2.05.2011

Hot-button topics – more frugal than philosophical

There is unending discussion and debate about the things that make “crunchy” mamas crunch – homeschooling, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, baby wearing, co-sleeping, organic feeding, avoidance of vaccinating. These things are all part philosophical – they are based on our beliefs that as parents, we are doing these things for the benefit of our children.

But I would like to assert that some of these “crunchy” things are more than philosophical, and in fact in some instances, the frugality is more important for me than the crunchiness.

For instance, breastfeeding is free. Sure, it’s “best for babes” and is an ideal food for infants. But in no small part, but decision to breastfeed was based on it being free and easy. This is not necessarily the case for women who are working or away from their babies and want to feed breastmilk – they must buy pumps and storage bags and bottles and bottle brushes and ice packs and insulated bags. But for mamas who are with their babes, breastfeeding is free, and requires no equipment. I can be the laziest mama ever, and just whip it out when the Pie starts looking. No sterilizing, mixing, warming or shaking. Arguments over breastfeeding aside, I imagine any formula feeding mom will admit that it’s expensive and kind of a lot of work.

Cloth diapering is cheap(er)…in the long run. Cloth diapering is a major initial investment, no matter how you do it. Some people claim they can cloth diaper for $100 – wow. I’m doing it for under $150 right now, with about 9 pocket diapers, 3 covers and a bunch of prefolds and 4 fitteds. But in the long run, it’s way cheaper. If I buy a one-size pocket diaper for $13, it is equivalent to about 72 size 3 disposables from Costco (bigger are more expensive). I could use close to that in one week. And a one-size diaper will fit from shortly after birth to around potty training. And, that same cloth diaper will be around when (if) kid #2 comes, which means it will be FREE!

Baby wearing is another crunchy kind of thing. But, when compared to the cost of a stroller, it can be quite frugal. Some carriers are around $20. I love my $40 Moby wrap and now my $100 Ergo. They are both on the expensive end, but the Moby was a gift, and the Ergo is kind of manly, which is good for the Mountain Man. Sure, you can get an umbrella stroller for less than $40, but they aren’t that comfortable, not at all adjustable (the Mountain Man wouldn’t be able to push it comfortably, being over a foot taller than me) and they are usually not all that well made. Better strollers are in the range of hundreds of dollars, and are large and clumsy and a pain to navigate. I had my Pie in the Moby wrap most of the day every day until she could sit on her own.

Co-sleeping is considered super crunchy. It’s really a lifestyle choice, but I guess extended breastfeeding is a lifestyle choice, too. Co-sleeping can be super frugal though – if you don’t buy a crib. We did, because I felt like we needed one, even though I pictured the baby sleeping with me, in a family bed, sniggled in my arms. But still, babies need cribs. So we got one. I checked out the Consumer Reports safety ratings and opted for the least-expensive crib on the list, which happened to have the 3rd highest rating (missed some points on adjustability I think) and was hundreds of dollars less than any of the other cribs rated. I think we got the crib and mattress for around $120. But since we’ve never used the crib for sleeping, we could have saved that money. Sure, it converts to a toddler bed so all’s not lost yet, but co-sleeping, if you don’t buy a crib, can be incredibly frugal. No crib, mattress, crib sheets and warm PJs to buy. Some people have recommended putting what you would spend on a crib into an investment in a king-sized bed, which I highly recommend. The mountain man and I have a king, and now anytime we sleep in a queen it seems so sub-par. Anyhow, co-sleeping can really be a frugality choice over (or in addition to) a crunchy, attachment parenting choice.

For me, all of these choices are what feels right for me, my baby and my family. It’s not that I’m trying to fit in with the AP lifestyle or the crunchy ethos, but that it’s what seems natural for us. I would argue that although a lot of the parenting things I do are tenets of “natural parenting” or “crunchy” or “attachment parenting” they are also frugal – and in fact can be options that save hundreds of dollars for each kid.

We have been so lucky to have received hand-me-downs from friends and family, and I had vowed to buy as little new as possible. So far we’ve done pretty well – I’ve bought only a couple of outfits, a few diapers, a crib, swing, and an ergo new. That’s really it! Well, we’ve bought pacifiers and infant spoons new, too. We’ve relied on buying used, accepting hand-me-downs, trading, accepting gifts,  and making things. Buying used and accepting hand-me-downs can take some of the excitement out of buying baby things, but they’re way more frugal, and environmentally friendly.

So I may seem pretty “crunchy” in my choices for natural living and my quest for low financial and environmental impact. But it’s not just about being crunchy. It’s about making the choices that are right for me and my family, about supporting our financial goals and protecting the environment.

What other “crunchy” parenting things are frugality in disguise?

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