We’re not using cloth diapers for Babywoods. Cue the gasps of shock and mild horror! I fully realize this is anathema to most mainstream frugal and environmental philosophies, but you know what? It’s what I have to do. A crucial element of our successful and joyful frugal existence is knowing our limits.
We can’t frugalize every last thing in our lives–or rather, we choose not to. Mr. Frugalwoods and I have mapped out a lifestyle that we enjoy, that’s tenable for the long-term, and that fully incorporates the things we love most while still enabling us to save the vast majority of our income.
Knowing Our Limits
During our preparations for Babywoods’ arrival, Mr. FW and I agreed to go ultimate frugal on all things baby–hand-me-down clothes, crib, bibs, toys, stroller, sling, books, etc–just about every single thing in her nursery is used (and our expenses show it: we spent a grand total of $20 on baby gear). I’m also very thankful to be able to exclusively breastfeed Babywoods, which saves us the cost of formula.
When it came time to consider our diapering options, we were 100% unified in our decision to use disposables. We knew (and have been proven correct) that baby-rearin’ is exhausting, time-consuming, amazing, and miraculous all at once and usually all within a 30-second period. We’re also fans of not biting off more than we can chew with any given venture and somehow, cloth diapers felt like a bridge too far. I know how cloth diapers work and I’ve used them for my nieces and nephew, but I had no desire to incorporate the routine into my own home.
In order to be a (relatively) peaceful, sane person I need time, space, and
wine yoga. One of the ways I create that time for myself now that I’m Mommywoods is through disposable diapers. It might sound ludicrous, but even five extra minutes in a day enables me to do things like shower, pet my first child (aka Frugal Hound), write, and make myself coffee (priorities, people).
With all things in life, I try to be honest about my limits. I absolutely cannot do everything, and so there’s no reason to try. My intention is to set myself up for success to the best of my abilities, which in large part entails recognizing what I can’t–or don’t want to–do.
Don’t Focus On Small Returns
Mr. FW calculated that we might save a hundred bucks or so a year by using cloth diapers. However, the amount of water, laundry detergent, and energy we’d use to wash and dry them (can’t hang them outside to dry in January in Boston) would probably end up canceling out most of the environmental and monetary savings.
Thus, in many ways, choosing to spend a tad more on disposable diapers is a proverbial letting go of the small stuff. Sure, we focus on every line item in our budget, but part of that exercise is determining where we’d like to spend more money. You all know we indulge in coffee, seltzer, beer, wine (geez we really like beverages… ) as well as organic produce and even car ownership (plenty of people in the city exist sans vehicle).
But these are thoughtful, conscious choices for us and are all products of recognizing our limits. I have no desire to live a life without coffee or a car and so, we spend in service of those goals. It’s very true that how we use our money and our time is one of the clearest indicators of what our priorities are and I’m comfortable with the allocations I’m making.
Slogging through miserable conditions to squeeze a few more dollars of savings isn’t worth it in the grand scheme of life. And that slog is different for everyone. For example, I know that some folks cannot fathom cutting their hair at home like Mr. FW and I do and that’s just fine. We’re all unique in what we value and it’s why I firmly believe in not judging others for their personal decisions–financial and otherwise.
Living a luxuriously frugal life is all about knowing what you can frugalize happily and what will make you downright frustrated to frugalize.
If I feel excited to remove an expense–such as I do with my DIY haircuts–then I know it’s the right thing to do. Conversely, if the thought of doing without makes me cringe (which is what a life without seltzer water would do), then I instinctively know it’s not a valuable proposition for me.
It’s also important to consider the margin of actual savings. The savings we’d accrue with some economizing endeavors is so narrow that it’s just not worth it to us. Especially in circumstances where the outlay of time supersedes the realized monetary gains. This is a tough thing to calculate, but I’ve come around to the idea that the cheapest route is not always the best for me personally, particularly if there’s a significant time or quality of life trade-off.
Know When It’s Worth It
In other areas, the savings are so significant that it’s worth pushing ourselves a tad outside of our comfort zone. Not having a car payment is an illustration of that. Frugalwoods-mobile is not the most fabulous of cars and yeah, it would probably be easier if we had a car younger than most college sophomores, but the absence of a car payment is transformational to our ability to save over 70% of our income. Cloth diapers, on the other hand, would not be.
Focusing my energies in areas that matter to me and where I can achieve the greatest returns is both fulfilling but also more efficient. This desire for efficiency is one of the reasons why Mr. FW and I divide up all of our household chores so specifically. For example, since he always cooks, he’s been able to create systems and processes that generate inexpensive, tasty, healthy meals.
There’s also a difference between knowing my limits and being flat-out lazy. The way I (try to) militate against sloth is by considering how I’m using the time that I’ve saved. If, for example, I watched hours of TV with the time I’d supposedly “saved” by paying for the convenience of driving my car, then I’d say that’s not a particularly purposeful utilization of resources. On the other hand, if I use that time to play with Babywoods or do some research on homesteading, then I perceive that the expense yielded a worthy return on my time.
Our Own Journeys of Limitation
We all have diverse limitations that we cope with and create in our lives. The key is figuring out these limits and how we can still succeed within that self-knowing framework. No one else can set these limits for us–it’s a personal metric that we have to identify. But accepting these limits leads to a balanced life. A life where we’re able to do the things we love and not worry about the rest. It’s liberating to incorporate these limits into our lives because can’t do everything (much as I’ve tried). A tenet of my frugal journey is acknowledging that I’m an imperfect, flawed person and that the futile pursuit of perfection only brings distress. What we can do is ruthlessly prioritize what matters most to us and find ways to make those priorities and goals come to fruition.
P.S. We’re sourcing our diapers from Costco at the rate of $0.15 per diaper. If you know of a cheaper option, by all means, please share!