Saturday, December 17, 2011

Homemade Christmas Presents 2011 - Bath Salts

Last year, I did crochet for my homemade presents, but this year I have babies and therefore no time.  I still wanted to give homemade Christmas presents, though, as the thoughtfulness of homemade compensates for the lack of money spent.  Minting Nickels has a post on gifts in a jar, which inspired me for this year.  She likes food gifts, but I prefer not to give food, since most of the recipes seem really unhealthy, and because taste preferences and food allergies vary widely and I would hate to get them wrong.  However, she included a link to Martha Stewart's bath fizzies, which I thought looked amazing.  But then I found out that 5 pounds of citric acid cost $20.  Since Martha was talking cups, and this was weight, I wasn't even sure that 5 pounds would be enough for the 7 people I wanted to gift.

So I decided to be less ambitious and make bath salts instead.  I used Martha's recipe, but I substituted ice cream salt for sea salt.  I figure that salt is salt and, as long as no one tries to eat the bath salts, there's no difference except for the massive price difference.  I might try pickling salt if I did it again, since the rock salt was pretty large, and so the salts did not look homogenized because my Epson salt was fine.  They came out really cute:

I especially liked the striped effect I got from layering colored salts and uncolored ones.

Cost: $4.16 each; $29.17 total
Rock Salt: 3.82
Epsom salt: 3.56
Baking Soda:1.06
Essential Oil: 7.89
Food coloring: 3.12
Cute Jars: 9.72

As you can see, the jars were a third of the cost; I could have saved even more by reusing jars.  This was a rush project, though, and I didn't have time to come up with jars this year.  Next year, I think I'll try the bath fizzies, and save up jars, and it will probably end up costing about the same, although, if I have some of the essential oil left, it will cost less.  I've got nearly the whole bottle left, but I use a Fuzzi Bunz Diaper Bag, which has a place to put essential oils to cover the diaper smell, and I am planning to try it out.  If it works, I expect that my essential oil will be depleted by next year.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Baby Spending - The Good, the Bad, and Ouch

As I said earlier, I've spent more than $2K in the last two months on baby supplies.  I've listed everything I bought below, and categorized them by usefulness to get an idea of how much value I really got.  I didn't buy everything on Amazon, but I did buy most of it, which made it easy to keep track.  I put down the price I paid, rather than the current price, which accounts for any discrepancies.

The Good
Super useful things that I use every day, or nearly

Crib and Changing Table - 200.00
I bought these used from a friend.  The crib is a drop-down model, but she used it successfully with two babies so I am not too worried.  Also, my back has enough trouble picking up babies as it is, I am glad that I don't have sides any higher than they are already.  The changing table is great - I'd get one again.  If you don't have a friend getting rid of theirs, though, it's a great piece of furniture to pick up at a secondhand store.

Pump in Style Breast Pump (Backpack) = 266.69
This has replaced the Lactina Select Hospital Grade Breast Pump I rented previously with no problems so far.  It does get condensation in the tubes every time, though, which is kind of a pain.  If I had it to do over I might have just rented, especially since the window of time I plan to spend nursing shrinks the longer I do it.
Simple Wishes Hands Free Breastpump Bra = 37.99
An essential accessory to anyone who pumps with an electric pump.  Other websites have suggested cutting holes in a sports bra but at my current size (38G) that would be more expensive than this one is.
Medela Tender Care Lanolin x 2 = 17.08
Nipple Cream is also essential if you plan to pump.  This is my favorite of the two I have tried.

The First Years BabyPro Bottle Warmer x2 = 31.08
Mr. Goat uses this every day (I seldom bottle feed the babies).  But we only needed one.

Carters Keep Me Dry Flannel Bassinet Pad x4 = 27.96
Convenient for changing babies on when you don't want leakage (on beds, etc.)  As with the bottle warmer, though, we didn't need 4, 2 would have done.

Changing Pad Cover x 2 = 35.98
Keeps urine and feces off the changing table.  The pad under these can be wiped clean, but it's much nicer to just toss this in the washer, and the babies can't kick it away like they do receiving blankets.

Cloth Diapers - 537.03
Huggies Pure & Natural Diapers, 160 count x3 = 143.94
I thought Cloth Diapers were really expensive - until I looked at paper.  We mostly use cloth, but paper comes in handy for excursions and those nights when all the cloth diapers are in the wash.  They go through them like mad; I can't imagine what we'd spend a month if paper diapers were all we used.  Plus, paper diapers are an environmental disaster.  So we try to minimize their use, and most nights we are even successful.

Maybe I didn't need to buy the premium kit, but babies' nails are finally short.

Before I got pregnant, I was a 36C or D, depending on the brand.  Now I'm a 38G.  Finding an inexpensive, confortable nursing bra has been a real challenge.  The Bliss is comfortable but expensive.  The Medela is comfortable and cheap but not lined, so every tiny leak shows through my clothing.  I'm hoping the Motherhood Maternity bra will work, as it is a lot cheaper but still lined.  I tried the XL and it was a bit small but looked like it might be comfortable.  Hopefully the 1X will fit and not be too wide in the band.  If it doesn't, I plan to buy one more each of the Bliss and Medela, do a lot of laundry, and hope the leaking clears up soon.

Boppy Pillow x 2 = 59.48
Highly useful for bottle feeding two babies at the same time, per Mr. Goat.

The babies love these, especially Football, and we love them too when they stop the screaming for even a minute.  

Allows both babies to nurse on my flat nipple easily.  Monkey has figured out how to nurse it without if absolutely necessary, but they both prefer the prosthetic.  Not necessary if you don't have nipple issues.

The bottles we are using now.  Per Mr.Goat, far superior to the bottles we were using before.

Has been known to soothe the babies, especially Monkey, to sleep on occasion.  On those nights, worth weight in gold.  I bought this one specifically because I wanted a plug-in, as I expected it to run constantly and didn't wan't to have to buy batteries.  I'd have bought a swing secondhand if a plug-in had been available, but it wasn't.  

Mr. Goat likes to use these in the crib to reduce sheet changes.  Monkey soaks his back regularly, so they come in handy nearly every week.

The Bad
Things that I no longer use

Platex Drop-Ins Newborn Starter Set x 2 = $29.03
This looked like a good idea, but wasn't a time save over other bottles.  I'm washing all my breast pumping equipment 3-5x a day anyway, so these don't save me any time and continue to cost money for the plastic liners.  Not to mention they are bad for the environment.
NUK Orthodontic Latex Nipples = 2.37
Playtex Baby Drop-Ins Orthodontic Nipple = 5.20
Accessories to the above.

Also an accessory to the above, but worth a mention because the breast pump adapter is for one side only.  So if you really wanted to pump directly into the bags, you'd need to buy this twice.  Basically it's $30 for a few caps and one breast pump adapter - can we say rip-off?

I bought a ton of this and then liked the Medela cream better.  It is so expensive, though, that I'm using it until it runs out, I just won't buy more.

The babies never liked these as well as the Soothies.  Football will take these instead sometimes; Monkey never.

Things that were never useful, or that I haven't managed to use

Baby K'Tan Sling x 2 = $109.98
These would probably be great - if I ever had time to figure out the manual.  I should have bought a more intuitive sling, as I have not ever found the time to figure out how to use these complicated babies.  Hopefully I'll be able to wear them a couple of times before the babies get too big, when I have enough sleep to read the instructions.

Graco Pack 'N Play Twin Bassinet Sheet x2 = 21.98
The actual Pack 'N Play is super useful; I got the kind with the twin bassinets and keep the babies in them at my Mom's house.  But these sheets are crap - ill-fitting and cheap feeling.

Bought because you are not supposed to trim babies' nails before two weeks of age and they were drawing blood.  Made absolutely no difference in nail sharpness...
So we tried this.  They hated them and refused to nurse with them on, unless they were absolutely starving.

Baby Sign Language Basics = 13.57
We haven't used this yet, but they are a bit young still.

Medela Pump & Save Breastmilk Bags with easy-connect adapter 20-pack = 12.99

Had complicated directions for use; just haven't managed to figure out yet.  Also, I tend to pump a bit more than 5oz per breast, so I am not sure if these will even work for me.

Total = 2035.69, of which 315.13 (17%) was unnecessary or wasted.  
Not where I hoped to be at this point, but expenses going forward should be low for the next couple of months.  I need a few more cloth diapers, and we might buy a second swing, but hopefully all the big purchases are out of the way until we need to buy a food processor at 5-6 months.  

I have 718.28 left over in my new baby account (I had a little less than 3K saved for new baby expenses), and I plan to toss that back into general EF and have the babies integrated into the household budget going forward.  We'll see how that works.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

SmartyPig Interest Rates Fall Again

As I have said before, you lose purchasing power if you put money into savings accounts at the current interest rates.  SmartyPig has decided to exacerbate this by cutting its interest rate to .7%.  Apparently, SmartyPig was designed to make money off the optional gift card redemptions, and the high interest rates were too tempting to savers like myself who never redeemed any of my cash for gift cards.  So now they have a new bank, and are cutting rates.

I am hoping that this is not a sign of things to come.  SmartyPig has been a consistent canary in a coal mine.  Since I complained about SmartyPig's savings accounts rates in June, Discover's rate has gone from 1.25% to 1.05% as well.

I'm contemplating putting more of my medium-term savings into divided paying stocks with low beta.  Unfortunately, so is everyone else in the entire universe, which means that my chances of principal loss are pretty good in the medium term when something else comes into fashion.

Fortunately, since the babies have drained our savings a bit, there's less short and medium term money in the Goat household for me to worry about:)  Where are you stashing your medium-term savings now?  Any good suggestions?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Whatever Works is Good - an update on breastfeeding schedules

Sticking to a strict schedule wasn't much better than letting them set the feeding schedule.  So now we're on a modified schedule, where we try go at least 3 hours, but don't wake the babies up at night to eat.  So it doesn't always work out to 8 times a day, but I figure that, if they are hungry, they will cry.  If they are hungry and cuing for 15 mins, we feed them in between feedings, but that has only happened a few times over the last five days, and usually they fall back asleep after an ounce or two, or 10 minutes or so.  (They are 100% breast milk, but I do express milk so that I can take breaks sometimes.)

Since yesterday, however, the babies have slept more than ever before in their life ... in their car seats.  I don't know why, but our house has looked like this most of the time for the last 24 hours:

I'll take it.  Back to sleep for me!