How I Remain Frugal While Pregnant (!!!)
We’re expecting baby #2! I decided to buck my customary tendency and, for once in my life, not bury the lead. Due in mid-February, baby #2 will make Babywoods a big sister and poor Frugal Hound a big sister times two. In fine frugal fashion, Mr. Frugalwoods and I are both thrilled that we’re having another girl because we already have all the clothes! Hooray for hand-me-down-down-down-downs… oh yes, many of our baby clothes are on their fifth baby (at least) and still going strong.
Quick administrative note: as longtime readers know, our first daughter has always been called Babywoods. She will now be Babywoods 1 and her little sister will be known as Babywoods 2. Look, I never said I was a genius at naming conventions…
As I’m quickly discovering is the case when you’re pregnant and also have an exuberant 22-month-old, a thriving online business, a striving homestead, and an elderly greyhound, things do not always get done quite on time. Hence, I’m already 18 weeks pregnant and just now getting around to sharing the news… Oh well, better late than never!
Another thing I’ve realized is that one starts to look pregnant A LOT earlier with baby #2 and so I couldn’t post any photos of myself until I explained the situation to you all. I posted this picture on Instagram in which I didn’t think I looked all that pregnant, but quite a few folks excitedly spotted my maternity dress. Whoops. So, consider yourself informed from the source.
Why We’re Having Baby #2 Now: Frugal Efficiency
Babywoods 1 will be 2 years and 3 months old when her little sister joins our family and we are delighted about this spacing. It’s still to be determined if having kids this close in age is actually a good idea in practice, but, Mr. FW and I are all–ALL–about efficiency and we foresee a number of efficiencies in close sibling ages.
Our home and lives are already orchestrated around a baby/toddler schedule. Our living spaces are baby-proofed and safe for small people to explore independently. Our cars are encrusted with Cheerios and other bits of food (hopefully it’s food… ). Our bedtimes, wake times, and routines are all oriented around allowing Babywoods (and us) to get plenty of sleep. Our social lives are primarily centered around activities that easily accommodate our child. Our daily schedule is rife with little kid stuff: play dates, play groups, daily hikes in the jogging stroller, snacks!, etc.
We are, in sum, very much in the baby zone of our lives. I’m a proponent of leaning into whatever phase of life you find yourself in as it is profoundly less stressful (not to mention less expensive) than trying to militate against it. Rather than battle with an overtired Babywoods during an evening outing? We don’t go out at night. Rather than engage in a never-ending struggle to always have clean clothes on everyone? I don’t sweat it. Embracing the realities and necessities of where we’re at in life is liberating and a whole lot less expensive.
Mr. FW and I already have low (very low) expectations for personal appearance, personal space, and personal cleanliness. To whit, the pants I’m currently wearing are spotted with hummus, avocado, and… soap maybe? We are very comfortable dealing with a great number of bodily functions. We don’t do things like stay up late or go out late or party long into the night. I remember how to breastfeed, how to swaddle an infant, how to nestle a teeny one into a carrier.
My body is WELL accustomed to the presence of a wee child clawing at my neck for a snuggle–I haven’t worn a necklace in two years. Mr. FW specifically wears t-shirts with words on them so that Babywoods 1 can sit in his lap and read the letters off. We are supremely content with the pace of life (slow, often dirty) we’ve established with Babywoods 1 and so it seems like an ideal time to add another small being into the routine. I mean, who knows, but it sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?!?
It’s our hope that these efficiencies will continue into the future as our girls age. For starters, they’ll both be in elementary, middle and high school for quite a few overlapping years, which means an easier commute/schedule for the whole fam. They will, hopefully, be able to participate in some of the same extracurricular activities/camps/clubs given their similar ages (again, efficiency in pricing, commuting and scheduling!).
I’m also hopeful we’ll be able to participate in family activities, trips, and vacations that appeal to both of our children. I am 13 years younger than my sister and 10 years younger than my brother and it was tough for my parents to find family outings that appealed to everyone. Mr. FW and I greatly enjoy international (and domestic) travel–something we did every year pre-baby–and it’s something we look forward to one day sharing with our kiddos. I love that they’ll both be at a good age to travel internationally at the same time. I envision us in NYC when they’re six and eight and London when they’re eight and ten and perhaps Tokyo when they’re nine and eleven and India at ten and twelve… And then they’ll be teenagers and won’t want to travel/be seen with us anymore… but I figure we’ll get a few good years in.
I’m under no delusion that our girls will be best friends (although one can always dream and one will dream… ) but at the very least, they can hike and explore our woods together in somewhat similar developmental stages. Their proximity in age also means we’ll be able to use all of Babywoods 1’s stuff as hand-me-downs for her sister. Yay!
All of this, of course, is conjecture on my part and we’ll just have to see how it works out in practice. But boy am I optimistic for these potential frugal efficiencies. At the very least, these are the stories I tell myself as I wrangle Babywoods 1 away from eating fur straight off the dog while feeling gigantically, pregnantly exhausted. And also the stories I reassure myself with as I envision the potentially apocalyptic scene of having a two-year-old and a newborn under the same roof. It’s all about how you spin it, right?!
A Note On Fertility Because Why Not
It’s also exceedingly true that fertility rarely complies with what we mere mortals have in mind for structuring our lives. For an example, one need look no further than the journey Mr. FW and I went on while trying to conceive Babywoods 1. In retrospect, that period feels like a blip in time, but as we were going through it, I couldn’t imagine anything beyond the pain and frustration we felt every day.
You can read the full story here, but the summary is that it took us 13 months to conceive Babywoods 1, during which time I took fertility drugs and we ended up getting pregnant the month before we were scheduled to start a round of IUI. In the end, we lucked out and our experience with infertility pales in comparison to the years of heartache that many couples endure. But infertility is one of those things that–when you’re experiencing it–leaves you with a feeling of hopelessness at the seemingly impossible event that your reality will ever change.
And then there was this time around. Assuming it would take us a similarly lengthy period of time to conceive Babywoods 2, Mr. FW and I decided to start trying on the early end of things, but at a time when we felt ready. Good thing we felt ready because this baby is apparently in a rush to join her sister. We got pregnant almost immediately and were met with an onslaught of emotions: joy, first of all, then surprise, relief, and a questioning of if we really were ready.
Although we planned for this and are thrilled to expand our family, I think there’s a natural feeling of uncertainty at the precipice of any major life change. We are a very happy family of three and becoming a family of four will entail a disruption of this status, this routine we’re now comfortable with. I had these same emotions before Babywoods 1 was born, but they’re more pronounced now that I have a better sense of just how much change a baby portends. This isn’t to say I’m not delighted and filled with excitement, it’s just to acknowledge that we become comfortable in our routines and tend to fear any alteration.
I think this natural fear of change is why so many of us have a hard time taking the first step towards bettering our finances. We want to be smarter about our spending, we want to start investing for the longterm, but that would entail a change in how we presently live. Accepting that fear and allowing yourself to feel it is, in my opinion, the best way forward. Brushing it aside and pretending it doesn’t exist won’t allow you the mental clarity to make lasting changes.
If, as you read this, you’re thinking about a change you know you need to make, but that you hesitate on every time, sink into that feeling of hesitation. Accept that it’s there, don’t hide it, and meditate on why it is present in your life. Then, get up and take action. Start making progress (incremental is fine) towards the things you need to do. P.S. If you’d like a concrete way to begin improving your finances, take my free Uber Frugal Month Challenge and join the over 20,000 folks who’ve accepted the challenge, transformed their finances, and saved thousands of dollars.
Frugality While Pregnant
I’ve received quite a few emails, messages, and comments lately asking for my advice on remaining frugal while pregnant and parenting. There must be something in the water… At any rate, I’m delighted to share that it’s very easy to remain frugal while pregnant and parenting: you just do as you did before becoming pregnant/a parent. Seriously!
Here’s why: if you ingrain frugality into your life, allow it to guide your decisions, transform the way in which you view consumerism, and redefine what constitutes a “need” versus a “want,” then you will have no problem maintaining this regime no matter what changes occur in your life.
Longterm, joyful frugality isn’t about hacks or even tips and tricks, it’s about accepting that you have enough in your life, that happiness is not something you can buy, and that deep joy stems from doing what you want with your life–not from buying what you want. All that being said, there is some practical advice I can offer. Pregnancy and parenting are a marketer’s dream come true. You (prospective parent) will be inundated with advertisements and prompts to buy everything imaginable for your new small person. These ads largely play on fear: our fears that we won’t be ready to be parents, that our kids won’t be happy, that they’ll be unsafe or deprived. Set those concerns aside.
If you’re truly worried about your fitness as a parent (a concern that dogs me daily… ) check out some parenting books from the library and arm yourself with skills and knowledge about childhood development. An arsenal of knowledge will be a WHOLE LOT more useful to you than a bunch of baby bouncers and infant contraptions. Trust me. I read parenting books almost constantly because my child changes and develops constantly and nothing has better prepared me for each of her milestones and behavioral advances.
Here are a few of my favorite parenting books (thus far), roughly in age order:
- Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality
- The Happiest Baby On The Block
- What To Expect The First Year
- Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
- Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby’s First Year: From Doctors Who Are Parents, Too!
- The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding
- The Happiest Toddler On The Block
- Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect
- What To Expect The Toddler Years
- Touchpoints Birth to Three
- No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame
- Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids
In terms of the stuff of babies, I will grant you that they do need some material possessions. For this, I recommend first of all, accepting any and all hand-me-downs and, for anything that doesn’t come your way via hand-me-down, buy it used. Babywoods 1 doesn’t own much of anything new. Almost all of her stuff is used and it’s all fabulous. When Mr. FW and I found out we were pregnant with Babywoods 1, we put the word out to everyone we knew that we’d gladly take their baby hand-me-downs and stuff came in droves out of basements and attics and closets. We spent all of $20 preparing for Babywoods 1; everything else was a hand-me-down.
Other excellent sources are the Buy Nothing Project, garage sales, thrift stores, Craigslist and online buy-and-sell parent groups (which are often run through Facebook). Don’t be telling me you can’t find used baby stuff because I found tons of used baby paraphernalia when we lived in the city and I find tons of used baby stuff out here in the veritable middle of nowhere. I recently purchased a used glider and ottoman–something I didn’t have with Babywoods 1 and really wanted–from a friend for $20. Those things, in case you’re wondering, retail for around $200. I also recently stocked up on heavy duty winter snow boots for Babywoods 1 at a garage sale for the whopping price of… wait for it… 0.50 cents per pair. Commit to finding whatever you need used and you won’t have to spend more than a few bucks. In case you’re curious, I didn’t have a baby shower for my first child because I couldn’t bear the thought of my friends and family buying new stuff when I knew I could find what we needed on the used market for a fraction of the price (or, more often than not, free)!
If you’re concerned about the safety of used items, fear not! What I do is research the serial number of every hand-me-down we receive. This informs me if there’s been a recall for that item. If there is a recall–as was the case with our beloved hand-me-down high chair–the manufacturer will send you the parts to repair the recall for free.
For more advice and strategies on sourcing used items, check out:
- Fighting Back Against The Baby Industrial Complex
- How To Find Anything and Everything Used: A Compendium Of Frugal Treasure Hunting
- The Myth Of The Gross Used Thing
- The Gear You Actually Need For Your Baby (Or The Next Baby Shower You Attend)
In terms of frugality-while-pregnant, I recommend following much the same route. I didn’t buy any maternity clothes for my first pregnancy and I don’t plan to buy any this time around either. How? By utilizing the wonderful world of hand-me-downs and borrowing. When you’re pregnant, you REALLY need maternity clothes; and when you’re not? You REALLY don’t want to wear them. Hence, the magical world of lending and trading maternity clothes. I lent out a bunch of my clothes between my pregnancies and I’m currently the beneficiary of borrowed clothes from a friend who is similarly between pregnancies.
For more on my entirely free maternity (and nursing bra/top) wardrobe, please enjoy:
- Pregnancy Hasn’t Foiled My Clothes-Buying Ban: Here’s How
- Maternity Clothes Are Like Christmas Trees: The Clothes-Buying Ban Continues
BUT WHAT ABOUT FOOD????
What about food? It’s undeniable that my food needs, tastes, and quantity requirements change during pregnancy and breastfeeding. I’d say our grocery bill reflects this to a minor degree, but what’s important to remember is that cravings and unusual food predilections are usually brief. I went through a phase this pregnancy where all I wanted to eat–and I mean THE ONLY THING I could eat–were beef tacos. There’s no explanation for this, there was no need to rationalize it, I was simply pregnant and needed TACOS. I ate tacos at 10am, I ate tacos at 3pm. I literally ate only tacos. But it didn’t cost us any more money. Why? Because we stuck to our frugal guns and made them from scratch at home.
Mr. FW cooked up a delicious vat of grass-fed organic beef, I shredded a bunch of cheese, and he diced up jalapeños and limes along with a red onion. Voila! Taco accouterments in the fridge for me to munch on at all hours. We didn’t get pre-made taco fixins’, we didn’t go out for tacos, we didn’t order taco delivery, we made them at home. And this taco-obsessed phase? It only lasted two weeks, after which I felt very much back to my normal self. So if you’re beset by pregnancy cravings (and for anyone who hasn’t experienced these, it’s not a craving like “oh I could really go for some pickles right now” it’s a craving like “I WILL DIE IF I DO NOT EAT PICKLES”). It’s intense. So don’t sweat it. It’s also true that nausea and food aversions often accompany these cravings (at least, they do for me) and, as was my case with the TACOS, only one food will suffice. So eat tomatoes for three weeks straight, or tacos, or whatever it is. But adjust your grocery purchases accordingly: don’t be buying eggplant if it makes you gag and don’t delude yourself into thinking you’ll be able to eat something other than tacos.
Give into the craving, buy it at the grocery store, make it from scratch, and rest assured that it’ll pass soon (even if it lasts your entire pregnancy, it’s only nine months). These cravings only become expensive when we decide we must eat out for every meal, or run through the drive-through, or buy take-out every night. As long as you stick to your frugal pattern of cooking at home, you can weather these cravings with barely a dent to your budget. Same goes for the increase in appetite, which I found to be most dramatic while breastfeeding Babywoods 1. I ate more, but it didn’t cost all that much more because we simply added on a few items to our grocery list. I NEEDED cookies, and so we baked them from scratch (that’s pennies per serving). I REQUIRED chili so Mr. FW whipped up a huge pot.
Don’t use pregnancy (or parenting) as an excuse to spend money. Buy what you need, but don’t go overboard and start rationalizing every purchase as “just because I’m pregnant.” And, take snacks everywhere!! Do not leave the house without snacks, a practice that will serve you well with kids too. It’s not a surprise, or an emergency, to need a snack while you’re at work or running errands–it’s an entirely expected and predictable incident that you can (and should) plan for. No excuses.
For more inspiration and motivation on how to avoid take-out and always plan ahead, please enjoy:
- Our Complete Guide To Frugal, Healthy Eating
- How Planning Ahead Saves Us Serious Money
- How To Stop Eating Out According To Frugalwoods Readers
Does A Second Child Change Our Financial Projections?
In a word: no. Mr. Frugalwoods and I adhere to the philosophy of always saving more money than we think we’ll need. This approach to saving allows us to pursue unusual dreams–such as reaching financial independence and moving to our 66 acre homestead in the woods of Vermont–and it also enables us to easily manage more quotidian changes to life. Since we don’t have the often-astronomical expense of daycare (as we both work from home), a second child doesn’t add an appreciable difference to our budget on an ongoing basis.
Frugality is a compounding game and the less you spend, the more you save, the less you need, and the more money you have in the long run, thanks to the appreciation of your investments (which in my case are our rental property and low-fee index funds, both of which I discuss in greater detail here). There is no downside to spending less and needing less in your life. It’s a question of wholesale simplicity and an understanding that material goods aren’t what we require in order to live the good life.
Yes, it is more expensive to have a kid (or a second kid) than to not have a kid, but our frugality isn’t about saving every single penny. Rather, it’s about creating the life we want to live and spending only on our priorities. With a second child there will be more expenses related to food and activities/sports and plane tickets and shoes and, of course, college, but there are also a great many efficiencies to realize with a subsequent child (as outlined above).
Thus far, I’ve found parenting to cost far, far less than most estimates tout. I also find a lot of peace in simplified parenting. I do not buy fancy electronic toys. I do not buy high-end clothing for my child. I do not buy every single item ever created for babies. I do not sign my toddler up for expensive classes that she doesn’t need and wouldn’t understand. Instead, we go on hikes, and pick berries in our yard, and go to free playgroups, and play with friends, and explore the creek behind our house, and read books by the wood stove, and sing songs together. This stuff is all free and it’s all enrichment. Our very presence in our children’s lives in enrichment: we are how they learn to speak, to read, to interact, to empathize, and to develop. Toys and videos cannot take on this role for us (although sometimes, let’s be honest, all we need is some freaking Elmo).
If you enshrine frugality as your worldview, as the lens through which you operate, then pregnancy and parenting will merely fold into your approach. Frugality is the philosophy that blankets everything I do. Whether its parenting, or choosing a car to buy, or deciding not to eat out, frugality guides my decisions. It makes my life effortless in many ways and it ensures I’m always focused on my highest, best priorities. I’m not a parent who is frugal, I’m a frugal person who also happens to be a parent.
How do you incorporate your parenting into your frugality?
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