Babies grow fast, but styles don’t frequently change, so it’s easy to find bargains on the essential baby gear. Those trendy diaper bags being carried by celebrities may not be available for a steal, but you don’t need that, so let other people be the fools who pay $400 for Posh Spice’s diaper bag.

Baby Product Reviews and Bargain Recommendations
First, I recommend buying the book Baby Bargains. Buy the most recent edition available. I also use Consumer Reports to back up those reviews in major categories like cribs and strollers. Consumer Reports is $30 a year, and well worth it. Baby Bargains gives honest reviews about a wide range of products and explains what you do and don’t really need. The downside is that Baby Bargains is a print book. Even though it’s updated every year or two, product categories may experience major recalls or safety standards updates in the meantime. For example, the crib we bought gets an F from Baby Bargains, but a buy recommendation from Consumer Reports. Safety standards for cribs were updated in Cribs in mid-2011, after the last edition came out. The standards were important enough that all cribs were redesigned to meet them, so reviews prior to fall 2011 are not valid.  In addition, Baby Bargains can’t do safety tests, so trust Consumer Reports for products where safety really matters, like cribs and car seats.

Used/Consignment Sales
Get Gymboree clothes without paying Gymboree prices. Look for consignment sales/stores for items that are safe to buy used. (Don’t buy cribs, car seats, or breast pumps used.) Craigslist is an obvious choice. eBay, too. If you happen to live in the Los Angeles area, check out this massive bi-yearly set of sales: LA Kids Consignment. Many other areas have year-round consignment sales hosted by Just Between Friends. Garage sales are another source of gently used baby gear.

Hand-Me-Downs
These are the best for babies! Since they only wear their clothes or use their toys for a few months, most hand-me-downs can be used for 3-4 babies, and moms are always happy to share the wealth with new moms. So far, at least four people have offered me hand-me-downs. My sister’s baby will be 15 months older than my baby, so I’m borrowing some of the short-term items like a baby food maker and baby swing from her. Since this only gets used for three to four months, why spend $100 on a convenience item that I can borrow and give back?

Register at Amazon
Many of the most expensive baby items like car seats and strollers are cheaper on Amazon. In addition, you get a 10% completion discount 30 days before your due date. I set my due date two weeks early, to allow six weeks shipping time. I will inform shower guests about the Amazon registry, and have some affordable options on it, but I don’t expect anyone to buy me a $150 car seat. The key to this discount is to make sure the item is sold by Amazon. You can usually tell it’s sold by Amazon if it qualifies for free shipping, but some fulfillment items also get free shipping, so read the item description to be sure. The 10% discount may not apply on items sold by someone else and fulfilled by Amazon, and definitely doesn’t apply on items sold in the Amazon marketplace.
Take Advantage of Registry Completion Discounts and Gift Bags
Most registry stores offer a completion discount as well, so calculate the discount, sales tax, and price, as compared to Amazon, and buy each item at the best price. Registries also offer free gifts and coupons when you register. You’ll find that many people  who give gifts won’t buy off the registry, but it’s a handy way to remember all the specific brands you’ve chosen so you can use the completion discount on them.

Shop Discount Stores and Use Coupons
Costco and Sam’s Club are great for disposable diapers and formula, if you use the brands they carry. Otherwise, hit up Target for deals. Amazon also has deals, but sometimes Target will have a better sale. Target sells an assortment of baby goods, and often offers items on clearance. Other stores like Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby offer discount coupons to help you save on single items. For example, in addition to producing its own coupons, Buy Buy Baby will accept unexpired coupons from Bed Bath and Beyond. According to one mom, Babies R Us will also price match other brick and mortar stores.

Yes, I’m going to be one of those cloth-diapering, breastfeeding, baby-food making moms. Not only are all three better for the baby and the environment, but they’re cheaper, too. Seriously, mash up a fresh banana instead of spending 79 cents on a single jar of baby food!

But that baby food will be another post, once my baby gets to solid food. First, come the diapers. If you plan to use cloth diapers, start building a stash before the baby comes.  There are several types of diapers you can try. If you want to test a variety, Jillian’s Drawers offers a $10 three-week cloth diaper trial program. The link goes to the regular program, but they also offer a newborn program if you want to cloth diaper (known as CD in the diapering world) from day one.

Types of Cloth Diapers
First, a quick rundown of the different types. Unlike disposables, there are an array of cloth diapers. Gone are the days of a cotton pre-fold with a huge safety pin and a pair of plastic pants (although you could still do that if you want.) Now there are options. Cute options in all sorts of colors and fabrics.

All-in-one: Like the name says, it’s a waterproof outer layer and several inner layers. You change it just like a disposable. The downside to AIOs is that they take longer to dry after washing, and have to be completely changed each time, so you need more diapers.

All-in-two: Also known as “pocket diapers”, AI2s go on like a disposable or AIO, but have a pocket in the interior where you can stuff a doubler or prefold. These are handy for nights and heavy-wetters. Like AIOs, they usually need to be changed entirely at each changing.

Diaper covers: The third option is more economical, but more work. You’ll need either prefolds, fitteds, or diaper inserts and diaper covers. You can either wrap a prefold around the baby and close it with a Snappi or pin, or trifold it so it’s shaped like an insert. You can also buy inserts or doublers in a variety of materials. Lay them inside the diaper cover, then wrap the cover around the baby. The advantage is that you can just swap in an insert or change the prefold at each changing, unless the cover is soiled, so it saves money and you have less laundry. The disadvantage is that you have to handle a bit more mess. Some brands also offer disposable or flushable inserts, which I’ll use when traveling to see my parents. Flip and gDiapers both offer this option.

Prefolds: There are prefolds and flats. Both are cotton squares that you fold around the baby to use as a first layer diaper, or fold inside a cover or AI2 as an insert. Prefolds are thicker in the middle.

Fitteds: Basically diaper-shaped cloth with snaps or velcro similar to disposables. You use a cover over them.

Snappi: a three-pronged clip you use to hold a prefold in place rather than the old-fashioned safety pins.

Doublers: multiple layers of fabric sewn together that can then be stuffed into a pocket, laid inside a cover, or laid inside a prefold to absorb extra wetness.

One-size: AIOs or AI2s that can be used from infancy to 35 pounds. Most don’t really fit well for babies under ten pounds, but may save money in the long-run.

My Diaper Plan
I’ll post an update once I settle into a routine in several months, but this is my current plan:

Covers with inserts/doublers/prefolds for day. A friend gave me six small gDiapers with 24 inserts. I bought seven other pocket diaper inserts for $15 at a consignment sale, which I can use with Flips. I’ve also purchased four Flip covers on sale for $9 each (slightly imperfect seconds) and two Bummis covers (seconds, buy one get one free) for $12.95. I registered for four Thirsties covers, too. I’ll try them all and see which I like best. Any that I don’t like I can sell on DiaperSwappers.com. I also registered for Thirsties and Flip inserts and doublers, and OsoCozy prefolds. I’ll see whether I like actually folding the prefold around the baby or just laying a prefold and doubler inside. The gDiapers have special liners and inserts, so no folding is necessary. They’re a hybrid of AI2s and covers.

All-in-Twos for night. I registered for Fuzzibunz and Thirsties Duo Diapers to try both. To get a better fit, I registered for the sized versions. They can fit smaller babies and have a better fit.

Most parents wash diapers every 2-3 days. If you use AIOs or AI2s, you’ll need at least 26 diapers and inserts to get you through two days. If you use covers, you’ll need about four covers and 28 inserts, prefolds, or doublers to get through two days.  I expect my initial stash to include 4 AI2s, 14 covers, 43 inserts and doublers, and 18 prefolds. As my baby gets older and I size up, that will whittle down since I’ll likely find a system I like best and older babies need fewer changes.

The Newborn Question
Some people use cloth diapers on newborns from day one, but you do have to be cautious about the cord stump for the first couple of weeks. Cloth newborn diapers are available, but they’re expensive and only needed for a couple of weeks. If your baby is larger, you may not be able to use them at all. I didn’t opt for any of those. I will either fold my cloth diapers down below the stump, or use disposables until the stump falls off.

Wipes
Many cloth diapering moms also choose cloth wipes, for a couple of reasons. The first is that you don’t have anywhere to dispose of disposable wipes if you cloth diaper. Most parents using disposables have a diaper genie for wipes and diapers. The genie isn’t cloth diaper friendly, so cloth diapering parents either use a pail or a zippable wet bag for cloth diapers and inserts. They would need another pail for the disposable wipes. The second reason many opt for cloth is that the disposable wipes are not environmentally-friendly. The third is that cloth wipes are gentler on baby’s delicate parts.

Cloth wipes are fairly easy to make and use. You’ll need baby washcloths or no-pill flannel cut into squares. You can make your own cloth wipes liquid. There are several recipes on the internet. Either place in a spray bottle, or put wipes in a warmer and pour the liquid over them. Most parents report needing only one wet wipe for each diaper. Some use a dry wipe to dry baby before putting on the next diaper.

Diaper Sprayers
Obviously, you don’t want to put poop in your washing machine, so the poop goes in the toilet. Unlike the old days, you don’t need to dunk and swish the diaper in the toilet. You can buy a diaper sprayer that attaches to the toilet. Spray the diaper to dislodge the poop, then drop the diaper in the wet bag. Technically, you’re supposed to also remove poop from disposables, too. It’s illegal to put human waste in the garbage. Everyone does it, but it’s still illegal.

 

 

I’m about halfway through my pregnancy, so it’s time to turn my thoughts to baby gear. I still haven’t come to terms with the idea that I will actually have a baby in five months, but I can at least be prepared. We started with a budget. I will be having baby showers and getting hand-me-downs, but I’m also budgeting for the things we need to buy or spend money on that first year.

What You Really Need
If you walk into a baby store and ask them what you need, they will give you a very long and very expensive list. So here’s what you really need:

Crib
Dresser/changing table (combo to save space/money)
Changing pad and cover (to go on the dresser and keep baby from rolling off)
Crib sheets
Crib mattress
Clothes (get as many hand me downs as you can)
Car seat
Car seat stroller, or travel system
Diaper bag
Diapers/wipes
Bottles
Breasts or formula (note, breasts are free unless you’re adopting)
Receiving blankets
Baby wash, diaper cream,
Rectal thermometer
Baby nail clippers
High chair

That’s the bare minimum. As your baby gets older, you’ll likely want things like pacifiers, baby spoons, a baby tub, sippy cups, and toys. But your baby will survive bathing in the sink and not having a million toys or a bouncy chair or any of that other stuff you see in the stores. A rocker/glider is highly recommended to soothe an upset baby, but not required. That’s not to say I won’t buy those things, they’re just not totally necessary.

Other things are completely unnecessary and you should not buy them or let someone buy them for you. These are items like crib bumpers, diaper stackers, crib pillows, and crib blankets/quilts. You’ll notice the stores sell fancy baby bedding sets, but most of the components are not recommended for use with babies. All you need is a crib, mattress, mattress pad, and sheets. If you live in a cold winter climate, you can use a light blanket, but it’s better to put your baby in a warm sleeper suit or sleep sack.

How Much to Budget for Baby Gear
Baby magazines often mention a figure around $10,000, just for gear and food, for the first year. That doesn’t include child care. The Baby Bargains book estimates you can do it for $4000.  The latter is a lot more reasonable, especially if you stick to the simpler, more affordable stuff. Obviously, don’t skimp on a car seat, but you don’t need a $600 crib or $1800 stroller system. A $125 crib that meets current safety standards and a $100 stroller are just fine. A fancy (useless) baby bedding set can cost as much $400. A crib sheet costs $15.

However, there are times when you might want to spend a bit more to get something that will last longer. I looked at a cheap Ikea baby dresser for $100, but I hated it. Instead, I plan to buy a nice $400 dresser that will last for several years.

My budget for first-year gear is around $4000. My baby will eat homemade food and breastmilk. If you opt for formula, factor in another $700 for the year. I will also be cloth diapering, but if you use disposable diapers, add another $1000 to your budget.

How Much to Budget for Child Care
The biggest budget item is child care, and this varies by region. In our area, day care and nannies are very expensive. Infant day care is sometimes MORE expensive than a nanny, and very hard to find in some areas! I will be adding $12-$18,000 to our first year budget for child care because I live in Los Angeles, which child care is pricey (but cheaper than New York City.)

How Much to Budget for Healthcare
You also have to factor in costs for healthcare. Assume your baby will visit the doctor 10-12 times that first year, so that’s 10-12 co-pays. Your newborn is only covered under the mother’s coverage for 30 days following the birth. You need to have coverage in place for the baby after that. My employer has a very generous dependent benefit, but many employers don’t. Compare your plan with your spouse’s, then factor the additional cost into your monthly budget. Typically, it’s deducted from your paycheck. If you find the dependent premium is over $150/month, consider buying a child-only individual plan through a health insurance provider like Blue Cross or Kaiser.

The birth will also cost at least a couple thousand dollars, depending on your insurance coverage and out-of-pocket max. If you have an FSA, you can save a bit of money by using the FSA funds for those costs. Yes, it’s still out of your pocket, but it reduces your taxable income, so it will ultimately cost you a little less.

If you’re looking at the total for all these costs, you’re probably freaking out. Remember, you’re not spending all of it at once. The initial outlay for baby gear can be spent gradually before the birth. The hospital bills will come in a month or two after the birth. Things you need as your baby grows will also be purchased over time, and you can shop for deals. Child care is also paid monthly, not all at once.

We might as well dispense with Thanksgiving altogether and just enjoy an extra day of shopping. It’s certainly not going to be a happy holiday for those poor souls who work at Wal-Mart or other popular Black Friday destinations.

After several stores announced that their Black Fridays specials would start at midnight (which is ridiculous, but still technically Friday), Wal-Mart is upping the ante. They will now open their stores at 10 PM on Thanksgiving! So, stuff your faces, then run to your car to get in line for some cheap stuff. $5 Barbie dolls are worth giving up a holiday for, apparently.

When will this madness end? Doorbusters on Thanksgiving morning? Holiday sales on Halloween? Aw, heck, let’s just roll it all the way back to July 4 now and be done with it.

Stop the Madness
When did Christmas become all about the crap and the deal? Even as a non-Christian, I recognize that family togetherness and winter cheer are far more important than a $5 Barbie or an iPod Touch or whatever other discount goodie you bought at Black Friday because it was on sale.

If your budget is tight, then buy less stuff. I get a lot of emails from people saying “I need to give my kids a good Christmas.” What your kids want is your love and time with you. The rest if just stuff that will be forgotten within a couple of weeks. They will not be traumatized for life by a Christmas or two without a lot of presents. Instead, they’ll remember that you played games with them and spent time together as a family.

Once again, I will be avoiding Black Friday sales. My husband and I have only purchased one thing at a Black Friday sale, and it was on a Sunday. We’d been looking for a new laptop, so when we saw the deal in the Sunday paper, he went to Staples to buy it. Last year we considered buying a new TV at a Black Friday sale, but actually found a better deal at Costco the week before Thanksgiving. So, we skipped the hassle and enjoyed sleeping in instead.

 

 

These days, quality furniture is easy to find and it doesn’t have to be expensive. I tend to steer clear of the lowest quality furniture, such as the pieces found at Living Spaces and stores like it, but if you look carefully, you can find local stores that sell decent furniture at a decent price.

Where to Find Affordable Furniture
Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Room & Board, and Crate & Barrel make lovely furniture, but at $4000 for a couch, it’s not within my budget. Instead, I found a local place that makes knock-offs of their furniture for a quarter of the price. Sure, I had to deal with a random pirate-themed store and drive 30 miles to choose my furniture, but I also chose the style, size, fabric, leg style and color, arm shape, and number of cushions for $700. It could have been more, but the fabric I chose wasn’t very expensive. I got faux leather (it’s a fabric) for $1000. Compare that to $8000 for leather couches at some stores.

If you live close enough to a major metro, consider stopping in their warehouse district for deals on things like rugs, tables, and chairs. I visited downtown LA recently and scored two rugs for $240. (Bring cash and you’ll get an even better deal. The sale may not be reported, but that really isn’t your problem.)

Consider Coupons
Believe it or not, some furniture stores do offer coupons. Check the ValPak or MoneyMailer envelope that arrives in your mailbox. During the slow season, I found a coupon for $500 off at a local sofa store. I’ve actually bought furniture there before, and it was good quality. The coupon was during one of the slowest parts of the economic recovery, so that may be one reason, but I’ve also found coupons for furniture stores on Groupon, Living Social, and similar sites. There are coupons to be had if you look carefully.

Won’t Cheap Furniture Wear Out Faster?
Yes, probably. I don’t expect my $700 sofa to last as long as a $4000 sofa, but I don’t necessarily want it to. I have three cats. I’m hoping to have a baby. My friends and family have young children. Those three factors combined mean that my sofas and rugs will be trashed long before the cushions wear out! I did Scotchgard everything, but cat scratches, spit-up, and ground up crackers will eventually wear down the couches. And then I’ll replace them. Maybe my taste will have changed by then, so it will be nice to make a change without worrying about the money I spent.

If I were single, didn’t want kids, and had no pets, I would probably be willing to spend more on furniture, but cheap furniture gives me peace of mind. I want to enjoy my furniture, not worry about stains and wear.

 

I’ve watched a few episodes of that Extreme Couponing show, and I found it a bit horrifying. I can understand why a show like it would be on, but I don’t think it’s in any way realistic. I also wonder if that level of couponing is healthy or ethical.

Is Extreme Couponing the New Hoarding?
Who needs that much stuff? It’s entirely possible that the people depicted on the show donated their hoards right after the taping, in fact one episode focused on a man who was using his coupons to create care packages for our troops, but I doubt that’s the case for the majority of the people on the show. Many of them have built storage space for their stockpile. One family took out insurance on their stockpile! No matter how well it’s organized, a stockpile that big could easily be considered a hoard. One episode depicted a woman stockpiling diapers even though she doesn’t have a baby! Another woman amassed 25 years worth of toilet paper. Raise your hand if you think a roll of toilet paper will last 25 years in storage without disintegrating?

Several couponers expressed the high they get from couponing. Guess who else gets that high? Hoarders. Just because you got the item free, or have it well organized, that doesn’t mean you need it or should buy it.

Is Extreme Couponing Healthy?
Many of the couponers didn’t look very healthy. Most were overweight. I saw a lot of frozen dinners being dumped into those carts. I didn’t see a whole lot of produce. Maybe they use their savings to buy fresh foods and plan a healthy meal plan, but it doesn’t look that way. Just because you can get ten Stouffer’s frozen pizzas for free, doesn’t mean you should. Is saving money worth shaving a few years off the end of your life? What about the increased health costs you’ll face because you saved so much money on crappy food? Where is the balance?

Is Extreme Couponing Realistic?
Absolutely not. Many stores are tightening their coupon policies, sometimes as a direct result of this show. At the very least, most people don’t have several hours a week to devote to compiling coupons, which will make it difficult to save 95% on their groceries. I’ve saved 30% a few times, but even that took careful planning. It was around the holidays, so the store was having mega sales, and it was in the peak of the recession when really good coupons were available. I’m not seeing those coupons anymore.

Is Extreme Couponing Ethical?
In the case of the woman who allegedly committed coupon fraud, clearly the answer is no. For most people, it’s not unethical to coupon, however it’s not always polite. My local Ralph’s once ran a really great promotion on condensed milk. It was free when combined with a coupon. I happened to need condensed milk for a recipe, but I couldn’t get any, because the shopper before me had cleared the shelf. Who needs 20 cans of condensed milk? Is it fair to clear the shelf to build up your stockpile when other people might need just one or two of the item for a recipe that week? Why should they have to drive to several stores and spend more because you only had 19 in your stockpile and needed more?

I don’t fault people for saving money, but there has to be a line. Most of these couponers cross that line from frugal to obsessive. That’s not true of all couponers, but I don’t think you get on a show like Extreme Couponing if you’re simply frugal. What do you think of these shows? Are they borderline hoarders?

 

We have a problem with our towels. We only bought them 18 months ago, but they’ve already lost their fluffiness. I’m wondering if it’s because our new, energy-efficient laundry machines are less powerful than our apartment’s industrial machines, but it’s a problem whatever the reason. I’m not ready to buy new towels yet (see how I deftly avoided the cliché there?).

Wash Towels in Vinegar or Baking Soda
Over time, towels pick up detergent and fabric softener residue, which can make them rough and less absorbent. You can remove that, though. Wikihow has a complete rundown of the steps, but the basics are simple: Run your towels, and your towels only, through two hot loads. No detergent, no fabric softener, nothing. Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of the first load. Run the towels through again, adding ½ cup of baking soda to the water. This should get out any smells or residue, but you might need to do it a few times. Then start using less detergent on future loads. You don’t need nearly as much as they recommend! If you can dry them outside on a line, that’s the best way to get fluffy towels.

Use Old Towels for Household Projects
At some point, a repair person will ask if you have some old towels they can use. Pull out those crappy, threadbare towels stuffed in the back of the linen closet. If they’re in really bad shape afterwards, toss them. If not, wash them and return them to the closet for future repair people.

Old towels are also great for cleaning up spills, pet vomit, and other yucky stuff.

I used an old set of towels to apply paint thinner to our hardwood floors. The paint thinner helped restore their finish, then I threw out the towels since I don’t want a lot of paint thinner in my washing machine.

Rags!
Make the move from paper towels to cloth towels by turning your old towels into rags. They don’t have much lint left in them by the time we retire towels, so they’re perfect for cleaning tables and counters, dusting, and polishing silver. They might work well on mirrors and windows, but newspapers actually work best for that. If your towels are too big for your needs, just cut them up. It’s not like they need to look nice.

Make Believe Accessories
An old pillowcase or towel makes an awesome cape if you’re five. Making a Halloween costume? Puff it up with old towels. It’s cheaper than fiberfill and it doesn’t really matter if the costume falls apart the next day.

Pet Baths
We only bathe our cats once every couple of years, but we don’t use our nice towels when we do. Cats and water are not friends and good towels will only wind up shredded. I’m sure dogs are easier to bathe, but there’s no reason to use a new towel on something as furry as a pet.

Can you think of any other uses for old towels? Tell me in the comments!

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-New-Towels-More-Absorbent

Oh, what a difference a fat emergency fund makes. When I first started this blog, my husband wasn’t much into saving. He didn’t spend wildly, but he was definitely feeling like we’d never get out from under our debt and wasn’t as committed to paying it off quickly.

Then I created the Plan. Then the Plan started to work and he started to see the light. Then the Plan was complete and the prospect of buying a house became very real. Then we bought a house, and still had money left over. Now, the fat emergency fund has become a sacred cow.

Baby Stepping to Savings
I always had faith in my plan, so at first it was hard for me when why my husband didn’t see the plan. But each month, he stuck to it and started to believe, too. The first key was that I never stopped believing we could get out of our debt. As long as one of you believes and is willing to convince the other, then you can do it.

The second key was that my plan was doable and methodical. I ran calculations and determined we could pay off $40,000 by December. I knew approximately when our windfalls would arrive, so that helped. As it happened, they arrived sooner than anticipated and we paid off our debt faster.

The third key was that I built in initial successes. We were fortunate that the highest interest rates also correlated to the lowest debt, so we targeted that first. Once that was paid off, our snowball really picked up.

The fourth key was that we had a clear goal – pay off the debt so we could start saving up to buy a house. We also had a debt payoff deadline – our interest-free credit card would expire in August of that year and we wanted to pay as little interest as possible. We ended up only paying two months’ worth of interest, or about $200 on an initial debt of $17,000. Not bad!

Once that debt was paid off and our goal started to become real, his enthusiasm for saving really took off.

Where We Are Now
Fast forward 18 months. One day in April, 2009, my husband announced that “saving money is fun”. This was a breakthrough, people!

Now it’s 18 months after that and we’ve been in our house for a year. My husband has started to say things like “we can afford that,” when I say that I want to make drapes for a $400 cost instead of buying drapes for a $2000 cost.

But, we had another breakthrough when it came time to buy me a new car. Losing 30% of our income this year due to my husband’s surgery and a couple major home repair expenses means our emergency fund isn’t as fat as it once was, but it’s still going pretty strong. We didn’t have to dip into the fund at all during his disability leave.

Last month, my husband looked at the fund and realized we could almost afford to pay cash for my new car. We opted not to, because we didn’t want to drain the fund, but that realization was a big step. He now sees that we still need to be saving precisely so that we have these options, and other options, in the future.

In addition to the cushion in an emergency, that’s what the fund does: it gives you the freedom to make choices about what you want to do with your money. Need new drapes? You can decide between making them or buying them. Personally, I decided that the time investment was less important to me than the financial investment, so making them was the clear choice. But you may be able to make a different choice if you have a savings cushion and a commitment to saving.

I read an interesting article on Marketplace.org about several bloggers who went a year without buying any new clothes.  No used clothes, either, although they could buy all the underwear, shoes, and accessories they wanted. So, that got me to thinking, could I go a year without buying new clothes? The answer for me is probably no. And I don’t really buy that much, but there are some times when I do need to buy new clothes.

When I Buy New Clothes
I do tend to keep my clothes for a long time. I have t-shirts and jeans that I’ve been wearing for four or five years. Some items are probably six or seven years old. However, clothes do wear out. If I had committed myself to not buying new clothes for a year, I could do it, but I’d probably be at the store buying a few new things on day 366!

I buy a couple new shirts and maybe a new dress or skirt at the start of each summer to freshen up my wardrobe. I also buy a couple new shirts and pair of pants at the start of each winter. I buy new pajamas once a year, once I’ve worn holes in the old pair.

I buy new gym shoes every six months, but otherwise I tend not to buy shoes often. Accessories are pretty minimal, too. Usually I buy them at the same time as the new clothes.

I already know that next summer I will need to buy new crop pants. I have been looking for three years already for the perfect pairs, but I’ll finally have to get serious next summer because the pairs I have simply won’t make it another year.

Special Events
What would the bloggers have done if they were asked to be in a wedding? Sure, you can avoid buying a new formal dress for most events if you already have one, but most bridesmaids are expected to wear a specific dress. Maybe that shouldn’t count for this purpose, since bridesmaid’s usually have no say in the matter!

Weight Loss or Gain
If you lose or gain more than ten pounds, you’ll either need to buy some new clothes or get your old ones tailored. Even at a ten pound gain, you’ll need new pants or you’ll look terrible. Losing ten pounds shouldn’t make your clothes look terrible, but more than that calls for some interim upgrades if you plan to keep losing.

The Changing Body
I technically still wear the same size I did in high school, but there’s absolutely no way I could wear those clothes. And not just because they were horrible 80s pegged jeans and cropped shirts. This may be more true for women than for men, but the body changes over the years. Even if you weigh the same at 40 as you did at 18, the way you carry the weight has changed. Clothes, especially jeans, start to conform to the body, and you may find that your really old clothing puckers in odd places.

I think if I made a pledge, I might be able to avoid new clothes for a year, but it would be tough. How about you? Could you go a year without buying new clothes?

So, it finally happened. I committed the most unfrugal act of getting a smartphone. However, I still managed to squeeze a bit of frugality into it, even though it’s a big budget change.

Not only did I buy a smartphone, but I had to break my current contract and pay a $70 termination fee to do it! However, buying my husband a replacement phone for four months would have cost $40, so it’s really only a net loss of $30. It’s worth it to get our phones now.

Why I Got a Droid
As you’ll recall, my old phone broke back in January, right before my husband’s surgery. Although I had wanted an iPhone, AT&T made me cry, so I vowed to abandon them when my contact was up. Until then, I bought a cheapie phone that got me through.

Except, that both my husband and I were experiencing work-related reasons as well as personal reasons for needing smartphones with email and web access. Still we waited.

Then his phone broke. In the exact same manner as mine. Note to AT&T – when phones of the same model break in the exact same place for multiple users, this is a design flaw and you should issue a recall, not ignore the issue. This is why you lost a customer for life.

So, with the iPhone off-limits (not to mention that the recent news about iPhone 4 troubles didn’t make me lust for one), I looked around for the best alternative. Enter the Droid. Folks, it is awesome. I did my research and settled on Verizon phone service. We went to the Verizon store to look at the various Android phones. We then waited until July 15 to look at the Droid X, because if we’re going to do this, we might as well get the best available at the time.

As it turned out, a Droid X barely fits in my hand, so that was out. The HTC Incredible was unavailable for at least three weeks and I needed the phone by the middle of next week for an upcoming trip.

How I Made My Unfrugal Purchase Slightly Frugal
There was one other reason we opted for the Droid by Motorola rather than the Droid X or Incredible – it was buy one get one free. This was a savings of $250 over buying two Xs or Incredibles.

We also opted for a family plan with a minimal texting plan rather than the full talk and text plan. We studied our minutes and determined that we use more than 700 minutes, but less than 1400 minutes a month. We previously only paid for 700 because we had tons of rollover minutes with AT&T, so we were sad to lose that deal, but the 1400 minute plan does come with unlimited calls to 10 Friends and Family designees, so we can make it work.

So, our phone cost is jumping from around $95 a month to $189 a month, however, we still get $90 in reimbursements from our employers.

And folks, I’m not sorry I did it. I love this phone. Seriously love it. It will make my life easier in so many ways.

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