"And Then We Saved" On Raising a Baby on a Budget
I had first heard about Anna on the radio a lonnnng time ago. They were talking about this girl who managed to pay off all her debt, close to $24K, on a government salary in a short time, about 15 months, by going on a "spending fast." I quickly learned that Anna, of the successful blog And Then We Saved, is also a very talented photographer. After meeting her on a couple of occasions around Denver, the first time being at a clothing swap she had organized here in Denver, we stayed in touch and we were fortunate at the time to have had her artistic eye bend the lens for my maternity pictures when I was pregnant with Remy. Obviously she is one of those multi-talented, beautiful, savvy and smart ladies you are glad you met and wish you could see more of. She has been a bit busy as of late, since adding "Momma" and "Author" to her resume! She has an ADORABLE toddler boy named Henry, with the fluffiest cheeks! She also just turned in her first book to her publisher! Expect that out in January of 2016, all about the spending fast which you can learn more about here. Here, Anna was kind enough to spend some time and share with me (us) about parenting on a budget, or with a spend conscious mentality.
Photo via Instagram @annanewelljones
HH: When you got pregnant were you aprehensive about all of the "stuff" you might have to buy?
ANJ: Yes! I'd heard it over and over again, "Kids = clutter".
HH: How did you save on baby gear and items before baby was born?
ANJ: I did what a lot of new parents do. I asked friends what they found most useful with their kids. Then, we made a list of the items that came up over and over again, and then decided from that list what to ultimately get. We tried to be super practical, and not get swept up in all the cute stuff. We also went with gender-neutral items so we could use them again if we had another kid, and so re-selling later on would be easier. We were also extremely lucky to have been given lots of hand-me-downs, and used gear from friends. It's nuts how incredibly generous people were.
HH: Henry is a year now correct? How much do you thiknk you spent on baby stuff over this past year and how would that compare to the national average? (Best guess is fine) What tips can you share on how to cut the amount of expenses down?
ANJ: Yep, he's just over a year - 16 months. I really have no idea how our spending on baby stuff compares to the national average. I would assume it'd be less than average because we have continued to receive, and use, lots of hand-me-downs. We very rarely buy things new, unless we absolutely have to.
To keep expenses low, the biggest tip I have would be to do your best to not get swept up in getting all the super cute/name-brand baby stuff. That's a pretty basic tip but it's so easy to forget that the baby really doesn't need $30 shirts. I'd rather save that money, and get him more of the name-brand items when he's school-age and cares about that stuff. When he's little, and doesn't know the difference, I'll save the money. ;) Also, whenever we do buy things we tend to stick with the gender-neutral items so we can maximize the longevity, and resellability of each item.
HH: What baby expenses were a shock or surprise that you had not anticipated and how did you and your husband deal with that?
ANJ: The biggest surprise expense was the birth. We had hoped to do an all natural birth center birth (at Mountain Midwifery). We had pre-paid for everything, and we thought that would be that. After a long ordeal I ended up over at Swedish Medical Center getting a C-section, and then little Henry was in NICU for 4 days. The bill for all of that ended up being over 110k. When the birth center birth was approximately 6k. Thankfully we had insurance, and since we don't have debt (I did a Spending Fast to get out of debt http://andthenwesaved.com/about-the-spending-fast/ ) we were able to pay for our portion of the bill from our savings.
HH: Favorite baby gear/items you used/owned that you would recommend and where to look for them at the best cost?
ANJ: I always look on Craigslist for stuff we need first. A few of the things I found unnecessary: - the container thing that goes in the dishwasher and holds the bottle nipples - baby specific bath towels and washcloths (our regular ones would have worked just fine) - We had far too many receiving blankets (those thin-ish ones). We ended up only using 1 - maaaaybe.
Loved having: - Safety 1st Easy Saver Diaper Pail - because it used regular trash bags and not special ones - bucket car seat and car seat carrier (we got the carseat carrier used on Craigslist). - then, when the baby is around 1 we switched to a convertible car seat (we got the diono pacifico - i believe- since it can be used on an airplane and since it can be used until the child is able to be in the car without a car/booster seat. That Diono carseat can actually be used from birth up.) - We got a $40 umbrella stroller, and used that from when the baby could sit up on his own (around 6 months if I remember correctly) so we were able to skip getting an expensive stroller.
HH: How did you celebrate his one year birthday and how do you plan to celebrate the holidays? (Speak on gift giving or limiting, traditions, activities...)
ANJ: For Henry's birthday and for the holidays we gave him 1 big gift. We had a small party for his bday, and went to my parent's for Christmas.
HH: Where do you like to shop for your little around town or on the net? What deals, coupons, savings have you found and used?
ANJ: I usually shop on Amazon. My time feels so limited and valuable lately that I'd much rather just have something shipped to me than spending my time hunting for the best deal, and driving all over town wasting time and gas. I'd much rather use that time to be with Henry, my husband or pursuing other more enjoyable things. We all have to decide if we want to spend time or money, and no matter what stage you're at in your life you have to decide what's more valuable to you.
HH: Have you ever sold, traded or bought items secondhand or from a consignment shop? Craigslist or other?
Yes, absolutely. We sell everything we aren't using on Craigslist. We bought our car seat carrier, umbrella stroller, a swing, his crib, mattress, and other random things on CL.
HH: Best baby finds on Etsy?
ANJ: Ah man. I'm a sucker for Etsy. I love these things lately:
These bonnets by Miryn. This vintage sailor suit. These sunsuits by Pocketto clothing. These adorable bloomers. This unique romper by Pelangi Design. These organic cotton pants by Mishmash Clothing too.
HH: What about that college fund or savings account for Henry? Have you started one? Planned to start one? Any tidbits in the financial arena would be grand!
ANJ: We have a 529 plan for Henry. College costs in 18 years are anticipated to be over 210k. Insane, right? While the 529 plan won't make much of a dent in a 210k bill we'll be able to give him a little bit of help. We are putting away $25 a month for him now. We'd have to save over $400 a month if we wanted to pay for his entire college education, and we can't afford to do that.
So many parents focus on putting money into accounts for their kids future education's but they don't have their own finances in order. We really have to help ourselves before we help others (even if we love our kids more than ourselves). If we aren't financially secure in our old age then we'll be a bigger burden to our children than if we just took care of our finances now, and let our kids "build character";) by paying for their educations themselves. Plus, hard work is good for people. When people have to work for things it ends up having more meaning than if something is handed to them.
HH: You are an entrepraneur, and so is your husband, working for yourself. I know that was a transition you made full time right before Henry was born. How has that impacted your spending habits and lifestyle? What tips, tricks and suggestions would you have for mommas making the switch from working to juggling home life and the like?
ANJ: The biggest thing we did was getting out of debt. By doing so we were able to give ourselves some choices when Henry came into our lives. We are still very frugal and we live simply. We share a car, and we bought a foreclosure. We live well within our means, and we hustle. We continually work on educating ourselves, and do our best to make smart business decisions.
As far as tips for juggling work and home life? I'm very shitty at this whole balance thing. I do know when I feel good, I'm a way better mom, wife, and business owner. To feel good I know that I've got to get exercise, go to bed at a reseasonable time, and make time for my relationship with my husband. I also try my best to not look at my phone when Henry is around.
HH: Child care. Had to touch on this one. Felt you had a lot of wisdom to share in the Nanny Share category. Feel free to comment and suggest and give tips on finding flexible child care at the lowest cost with best results, in your opinion and experience of course.
Child care has been a super tough thing to figure out. I work from home part-time (I try to squeeze running 2 businesses into 23 hours a week. Oh my word. ;) When Henry was about 5/6 months old we had a nanny-share situation basically fall into our lap. Then, that ended abruptly, and we spent the next 6-ish months trying to find steady, reliable, inexpensive, but good! and safe! care for little Henry. We tried care.com, we checked out traditional day cares, we tried to arrange another nanny share situation, I tried finding care on local mommy Facebook groups, and nothing panned-out. At my wits end, I said, "I just want to find a stay-at-home mom, who lives in the neighborhood, and wants to make a few extra bucks!" I had stayed away from looking for child care on Craigslist but with no other options left I looked there, and wouldn'tyaknowit, I found exactly what I was looking for!
It just proved to me that I had to have a super clear idea of what I wanted, and put it out there in the universe. (Doing this has worked for me many, many times throughout my life.) Our childcare situation now has been such a blessing. Logistically speaking to be sure the babysitter/nanny was legit and safe I followed these steps: we exchanged emails, 2 phone calls, 2 in-person meetings, and I did independent (and FREE) background checks on her and her husband through the state criminal database website.
HH: Can you share a little about the cost of raising a kiddo as far as diapering and feeding and how what you actually ended up doing compares to what you were expecting? I.E. cloth or disposable or organic? Breastfeeding, if so how long, or formula? Any special dietary needs? Sensitive skin? Special wipes, creams, lotions or potions?
We use cloth diapers 90% of the time, and it has saved a lot of money. I cringe anytime we have to buy disposables. We got the bumGenius Freetime all-in-ones, and they were the ones that were most like how disposables work. My husband insisted on getting the easiest cloth diapers if we were going to cloth diaper. I was hesitant because the all-in-one cloth diapers were more expensive then what I had wanted to spend. I was pushing for far less expensive ones. 17 months into cloth diapering I am super thankful that we went with the AIO's. The last thing I'd want to do is stuff pocket diapers!
My baby didn't transfer the milk from the breast like I had expected/hoped/wanted so I ended up pumping until he was 6 months old. We got a free pump from insurance but it was so much less effective than the hospital grade one I used in the hospital. We ended up renting a hospital-grade one, and that was not an expense we had planned for. I had a stockpile of breast milk so he started formula at the 7 month mark. He was on generic sensitive formula from 7 months old to 12 months. It was very expensive, and it was a relief when he was able to have regular cow's milk. Even now we have him on organic milk (in an effort to avoid extra chemicals), and even at $6.99 a gallon it's way less expensive than the formula we were flying through each week.
We use homemade detergent that doesn't have any extra chemicals, and it is less than 5 cents per load. Here's the link to the recipe if you're interested in making your own.
HH: Can you share anything about your book? Title? When it is expected to launch....
ANJ: Sure! It will be on shelves in January 2016 - just in time for New Year's resolutions! ;) It currently has a whole bunch of titles so that has not been nailed down yet. The book will be a complete guide on How to do a Spending Fast. It's a fun book, and very unlike a lot of the other (dreary) personal finance books!
Thank you so much Anna. I know you are very busy, and we appreciate you sharing what you have learned so far with raising a toddler!