Updated on 09.26.07

Five Frugality Tips Learned From Having Two Children In Diapers

Trent Hamm

Over the last month, our house has held a toddler just entering his “terrible twos” (which basically means energetic, rambunctious, and without a knowledge of society’s basic expectations) and a newborn who has her days and nights largely juxtaposed. In other words, many of the entries for The Simple Dollar this month have been written while rocking a newborn’s cradle with my foot, often late in the night or very, very early in the morning.

This experience has taught me a lot of things – the biggest of which is that patience is the greatest virtue a parent can have. I’ve also learned a lot about how to live less expensively – and surprisingly, having a fourth member in our house has actually made living cheaper. Here’s what I mean:

Children in multiples make eating out not worth it. The effort required in hauling a toddler and a newborn to a restaurant takes away almost all of the benefit of eating out, leaving you just as frazzled as you would be at home, except with an expensive bill. There’s basically no eating out in our near future (say, a year at least), which means we’ll be saving money by eating at home.

You can reuse virtually everything from your first child. If you have an infant and think there’s any possibility of having another one, throw nothing away. We loaded up a closet with stuff and now we’re reusing it with our daughter. Don’t get rid of the stuff until you’re certain you’re done with children, even if it clutters storage space – if you do have another child, you’ll certainly reuse a lot of the stuff. Along those same lines…

If you plan on having multiple kids, invest in quality stuff the first time around. We long planned to have at least three children (and yes, that’s still the case), so we decided the stuff we bought for the first child would be high quality. We invested in a high-end breast pump, bought a very sturdy high-quality crib, a quality food processor (to puree foods we made for the little one, like steamed vegetables – I’ll talk about this in another post), and so on. These items are now being used with the second child – and they’re proving to be just as efficient and reliable as before.

Your parents are more helpful than ever before. Let them be as involved as they want to be and blow off any minor disagreements. The help that they provide when they’re around is incredible, and it seems to grow with each family addition. If you are having a child, get your parents involved, even if it means patching up a relationship. Not only does the child deserve to know and bond with his or her grandparents, the grandparents are wonderful at helping you to keep your house running and also to relieve you when you need a break. When I was younger, I wanted to live far away from my parents – now I wished they lived a lot closer.

Prepared food is the best gift of all. Of all of the items we received as gifts from well-wishing friends and family, the ones that were the most useful were the prepared foods for the freezer. Just pull out a casserole and pop it in the oven, or just grab the pre-cooked and frozen bratwursts and put them straight on the grill – it saves us the time of having to prepare meals and saves us the cost of having to buy the food. If you know of someone having a child and they have freezer space, make them a meal – if you have one coming, make some meals in advance.

The key to everything? Start establishing a routine and stick to it. There’s so much stuff that needs to be done when you’re a homeowner with multiple kids – especially if you’re trying to get ahead financially – that a routine is vital, even if it is boring.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. Diane says:

    Trent have you investigated cloth diapering? It saves a bunch of money if you go with regular prefolds and not the new fitted ones.

  2. Diane says:

    Ooops my bad! I see now that you wrote an article on it!

  3. Jen says:

    I agree with most of this with a few qualifiers:

    1. Most daycares do not accept cloth diapers because of storage considerations. Some places are not allowed to store cloth diapers because of health considerations. Is this fair, no, but that’s the way it is. So that’s not an option for a lot of people.

    2. Parents may be more helpful, but they may not. It really depends on the parent. Mine turned out to be less helpful, and my in-laws weren’t much better. Remember, people aren’t going to drastically change, and if your problems are minor, that may not be a big deal, but if they’re bigger than that, it might be a big deal. I actually consider it a blessing that we do not live within a days drive from either side of the family. Also, if you’re going to try to patch up a relationship, do it long before the kid comes along. You won’t have the time or energy after kids come along.

  4. !wanda says:

    Just a thought… I’m starting to think that one should plan to have one less child than one actually wants. If you look at the failure rates of various birth control methods, they seem pretty good until you realize that those figures are per year. Therefore, even a 99% success rate means that over a 20 year reproductive lifespan, there is a 1-0.99^20=18% chance of an accidental pregnancy. (I know someone whose 4th child is 11 years younger than their 3rd- what do you think happened there?) So, even if you think you’re done with having children, I would say that unless you’re willing to have an abortion, you should keep the baby stuff around until you’re physically unable to have more.

  5. Shannon says:

    Re: last comment – We strongly want just one child, but are not ready to make permanent decision (ie tubal ligation), so we went the IUD (Paragard, non-hormonal) route. Best decision I ever made. Paragard is over 99% effective, and lasts for 10 years.

  6. plonkee says:

    I just wanted to agree with Jen. The helpfulness of your parents depends a lot on them and your relationship with them. Not everyone is lucky enough to have supportive parents and in-laws and if you don’t, they probably won’t change just because you have a couple of kids.

  7. Debbie M says:

    About saving things until you’re physically unable to have more kids: a lot can change in not very much time. My parents thought they were done, then my mom talked my dad into one more, eight years after their second kid. The following things changed in what they needed for the first two kids compared to the last kid:
    1) Mom switched to breast feeding. So any bottles, etc. that she would have saved would have been wasted. Preferences may change in other ways as well.
    2) Mom used one of those newfangled baby-carrying things exclusively (hey, this was 34 years ago), so any strollers and whatnot she might have saved would have remained unused.
    3) Mom found a pattern for a little kid outfit that was really convenient to use, so she sewed a bunch of those. Also, we had moved from Chicago (cold, windy) to Houston (hot, humid), so most of those cold-weather things would have been wasted.
    4) Car seats became required. Car seat rules have changed again many times since then.
    5) We were traveling a lot the first few months, during which time my sister lived in a hotel drawer, pulled out and set on the floor. Any big non-traveling things would have been unhelpful.

    Also, storing things for long periods, you might find that they get destroyed by moths, heat, or who knows what.

    I say that when you think you’re done, pass on all your things to a good home so they can get some use while they’re still valuable. It’s not just electronics that lose their usefulness in time. And if you end up with another kid you can probably acquire what you need more efficiently the second time.

  8. Jen says:

    Amen! I’m about to be in the same boat as you. I have a boy who will be 2 in November and I’m expecting my second child in March. I’m so thankful for the quality things we invested in for our son.

    Also, I agree with what others have said about parents, it does depend on the parent. For us, my parents are wonderful and want to be involved. My in-laws say they want to be involved but never follow through. That said, help like that doesn’t always come from a parent. It could be another close relative or a best friend. My father in law may not want to put forth any effort, but my sisters in law have always helped us out. I guess my point is that if there is family ready to help…accept it! :)

  9. BenC says:

    good lord, I’m going through the same thing. Except I have twins and they just came home last week. I’m so tired, so very tired….
    I whole-heartedly agree on the prepared meals part. After fussing and feeding two kids at the same time, I really don’t want to cook and neither does my wife. It’s a miracle we haven’t dropped dead yet. soooo tired…

  10. Tracy says:

    We have 7- from college to 9 months. I am hoping when my little girl realizes she is three today (Happy Birthday, Cherish.) she will be more motivated to get out of diapers-
    That said- I have passed on lots of things and had newer, fun things passed on to me- unless you are really in a poor section of town, there is so much baby stuff in the suburbs and cities, that buying most stuff is really not needed- put the word out! We get bags of clothes on our step about once a month, I buy mostly underwear, socks, shoes, and uniforms, all the rest is mostly given to us. I also put the word out we reuse toys for Christmas, and toys are given to us- this year I bought a 2 year old 50 in TV from work for $100, my brother gave us a few bags of beanies that look new and stuffed toys, we aare going to buy one gift per child- we’ll wrap it up for cheap! Be creative! Kids are cheaper than you think-

  11. siobain says:

    ive found so much baby stuff for my two year old on ecofreek.com!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *