About the frugal oyster

happy face

Any faithful follower of the Frugal Oyster Budget Challenge may have noticed that while we are doing extremely well with the numbers, a few things haven’t gone the way we originally intended. To wit:

1. Diapers
We planned to cloth diaper the little oyster until we realized how impractical that would be for our lifestyle. We don’t have in-unit laundry. We pay per load. We would have used disposable while traveling. Many day cares–which we were originally considering–and the little oyster’s aunt who was her nanny refuse to use them so ultimately our frugal tushy plans were waylaid and the oyster budget has included disposables. Saving grace: We have found that Target brand diapers are the best out there, and significantly less expensive than the name brands. (Oh, I was also seriously considering infant potty training. You can laugh. I am, now.)

2. A crib
We also weren’t planning to have a crib. With the little sister-nanny living with us we still have the little oyster in her Pack n Play in our bedroom  but we do have a crib. A family friend of the husband’s owned a baby furniture company and we were invited to choose a crib and changing table from the stock. It was an extremely generous gift and I’m grateful for it. As the husband pointed out to me once, just because we can go without it doesn’t mean we have to.

3. Nursing
I was planning to nurse exclusively for the first year. Instead the little oyster and I made it to six and a half months and decided that was enough. Truth bomb: It’s really hard to nurse exclusively when you’re working full time. Really really hard, even when every allowance is made in the work place. My building had private nursing rooms with hospital grade pumps and no one had any problem when I left twice a day to use them. After a few months of pumping at work and nursing at home, I wasn’t enjoying it so I decided to end on a high note. I weaned the little oyster one weekend and she has been formula-fed until recently, when we also introduced baby food.

4. Baby food
I had planned from the start to make my own. HAHAHA. Yeah, that never happened. She’s fine.

5. Child care
I went back to work when the oyster was 9 weeks old and the husband took a month of paternity leave. After that we needed someone to care for her while we both worked and the little sister was a willing and able party. She moved in with us in January and was the little oyster’s nanny until May. We paid her and I did not include that cost in the frugal oyster budget tally. Including child care costs puts the tally well over our $2,700 budget so instead of seeing the numbers and giving up on being frugal, I just didn’t include child care costs. Had I done so, with our particular situation, we’re still well under the minimum end of the average baby budget.

6. Nursery
Like I said, the little oyster has lived in our bedroom since January. We don’t do the family bed thing (shudder) and yes, it’s a bit of a tight fit but we more than manage. I love the little oyster’s bedroom and when she’s back in there, I will enjoy having that space again. Until then, it’s totally ok with us that our American child doesn’t have her own fabulously individual nursery, like so many Pinterest accounts would have one believe is absolutely crucial to the health and well-being of said child. A nursery is fun but by no means necessary. The nice thing about living around here is that a lot of people get that. I know a family that has twins and lives in a nice one-bedroom apartment. The twins have a cute crib in the living room. It works, Pinterest be damned.

7. Clothes
The little oyster, at 9 months old, is wearing 9 and 12 month sizes. Friends and family gave us clothing in staggered sizes, which has been nice and has kept this spending area low. Almost everything we have picked up for the oyster clothing-wise has been discretionary spending.

And there you have it. A small update on what hasn’t gone as planned in the frugal oyster budget and why. Still, we’re trucking right along.


This child may be a naked child

I am rarely overwhelmed. Or whelmed, which supposedly means overcome and therefore to say overwhelmed is to say overovercome, according to my 12th grade English teacher, who looked like a suitcase.

But then I got pregnant and have to decide what to dress my child in after she is born and I’m feeling a new sort of panic. One would think the husband could help, but this is one area in which my incredible husband actually provides almost zero assistance, since “one of everything!” was his battle cry when we registered at Target last week.

Now, part of this I brought on myself by setting up two registries, but don’t a lot of people do that, without mental strain? Since a lot of things are seasonal or not available online, I can’t log in to each registry, see what I have chosen, and then fill in the gaps accordingly because half the items are cryptically named and have no image online. I do know that the precious Dumbo onesies we chose for the oyster are sold out online and not available in stores, so now I’m concerned that all my daughter will have to wear when she arrives is 14 different pajama sets (I haven’t put any sleep sacks on there–ahh! Ahh??) and a hooded bath towel. Plus tiny boots I picked out for her for the winter months.

Lots of websites and stores offer lists of basic baby necessities that include quantities of things like hats, onesies, long-sleeved onesies, zip onesies, short-sleeved onesies, snap onesies, white onesies, gender-specific onesies, all-weather onesies, onesie sets, and organic dye-free bamboo hand-wash onesies, all of which are considered necessities. Even the simpler lists, the ones that say “6 short-sleeved onesies” and “4 long-sleeved onesies” get inside my head because what if I pick out the basics then add too many onesies of the same kind to the other registry? I put the same little colored toy links on both registries already and I did that on purpose. If people see that I have chosen 1,008 onesies of different sizes and shapes between two registries before the baby is even born and they think I did that on purpose, they’re going to put me on reality TV. Waah.

Then again, what if I end up only choosing the onesies that are seasonal/temporary and then everything is sold out by the time any buying happens? Do I add more than we need and leave room for things to go out of stock?

Yesterday I realized and pointed out to the husband that our daughter has no pants or socks. I feel that both of these articles are vital to the proper dressing and care of a child, but what kind should I even pick for her? Cute tiny jeans, or will those squeeze her belly? What if I pick out a bunch of 3 month-sized stretchy pants and she’s a 12 lb baby, ready to wear 6 month clothing after we bring her home? And do babies need coats?

Maybe I’m over thinking it, but I don’t want people to misconstrue a huge registry as a manic grab for all things baby. As a result, the oyster will probably have small registries consisting of a humidifier shaped like an elephant, tiny boots, and the hooded bath towel. If there’s way to let all registry viewers know that I have no idea what we need and only a few ideas of what we don’t need, that would be ideal and would look something like this:

“Thank you for viewing the little oyster’s registry! She is a girl who will love all bright colors and animals. And books, of course. We’re not sure what she will need for clothing once she’s born, so if you have kids of your own, please use your own experience as a guide. If heartburn indicates a baby with hair, we’ll be delivering a sasquatch in September, so clothes might be optional after all. Again, books are always a good idea. And so is wine. We could all benefit from some of that right about now.”

Sheesh. I like to think I have more control than this.

Use the good wine glasses and don’t save cute outfits

The husband and I try very hard to make decisions that are thoroughly thought out and consistent with the way we see the world and what we value. Getting our money’s worth out of stuff is one thing we value. Examining all reasons for doing or not doing something and considering secondary and tertiary consequences is another.

Life is short and can change suddenly, for better or worse. Our surprise with Martha and the whirlwind of what’s-nexts last fall brought that point home to us. Finding out the oyster is on the way is the sunnier side of that same street.

For the reason that life is short and special, we are big believers in using the good wine glasses because heck, what are we saving them for? Glasses don’t make the occasion special, so the fancy goblets have been known to come out for a Thursday night dinner with friends because they are pretty (the glasses…although our friends are good-looking, as a rule) and we like pretty things.

Cute baby clothes will be worn over and over again because word on the street is those little shavers grow mighty fast, and if there’s an outfit we’re in love with, you better believe it’s going to get used until the last possible moment. Why save it? What would we be saving it for? I want our kids to re-wear adorable outfits, but that doesn’t mean each day has to have its own new cute things. The days can share cuteness.

Today I was asked by a dear friend why we are planning to forgo a crib when the oyster is born, and after listing our reasons for her, she said the logic was very “us,” which was meant as and taken as a compliment. Below are our reasons for eschewing that typical nursery mainstay:

We are planning to use a nice Pack n Play until it’s time for a big bed.

1. All of our family lives away, so to see them we’ll have to travel and we’ll take a Pack n Play for the oyster to sleep in. The continuity/sameness of environment when we’re traveling will be good for a little sleeper. If it’s good enough for the baby on the road, it’s good enough for the baby at home.

2. We would get a Pack n Play anyway, and using it each night gets more use out of it, instead of keeping it in the closet 80% of the time.

3. Crib recalls come out daily–we don’t need the stress of replacing something two weeks after setting it up.

4. Cribs need too much extra stuff–bumpers, organic mattresses, mattress covers, blah blah blah.

5. You aren’t supposed to move a crib and we are only renting. What if another baby comes along? Time for a new crib because it’s unwise to disassemble then reassemble one.

6. The baby will sleep in our room for the first few weeks and rolling a Pack n Play into his/her room in December will be easier and more practical than having a crib set up to collect dust in the meantime.

7. The Pack n Plays we’re looking at have bassinets and changer pieces included, which saves the trouble of getting a separate bassinet and also makes changing easy, if we don’t want to get a changing pad to put on top of the dresser. (A changing table is a definite non-necessary for us.)

8. A crib is just one more thing we can live without in our house.

Our goal is to be lean, in terms of stuff and environmental impact, and I have seen most kids I know sleep comfortably in Pack n Plays for many years. I’d rather get every penny’s worth out of a $120 Pack n Play than have to scrap a crib in mint condition in two years, since you’re also not supposed to buy/sell a used crib (see #3). Also, lots of cribs are made of particle board or have weird chemical treatments and we don’t like that.

So, like the wine glasses and cute baby outfits, the Pack n Play is a decision we have made that uses what we have (or will have) for its purpose and out of which we get true value.

Right now I feel like I would get some true value out of a nice glass of pinot grigio, but I don’t think that’s how the oyster wants to celebrate its 19-week mark.