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Baby Budget: How to Start Saving for a Baby

Whether you’re planning to start a family in the near future or just found out you’re going to be parents, it’s important to know what to expect financially when you’re expecting. Parenting.com says the average family can spend up to $12,000 a year on child-related expenses for their first born. However, there are plenty of ways you can save money, and opening a high-interest money market account or certificate of deposit  (CD) early will allow those savings to grow at a faster rate. As you create your baby budget, make sure you have a thorough understanding of the expenses you may face to help you prepare. We’ll help by outlining these below as well as give you tips for saving for a baby.

Expenses to consider when you’re budgeting for a baby

Make sure your baby budget includes the items we’ve listed below. You can save money by purchasing many items used or in bulk, and we’ll talk about that a little more later, but as you set your budget, use the average market price to ensure you have set aside what you need.

 

  • Prenatal visits and hospital bills: Call your insurance company to let them know you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and to get an idea of what your out-of-pocket costs for delivery may be.
  • Decorating the nursery: Whether you need to remodel the room or simply repaint and furnish it, this can be a large expense for a family. A home equity loan or line of credit may be able to help with the remodel, but you’ll still want to save for the decorations and furniture, including a:

 

  • Crib (consider a convertible model to save money down the road)
  • Rocker
  • Dresser
  • Swing
  • Bookshelf
  • Changing table (you can also use a pad on top of the dresser to convert it to a changing table and save money)
  • Monitors (while you can go with a basic model, video monitors are becoming more popular, though they are more expensive)

 

  • Baby-proofing: To make your home safe for a baby, you’ll need to buy new supplies to baby-proof the house.
  • Diapers: You’re sure to go through a lot of these, so make sure you budget accordingly as this is one item you don’t want to skimp on.
  • Baby food and supplies: If you’re considering formula, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for the expense. Other costs include breast pumps (which may be covered by your insurance), bottles, solid food, spoons and dishes. Parenting.com says families can spend close to $50 per week on just diapers, formula and baby food.
  • Clothes for mom and baby: Most moms aren’t going to forget to account for adorable baby clothes, but they may accidentally leave maternity clothes out of their budget. Make sure you have what you need for both of you.
  • Stroller, car seat, swing and high chair: These must-haves for both mom and baby can be pretty pricey. Look for options that adjust as your baby grows to get the most out of your money. 

Find ways to save on the expenses in your baby budget

While creating a budget with the standard or even high-end products on the market is important to ensure you have saved what you need, here are other ways you can create some wiggle room when saving for a baby:

  • Wait for showers: Creating a registry for your baby is a great way to save and stick to your budget. If you’ll be having a baby shower, wait to make purchases on your own until you know what friends and family have taken care of for you. You may also receive gift cards as shower gifts, which you can use when you need to purchase something you didn’t receive.
  • Buy secondhand or borrow whenever you can: This goes for both mom and baby. Whether they’re hand-me-downs or consignment store finds, secondhand maternity and baby clothes are a great way to save. But secondhand savings aren’t just for clothes. Some items – like a stroller or car seat – are best bought new, but you may be able to save on other items, like a secondhand bassinet or high chair.
  • Get the minimum amount of necessary products: First-time parents can often be overwhelmed by all the choices of bottles, diapers, toys and pacifiers. But what really matters is what your baby likes. Purchase what you’ll need to get by for the first few months and save to stock up on the rest in bulk when you know what works best.
  • Consider cloth diapers and convertible cribs: When you’re a mom, one of the greatest money-saving tips is to purchase something that is durable and reusable. Whether this means spending a few extra dollars on a high-end stroller for more than one kid or choosing to use cloth diapers and a convertible crib, look for items that will last and lower your expenses in the long run.

Plan for the years ahead – open a bank account and start saving for baby

As you continue budgeting for baby and open a savings account to cover expenses, make sure you also take time to think about experiences and expenses down the road. Will you want to be a stay-at-home mom? If so, Barbara Hetzer, author of “How Can I Ever Afford Children? Money Skills for New and Experienced Parents,” says to give a single income a trial run before you need it. Attempt to live on just one salary for a few months while pregnant. It will give you a chance to boost savings and learn how to stretch your dollars should you decide to take more time off. If you choose instead to go back to work, you’ll also want to factor in day care expenses. And no matter what, you’ll want to account for preschool enrollment expenses and contributions to a college savings account. Certificates of deposit and money market accounts help you grow your funds more quickly, but it’s important to consider that money market accounts are more flexible than CDs. If you choose CDs, you may want to choose terms that end before your due date and transfer the savings to a money market account to have more liquid funds.

 

Sponsored content was created and provided by RBS Citizens Financial Group.

Bug Out Bag Contents: My Audit

bug out bag

A few weeks ago I audited my 2-week emergency food and water supply, and with the Frankenstorm known as Hurricane Sandy about to wreak havoc on the East Coast, I thought it would be a good to also audit my bug out bag.

Though we live in the Midwest and are safe from hurricanes, we have been known to experience ice storms that can knock out electricity for weeks at a time. Being proactive means you don’t have to stand in line for hours and fight for supplies like the idiots in Manhattan.

What is a bug out bag? Basically it is a backpack full of essential items that you keep at the ready, either in your house or in your car, in case you need to quickly leave your home behind.

For the record, I am not one of those weirdos who believes the Mayans predicted the end of the earth in 2012. I just believe that our electricity grid is very outdated and vulnerable, and with most towns and cities having only a 3 day supply of food (thanks to our “just in time” food delivery network), any long term emergency situation would quickly devolve into panic and chaos.

bug out bag

My bug out bag contents. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Bug Out Bag Contents

I knew before my bug out bag audit that I would be lacking the most important items: food and water. After I stocked up my house with 2 weeks of food and water for 4 people, I just forgot to get some special order calorie-dense food packs and sealed bags of water for my bug out bag.

Now that we are out of debt, I’m more comfortable spending a little bit of money to buy some peace of mind, and am slowly tying up all loose ends.

So let’s take a look at what I have in my bug out bag:

  • Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner propane camp stove
  • Can of Coleman camping propane (1)
  • Coleman aluminum camping mess kit (cup, frying pan, 16 oz pot, deep-dish plate)
  • Large Gerber machete (parang) for clearing vegetation and making shelter
  • Ruger 10/22 Takedown collapsible hunting rifle + 500 rounds .22LR ammo (for hunting squirrels, rabbits, birds, etc) NOT PICTURED, ON BACKORDER
  • SAS (British Special Forces) Survival Handbook in Ziploc bag
  • Mylar blankets for warmth (4)
  • 9-hour candles (3)
  • Magnesium firestarter tool with striker/flint
  • Red Cross emergency hand crank radio w/flashlight and phone charger
  • Napkins, paper and pencil in sealed plastic bag
  • Fishing kit (sinkers, bobbers, hooks and fishing line)
  • Paracord
  • Roll of twine
  • Signal Mirror
  • Large, fixed blade survival knife
  • Small Swiss Army knife with can opener, screwdriver, tweezers
  • Rubber gloves (not sure what for, but can be used to carry water)
  • Playing cards
  • Bottle opener
  • Sunglasses
  • Binoculars
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses

As you can see, this is actually more of a long-term survival kit than something meant to last 72 hours. Instead of having food, I have the means to acquire it and cook it. In my opinion, if you are leaving your house and setting out on foot, it means that something really bad has happened. My preference is to stay in my home as long as possible and pitch a tent indoors where it is warm. The only reason I’d leave with my family is if we ran out of food and water and there was no chance of help coming.

 

What I’m Lacking

 

  • A new bag (mine is getting janky and may be too small after adding these items)
  • 3 days food and water (prepackaged calorie-dense MREs and water pouches)
  • Changes of clothing
  • Eating utensils
  • Collapsible fishing pole
  • Charged but unactivated cellphone for calling 911
  • Water purification (either iodine crystals or UV filter)
  • First Aid kit w/medicine
  • Emergency whistle
  • Family phone numbers and addresses (who memorizes #s anymore?)
  • Entrenching tool (mini-shovel)
  • Hatchet for chopping wood
  • Goggles
  • Dust masks
  • Snare kit
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Sewing kit
  • Bic lighters and waterproof matches
  • Cash ($100 in various increments, including some quarters)

 

The important thing here is that you have enough to survive, but not so much that you can’t carry it. After I buy the remaining items on my list, I will probably find that I need to have another bag for my wife to carry as well.

 

Prepping Is Becoming Mainstream, But People Will Think You Are Crazy

“Prepping” has become a more mainstream topic of conversation lately, and there are even TV shows about it (Doomsday Preppers and Doomsday Bunkers). Unfortunately these TV shows go out of their way to find the craziest people and are meant to sensationalize the topic. For that reason, if you take the time to prepare, I’d suggest not telling anyone about it, except those you love.

I realize that some of you will think that preparing for an emergency is crazy because nothing bad has ever happened to you, but all you have to look to is look at Hurricane Katrina to know that the government is probably not going to be able to help you.

If more people took emergency preparation seriously, towns would take the time to draw up emergency plans and shelters, and families would take pride in being self sufficient. Instead, most people will rely on their elected officials and law enforcement to take care of their families.

Call me crazy, but I’ve worked with politicians for ten years and I’ve yet to meet one who could help me in an emergency.

AT&T Upgrade Fee Is a Poke in the Eye

at&t upgrade fee wiaved

I recently had to buy a new phone after my 3 year old iPhone 3GS became unusable. AT&T Wireless, as usual, stuck me with an upgrade fee – this time it went from an annoying and distasteful $18 to a ridiculous $36.

Like usual, I called and asked that it be waived. The lady told me it was not even possible in her computer system to do so.

A few minutes later she told me her job would be in jeopardy if she waived it.

at&t upgrade fee wiaved

I asked her, “so lying to your customers doesn’t put your job in jeopardy? You just told me you weren’t even able to do it.”

Caught in a lie, she muttered something about if she did it, a manager would see and she’d get in trouble, but if I’d like, she could let me talk to a supervisor. She also said she could give me a $25 credit right now.

Rather than take this any further and risk a fist-sized hole in my drywall, I took my $25 credit.

Please pardon my rant, but AT&T Wireless must not think I’m a valued customer when they stick me with an “upgrade” fee for the privilege of being a customer for another two years.

As a longtime customer who has spent over $10,000 with this company, I am very put off when asked to pay a fee SIMPLY FOR BEING A CUSTOMER.

 

What the Heck is an Upgrade Fee?

Upgrade fee? Seriously?

I’m not upgrading anything. I bought a lower grade phone.

I am asking to continue to give you money every month for the next two years, not to move into your basement.

Hell, they should call me and thank me for being a customer, not charge me a fee.

There AT&T, are you happy? After getting $10,000 from me, you had to shake out another $11.

If you need $11 that bad, should I even trust your company?

 

If You Are Going to Extract Money From Your Customers, Be Smarter About It

Look, if you really need to recover more money from customers because the price of “upgrading” has gone up (SIDE RANT: Maybe the reason your cost of signing papers for customers is going up has something to do with the army of frat bots I saw with iPads strapped to their hips last time I was in your store).

If I’m correct, Verizon Wireless doesn’t charge an upgrade fee. I suspect that this is not because they don’t like money, but because they are smart enough to just sneak it into the price of their phones or plans, or whatever other way they are using.

Which is my point.

If you have an increased cost of doing business, RAISE YOUR PRICES. Don’t hide behind some silly “upgrade fee.”

That puts you in the company of those late-night infomercials selling a ten-dollar product with twenty-dollar shipping and handling.

Say what you want about AT&T vs Verizon – at least Verizon pretends to care about their customers, or maybe more shocking, they realize that treating a customer right is good business in the long run.

 

How to Get AT&T Upgrade Fee Waived

If you’ve never had your AT&T Wireless upgrade fee waived, just call in and ask. I don’t think the employees in the store have the power to do so.

Even if you’ve had it waived before, call anyway. They at least deserve to know how you feel about their fee.

They may have to escalate you to a supervisor or manager, or they may offer you a credit for a smaller amount in the hopes you will be tired of fighting and relent.

Most likely they will waive the fee for you.

It has worked for me almost every time.

Auditing Your Emergency Food Stash

Food Insurance

Let’s talk about your emergency food stash. You do have an emergency food supply for your home, right?

I’m not talking about hoarding buckets of grain in your basement in anticipation of the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse. I’m just talking about taking that extra step to have a 2-week supply of food and water for everyone in your house (pets included).

When I wrote about this earlier in the year, I referred to it as Food Insurance. That’s just another way of thinking about it: as an insurance policy for your family.

Being prepared for a 2-week period without electricity is not the behavior of a survivalist, conspiracy theorist or wacko. It is simply a smart thing to do. Anyone who tells you otherwise is an idiot.

A few years ago in Illinois we had ice storms that knocked out power in some parts of the state for two weeks or more. This scenario is not far-fetched fiction; it has happened before and it can happen again.

When the power is out, there are no grocery stores, no gas stations, and no ATMs. Even worse, if it is winter, there may be no way to safely drive your car for supplies even if they are available.

Earlier this year I took about $100 and made a trip to Aldi’s, our local discount grocery store, and bought emergency supply of food and water for my wife and two kids (we have no pets).

If you don’t have the extra cash to buy it all at one time, start buying a few extra items at each grocery trip, and stash them away until you have a good supply. Five extra cans and a gallon of water a few times each month is not going to break your budget.

 

Our Audit

When I started my slow carb diet earlier in the year, I think I raided the emergency stash for some beans on a few occasions. While I believe that I had my wife buy some more to replenish what I took, I can’t quite remember.

Anyway, it’s been about six months since I did this, so it’s the perfect time for an audit of our food insurance. And with winter around the corner, we are approaching the time of year for power outages.

Here’s what I found:

  • 20 gallons of water
  • 10 cans of spinach
  • 12 cans of spaghetti and meatballs
  • 12 cans of chicken breast (9.75 oz, larger size)
  • 12 cans of of potatoes
  • 11 cans of mixed vegetables
  • 11 cans of black beans
  • 6 cans of tuna
  • 3 cans of pinto beans, larger 29 oz size
  • 1 box of dry milk, 26 oz size
  • 1 bottle of bleach

 

My emergency food audit shows that I only have a week’s worth of water for my family, using the 1 gallon per person, per day standard. I also only have a week’s worth of food.

This is due to some raiding of the stash and an underestimating how much would be needed. I assumed (probably correctly) that we could stretch the stash for 2 weeks if absolutely necessary, though it wouldn’t be fun or desirable.

Rather than plan to struggle, a smarter move would be to just bite the bullet and double the size of the emergency food supply. This would be one major thing that wouldn’t have to become a worry in the event of an unplanned disaster.

 

Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

  • Don’t tell anyone about it: people will think you are weird, and they will know who to call when they are caught unprepared. It’s okay to tell your extended family, but only if you are doing so in a way that encourages them to also get prepared.
  • Use masking tape and a marker to label your food with purchase date and expiration date. Yes, it may be marked on the can, but why not make it easier to see and rotate out.
  • Stick to items that have a long shelf life, like canned goods. If you are super-organized, mark your calendar in advance to remind you to rotate out.
  • Rotate out old items: if you are concerned with cost, you can stock your emergency supply with types of food you already eat. That way if cans are close to expiring, you can just eat them, or donate them to a food pantry and buy more.
  • Buy some comfort foods: your stash may contain a lot of items you don’t eat regularly, and if you are without power, this won’t really matter. However, it can be good to have some comfort foods like peanut butter or powdered milk to make things easier on the kids.
  • Can you cook it? Try to buy things that can be eaten without being cooked, like canned beans and canned pasta. We have a camping stove with extra fuel that can be used to heat up canned goods. In a pinch, you could fire up the BBQ grill outside.
  • If you drink coffee or tea, do yourself a favor and plan a way to have a hot cup of your favorite beverage.
  • Keep it in a safe place: your attic might not be the best place for this, due to temperature extremes and the fact that a tornado could blow it away, Keep it in a cool, dry and safe place.
  • To beef up your food supply, simply buy a few extra items each month and add them to the stash. You won’t notice the extra cost.

 

READERS: Do you have 2 weeks of food stashed? Why not?

Greetings from Croatia

Greetings from Croatia. My wife and I are having a wonderful and relaxing time.

We spent a few days visiting with my family and swimming in the sea. The Smart Car we rented had a problem with the transmission, so my dream of zipping around in a little go-kart of a car were dashed. We had to trade it for a slightly larger Hyundai Getz. This is my first time really driving a foreign car for an extended period of time.

Me and my cousin’s son in the Smart Fortwo, before I gave it back.

The roads here in Croatia are excellent. Driving here is easier than in United States. My cousin tells me that Croatians think their roads are not great, but even the tiny bike-path sized roads between tiny villages are paved and without potholes. This is not the case when I drive at home to visit my parents and in-laws in a similar rural area.

Croatia (especially Istria), is about food. We have been stuffed full of homemade cheese, wine and meat like prsut (proscuitto), and cevapcici, a beef and pork mixed meat. Everyone tells me I look too thin, and I suspect I will put on a few pounds by the time I return.

Here are a few more pictures from our trip so far. Hope everyone is okay back home.

Motovun, Istria. Medieval town atop a small “mountain.”

 

Istrian sausage, pork and saurkraut at Humska Konoba, in Hum. This is known as the “smallest town in the world.” Most amazing view of the Mirna River valley from our table.

 

More photos to come later. That’s what was on my tablet. I’m too relaxed (lazy) to upload some from our camera.

Peace.

 

 

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