Going Green ~ Cloth Diapers

Diaper Service Truck
Tonight I ordered cloth diapers. After diapering six children in disposables, I decided it was time to make the change. It doesn’t hurt that cloth diapers have come a long way since my first child fourteen years ago. I am not a pins and rubber pants gal, but these newer diaper styles are more my speed.

I do not even want to think about the money we have spent and the garbage we have produced over the last 14 years. My conservative estimate shows that we have spent over $500 in wipes alone!

Initially I had hoped to make my own diapers and wipes (perhaps I still will in the future) but with bed rest, my sewing projects have been put on hold for a while. If you are interested in sewing your own, you can find some tutorials on this site.

After much research, emailing, and begging for advice, I finally decided to try a few brands of diapers. I purchased Fuzzi Bunz size small which should fit our little one until she is about 18 pounds. Our babies tend to be on the small and skinny side, so I was afraid that the one size diapers would be way too big for a long time. We will still probably end up using disposables for the first few weeks, but hopefully she will be big enough to move into the small Fuzzi Bunz soon. I also purchased a few Bum Genius one size diapers. Several women at my church use these and I am impressed with the ease of use and great fit. I also purchased a few Nurtured Family Contours Microterry inserts for nighttime use.

It was a lot of money to spend all at once, but after looking at the cost analysis I know I will break even around 8 months. I didn’t have to buy wipes because my sweet neighbor brought me over a huge stack of wipes she made and then ended up not using. I will probably make some more as time goes on, but for now I have plenty!

As for my switch from paper to cloth in the kitchen, it is going very well. I should have pictures up next week of all the changes we have made, plus a make your own compost bin tutorial. The only thing we haven’t done is switch to cloth napkins because dh says he will not make them for me :).  Maybe I can talk my mom into making some when she comes to visit.

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For more “green projects” visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Photo courtesy of All Posters.


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Buying a Newer Car with Cash

Last week we purchased our new (to us) 15 passenger van. This is the first time we have purchased an almost new vehicle for cash. We have purchased a few beaters for cash, but coming up with the $1000 needed for the old cars that served as my husband’s get to work vehicle didn’t seem as daunting a task as saving thousands.

Why we decided to purchase our car for cash.

  • We don’t like debt. We believe the words from Proverbs 22:7 are ones to live by, …and the borrower is servant to the lender.
  • Because we don’t like debt, we have purposed to not take on any debt, except a mortgage.
  • We believe you can get a better deal when you pay cash.
  • We don’t want to owe money on a depreciating asset.
  • Life changes, payments don’t. Just because you can afford payments on a car today, does not mean you can afford them in 3 years. Things happen, people move, have babies, lose jobs. It is hard to be upside down on a car that you need to get rid of for any reason!

Unfortunately there isn’t an easy or fast way to purchase a late model car for cash, it takes work, diligence, and patience. Here is how we did it.

  • Live without a car payment. We have lived for the past 3 years without a car payment. This meant my husband drove an old car that wasn’t “cool.” It worked to get him where he needed to go. Our second car was a nicer, newer car that we paid off in 3 years. When we purchased that car (before we realized we didn’t want car payments) we had a rather large car payment.
  • Drive your cars until they cannot be driven anymore. If you are switching cars every 3 to 4 years, you will not have time to save for a new one. Yes, older cars need repairs, but it has been my experience that the repairs usually don’t cost as much as a new car payment. When the repairs get so frequent or expensive that they are costing as much as payments we usually start looking for something newer. Even the most unreliable car we ever owned did not cost as much to repair in one year as our payments did on our new car.
  • Save your “car payment” in a car fund. Once we paid off our Suburban, we took those monthly payments and started saving them in a car fund. If you had a $300 car payment (below the national average) in 3 years you would have over $11,000 in 4 years over $15,000. This is plenty of money to buy a decent used car.
  • Maintain your current cars. Frequent oil changes and routine maintenance prolong the life of your current vehicle. Prevention is cheaper than repairs. The longer you are able to drive your cars the more money you can save towards your next car purchase.
  • Do not upgrade your vehicles until it is necessary. We were planning on keeping our two vehicles forever, but with baby #7 coming soon, we needed a bigger vehicle to hold our whole family.
  • Buy used. This does not mean you need to buy a 10 year old car (although that is fine too).  According to statistics, cars depreciate between 20 to 40% in the first year and another 15% the second year. This means you could purchase a nice two year old car for up to 55% off the new car price. Since I have kids, the new cars that I have owned looked like used cars after a week anyway so why not go for the savings. We just purchased a two year old vehicle for 45% off what the original owner paid for it. This car looks new, smells new and drives like a new car.
  • When it comes time to buy research, research, and research. There are several great sites for getting information on car values, Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book are two of the most popular. We were looking for 15 passenger vans so we didn’t have many choices, but our research helped us decide on features that were important to us (sliding door, remote locks) and how much those would add to the cost of the vehicle.
  • Decide on how much you can afford and how much you want to pay. After looking at vans for 5 months I knew what these vehicles were selling for in my area. I also knew which ones were popular and which ones were not. When we finally found our van we knew what a fair price was for this specific vehicle.
  • Use cash to help you negotiate. This was our first time paying with cash at a dealership, although I had hoped to buy from a private owner, we couldn’t find anyone selling a van we needed in our area. The process was very smooth and uncomplicated. The van had an asking price and we had a price we wanted to pay. We met somewhere in the middle. Since the van was priced below blue book value it was already very close to the price we felt was fair. We were able to negotiate some extras into the deal since we were paying cash.

Where do you stand when it comes to buying cars? Do you prefer new cars or do you drive your cars until they have to be towed to the junkyard? Do you pay cash or finance your vehicles? Feel free to discuss it in the comments but keep it friendly.

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Living on Less ~ Financial Goals

Time for our monthly financial check-up. This month was good and bad for our family. We spent way too much on convenience items but I also had several opportunities to talk about frugal living which inspired me to get back on track with our spending and saving for the month of March.

One way I hope to stay on track this month is with Pear Budget. I read about this on Meredith’s site and was eager to check it out. I like that I can do it all online and create a budget that is customized to our family’s expenses. You can try it for free for 30 days and after that it costs three dollars a month.

My husband will be promoting in two months and with the promotion comes a hefty raise. When we crunched the numbers on paper we realized that we have a few options.

Drastic frugality- I am not sure what this all would entail but some ideas discussed were dh biking to work, making even more items from scratch to cut grocery costs, cloth diapers, vehicle changes, growing our own food, switch to a pay as you go cell phone, cut out paper plates, napkins, paper towels, disposable wipes in addition to the things we already do.

Moderate Frugality- Basically continue on the current path with slight modifications. We are planning a Square Foot Garden
this year and I hope to increase our from scratch cooking since it is something I enjoy doing already.

Frugal living for Wimps- This is how I feel about how we are living now.  We made some pretty significant changes a few years back, but have stalled a bit in our progress. Even if we continued on the exact same course we could still save money, but not enough to purchase a house for cash in the next few years.

This year our financial goals are pretty simple:

  • Purchase 15 passenger van (cash) by April 2009 We bought the van WITH CASH on Wednesday! This is the first time we have purchased a late model vehicle for cash, and it felt a little strange. We have purchased a few $1000 cars for cash in the past, but we never a nearly new one.
  • Fund IRA – as I watch our IRAs continue to drop in value I am hesitant to add any more money until I research some better funds. Currently the money is sitting in a high interest savings account
  • Braces for child #3 half-way funded by end of the year (saved $1300 so far)
  • Cut grocery budget by $50 a month – This is my first month experimenting with bulk shopping. I think it will help cut grocery costs but I won’t know until the end of the month. This month’s budget is set at $600 for all food, toiletries, diapers, cleaning supplies, and paper products.
  • Live on half our income/ save or invest other half (need to cut budget slightly to make this happen) We ran the numbers yesterday and this is doable if we are willing to implement many of the drastic frugality ideas.
  • Save for short term goals: vacations, homeschool materials, gifts (These areas have been funded for 2009, thanks to a surplus in 2008. I would like to see if we could cut back on the amount needed to fund these categories.)
  • Start commission system for the kids (I haven’t started this mainly out of laziness. I need to make a chart and just do it!)
  • All extra money goes into house fund There hasn’t been a lot of extra money yet because right now all the extra money went towards our van purchase. Now we can direct most of the extra money towards a house fund.

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Date Nights at Home ~ Dinner for Two

This topic is even more timely now that we just purchased our new (to us) van. We were able to get everything we wanted, but it did cost us a little more than we had planned. We paid cash, but now that our savings account is significantly smaller I want to build it up again as quick as possible. I think that spending quality time with your husband is essential, but I need to do it for a minimal cost!

Our first date night at home was dinner for two. I planned for more but an unexpected stomach bug hit me over the weekend so dinner was all I felt up to by Sunday night.  I wanted to make something special for dinner and try to recreate a restaurant atmosphere, minus the constant interruptions by a server.

Here are some ways to make dinner for two special.

  • Use nicer plates, silverware, and napkins.
  • Think presentation, if serving a salad ~ jazz it up by using a nice bowl, unusual greens, or splurge on crotons.
  • Use Pandora to create a music play list for the evening.
  • Light candles for the table.
  • Create a menu that is simple enough, but different from the every day.
  • If you are not a cook purchase a skillet meal at the grocery store or some other type of meal that doesn’t require much cooking skill.
  • Put the kids to bed
  • If you do the cooking have your hubby to the dishes, we have always done this at our house and it works well.

Our Dinner for 2

  • Spring Mix Salad $1
  • Crab dip $3 with French Bread $1
  • Shrimp and Chicken Pasta w/ Garlic Cream Sauce $6

Similar dish at a restaurant

  • Side Salad $2.50 each
  • Crab dip appetizer w/ bread $8
  • Shrimp and Chicken Pasta $13 each

Total cost for our at home dinner $11.

Total cost for similar meal at a restaurant $39 plus tip.

Now it’s time for you to link up with your Date Night at Home ideas. Please link to your actual post and not your blog homepage, and please link back to this post so others can participate.

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