Thursday, June 18, 2009

Natural Baby 101: Homemade Diaper Wipes

When we made the decision to cloth diaper, it also made sense to use cloth wipes. Why throw away the wipe when it's just as easy to throw a cloth wipe into the diaper pail? Here's our recipe for our cleaning solution, and a simple price comparison of cloth wipes to disposable wipes.

Bunny Munny's Cloth Wipes Solution
-4 parts aloe vera juice (not gel)
-4 parts witch hazel
-1 part calendula oil

The aloe vera juice for soothing, the witch hazel is for cleansing, and the calendula (or marigold) oil for it's healing and emollient properties. As you can see from the photo, we use a spritz bottle to spritz the solution on rather than soaking the wipes. I'd also like to give a cheer to Brooklyn Meadows whose article on cloth wipes helped motivate me to make my own solution.

As for the cost, here's the breakdown:
1.5 L of aloe vera juice = $15
1.5 L of witch hazel = $24
750 mL of calendula oil = $13

Based on our usage to date, I would approximate that a one year's supply of solution would cost $53 (with plenty of calendula oil to spare). The wipes, which I ordered from Quilter's Nappies (fabulous products, great customer service, and reasonable shipping costs to Canada!), cost in total approximately $50. So the total cost for the my solution for one year is $102, with further uses of the calendula oil and the cloth wipes still available.

Estimating 8 wipes used per day, the average baby would use approximately 3000 wipes per year. Estimating the price of wipes (based on the sale price at our local drug store this week), 300 wipes cost $12, making the annual cost for the disposable wipes solution $120.

So the cloth wipes solution wins for being more frugal, saving $18 in the first year, and over $60 in all subsequent years!

Even if it wasn't the more economical solution, I'm happy with it because I've got a diaper-rash-free baby and less baby waste! What do you think - does it make sense to use cloth diaper wipes? Please post your comments and your diaper wipes solution recipes.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Feeling lucky?: Contests and Sweepstakes

I've loved contests and sweepstakes ever since I was a little girl. Going with my hunter-gatherer analogy, I consider it hunting for exotic treasure - you don't really expect to get it, but when it comes in, it's a delight. Blessed with good luck (and a healthy dose of superstition - I'm knocking on wood right now), I've won lots of things, including tickets and backstage passes to a B-52s concert, several pairs of tickets to Yanni concerts (I never went to any of the shows), cases of soda, and several years supplies of Schick razors.

The chances of winning are often minuscule, so here are my guidelines for entering contests:
1) Only enter if it is a joyful process. I've gone through obsessive periods of entering every contest for which I was eligible (resulting in unused Yanni tickets!). For total disclosure, I won those when I was a teenager with lots of time on my hands, so calling the local radio station fanatically wasn't a great expense and winning was a great reward. These days, I have less time on my hands, so I enter contests with more discretion and when they are relatively easy to enter, like with Wannawin.
2) Prioritize contests with attractive prizes. I enter every contest I can where I can win a Vespa (this is a U.S. contest - I make the most of dual citizenship!). I also love to travel, so I'm regularly on the lookout for great travel contests.
3) If there's a contest you really want to win, enter as often as you can. For example, I'm entering theCanadian Bacardi Break-Free from the Everyday contest, well, everyday (or as often as I remember) !

Here are a few links to some of my favorite contest listings and blogs:
- provides a great blog roll of current contests along with eligibility requirements (I'm often ineligible since Quebec has strict contest regulations).
- includes links to US and Canadian contests
- Sandra's Contest Blog is updated daily with links to some fantastic US contests.

Finally, a shout out to the Budgets are Sexy blogger for motivating me to write this post with his Amazon gift card contest, which you can enter to win with a comment on that post. Please also comment here with your ideas on contests and winnings!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Frugal delight: The "How much do you think I paid for this?" Game

So, one way I gain delight through spending munny is by playing the "How much do you think I paid for this?" game. I play mostly with my husband, but in order to share the fun of this game, I thought I would post the rules here for everyone to enjoy.

Primary Objective: Make spender feel great about obtaining a bargain.
Secondary Objective: Impress conversation partner with excellent bargain-finding-ability.

Number of Players: Two or more. One spender (S) and at least one conversation partner (CP)

Rules of Play:
1) S asks, "How much do you think I paid for this?"
2) CP guesses a price, which must be at least the retail price of the item or higher.
3) S responds, "No - less!"
4) CP guesses again, reducing initial guess by an interval that should allow at least three guesses.
5) S responds, "No - less!" until CP guesses the correct price.
6) CP finishes the game with admiration for the bargain.

For example, I purchased a black Max Mara trouser suit a few years ago. Max Mara is a schnazzy Italian label, so the retail price of the suit was likely to be over $1000. The game went like this:
1) "So, how much do you think I paid for this suit?"
2) "Wow, that's a beautiful, simple suit, and it fits you great. Max Mara, hmm? I would guess you paid $1400."
3) "No - less!"
4) "$1300?"
5) "No - less!" (This would have gone on for many guesses with the interval for decreasing at $100, so I'll shorten the conversation here.)
6) "$75?"
7) "Yep, $75." (big smile)
8) "Goodness, that's an amazing deal. I can't believe you bought that suit for only $75. And it's new? Wow - very impressive."

Gaining admiration for a good deal is such a joy! I hope that some bargain hunters might forward this to friends and partners so that they can understand the game as well.

Please comment with any other games you play to show off your bargains.

Monday, June 1, 2009

...Another woman's treasure

You don't need to literally pick through the garbage ("One man's trash is another man's treasure") in order to get a great deal.

When thinking about times that I have gotten the most for my munny (for my definition of munny, click here), many of those times are when I have purchased something second-hand. For those of you who are not familiar with Craigslist and Kijiji, there are many treasures to be found in your own town. Here are my tips on finding the best deals on these sites and getting the most for your munny:

1) Focus on the well-off areas of town. With each ad, the seller lists what part of the city s/he lives in. Whle it's certainly not universally true, often times you can find higher quality items at better prices in the parts of town where people are wealthier. These individuals are often more interested in seeing that the item be reused rather than getting every last nickel for it.
2) Ask for a better price. Prior to moving to Montreal, I lived in Boston. Craigslist is huge in Boston, and the second-hand market is active and thriving. With an abundance of items being listed, there is often the possibility to get a better price on an item simply by asking for it. If you think you can get a better price, always ask for more than you think you might get, but not an amount that's absurd. For example, I saw a high-quality Kaloo mobile for sale for $30, and I was willing to pay $25 for it, so I offered $20. The seller counter-offered for $25, so I got my price.
3) Be strategic about when you are shopping. If possible, shop close to the end of the month, the end of the school year, or the end of the season to get the best deals. Ice skates will be better priced in April because the seller won't want to store them for the summer.
4) Ask what else the seller has for sale. Often times, people list items when they are moving or have a major life change. While doing baby shopping, I had a bouncy chair, an extra bag of clothes, and a lovely toy thrown in because the seller was looking to move their items.
5) Be fearless! (Of course, this is good general advice as well.) Recently, I spoke to a seller about Craigslist and Kijiji, and she told me that she doesn't post on Kijiji because most of the buyers and sellers in Montreal are French speakers and she doesn't speak French. Now, living in Montreal, it's often French first, but most people are either also fluent in English or can at least get by. I told her that if I found a cell phone and a futon on second hand sites while I was living in Sweden and didn't speak any Swedish, she can get by in Montreal with just English! So whatever your desire is - you want the item for half of the asking price, you want the item delivered, you want the seller to hold the item until you can pick it up - just ask for it. The worst that could happen is the seller could say no.

Do you have other suggestions for second-hand shopping? Please post them in the comments!