Author Archives: Guest Post

Frugal New Parents – What to Buy For a New Baby

essential baby itemsProspective and new parents often rush out to buy everything that a baby could possibly want or need even though this isn’t practical if you’re on a budget. Even if this isn’t the case for you, things that you buy still may not ever be used and can turn out to be a big waste of money. Note that I won’t be listing absolutely every item that you could feasibly need/want – think of it more as a list for those who want their new baby to be fully kitted out without going overboard on the spending front.

Sleeping Essentials

  • Crib/Moses bed/Travel cot. The baby will obviously need somewhere to sleep but new parents often disagree on the form that the sleeping arrangements should take. This one is probably a matter of personal choice.
  • Bedding. Whatever type of bed you choose, you’ll need blankets and sheets for bedding. A waterproof mattress is also advisable.
  • Baby monitor. It’s not realistic to be with your baby every second of the day so you’ll need a baby monitor to be able to keep tabs while you’re in another room.

Changing Essentials

  • Changing mat. Technically speaking this isn’t strictly an absolute essential. Many new parents just use the floor instead but a changing mat can be useful to prevent you from having to keep bending down to the floor every time a baby needs changing. To protect your back, you may consider this to be a necessary item.
  • Diapers/Diaper bags/Diaper ointment. These are self-explanatory so I won’t go into details on this one!


  • Stroller. This one is pretty self-explanatory for when you’re traveling on foot. Until your baby is old enough to support its head by itself, you’ll need a stroller that reclines. This can be one of the most expensive purchases you’ll make for a new baby.
  • Car seat. If you’ve got a car and are planning to take the baby out and about in it, a car seat is a must. This is one area not to be skimped on – you don’t want to put your baby’s safety at risk. Ideally, look for one with top-notch safety reviews for piece of mind.
  • Baby sling. Even if you’ve got a car, there might be situations when you don’t want to travel this way and a baby sling can be an ideal way to transport a small baby on foot if a stroller would be too much hassle to set up and maneuver.

Feeding Essentials

  • Sterilizer/Feeding bottles/Bottle brush. This comes down to whether you’re going to be breastfeeding or using formula milk. If it’s the latter, you’ll need feeding bottles and a sterilizer.
  • Nursing bras/Nursing pads/Nipple cream. If you’re going to be breastfeeding, these items can make it easier. Baby/parenting websites often advise having at least six nursing bras.


Most new parents receive a lot of baby outfits from friends and family so you may be able to get away with buying predominantly essentials like:

  • Babygros (somewhere between six and eight is recommended)
  • Bodysuits (again, six to eight is recommended)
  • Vests
  • Hat
  • Coat
  • Booties/Socks
  • Mittens

If you’re not lucky enough to be helped out in the clothing department, you’ll also need:

  • One-piece outfits
  • One-piece pajamas
  • Fleece outfits for winter

Optional Items

If you can borrow these items from friends, do so as chances are that your baby won’t need them for too long. For this reason, you probably won’t want to buy most of them brand new, especially if money is already tight.

  • Moses basket
  • Newborn clothing
  • Baby bath
  • Baby bouncer

Buying Tips

If money isn’t plentiful, you may not be in a position to buy brand new items. You can get some absolute second-hand bargains if you want to go down this route. I would never buy things like car seats second-hand because of the safety aspect, but you can buy a lot of the items mentioned in this post second-hand if needs be. Shopping online is another alternative, because you can shop around and maybe find discounts.
What are your suggestions for preparing for a new baby if you’re on a budget?

(photo credit: jessicafm)

How to Get a Free Home Energy Efficiency Audit to Cut Costs & Conserve Energy

I recently started looking into ways where I could find out if I was leaving any money on the table regarding my monthly heating and cooling bills. I don’t think that I pay a whole lot for electricity in the summer, but my gas bills in the winter can really be through the roof sometimes. From my novice experience, I think I have a fairly energy efficient home, but I am just not sure. What I wanted was to have some professional come to my house to give it the “once over” and make appropriate recommendations.

Where to Look?

I had envisioned getting a list of HVAC experts and getting a list of estimates and then making my choice. It was then that I found a “gem.” A diamond in the rough so to speak.

What I found out was that in most states…

Your energy provider will come out and do an energy audit of your home for free.

Yes, free. At first I didn’t believe it. My thought always was that these companies would want you to use as much energy as possible to drive up their profits. It seems the opposite is true. What I learned was that as we the consumer use more and more energy, it requires energy providers to have to go out and build more power plants. This is the last thing that they want to do.

So I had one scheduled, they came out and did it yesterday, and I‘d like to outline for you how it works and what they found.

One Phone Call

All it really involved was making a simple phone call to my electricity supplier and scheduling an appointment. These audits normally take about an hour, but depending on how thorough you want them to be, they can take less time or more. Mine lasted right about an hour.

A Consultation

It started off with a consultation. The rep came in and asked me a series of questions, mostly about where I thought I was losing money and anything in particular that he wanted me to focus on. He brought with him a print out of my energy usage for the last several months and a basic comparison for other houses of my size. As it turns out, I was pretty much on spot. My electricity use in the summer was quite good; my energy usage in the winter time was high.

A Walk Through

He then performed a walkthrough of my house. He checked the general condition and workability of my AC unit, my hot water heater, the condition of my windows, and so on. He made several notes along the way about smaller things he noticed in the house, and then went upstairs to check out my insulation. All the while making verbal recommendations and giving me the costs of different repairs and improvements that I could potentially make.

The Report

He then put together a pretty comprehensive report, along with booklets and brochures on various pieces of equipment. To make one thing clear, he was not there to sell me anything. He made his recommendations without promoting any particular product or company.

The Results

I was very impressed with the results. I have outlined here what he came up with for my particular energy audit.

  • Buy Energy Star appliances only.
  • Switch to energy efficient bulbs.
  • Check all exterior doors for proper weather stripping and replace where needed.
  • Check all window frames and other potential “crevices” for proper caulking. Caulk as needed.
  • Keep AC unit as free and clear from any obstructions as possible. Also, keep it clean.
  • Change the air filter in your AC unit regularly—every three months is recommended.
  • Lower hot water heater to 120 degrees or lower.
  • Keep thermostat at 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter, or as close as you can.
  • Seriously consider adding more insulation in my attic.
  • Consider installing a programmable thermostat.
  • Seal minor leaks in duct work stemming from AC.

Just Do It!

I would highly recommend you check and see if your energy company offers this service, and if they do it for free I would jump all over it. They may find much more glaring opportunities in your home, or they may find minor repairs that potentially could be fixed for pennies on the dollar. That’s what he found with my home. Of all the actual repairs or replacing of things in my home, he said that I could do most of them for a total cost of less than $100, and I would make this up in savings in the first year. To me, that’s a no-brainer. Adding insulation in my attic is a little more expensive and time consuming, but he also said that I would make up that cost in about a year as well, especially in the winter time, and after that I would see increased savings on my winter heating bills.

All in all, I couldn’t have been more impressed. I got a wealth of common sense and low cost recommendations to save on the energy costs in my home given by an expert for free.

What else could one ask for?

Have you had an energy audit of your home? What did they find? Feel free to share.

(photo credit: rockinfree)

How to Set Up a Spending Plan

The word budget feels like a four letter word to some. Just the thought of going through expenses and figuring out how get them all organized is overwhelming. Then there’s all the time involved. Most of us don’t have time to eat a proper lunch, much less figure out a budget. 

Or maybe the idea of a budget seems too rigid and constraining. The free spirit doesn’t want any hard rules about spending money. But everyone needs a budget. Even the free spirit will find her wings quickly clipped when she runs out of cash. 

In truth, a spending plan doesn’t restrict you. When managed properly it sets you free to live the life you want. And it doesn’t have to be time consuming. Here’s a spending plan that can work for everyone.

Simple Budget Spreadsheet

All you need for a budget is a simple spreadsheet. You can use Excel, Open Office or Google Docs. To help you along, here is a simple Google Docs Budget Spreadsheet. What you will do is open the spreadsheet and save it to your own computer by clicking “File” and choosing the download option that works best for you. Once you save it to your own computer, you are ready to go. 

Enter the amount of income in the appropriate box, including all your jobs, side jobs, etc. Enter any interest you earn on accounts or investments in the next line. The spreadsheet will total the income for you automatically. 

The next section will be for your recurring expenses. List each expense following the example of the spreadsheet. Include rent or mortgage, utilities, cable bill, loan payments, kids’ expenses, etc. If you like, break the expenses down into categories that make sense for you. 

Now you need to estimate what your other expenses might be. Things that change month by month, such as groceries, entertainment, etc. Estimate on the high end. If you find them going down over time, you can lower your estimates. Again, the spreadsheet will total it up for you. 


How Much Should Your Expenses Be?

The spreadsheet will also calculate the percentage of your expenses compared with your income. The idea is to keep pecking away at your expenses until your expenses fall below 60% of your income. 

The other 40% should be divided into four categories: 10% for retirement, 10% for long-term savings (retirement), 10% for short-term savings (emergency expenses). The last 10% is all yours to do with as you please. Ideally, you would use that to pay down your credit until you have no monthly credit card bills. Now was that so hard? 


Controlling Your Cash

If you don’t trust yourself to stay within your budget, you could try a cash filing system. A recipe box and index cards work well for this one. Divide the recipe box into 31 days with the index cards, each label with the day of the month. Then divide you remaining cash into each portion of the 31 day file. Let’s say that you have 30 dollars for each divider. At the beginning of the day, you remove the 30 dollars. That is what you have available to spend on that day. Do not take money from another divider until that day has arrived. If you have left over money at the end of the day, put it behind the next day’s index card for tomorrow. For this to work, you must never take from the next day.  

This gives you the feeling of freedom by always putting cash in your pocket. If you put the day’s leftover at the end of the month each time, you’ll see firsthand how much you have to spend towards something special at the end of the month. You can leave the money there or spend it as you please.


Jessica Bosari writes for the money-saving site, The site is devoted to helping people reduce expenses, save money and find great deals. Pay Billeater a visit for more  budgeting and saving tips!