Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rate Chasing

I mentioned in a recent post that I was doing a little bit of rate chasing with our savings account, where we keep our emergency fund and short and medium term savings. Here's a rundown on why I did that and how it went.

Years ago, Peanut and I got a joint savings account at Capital One (where we also had a checking account and credit card). They offered 1% interest with a quarterly .1% bonus, and it was a pretty good rate for the time. A few months ago, when I was putting the interest earned into our spreadsheet, I noticed that it seemed lower than it should be. I checked, and sure enough the interest rate had dropped to .5%. We had either never received notice that this was going to happen, or it was buried in paperwork/email such that we didn't realize it, and it annoyed me. It's entirely possible that they weren't required to give us notice, I guess. Anyway, I couldn't figure out how long it had been like that, and it made me irritated enough that I decided to go looking for a better option.

I poked around The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly, both of which frequently do savings account round-ups, and found a number of options at marginally better rates - up to .90% with a huge balance (something like $50,000). I was looking mainly for a no-fee, easy access account with either no minimum balance or one that we wouldn't trip if we had to use our emergency fund for something big. I first checked with Wells Fargo, where we have our checking account, but they didn't have a competitive option. The online-only banks with the best rates didn't meet my requirements for no-fee or minimum balance, but Capital One 360 had an option with .75% that did. And that should be easy, right? Capital One/Capital One 360, what could be the difference?

Turns out, there's a lot of difference. Like, they are basically different institutions. Capital One 360 used to be ING Direct, which wound up being okay because I was an ING customer once upon a time, and they were able to simply get my old account up and running. Linking the accounts and verifying the tiny deposits took some time, and then I had to figure out how to get the money from one account to the other.

It's frustrating but there are federal laws that govern savings accounts, including how many withdrawals you can make during a month and other things. At any rate, for some reason we couldn't just transfer money between the accounts like I could if one of them had been a checking account, but a few phone calls and I was able to find someone who handled it as a wire transfer with no fee. Perfect!

Two days later, the money was in the new account, earning .25% more interest, and the old account appears to be closed (I will be keeping an eye on that - it was no fee, no minimum balance, but I don't like leaving open accounts hanging around). It was painless, if not exactly hassle free, and I'm glad to know that our money is doing a little more work for us.

This is not something I recommend doing on a regular basis. It's not worth the time you'll spend to do it even once a year - I think we will earn about $20 more this year than we would have if I'd left it alone. But every five years or so, or when things substantially change with the economy or the terms of your account, it's worth taking a look at. Hopefully we will continue to grow our emergency fund, so over time this work will be more valuable.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sous Chef: Butternut Squash Casserole

Click to pin the recipe!
I found this recipe at The Simple Dollar in a round up of cheap, healthy Dinner with My Family recipes, and I was intrigued. I love butternut squash and bought it every week at Aldi last summer - and this year we're growing it in our garden so I've been looking for ideas for what to do with it.

Prep: This recipe comes together quickly and pretty easily - the most difficult part was definitely peeling and cubing the squash, which is not my favorite part (I usually halve it and roast it to avoid that, actually). Even so, it didn't take long to pull together and

Taste: I'm not generally a huge fan of blue cheese, but I thought the combination might be intriguing. It was okay, though I will probably try a different cheese next time - feta or maybe mozzarella, which I always have on hand. I might also reduce the baking time, as the squash was very tender and I usually like it to have a bit more of a bite to it.

Reception: I'm the only one who ate this, so apparently I'll be eating the whole pan. Good thing I'm eating for two, har har. Pickle politely took two nibbles out of a piece of squash and Peanut looked skeptical at me at the very mention of it. I might freeze half of it and see if it keeps, because of course I used a GIANT squash so I have a ton of it left over.

Anecdata: Cheap, easy to have pretty much everything on hand, easy. Not much to dislike about this! 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kill Those Watts!

Peanut and I have noticed our electric bill creeping up lately, not so incrementally. Both our bill cost and kilowatt per hour usage is up somewhat significantly over last year, so we decided to go on a search to figure out why.

First, we checked whether the rates had increased over last summer. This information is printed on the bill, but we don't get a paper bill so we had to go digging on the website to find it. We learned that the cost had increased by about $.005 (half a cent) for electric and $.003 for delivery per kwh (we're not totally sure what this is, but we think it is the cost to get the electricity to us, so is charged by the kwh just like the electricity itself). It explained part of the difference in our total bill, but not all of it. Plus we can see right on our bill that our kwh usage is up compared to last year.

Then, we rented a wattage meter from our local public library. You plug this in to various electrical devices in your home and it tells you the energy draw in kilowatt hours, the same increment charged by the electric company. We found it really interesting which of our appliances were the biggest energy hogs.

Our #1 energy hog: the toaster oven. Really! If we ran the toaster oven continuously, it would cost us $107 per month (and it would burn our house down). The culprit of the biggest actual cost, though, was the dehumidifier - about $33 per month. Next up is our upstairs computer which runs a server ($20 per month), then our downstairs computer ($9 per month). Our deep freeze is a bargain at just $4 per month. We only checked appliances for which we might actually change our usage depending on their cost, so we didn't check the regular fridge/freezer or things like lamps or the baby monitor. And we couldn't check the air conditioner since it doesn't just plug into the wall. We did discover that a phone charger plugged in to an outlet with no phone on it costs nothing per month, and when you add an uncharged phone, it costs $.40 (that's if it charged the phone for the whole month, not each time you charge it). If you leave a fully charged phone plugged in, it would cost you $.09 per month. Interesting stuff. 

Third, we tried to figure out where we had increased our energy usage over the last year. We came up with a couple of theories - first, I'm pregnant during this summer and I wasn't last summer, and I have been feeling a lot hotter than usual. We keep our thermostat at 78 degrees, but I have had to turn it down to 76 on occasion when I just couldn't get comfortable, and each degree is about a 1% difference in energy use (I haven't run the math on that, but I'm sure it adds up to a dollar or two a day if I leave it cooler for eight to ten hours at a time). Second, after our basement flooded last summer, we've been trying to keep it drier down there to prevent mold, and have been running a dehumidifier quite a bit - like, 2 out of 3 days in a month. We got an older dehumidifier at an estate sale for $20; it's worked great but we are now considering whether it would be worth it for us to invest in a more energy efficient model that might have lower energy costs. Probably we'll shelve the idea until next summer because we're about to run into the time of year where our house is way too dry instead of too damp.

At any rate, it was a really interesting experiment to figure out why our energy bill was so much higher than we're used to - I get really peeved when I can't figure out why I'm paying more for something. In this case, it's pretty clear that I'm getting more of that something - electricity - even though it's hard to directly see the increase in our consumption. I now find myself turning off lights, or not turning them on to begin with, thanks to our little exercise, and I'm not so grumpy about paying the bills.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Also better late than never - September goals!

1. Move savings account, close old one. More on this in a different post, but I'm doing a little bit of rate chasing and just need to clean up some odds and ends to get it all done.

2. Lower grocery spending. Our food spending has been a leeeetle bit out of control lately. Our increased grocery store prices and loss of double coupon days is making an impact, but most of it is just buying whatever I want when I'm in the store, I think. Time to do a little better with planning and listmaking (and tamping down on the nesting urge to stock up - the grocery store will still be there after the baby is born, and I know now what a treat it is to get out and go somewhere alone in the early days!).

3. Get some nesting done without spending $$$. My honey-do list is long, long, long, and most of the things on there could be accomplished if we spent out on it. But I'm trying to find cheaper ways to cross things off. Example: I want a johnny-wall cabinet for our bathroom. I've wanted one for years, pretty much since we moved into this house. I found one at Home Depot for $90 and told Peanut that I'm going to buy it in one month, unless he makes me one before then. He likes doing wood-working stuff and this is a project I will be happy to lose him to for an afternoon, so we both win.

Better Late Than Never: August Spending Recap




business ($3.89)
car jeep ($56.16)
car mazda ($162.70)
Cell phones ($100.00)
charity ($10.00)
clothing ($227.78)
electric ($136.24)
Entertainment ($192.36)
food - groceries ($521.90)
food - other ($353.43)
gas ($24.54)
Helicopter/Robot ($39.18)
house ($1,401.71)
household ($421.71)
Hygiene ($20.00)
internet ($75.57)
medical ($18.59)
transportation ($50.00)
Water & Trash ($76.46)
Things of Note: 
The clothing category was quite a bit higher than usual, for a couple reasons. I had to start wearing maternity clothes, which I never had to do with Pickle, and so I had to go buy some. I've been getting them from thrift stores and clearance racks and hand me downs, and I think I've got all I need now. I also hit up the kids' consignment sale for things for Pickle and baby boy, and picked up some new cloth diapers to try out. 

Our entertainment category was higher than usual as well - the state fair and Renaissance Festival both fall during this month, and we did both (this is also why our food - other category is kind of high too, ahem). 

A massive Costco trip covers the bump in household and food - groceries categories. 

Overall, not a bad month. 


How was your August spending?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mo' Money, Mo' Grind

Things have settled down a little for me financially - I was feeling the pinch of consumerism earlier this month, but that's mostly gone away now. The biggest reason is because we are basically ready for the newest Moneybags to join the family - we've got everything we need on hand, mostly thanks to the most recent kids' consignment sale. I got a whole boy's first nine months wardrobe and a double stroller for $150, and I sold enough stuff to make almost $90 - not a bad deal! I also swapped a bunch of clothes with my NICU mom friend - girly stuff for her, adorable boy stuff for me (with nary a baseball or football on them, all monsters and bears and dinosaurs, yay!).

Since then, Pickle and I have been out and about enjoying the summer, and not focused on acquiring things for the new baby. We've visited local parks, playgrounds and pools as well as a children's museum (we bought a membership). We haven't been taking too many stroller walks because I need to be off my feet a lot, but we're spending tons of time in the backyard - someone put one of those turtle sandbox things out by their mailbox with a "free" sign on it, and I snatched it up and turned it into a wading pool for her. She's fascinated by airplanes, so we like to sit in the shade and making zooming noises as they go by.

Which reminds me, if you've got a little aerophile like I do, a great free thing to do is head somewhere near your local airport where you can watch planes take off and land. We haven't done it yet, but a great place to do this in the Twin Cities is the rooftop parking lot of the Mall of America - the planes come in right overhead; you can almost see the people in the windows! We'll be doing that at least once in the coming weeks.

I have a few more projects that I'd like to complete before baby arrives - eventually we will be redoing the nursery and I've got some things I can do now to make the space work better for two than for one. These Ikea spice rack bookshelves are at the top of my list. The other thing we have coming up is Pickle's second birthday next month. We will be having a small, family-and-friends-who-are-family-only party at our house, with cake and ice cream. (Last year I also made dinner for everyone, but that's not happening this time.) I am thinking about making an Elmo cake, since that's her newest obsession (thank you, Grandma), but I'm not sure if it would freak her out to actually eat Elmo. We'll see.

Anyway, that's what's been new around here - it's been nice to have a break from all the money thoughts for a while.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sous Chef: Chicken Burrito Bowl


Prep: One pot, minimal attention, half an hour to table, inexpensive - meets most of my criteria for a great dinner. I forgot to thaw the chicken ahead of time and had to cook it from frozen, which took a little longer but didn't ruin my plans or anything. Easy clean up.

Taste: Really good! The Mexican Quinoa recipe is basically a variation of this, and I think I like that slightly better than the rice, but this is really good, filling, tasty, family-friendly, and makes good leftovers.

Reaction: Thumbs up all around - this is another good one to keep on the menu on a regular basis.

Anecdata: Makes four servings, if I remember correctly.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Top savings targets for Brits

It's always a good idea to put some money away whenever you can and a brand new infographic from MYJAR makes it clear what Brits are interested in saving up for.


With 22% managing to add at least £250 a month to their savings pot, even the typical saver puts £144 away. So what is it that people are looking to achieve by making savings?

Top goals

It seems that 36% of savers are thinking about getting away from it all on a holiday, whilst 32% also have the weather in mind, but they are more concerned about having some back-up funds for the proverbial 'rainy day'.

For the future, 26% of savers are looking to make their retirement years easier and 14% are saving for their children, and a further 9% for their grandchildren.

With property prices never far from the headlines and deposits becoming larger all the time, 13% of savers are trying to buy a home and 11% are betting against having to outlay for future repairs.

Loans

Of course for many others the idea of making savings just doesn't come into their planning because the task of simply making ends meet is so demanding.

In fact, one million Brits use payday loans to balance their household budgets and pay basic bills.

Thankfully companies like MYJAR aim to protect their customer's interests by taking a responsible attitude to making loans. By using a system of thorough checks to support their lending decisions they only lend money to people who have a predictable and regular source of income, and they will never encourage anyone to borrow more than they can afford to repay.

Warning: Late repayment can cause you serious money problems. For help, go to moneyadviceservice.org.uk.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sous Chef: Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken and Rice



Prep: This is an easy slowcooker meal that dirties only the crockpot and rice cooker (unless you use rice made earlier in the week, which you could easily do). Takes almost no attention or time.

Taste: The taste was okay but this was really dry. Part of the problem is that the recipe doesn't have amounts in it, and I used plain rice instead of boxed rice, so I think I used too much. I even added milk which didn't seem to make a difference at all.

Reaction: Meh. I like the flavor but the texture left something to be desired. One thing I like is that this is really easy to pair with a veg and salad, so I'll be tweaking it to get a better consistency.

Anecdata: The recipe said to cook on low 7-8 hours but I don't think I'd do more than 5 hours next time - it smelled and looked done by then. On high would be just a couple hours, enough to cook the chicken through. Also, possibly because of my rice enthusiasm, this made a TON of food. I'm going to have to figure out how to make it creamier for us to eat up these leftovers.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Rethinking freezer cooking

I have flirted with freezer cooking for years, but have not had a lot of luck doing it. I've tried doubling recipes and freezing half for later, freezing leftovers, freezing extra bits of things (like half a can of coconut milk or enchilada sauce), and Once A Month Cooking (a special kind of hell where you spend an entire day slaving away to make sixteen versions of basically the same dish and you are so tired of looking at them that you never want to eat them again). The only things that have really worked for me are taco meat and breakfast burritos.

My problems are as follows:
1. Freezer burn. I have tried wrapping in plastic, foil, and freezer bags. I have tried freezing in the dish. I have tried flash freezing. None of it seems to work - food that's cooked and then frozen just tastes like that when you reheat it - it's not as good as if it were made fresh.
2. Storage space. We have a freezer on top of our fridge as well as a chest freezer, but it seems like the kinds of thing I'm storing don't fit well in either freezer, and it's hard to get to the older things first, which means I use up new stuff so the old stuff just sits in the back and gets more freezer burned.
3. System. Keeping track of what's in the freezer and when it was put there is somehow beyond me. Writing the name of the contents on the bag is a good idea, but it doesn't do much good when you forget that it exists. We have a list on the fridge of what's in the chest freezer but I never look at it and it never gets updated. And the reorganization of newer stuff to the back/bottom of the freezer just doesn't seem to happen in my house.

I'd like to get better at this, because we're going to need some stockpiles of stuff for when the newest Baby M comes home. And "freezer meals" has been on my "before baby" checklist since we found out we were expecting, but I have been avoiding this task like the plague.

Cue a new idea!

What if I thought about freezer cooking in a totally different manner? What if I thought about it as stockpiling meals, rather than freezer specific cooking? What if I looked for components of meals on sale, stocked up on those, and froze the perishables, withOUT cooking them ahead of time? Keeping cans of soup, frozen veggies, rice or quinoa, and frozen chicken breasts on hand is not complicated, but toss all of those things in a slow cooker and you've got dinner! If I cooked them ahead of time and then froze them, I would never eat them - but knowing that I have the components on hand would be easier to organize and keep track of, and easier to throw meals together with some semblance of variety.

So. Here's my NEW freezer cooking plan:
1. Stockpiling. Keep an eye out for the following staples, and scoop them up x3 whenever they are on sale: chicken breast, ground beef, canned cream of ______ soups, canned corn, shredded cheese, frozen veggies.
2. Preparing. Chop chicken into bite size pieces, bag up into meal-size bags, freeze. Turn ground beef into taco meat, freeze. Freeze frozen veg (obviously) and shredded cheese (we do this with mozzarella for pizza; surely it would work with cheddar or mexican, right?).
3. Organizing. Get some shallow baskets for the chest freezer. Chicken goes into one basket, taco meat into another, cheese into another, etc. Add new bags to the back of the basket, take from the front. Baskets should be stackable so things don't get lost in the bottom of the freezer.
4. Preparing. Sous Chef posts are focusing on easy throw-together dinners that make use of these kind of staples, as opposed to requiring all fresh ingredients or things that I would only buy for that purpose. So hopefully when the time comes, I will be able to have a basic fresh produce shopping list for adding veggies and fruit to our meals, and otherwise be able to shop the pantry to make slow cooker or one-pot meals for my bigger family.

This seems like something I will actually be able to stick with. I already kind of shop this way - buying extra brats or cereal when they are on sale. I don't know why it never occurred to me to do it with meal components as well.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Ugh, I feel like such a CONSUMER

Seriously, I don't know what is going on with me lately, but I feel like all I'm doing is trying to find ways to spend money.

I blame the pregnancy for the most part. Early on when I had a hard time being interested in food, I gave myself permission to go get whatever sounded good at least every couple of days. Usually I wanted a chicken sandwich and fries from Wendy's, so it wasn't that expensive, but it started a bad habit of talking myself into a "treat" every time I leave the house. I've been combating this by bringing snacks and water with me everywhere now that I'm feeling better, but the habit remains. It mainly stuck out the day I went to the zoo with some friends - I was looking forward to the outing in general but also as a chance to get to eat out, and they all brought food with them. I wound up waiting in line forever with a fussy toddler for greasy park food that wasn't that good but was super expensive. Ugh.

So now I've been trying to be better about not falling into the trap of getting a treat just because I want one. I've been buying soda and ice cream at the grocery store so I have them on hand for cheaper. But then another problem came up - I'm not on bedrest or anything, but I do have to take it easy. When Baby M and I go to the park, I can't push her in the stroller; I have to drive. I kind of rolled my eyes at my doctor's request about this, but it really is too difficult for me to handle the walking and the heat and the stroller and everything else - I start getting lots of contractions and that's not a good thing.

So now we're driving everywhere all the time, which makes it SO EASY to just pop into Target or whatever. And I am relishing the ability to take Pickle out in public - she spent two winters in heavy isolation and just loves going places. She pretends to eat all the food at the grocery store and goes "WOW! WOW!" to almost everything we pass. But of course, I almost always wind up picking up a few things on these trips. I try to go with specific lists and I'm pretty good about it but it's still money that we probably don't need to be spending.

And now I am in full on nesting mode for the new baby - I just want to buy all sorts of cute little boy outfits and get the new cloth diaper stash put into place and everything, and it's just money money money flying right out the window. I have restrained myself so far (with the exception of two sleepers that were at Goodwill for $.75 each) because the kids' consignment sale is coming up next week and I can probably do all my shopping then at once. I'm limiting myself to going on half-price day in hopes that it does some good.

Still, I don't like the way my brain seems to constantly be in "acquiring" mode. It's tiring and distracting, and I don't know how to turn it off. Does anyone else know what I'm talking about?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Baby clothes!

Since the newest Baby Moneybags is expected to like blue and guns and sports, I've been debating what to do about clothing him. I wish I were maverick enough to dress my boy in pink and purple and therefore reuse all of Pickle's old clothes, but I'm not. So what do I do, both about the boxes of clothes in the attic and the soon-to-be naked little boy in my house?

It's a multi-faceted question. We got so much cute stuff for Pickle, mostly as gifts but also at consignment sales. A lot of the stuff is practically brand new because things like over-the-head onesies and zip-up outfits are not practical for a baby on oxygen and with a feeding tube. So do I save it in case we decide to have a third baby, and it's a girl? Do I pass it on to my sister-in-law, who at this very moment might be going into labor with a girl? Do I share it with our NICU friend who had a girl two weeks ago? Do I sell it and try to make some money with which to buy boy clothes?

I decided to do a combination of these things. First of all, I decided that I'd rather stuff get used than sit in storage for years - and we don't even know if we'll want to have another baby after this one, or if it will be safe for me to do so, or if we did, whether it would even be a girl! I hate to see these super cute clothes get musty or damaged because I wanted to keep them all to myself. (And anyway, if we did have another girl, say, three years from now, there will be so much NEW cute stuff to buy! Ahem.)

Second, I got some really nice hand-me-downs, so I didn't feel right simply selling all of our stuff to make money, especially when I know so many moms with babies who could be wearing these clothes right now. I felt the need to pass it forward. So I offered my sister-in-law and cousin a chance to go through everything and take whatever they want. I will take a few of my favorite pieces to my NICU mom friend as well. I'm excited to see babies I know and love wearing some of Pickle's favorite outfits.

Then, I will sell whatever is left. Already, my generosity has paid off - my cousin is passing on her maternity clothes to me and my sister-in-law has given me some toys for Pickle and some boy clothes she bought before she knew what she was having - along with a high chair for me to consign!

And lastly, I'm going to try to reign it in when shopping for baby boy. Clearly, we had way too much stuff for Pickle, so I'm going to try to remember that as I fill my shopping cart. Also, I don't think we'll have any baby showers for this one, so we shouldn't get quite as many new things. We do have more friends with older boy children than girl children, so we might get hand-me-downs, but that's okay.

Weirdly, my "need" for boy stuff is pretty much limited to clothes - he can use Pickle's pink bathtub and sheets and stuff, and that doesn't bother me at all. I just want to get him some cute outfits with monsters or monkeys or trucks on them (no sports, please no sports!) so he'll look all adorable and boylike.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rechristening Baby M

Baby M is hardly a baby anymore at 22 months, so it seems fitting that she should be renamed on this here blog of mine. I've meant to do it and kept forgetting, but it's definitely time to do it now - because she's not going to be the baby anymore!

That's right - we are expecting another baby moneybags! Sometime this fall, the newest member of the clan will be making his appearance. What's that? Oh, yes - it's a boy! Technically he's due close to Christmas, but given my history, we are prepared for baby to make landing anytime starting next month. I am really hoping he stays inside a lot longer, though!

I previously talked about the possibilities of a second pregnancy, and it's interesting to see which of those predictions have come true. I have not been placed on bedrest (in 2013, recommendations on bedrest to prevent pre-term labor changed - they found that it actually worsened the risk). I have been monitored very closely, getting twice the standard number of ultrasounds already to check that everything is going okay. I have met with high-risk specialists, and am receiving progesterone shots to help prevent pre-term labor. And so far, everything seems to be going fine, so I am hopeful that will continue.

My hospital bag is already packed and childcare arrangements are in place, so now we just sit and wait - but hopefully I will be waddling into the hospital at full term begging someone to "get this kid out of me!" (And hopefully I remember to repack the hospital bag with winter clothes instead of summer clothes at some point this fall....)

So I guess the last thing to share is Baby M's new nickname on here - at home, we have affectionately dubbed her Pickle, and so she shall be from here on out.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Our Trip Down South

Um, well, this is a little bit overdue! We've been home for a month, but I guess we've been busy. I outlined a budget before we left, and wanted to do a comparison to see whether I was on target.

Rental Car 
We rented a larger vehicle for comfort and boy was that worth it! From extra room for all the baby gear to more leg room for us to the advantage being able to change a diaper in the back of the car*, this was well worth the cost. I tried to get a Name Your Own Price deal, but turns out I was able to get a better deal by going straight to a rental location that was not at the airport (and, bonus, closer to our house). Expected Cost: $363. Actual cost: $364.73

Gas
Gasbuddy's trip cost calculator estimated $247.62 roundtrip. Expecting extra driving around at our destination (but forgetting to include needing to fill up before returning the car), I called this a $300 expected cost. Actual cost: $332.42

Hotels
We stayed at three hotels during the drive portions of the trip. I booked one hotel before we left, because I knew we would spend that night in that town, but otherwise booked through Priceline's Name Your Own Price feature while we were on the road. Two of our hotels were fine, and one was totally amazing and we plan to stay there every time we make this trip from now on. Expected cost: $300. Actual cost: $217.89

Food
We took a lot of snacks with us (fruit, granola bars, beef jerky, water, soda, and crunchy/salty stuff), and we came home with most of it still in the cooler. I'm not sure how to explain this, other than we needed to stop every few hours for Baby M to run around, and we succumbed to the lure of fast food almost every time. We didn't ever pay for water, though, so that was good. This total includes some groceries we picked up to make Baby M's blends on the road, as well as takeout the night we got home because we did not feel like grocery shopping after driving for two days. I didn't predict an expected cost, but the actual cost: $262.94

Incidentals
We bought a car charger for our phones, picked up some booze for our cat sitter, went to the movies, and bought postcards for a young friend at each state we visited. Our incidentals expenses were $35.99.

Our trip cost us $1,234.26 total. I had hoped to keep it under $1,000, which probably wasn't very realistic. Flying would have been quite a bit more expensive, since we would have had to buy three seats plus still rent a car at our destination. I'm not a huge fan of road trips as I get older (especially with a toddler!), but the cost savings will make me grin and bear it for years to come.


* I was SHOCKED at the number of places that don't have baby changing facilities in their bathrooms.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Seller's Remorse

So, as an addendum to my update on cloth diapering, I wanted to share an experience with seller's remorse.

I took all my pocket diapers to the local cloth diaper store to get some help figuring out how to keep cloth diapering, and I realized that that system of cloth diaper was not going to work for us anymore. So, what to do with all those cloth diapers? Sell them, obviously.

The store I went to made me an offer and it kind of broke my heart - about 25% of what I'd paid for the diapers, even though they were used. This was because the quality of the diapers was, well, used. I bought them online for the most part, and it's hard to judge the quality through photos, not to mention that I really hadn't looked at any brand new diapers and wasn't able to see the differences even when they were apparent.

Many of them needed repairs made - new velro or new leg elastic. This was all stuff I could have done myself, and I would have gotten a better price - but the hourly rate would not have been worth it. The time I have to myself to do that kind of crafty work without a toddler grabbing at the needle is limited, and would mean giving up other things like reading for enjoyment or spending time with Peanut. For a savings of $2-3 per hour, that didn't really seem worth it. (Plus, I would have had to buy velcro and elastic - further eroding my profit!)

For our next foray into cloth diapering, I will only be buying either new diapers or used diapers that I am able to examine in person. I also am not going to limit myself to a strict budget for getting a full stash - even if I spend twice what I did before, it would be a pittance compared to the cost of disposables for the rest of the time Baby M is in diapers.

Even so, I left the store second-guessing myself for several days, feeling terrible for all the money I'd "wasted". I finally complained about it to Peanut, and he pointed out that even with the loss I'd taken, I still managed to diaper Baby M for more than a year for just $150. BabyCenter's baby cost calculator puts the estimated cost of disposables at $72/MONTH. Well! That puts it into perspective very nicely!

So, no more seller's remorse for me - now I'm just focusing on not trying to save money to spite myself by going the cheapest route possible. Sometimes it pays to spend just a bit more for the best value.