fitness in the national spotlight, and in recent seasons have dealt with the concept that emotional struggles can have a profound impact on our ability to loose and keep off weight. I don't often put myself in the category of someone with emotional troubles. I have led a charmed life, to be sure. But as I read portions of her story, I found myself wondering if perhaps I, too, am dealing with self-worth issues.

It's so easy to dismiss our weight struggles as something strictly related to will power or self discipline. Certainly, there are problems with the kind of diets we eat. But to think that those might be the only problems would be to hide our heads in the sand.

The journey to health and fitness isn't something that can be done independent of everything else in our lives. We have to integrate an attitude of wellness into every aspect of our being - the things we do and think with ourselves, and the things we do and think about the people in our lives.

Take a careful look at your attitude about yourself. Do you define yourself by what you do? Is your value defined by the people in your life, the money in the bank, or the way you look? These shouldn't be the areas where we find our value. From a Christian stand point, I would say that our value can come from only one source, and it's not a value that we can decide, or decline. We can, however, refuse to believe that we have worth apart from the things in our world, and that is where some of us struggle in the self-worth department. As you move forward in your journey to health and fitness, take an inventory of yourself. Deal with past emotional struggles in a constructive way. Talk with someone about your struggles, and make an action plan for repairing your heart.

If we're going to get fit and healthy, we might as well do it all the way around, right?

Friday, March 21, 2008

baby sign

Pin It

We've been working with Elizabeth on baby sign language (the popular thing first-time parents try with baby #1, but that gets lost with subsequent children). We purchased a few books, and have been using signs on and off for most of the last 6 months. I was pretty convinced that she was just ignoring trying to use them. She seems to understand the sign for hungry (that one is important!), but everything else - whatever.

Until this past week. I noticed whenever she looks outside that she pinches her fingers together. Yup. She's making the sign for "bird." Bird?! It's no more remarkable than any of the other signs in the books. And yet as we visit at my parents house, where they have an pet bird, she insistently signs and says "Bird!" before she even reaches the room with the bird in it.

Go figure. Nothing useful like "change," "thirsty," "hungry," or "more." Just Bird.

change of scene

Pin It

This weekend, I'm away at the artist's studio. Although the trip originally was for the purpose of finalizing some drum tracks for Jude's album, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to spend some time with the master artist. I hauled out my watercolor supplies, which have been idle in a dark closet since some months before Elizabeth was born. I certainly needed the refresher on how to use the tools.

My first few pieces remind me of something an elementary student would create. But, it's getting me going. For a long time, I've been hung up on how time-consuming it would be to prepare everything to even paint just a piece or two. But, I see that I can manage it, even with a toddler running around. We'll see how I feel about posting any of this work once I get it home.

I'm beginning to see cycles in how I work (all work, not just watercolor), and I'll need to take account for this in the years to come. I'm almost always getting back into the swing of things, without ever apparently getting to where I feel firmly settled into whatever I think I'm warming up to. Unfortunately, I think this is also true for the way I approach fitness and health. I perceive myself as almost being in the habit, almost living right, instead of recognizing that for every right decision I make regarding fitness and health, I am where I need to be!

It's hard to feel like I've accomplished anything if I never recognize what I get done. But the great thing is I see now that I am getting something done, even if it's not a lot all at one time!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

getting the most out of your cloth diaper dollar

Pin It

Recently, I wrote about my cost of cloth diapering in the first year of Elizabeth's life. That post found its way onto The Simple Dollar, where there were lots of great comments that got me thinking more about the expense of cloth, and more importantly, how to reduce the cost of cloth even more compared to what I spent in my first year. I've compiled a quick reference for how to get the most out of your cloth diaper dollar.

If you are looking for the absolute least expensive new diapers to buy look for prefolds, pins, and plastic covers. If I were to go now and purchase new what I would need for Elizabeth (based on this past year's experience), I would only spend about $115 dollars on the covers, diapers, and pins (thats 24 infant prefolds at $1.50/each, 24 regular prefolds at $2.00/each, 4 covers each in 2 different sizes - $5/2 covers, and $1.00 for a pack of diaper pins). 24 Wipes - $24.00. If you just use a 5 gallon bucket with a lid, that's about $3 at your local home store. So, you're looking at $142, no sales tax or shipping included, and that should last you until your child hits about 25 pounds.

Shop around at various internet retailers. Many times, they offer free shipping on orders above the $75 dollar mark. Look for a shop that doesn't charge sales tax in your state. Look for sales, and look for "starter kits" - these can offer great savings.

You could go even cheaper if you purchased used diapers, or found new previously owned diapers on places like eBay. I picked up some covers for about 4 dollars less than retail, even with the shipping cost. Note that eBay (and many other places) don't allow selling of used diapers. Buying used diapers can make a huge difference in cost - you can often find diapers for less than half the price of new diaper. is a great place to find good deals on used diapers.

Make your own - there are patterns available for free for making cloth diapers, even the fancy fitteds and pocket style diapers. Of course, it will be much less expensive to make prefolds, but a sewing machine and some time will make the diapers and the wipes easily.

Do your research There are lots of different cloth diapering systems out there, and you can stick with one style, or go with a combination. Every child wears diapers differently, and you need to find what will work best with your child. Since I didn't know how Elizabeth would diaper, I got a variety of diaper styles, and have found the items that I prefer to work with.

Wash a little, air dry - If you're just using prefolds and covers, you can use just about any inexpensive detergent you want. It doesn't take a lot of detergent to get the job done. Even just a rinse, wash, rinse, rinse will be sufficient for most situations. Air dry your cloth - huge savings if you just take advantage of the air and sun, or in the winter, just drape the diapers on a drying rack, or even lines strung across your laundry area.

Understand the impact of detergent and your wash process on your diapers. Although there are many advocates for using the cheapest detergent you can find, if you are choosing to use diapers that have fleece or other specialty materials and designs, cheap can ruin your diapers (as in, the elastic is no longer functional). For all kinds of diapers, many detergents can cause repelling issues and stink issues that require lots of washes to remove. One resource that is often referred to is the detergent analysis found at Pinstripes and Polkadots.

There are a Bazillion cloth diaper shops online and almost as many manufacturers (both large companies and WAHM sized businesses) It's worth the time to see what is available before you invest lots into your diapering system.

For many of us, it's worth the extra expense (although still cheaper than disposables!) to get the expensive cloth diapers, as they can be easy to use and offer many of the same benefits of disposables. You might even convince your daycare to let you use pocket diapers, or all-in-one diapers. It's worth an ask!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

exercise by video

Pin It

I grew up in a household where we weren't into sports. My Mom made an effort to keep in shape, and I remember doing exercise videos or recorded shows (remember Gilad of Bodies in Motion?) with her from a very early age. My home culture led me to understand that it was important to be healthy and eat wholesome foods. The thing that I didn't develop from that home culture was a lifestyle of physical activity.

Here I am, years away from the time I was my Mom's back-up exerciser, and my daughter is watching me do the same thing. Although I respect the value of the exercise video for those of us who struggle to get out and lead a life of movement, I am discouraged by the compartmentalizing of our lives into convenient half-hour exercise sessions, and by the underlying sense that I'm trying to buy "fitness in a box" instead of going out and doing it the old-fashioned way.

I believe that exercise videos can make a difference in the lives of the people who use them. I know that I have benefited from using such videos, in that it gets me moving on days when I just want to sit and watch TV or spend time in from of my computer. Videos are a starting place and a stepping stone to the next phase of a fit life. I know I'll continue to use videos, especially since I can learn new things from videos that I don't have regular access to, such as yoga or pilates.

The challenge is to move beyond the videos and start incorporating physical activity into a lifestyle - walking, biking, swimming, playing - so that the children in our lives have a model to follow that will lead them to a lifetime of health, as well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

don't "waist" your food

Pin It

Some of us grew up in households where you didn't waste food. You might be familiar with ideas like these:

You cleaned off your plate, you were careful to eat everything, because "there are starving children in Africa."
If there was left over food at a group picnic or meal, or after a wedding or a party, you took it home (even if you didn't bring it), because it's shamefully wasteful to just throw away that whole sheet cake (or that box of Doritos, or whatever has been left).
Someone paid hard-earned money for that food, and it borders upon sinfulness to throw it away. If nothing else, you're being a bad steward over the resources under your care.

Perhaps this mindset is appropriate if you're in a situation where you don't eat meals consistently due to financial strain. In those situations, it makes sense that when you have food, you eat it, because you might not get to eat again for a long while. Our bodies are actually designed for just such an occurrence - when we eat more than we can burn off, our bodies store that energy in the form of fat. If we're in a situation where we haven't been getting enough energy from our food, our bodies slow down the metabolism (the rate a which we burn energy) and start using the energy stored in fat.

The reality is that for most Americans, we can reasonably accurately predict when our next meal will be. Most of us can count on getting food as often as we want. Unfortunately, we still think of food as a scarce commodity, so we hoard it - we eat as much as we can - we "stuff" ourselves. I can identify specific experiences in my recent life where I encountered this mind set. Whenever I encounter a food that I really like, my tendency is to eat as much of it as I can, because I don't know when I'll get to eat it again. Take ice cream, for instance. Even though I can go out and buy ice cream as often as I could think to want it, in virtually any flavor I could think of, I eat heaping bowl-fulls, because I might not eat ice cream again for a long time.

My brother offered me some insight into this situation:

It is just as wasteful, if not more so, to pack on pounds, to put our bodies in a state of stress and ill-health, to potentially waste thousands of dollars on medical conditions that could be avoided simply by not eating more than we need. By choosing to eat that sheet cake that you brought home from your cousin's wedding, instead of throwing it in the trash where excessive junk food belongs, you're "waisting" your food, instead of wasting it.

We shouldn't "waist" our food! Throw it out. Junk food is more junk than food. The nutritional value found in it is not worth the calories you add to your system. The choice to have leftover food was made by the people who ordered the food, or by those who prepared it. While you could probably deal with bringing home a piece of cake, unless you have a family of 24 people, a sheet cake is unnecessary.

Leftovers aren't inherently evil. But, if you take home leftovers and eat them in addition to, or in excess, of what you would normally consume, they become a bad idea. Any food eaten in excess of your body's caloric needs becomes "waisted" food.

Save yourself some effort, and make wise use of the foods available to you. Buy less junk and sweets. Make leftovers from meals you cook (take leftovers to work for lunch!) instead of eating it all.

If you are a person who hates to eat leftovers, don't keep them in your fridge OR on your body. Throw them out. Don't stuff yourself just because you can't stand the idea of throwing out "perfectly good food." Food is only good, or useful, to the extent that it helps us to lead healthy, fit lives.

I have to work on this mindset every time I'm faced the the opportunity to "waist" my food. Just recently, I threw out 2 whole pizzas and 6 cupcakes. Why? Because I made the initial mistake of ordering too much pizza, and making too many cupcakes. Even though both were poor initial decisions, there is no need for me to compound it by "waisting" it, too!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

the art of bread making

Pin It

As my longtime readers know, I like to bake bread. It's good for you- it doesn't have the preservatives and artificial ingredients found in most commercial bread. It can save you money, because you can make a lot of loaves of bread with less money than you'd spend to buy the same amount of bread - to buy the same number of loaves made from one batch of dough, it would cost me more than ten dollars!

Unfortunately, I haven't made the time to make any bread since, oh, I think the week before Elizabeth was born. It's been high time that I haul out my Kitchen Aid stand mixer - 6 quarts of Professional Power. Rah! (And, a salute to my military brothers and sisters, as it used to be entirely Imperial Grey, but now it's half Imperial Grey, half Army Green, courtesy of the sun.)

The warm weather this past week is really what inspired me. We were out cleaning the lawn in preparation for the greening season - clipping out old growth from the bushes, raking the last few leaves from the fall, and chasing Elizabeth as she tried to climb up and down the porch steps while eating potting soil. Little bugs were flying around, and I remembered something my mom told me, "Carmen said the best time to bake bread is when the little black bugs are flying in the spring." (At least, it was something like that.) Carmen is a source to be trusted. She ran her own bakery for years, and she personally customized the bread recipe that my mother and I both use for baking our 100% whole wheat bread. (One might ask, how can a bread recipe be customized? Short answer - food allergies and electric mixer vs. hand mixer.)

My mom called me to say that she was going to bake bread, but that ALAS! she had misplaced her recipe! I found the e-copy she had sent me (with her idiot-proofing comments that help me know how to bake it even when she's 250 miles away) and fired it back across the web to her. I knew it was time to get the flour out, and the yeast bubbling. This is where the "art" part of bread making comes in.

Although recipes for bread can be relatively straight forward, the information that is not presented in the recipe are the things that separate a good loaf from a great loaf. I have yet to achieve the latter to my satisfaction. As an impatient baker, this is a challenge for me. Baking bread, and the exact quantities of ingredients are, well, not exact. It's an art.

The information not present in a recipe comes through years of practice. Did you know the weather makes a difference in how much water you need to add to your bread? If it's humid, it usually takes less water. Opening the door on your oven at the wrong time can lead to fallen crusts. The way you proof your yeast, the temperature of your bowl before you add your water, the feel of the dough as you knead it all contribute to the quality of the final product. Whenever I have a question about whether the dough is sufficiently kneaded, my mother says, "What does it feel like? What does it look like? Are there long stretchy fibers?" I say, "Well, it feels like dough....yes, but how long is long?" And forming your loaves? You guessed it - an art.

Unfortunately for me, I have yet to master the art of bread making. This time, the humidity and my impatience both interfered with the final appearance of my bread. At least the bread still tastes good!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

get fit for cheap

Pin It

I'm not an avid fitness nut. I know I should exercise, but I'm a long way from enjoying exercise. I have to convince myself almost every morning to get at least a little bit of exercise in. I keep thinking there has to be a way to get fit, even for those of us who don't like to exercise, and don't believe in "dieting." There has to be a way that doesn't require thousands of dollars of gym memberships, personal trainers, and equipment. I offer up three tips that cost nothing, and can substantially improve your life.

The best and cheapest fitness tip - go walking. You have everything you need. Even though I didn't know it at the time, this was the way I kept the weight off in college. I walked everywhere I went. Now, I sit on my backside most of the day. I did end up investing in a treadmill (found it on sale for half price), primarily because I didn't feel secure in leaving the house with Elizabeth to go walking for extended periods of time. I don't use it every day, but using it 3-4 times a week has me in better shape than before we had a baby in the house!

The best and cheapest nutrition tip - watch your portion sizes. Not only will this help whittle your waist, but it can whittle away at your grocery bill. Perhaps you've heard this before, but it bears repeating, because portion size is at the heart of the matter when it comes to America's expanding waistlines.

The best and cheapest tip for sticking with it - to borrow a line from Nike, "Just Do It." Seriously. There are lots of things we can control in our lives, and deciding to get fit is one of them. I have to decide every single day to exercise. It's not something I look forward to, but like many things in life, we do them because we must. Every day that I decide to exercise is one more day that I can look back on and say, "I decided to do it then, I can choose to do it now, too." It's easy to put up mental blocks and find excuses about why we can't exercise or eat right. The true key is to find the point in your life when you see your health and fitness as important enough to make and keep changes that matter.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

cloth diapers: crunching the numbers

Pin It

I've been reading the blog of an acquaintance, and recently, he told readers to ask him anything they want. There were several commentors who asked for a cost benefit for cloth diapering. While there are lots of resources out there to analyze this, I thought I'd take a shot at figuring out in my own situation what the cost of cloth diapering has been over Elizabeth's first year of life.

My methodology is a little hazy, but hopefully it's decent enough to give a realistic analysis. If you have suggestions for other ways to provide a better view of the cost, please advise me, and I will report back!

Update: see my follow-up post for additional thoughts on saving more when you buy cloth diapers.

The Background

All of our appliances are electric. I wash diapers approximately 3 times a week. My wash routine for the majority of the year has been: 1 cold wash and rinse, no extra rinse, no detergent; 1 warm wash and rinse, extra rinse with detergent; 1 cold wash and rinse, no extra rinse, no detergent; typically followed by 2 - 45 minute dryer cycles. I found this to be most effective for me. Some people do fine with a cold rinse, warm wash with 1 extra rinse, which could potentially reduce the amount of water and electricity used by almost half.

Currently, I change diapers about 7 times a day, making for about 50 diapers a week. Even though diapers were changed more frequently in early months, I figure this is a reasonable number to use, so that makes for about 2,600 diaper changes per year. On a side note, if it takes about 1 minute to change a diaper -ha, right! - then that means I've spent in the neighborhood of 44 hours changing diapers - that almost 2 full days of diaper changes!

My diaper stash is a mix of inexpensive (prefolds, pins, and cheap covers) and the pricey (pocket diapers). The way I figure it, I have about 53 diapers - 30 infant prefolds or fitteds that were used up to about 14 lbs, 12 premium prefolds we're using now, and about 11 one size diapers that we've used all along. Over the course of the past year, we've purchased some disposable diapers, and we were given some as gifts. I figure we used about 360 disposable diapers - usually when we were gone on vacation somewhere, which, with all of our family and church activities, was in the neighborhood of 6 weeks. We also used them occasionally when diapers weren't washed in a timely fashion.

The Numbers

The total value of my cloth diaper stash - $705.53*
Detergents - $51.00
Utilities (water and electric) - $173.55**

Total cost for cloth diapering in Year 1 (2007) - $930.08

If one assumes that 50 diaper changes a week is a reasonable yearly average, then, if we cloth diapered exclusively, that would work out to 2600 diaper changes in 2007. Considering that we know we did about 360 changes less than that average, we will use 2240 as our number of diaper changes in 2007. That works out to about $ 0.42 per washed diaper in Year 1. ($930.08/2240)

* This number includes ALL diapering items - prefolds, covers, snappis (replaces diaper pins) one size pocket diapers, reusable cloth wipes, diaper pail and reusable liners, a diaper sprayer to remove solids from diapers, and a few other miscellaneous diaper accessories.

** To calculate utilities, I made a basic assumption that the increase in cost between 2006 and 2007 is all diaper related. The reality is that utility rates have increased, there was additional baby-related laundry, and we used the air conditioners more in the summer of 2007 than we had in previous years. I believe the actual cost related to cloth diapers would be noticeably lower. We used less water in 2007 than in 2006 because of changes in the number of people living in our home (one adult was replaced by one infant). But, for grins, and because we had changes in people and fixed several plumbing leaks in 2007 that throw off our numbers, I'll go ahead and include a cost for water. In electricity, we used about 1732 kWh more in 2007 than in 2006.

Less than $1000 doesn't seem too bad, but it doesn't seem too far from what you might expect to spend on disposable diapers. However, one must consider that these diapers should last us another year, so the only additional expense in Year 2 should be utilities and laundry detergent. If we assume that the prices on those items will remain constant, then over the course of 2 years, the cost would be more like this:

Year 2

The total value of my cloth diaper stash purchased in Year 2 - $0 - bought it all last year
Detergents - $51.00
Utilities (water and electric) - $173.55

Total for Year 2 in cloth - $224.55

Not too bad. I think I can scrounge around and find that in pocket change over the course of a year!

Total for 2 years in cloth - $1154.63

If we assume 2240 diaper changes in Year 1, and lets assume that there will be fewer diaper changes in Year 2 (we'll say on average 5 changes per day - 1825 per year), then we would say that over the course of Year 1 and Year 2 there will be 4065 diaper changes. That gives us a cost of $.28 per diaper change.

Comparing to Disposables

Since I haven't used disposable diapers exclusively, I will have to estimate the cost for Year 1 and Year 2 diapers, based on the same changing habits as with cloth. I went to my local big-blue-box store, and priced out diapers in the lower range - the white cloud store brand. I priced at purchasing in bulk when possible, and since in real life we can only buy whole packages of diapers, I "bought" however many packages I needed to cover the number of changes, even if I ended up with extras. Since the cost per diaper of disposables varies depending on size, I reviewed Elizabeth's growth chart to guess the number of weeks that she would have been in a given size, still using the 50 changes per week average. (This, I think, is underestimating since there are more diaper changes in the first few months.) I'm also assuming 2.5 wipes per change because my experience is that I'll use one wipe for some changes, and 6 or 7 for the messier changes.

Year 1

NB - 100 changes, 3 pkgs (40/$6.97) - $20.91
Sz 1 - 100 changes, 1 jumbo( 88/$12.74), 1 regular pkg (44/$6.97) - $19.71
Sz 2 - 400 changes, 5 pkgs (80/$12.74)- $63.70
Sz 3 - 2000 changes, 24 pkgs (84/$13.98) - $335.52
Wipes (at 2.5 wipes per change) 6500 - 11 pkgs at (648/$11.82) - $130.02
And, just for fun - Diaper Genie 2 - $29.96 and 15 refills - $89.10

Once we figure sales tax in, this comes up to about $858.83 for Year 1, or about $.33 per diaper change (yes, this is a little fuzzy, because it does not account for the extra diapers purchased in each size.)

Year 2

Assuming that children use fewer diapers on average per day as they get older, I'm pretending that Elizabeth would have about 5 diaper changes per day, for a total of 1825 changes in a year. If that were split evenly between the next 2 sizes, then it would look like this:

Sz 3 - 913 changes, (84/$13.98) - $153.78
Sz 4 - 913 changes, (72/13.98) - $181.74
Wipes (at 2.5 wipes per change) 4680 - at (648/$11.82) - $94.56
11 diaper genie 2 refills - $65.34

Total cost in Year 2 after sales tax - $495.42, or about $.27 per diaper change.

Total cost to use disposable diapers for 2 years - $1354.25 Assuming 4065 diaper changes over the course of 2 years, that gives us a cost of $.33 per diaper change.

If you were inclined to use more expensive brands - I priced out Pampers' Swaddlers and Babydry style diapers - then you could expect to add about $90 in the first year, and about $100 in the second year, for a total of $1601.83 to diaper for 2 years in a more expensive disposable.


End of Year 1 - Cloth - $930.08 Disposables - $858.83
End of Year 2 - Cloth - $1154.63 Disposables - $1354.25

If I had opted out of a larger stash and some accessories, I believe that the cost in Year 1 of cloth diapering would be on par with the cost of disposables.

Since most children are not potty trained by one year, I would say that cloth is cheaper, even when you have some of the more expensive diapers. Actually, for the money that I "save" by using cloth - $199.62 - I could have added more than 8 pocket diapers to my stash, and still come out on top.

Factors That Make Disposable Diapers More Expensive Than Calculated

The brand - as I indicated above, if you go for a more expensive brand, it will cost you more. One of the reasons I opted for cloth is that I believe there are health benefits to avoiding disposables. If I use disposables, my preference is brands like 7th Generation, which have fewer dioxins, and hopefully, are healthier for babies. That brand is even more expensive than brands like Pampers.

The size of the package - Some parents are cautious about buying in bulk, since it means you could be stuck with lots of diapers in the wrong size. Some parents don't have the upfront cash to buy diapers in bulk, so they end up spending more per diaper when they buy smaller packages.

Frequency of changes - While I used a 50 change per week average, the truth is, diapers should be changed more frequently for health. We shouldn't be letting the disposables fill until they are falling off the bottoms of the babies. More diaper changes mean a noticeable increase in expense with disposables, while with cloth, more changes do not significantly impact the number of washes. In cloth, more changes mean the cost per washed diaper keeps dropping.

The leaks - the times when I used disposables, I found that they tended to leak more, which sometimes rendered clothing stained beyond public wear.

The garbage - Although I haven't any personal experience with this, some people have reported to me that their garbage service charges more, because they set more bags/containers of trash out on the curb.

Factors That Affect Your Personal Cost to Cloth Diaper

Your Stash - if you go with the cheapest end of cloth diapering - all prefolds, inexpensive covers, inexpensive detergents, then you will see a greater benefit. If you use the most expensive options - all-in-one diapers or pocket diapers and manufacturer recommended detergents like Allen's Naturally then your cost recovery will be much slower. If you buy a large stash, the diapers individually will last longer, but of course, the cash outlay for 48 pocket diapers is substantially more than that for just 24.

Your routine - if you wash more often, or have more rinses, etc., then you'll see greater utility costs.

The number of children - the more children you have who will wear the same cloth diapers, the greater your savings.

And, if you're not convinced that cloth is less expensive (aside from the potential health and environmental benefits), check out these sites:

Punkin-butt: Diaper Dollar

Cloth Diapers: Can I afford to cloth diaper?

Nicki's Diapers: How much money can you really save?

Pinstripes and Polka Dots: how much will cloth diapers cost?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

in the studio

Pin It

Jude is in the studio. The recording studio. I'm pleased that he's working on finally getting his music in a playback format! He's put off getting anything recorded for more than 4 years. Last year, he set up his studio in a spare bedroom, only to be thwarted by the arrival of Elizabeth in our lives. Now that winter break is almost over, he has some time to be up the recording away.

I've been encouraging him to record, but I'll admit I've struggled with the amount of time that he needs to spend in the studio in order to accomplish anything. I know how it can be tough to get into the creative zone, and how frustrating it can be to be interrupted. I've been telling him to just do a rough recording - voice and acoustic of each track, even if only for my benefit. Unfortunately (for me) he insists that the songs need to be complete before he lets them out of his hands.

So far, he has about 4 songs that have almost all the parts tracked. He's not a drum man, though, so that will be sent out, delaying the final product. I honestly don't know when we'll even see one track that is completely mixed down and ready by his standards. I know I would like to see something to show for all the hours he's been putting in up there, but perhaps just knowing that he's finally able to put his creative side to work on music is enough.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...