Mar 142013
 

There’s a renaissance in cloth diapering going on right now.  Cloth diapering has always been the most frugal and environmentally-conscious choice for parents, but cloth diapers have also been 1) less convenient to use than their disposable counterparts and 2) yucky to clean, which is why they had been rapidly declining in popularity for the last 40 years.   No so anymore- advances in technology have transformed the cloth diapering landscape.

Soft, woven waterproof fabric has replaced vinyl diaper covers, Snappis have replaced diaper pins, and thank goodness diaper sprayers have replaced toilet dunking.  Numerous companies have taken advantage of these new technologies to create cloth diapers that are convenient to use, easy to wash, and completely adorable.  If you’re interested in using cloth diapers on your child, here’s an overview of the different types of cloth diapers that are available.  I’ve used links to Amazon product pages so that you can see pictures of the diapers I’m describing, as well as read reviews about them and find out pricing.

Types of All-In-One Diapers (AIO)


Let’s start off with the ultra-convenient “All-In-One” style of diaper (also called, “AIO”).  An All-In-One is a one-piece leak-proof cloth diaper that Velcros or snaps around the baby.   They have the look and function of uber-stylish disposable diapers, but instead of throwing the diaper out when you change your baby, you throw the whole diaper into your diaper pail and wash your diapers every 2-3 days.  All-In-Ones are so convenient that they tend to win over spouses, grandparents, babysitters, daycare centers, and anyone else who might not be initially enthusiastic about cloth diapering.  They come in countless irresistible colors and patterns, and use super-easy snap or Velcro-like closures.  Depending on the brand, they are either “one-size,” meaning they fit from birth to potty training, or sized.

Popular brands include:

Types of All-In-Two Diapers

All-In-Two diapers are two-piece cloth diapers that require one extra step compared to all-in-ones: you place a cloth insert into a cover that is specially designed to hold the insert in place.  Being able to separate the insert from the cover after the diaper is soiled makes all-in-twos arguably easier to wash and faster to dry than all-in-ones.  On the other hand, after you’ve laundered your all-in-twos you do have to take the extra step of matching your inserts to your diapers, whereas all-in-ones will be ready to go straight after drying.  There are two main types of All-In-Two diapers: pocket diapers and hybrid diapers, and within those two types some brands are one-size (fitting from birth to potty training) and others are sized.

Pocket Diapers (All-In-Two)

With a pocket diaper, the insert stuffs into a pocket in the cover.  When the diaper is soiled, both the cover and insert are washed together.

  Popular brands include:

 

Hybrid Diapers (All-In-Two)

The “hybrid” version of an All-In-Two is comprised of a leak-proof cover that an absorbent liner snaps, or is placed, into.   The advantages over pocket-style All-In-Twos are: 1) there is no stuffing of uncooperative inserts into snug pockets, and 2) there are many instances when the baby has only soiled the liner, so you can change the liner without having to change the cover, making these especially convenient on-the-go.

Popular brands include:

  • GroVia Shell (one-size, choice of cotton, microfiber, or disposable snap-in insert)
  • BumGenius Flip (one-size, choice of cotton, microfiber, or disposable insert)
  • gDiaper (sized, choice of cotton/microfiber insert or flushable insert)

Types of Prefold Diapers + Snappis + Diaper Covers

Of all the different types of cloth diapers, Prefolds are the cheapest option.  A prefold is a rectangular cloth that you place on your baby, secure with a Snappi, and then cover with a leak-proof diaper cover.  You don’t change the cover every time- just the soaked prefold- so you only need approximately 1 cover per 4 prefolds.  Prefolds and covers can be washed together in a washing machine, and dried in a dryer, though line drying the covers will help them last longer.  Prefolds are the type of diaper used by diaper services, so if you aren’t interested in washing cloth diapers yourself, you can subscribe to a diaper service that will pick up your dirty diapers every week and drop off cleaned and sanitized ones.

Popular brands include:

Types of Fitted Diapers + Diaper Covers


Fitted diapers are the same essential concept as prefolds, in that you secure them around your baby and then cover with a leak-proof diaper cover.  But instead of being a rectangular cloth that you secure with a Snappi, fitted diapers are form-fitted and have snaps or Velcro to secure them.  Because they are form-fitted they have a reputation of being the most bombproof of all diapers, in terms of being able to contain the biggest of poop blow-outs and heavy wetting without any leaking onto clothes.  The downside is that they are bulky- you can tell this just by looking at the two images above.  The entire fitted diaper, pictured on the left, has to fit inside the diaper cover pictured on the right.  Despite this bulkiness, many parents swear they are the best cloth diaper option because of their prowess in containing leaks.  Popular brands include:

So there you have it! I’ve tried to give you an overview of all the different types of cloth diapers that are available.  Hopefully this list has helped you make sense of all of the options out there.  Keep in mind there are many other brands out there besides the ones I highlighted, and it could be helpful to visit your local cloth diaper shop and see the diapers in person.  You can also make your own cloth diapers, or buy homemade ones on Etsy.

 Do you use cloth diapers already?  Are you thinking about using cloth diapers?

Nov 252012
 

A Secret Santa gift circle is a great way to stay in-budget for the holidays.

For anyone who’s not familiar, a gift circle (often called a Secret Santa) is where everyone involved writes their names on slips of paper, and then each person draws a name randomly and buys a present only for that person.  So, each person in the circle gets one present.  Because you’re only spending money on one present, you can afford to spend a little more than usual on it.  It’s helpful to set a maximum or target spending amount so that people gives gifts that are roughly equal in value- depending on the culture and spending power of the group, a max limit of anywhere from $5 to $100 could be appropriate.

My husband’s family used to do the traditional gift-giving scenario for Christmas: everyone bought gifts for everyone.  It was fun to give and get lots of presents, but it was also expensive! One year someone broached the idea of doing a Secret Santa gift circle instead, where we would each write our name on a piece of paper, put the names into a hat, and then draw names to determine who would buy for who.  We set the limit per gift at $40.  Originally we drew names at Thanksgiving, though for shopping convenience we’ve now moved the name-picking date closer to Labor Day.    Holiday shopping is so much less stressful now- we have fewer people to shop for, and a set spending limit for the gift circle (it’s now $50 per gift).  It’s super fun to show up at our family gathering with our secret gifts, waiting to surprise our gift recipient.

You can suggest a gift circle in lieu of gift exchanges at your work place, for each side of your family, and for groups of friends.

Are you a part of any gift circles for the holidays?  If not, do you plan to start one this year?

Sep 212012
 

I’m always looking for inspiration as I walk that fine line between balancing our budget and keeping our lives fun and interesting.  The internet is a treasure trove of frugal living tips, and I’ve rounded up five good frugal living articles that I came across this week.  Remember, living frugally isn’t about saving money for the sake of saving money, it’s about saving money so that you can spend it on what really matters to you.

This round-up of “good reads” is a weekly feature of other people’s ideas, but don’t forget you can also check out all of my articles on managing your money, setting goals, menu planning, organizing, and lots of other stuff! :)

Sep 182012
 

If you are looking for ways to reduce your monthly spending, check out these four simple strategies.  A little disclaimer- I say, “simple” because they are very straightforward, but I don’t say, “easy” because any lifestyle change is going to be challenging to get used to.  Nonetheless, if you are a newbie at saving these are a good way to get your toes wet because you’ll see substantial money savings right away, without the complications of more advanced saving strategies

1) Plan Your Meals

O.K., here’s the first practical tip: meal planning is probably the single biggest way to save money on food because homemade dinners are pennies on the dollar compared to take-out.  Not to mention healthier, too, because you control the ingredients.  I didn’t used to meal-plan- I used to figure out what was for dinner at 5pm each evening, and if I couldn’t find anything to cook, we’d buy take-out.  Which meant we ate a lot of take-out, because inevitably I didn’t have all the right ingredients to make an appetizing dinner.  By planning our meals a week or month ahead I’m now able to plan what we need from the grocery store each week so that I always have the right food on hand.

2) Use Your Freezer

We used to lose quite a bit of money to wasted food.  Food would sit in the fridge or pantry until it went bad, at which point I would throw it out, feeling guilty that I hadn’t used it up. Then I realized that the freezer is a great resource for preventing food waste.  Check out this post for a list of 5 Common Leftover Foods to Freeze, which includes tips on how to use the food after you’ve frozen it.

3) Make Stuff

Do-It-Yourself projects can save you a lot of money, though I only recommend them if you actually enjoy the process of making things.   Every Thursday is Crafty Thursday here at The Daily Citron, where I feature a DIY project (sometimes a craft like a cute laundry sign, sometimes a homemade cleaning product, sometimes an easy printable thank you card).  I picked Thursday because it leaves just enough time for busy people to collect their supplies for doing the craft over the weekend.

4) Read Free Books

Books are such a fantastic resource for learning new things, not to mention just enjoyable in general.  But, buying books can get expensive- consider borrowing books from the library, or downloading free eBooks.  I feature free eBooks all the time- make sure to act on those offers quickly, as they generally expire quickly (if you subscribe to my RSS feed then you’ll get notified of free eBook offers right away).  Also, check out my posts on how to get free mp3 audio books and free DVD rentals.

Sep 072012
 


[Expired] Frugal Gourmet Ideas: Secrets to Saving Thousands in the Kitchen by Charmaine Gerber is free right now on Amazon, and rated 4 and a half stars.  It’s an Amazon Kindle ebook, but even if you don’t own a Kindle you can still enjoy it by downloading it for free to your computer (PC or Mac), iPhone, or iPad. The instructions for doing so are included under the “Buy Now With 1 Click” button. PLEASE BE AWARE that the price is currently $0.00 but that could change at any time, so always check the price before clicking Buy Now.

Let me know what you thought of this book!

Sep 052012
 

My husband and I are in the midst of an unofficial Three Month Cash-Only Challenge, in which we reluctantly forego credit cards and use actual, physical cash for all of our purchases.  If you’re curious as to why would go cash-only despite our love of credit card rewards, check out Part I, “The Accidental Players.”

Six weeks into our unofficial Cash-Only Challenge I got the opportunity to try out our new cash-only lifestyle while traveling.  On previous vacations we’ve always carried an absolute minimum of cash (maybe $20, to cover transportation tips and airplane food), and blithely charged all of our vacation expenses to our credit cards.  Of course, we then had to deal with the arrival of the credit card bill a month later, and even though our spending was usually “reasonable,” it was always a bit of a downer to have to cough up money for a vacation that was already over.

A cash-only system changes that- all the money has to be saved and allocated up front, so there’s no “hangover effect” of having to pay after the fun is over.  But regardless of whether the money is paid before or after the vacation, what I really wanted to know is whether going cash-only would result in less money spent overall.  The verdict?

Going “cash-only” on vacation saved us a lot of money

Why?  Because it forced us to set limits up front as to how much money we could spend. Rather than going into a vacation with a vague notion that we should only make “reasonable” purchases, a cash-only lifestyle required us to nail down our travel expenses ahead of time so that we could make sure we were carrying enough cash with us, and/or make sure there was enough money in the bank for a mid-trip ATM visit.  And by looking at those expenses ahead of time, we became a lot less inclined to fritter our money away on needless purchases.

Our vacation in this instance was an 8-day trip to Georgia and North Carolina to visit family.  Only my daughter and I went, as my husband wasn’t able to get time off work.  The tickets were already purchased before our Cash-Only Challenge started, and we were staying with relatives instead of at hotels, so in budgeting for the trip I only accounted for the following expenses:

Vacation Expenses

  • Transportation to/from airports: Prior to the Cash-Only Challenge, we would often take airporters to and from our departure and arrival cities, but that would have put us back $250, and I just wasn’t interested in parting with that much cash.  It’s one thing to charge it on a credit card and “forget about it,” it’s another thing to physically hold $250 in my hands and then part with it. I decided to drive us to the airport- I knew that gas would cost us $20 round-trip, plus $87 for long-term airport parking.  Once in Atlanta, we could take a public transit train for $2.50 to our final destination.  (BTW, it was an hour-long train ride and it seemed like we were the only tourists on the train, but I actually liked it- I felt like my daughter and I were seeing an authentic side of the big city.)  Savings = $138
  • Food (Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks):  We’ve always done the typical vacation thing: eat out 3 meals a day, attempting to find fairly low-cost options like coffee shops, delis and fast food joints.  But now that I had to budget up front, I was appalled at how much even that would cost.  So I packed  all of our breakfasts (saved $80), snacks (saved $20), and airplane food (saved $14). Then I budgeted a mere $2.50 per person for lunches and dinners, banking on the luxury of being able to cook our own food since we were staying with relatives.  I know that might sound a bit hard-core frugal tightwad-ish, but it actually was pretty painless- see this post for a rundown of what I packed for breakfast. Savings = $159
  • Presents for hosts:  We wanted to give our two gracious hosts (our cousin we stayed with in Atlanta and our aunt we stayed with in North Carolina) a little token of our appreciation for putting up with us.  I used to do $25 gift cards, but I realized that would put us past our available cash.  So I went to local artisan food shops before we left and spent $15 per gift for little samplers of artisan olive oil and balsamic vinegar from The True Olive Connection, gourmet tuna fish from Dave’s Albacore, and premium roasted nuts from Nut KreationsSavings = $20 (hopefully they don’t mind that I saved money on their gifts??)

The End Result- 65% Savings

So in total we spent $222, whereas we would have normally spent $646- that’s two-thirds less than before!  As we go through this Cash-Only Challenge it never ceases to fascinate me how holding actual, physical dollar bills in my hands causes me to be more conscientious about spending them.  it was a little nerve-wracking carrying over $200 in cash with me, and if I were traveling internationally I probably would make mid-trip ATM visits to avoid carrying that much money at any given time.  But overall, taking our cash-only experiment on vacation was well worth it, and I can hardly wait to try it again for our next vacation.  (Yes, I’ve gotten to that point where saving money is genuinely exciting to me- feel free to roll your eyes- I won’t hold it against you.)

Want more?  In Part I: The Accidental Players, I explain how we wound up in this Cash-Only Challenge despite having no interest in a cash-only lifestylePart II: Grocery Budget Jitters describes how we weaned ourselves from credit cards and took the plunge into using cash.  Part III: The Roller Coaster, tracks my logistical acrobatics (and occasional panicked moments) as I attempt to cover all of our month’s expenses before our cash runs out. In Part IV I report back on taking our Cash-Only Challenge on vacation with us.  Part V describes the cash-only budgeting method we used to keep our spending on track.

Interested in doing a Cash-Only Challenge yourself?  Check out Crystal Paine’s book, “The Money Saving Mom’s Budget” (which I reviewed here) and learn all about it.  In her trademark upbeat style, Paine lays out the blueprint for a cash-only lifestyle.