The Frugal Oyster Budget FINAL Tally

We have arrived now at the moment of truth. Many moons ago I made a bet with myself that we could eschew the average baby budget money-bleed and outfit, feed, care for, and celebrate the little oyster, from conception to first birthday, for much less than our culture’s average of $7,000-$12,000. I chose $2,700 as our budget limit and tallied all expenses, rounding to the nearest dollar in the categories you see below. Note that this final tally also includes what we spent on her first birthday, which was spent with the husband’s family on the beach in Delaware, pictures to follow in a later post.

And so now we answer the question.

Question: Is it possible to outfit, feed, care for, and celebrate a baby in the United States, sacrificing not the safety, comfort, or even convenience of that baby or her mom, from conception to baby’s first birthday, for less than the average American expenditure of $7k-$12k in the first year of life only?

Answer: Oh, you better believe it.

The Frugal Oyster Budget Tally #17

September 30, 2013, final update

Final tally: $2,585

1st Birthday Party:

Gifts from us:
Wheely ride-on cow, Amazon, $67
Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, Bethany Beach Books, $7
Melissa & Doug bendable giraffe, Pitter Patter children’s boutique, $12
Plastic zippy car, Pitter Patter children’s boutique, $6

Gifts from others:
Animal sleepers, jeans, winter shirt, winter hat, illustrated book of parables, handmade stuffed owl buddy, handmade Jemima Puddle-Duck rag book, handmade puzzle ball, handmade crib bumper, Melissa & Doug farm animal puzzle, musical jewelry box, Melissa & Doug mirror toy, Melissa & Doug plush fishing set, All God’s Creatures book, Bed Time Blessings book

Boutique muffins, Bethany Beach Bakrie, $33

Total: $125


Maternity clothes:


Now usable from pre-preg closet: Everything

Total: $0

Baby toys and books:

A Pocket for Corduroy, Goodwill, $1

Arthur’s Nose, Goodwill, $1

Eloise in Moscow, Goodwill, $1

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Goodwill, $1

Winnie the Pooh (classic chapter book edition), Goodwill, $2

Come Along, Daisy!, Goodwill, $1

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, consignment sale, $1

Carl’s Christmas, used bookstore, $4

A Birthday for Francis, used bookstore, $5

Harry by the Sea, Bethany Beach Books, $7


Total: $24

Baby clothes:

3 fall onesies, Old Navy, $18

Fall pants, Old Navy, $6

2 sets of pajamas, Old Navy clearance, $15

2 next-summer shirts, Old Navy clearance, $13

3 next-spring rompers, Target clearance, $12

UVA/UVB retro sunglasses, with shipping, $25

2 sleepers, consignment sale, $7


Two long-sleeved fall shirts, two pairs of leggings, toddler dress with glasses pattern (ha! Love!)

Total: $96

Baby essentials:
Diapers, Target, $22

Formula, Target, $37

Baby food, various brands, Target, $33

Baby puffs, Walmart, $3

Baby cup, Target, $2

Wipes, Target, $5

Sunscreen, Target clearance, $4

Benadryl, Walgreens, $7


Total: $113


Baby book, PaperSource, $30


Total: $30

Running total for complete baby budget challenge: $2,585

Balance remaining in budget: $115

Percent of budget used: 96%

Months into challenge: 21

Months remaining in challenge: 0


The bet is that we can come in at or under my self-imposed dollar amount, without sacrificing safety or comfort of baby or parents, when calculating everything spent by us on the little oyster from conception to the first birthday. This includes all furniture, baby and maternity clothes, toys, vitamins and toiletries, and equipment, everything included in the “average” budget. This excludes insurance costs when the baby is added to the policy and the cost of the food I eat if nursing, which are also not included in the “average” budget. I will save receipts, round to the nearest dollar, and keep a running total on the blog.

The amount to meet or beat is $2,700.


Home stretch

Today makes the little oyster 38 weeks old! If I could sleep through the night before she arrives I would just love it. It would be a present for me (be)fore her birthday.

Speaking of birthdays, this week the family placed bets on when the oyster will arrive, how long she’ll be, and how much she’ll weigh. An interesting pattern was that the older sisters and their husbands–who are brothers–all guessed well over 8 lbs. for the little lady. Of course, the sisters have delivered all boys with similar genetic material. My favorite guess was the dad’s, at 6 lbs. 12 oz. I think she’ll be a little bigger than that but I’m counting on the husband’s genetics and the fact that the oyster is a girl to bring her in (out?) under the 8 lb. mark.

On Friday, I wore socks and running shoes to work, hoping that having tie shoes on would keep the swelling in my feet down. Unfortunately as soon as we got to work I realized that it just meant I had more weight to haul around on my bad self all day. I was disappointed in my choice before 9 a.m.

This week the House is back in session and has had votes every day. This means the days are long and Dietrich is at his sitter’s house each day and absolutely pooped when we get to pick him up. It also means I am pooped at the end of the day but too pregnant to sleep through the night. Alas.

Soon and very soon though! Yesterday I pointed out to the husband that we’ll have a baby before we have our next paychecks. (Federal employees are paid once a month, on the last day of the month. Yeah, be jealous. It’s “awesome.”)

The dad’s big day

Last month the dad turned 60 and since the sisters and I couldn’t afford the cottage on the lake we know he and the mom would really like, we went the nostalgia route.

We brainstormed names and then contacted friends, family, old friends, old colleagues, church buddies, anyone for whom we had or found and email address or could feasibly stalk online, and sent emails or snail mail letters requesting that each recipient take the time to send a memory of the dad and the time each person had known him.

With letters and emails and even some pictures from a 1975 fishing trip rolling in, the sisters and I decided that everything should be collected in a manner that gave a nod to the dad’s military service. The finished product, with each memory in its own envelope, turned out just how we were hoping.

While I neither built the box nor carved the eagles, I did stain the box, stamp the envelopes with years (the seventies were a nightmare), stain one eagle and paint the other with a pen, stuff the envelopes with the husband’s help, and even put little clear no-scratch feet on the bottom of the box because I know the dad and his precise care of the flat surfaces in their house, upon which this box would not be allowed to rest without the proper, well, footwear.

The envelopes are stamped fifty-two through twenty twelve, with all memories tucked in at random, with a few exceptions. The memories from his girls I put into the years we were born, and we started with a memory from his oldest sister about the day the dad was born then ended with a letter from the mom.

It took a while to read them all, and the family spent a great evening on the back patio, eating, listening to the dad’s letters, and blinking really fast. Happy 60th birthday, Dad!

Today could be full of adventure. Our a/c is broken–the fan blows and blows and the tepid, sticky air moves around but that’s it–and it should be in the 90s, I’m walking a new client this afternoon and then later I’m off to yet another interview with the good congressman. His office emailed last week and asked if I would be free this week to meet again with the good congressman and with Mrs. Good Congressman, who is in town.

But of course! said I although in fact I detest it when bosses want you to meet their wives before hiring you (or not). There seems to be a particular stripe of hiring boss who goes this route, and for the record, I have never known a male interviewee who had to meet the wife, and I have never known a female boss to bring her husband in to cross-examine potential employees. In my head I call it the tart test. I don’t know if it’s more offensive to pass or fail.

In the meantime, grocery lists, laundry, and thank you notes. The sisters threw a baby shower for me over the weekend! Another post, another time.

The husband’s birthday

Happy birthday, handsome!

Today is the husband’s birthday. One of his coworkers made Snickers cupcakes for a birthday treat, which is great because I definitely dropped the ball on the birthday baked goods thing and now I don’t feel so bad. The cake we brought home from our weekend at the farm also helps. I found some candles to add to our pieces.

This weekend we left Dietrich at home and he had a dog sitter check on him a few times a day. According to the note she left on top of the dishes she washed (I would have been a lot more embarrassed if I wasn’t so grateful), everything went well and based on the big guy’s sound sleep, those must have been quite the walks she took him on.

Last week, during my posting drought, the husband and I went to the cosmetology school I found nearby to get our hair cuts. They did an excellent job and were totally affordable and great but I think mentioning to my student that my sister is a stylist put her on edge. Now, I have a pretty straightforward haircut and I’m growing out any layers I had, so each haircut should, in theory, be even simpler than the one before it. I’m also keeping my bangs long so a little trim is all I needed.

So, to mention that the little sister is a stylist could have sounded like I would compare this girl’s work to the little sister’s and thus accounted for the 90-minute haircut I enjoyed. I was just trying to make conversation.

Interestingly, the only parking garage that was open cost us more to park for the two hours we were in there than it cost for the husband’s haircut. And tip.