5 Ways to Be a Frugal Mama

frgual mamaIt is no secret that having a child is e.x.p.e.n.s.i.v.e. Add to that living in the Boston area (where I live and Mamajamas was born), and the cost of parenthood is off the charts. Massachusetts families actually spend more in daycare per child than any other state. Eeks. Yes, there are the necessities like diapers and daycare. But for many, there is also the intense urge to dress up our little ones in teeny-weeny mini-me stylish clothes (that they outgrow in days) and involve them in various stimulating activities (that engage them but also just get us out of the house!). The cost of new parenthood is exacerbated by the need to clothe our newly shaped body, maintain a somewhat orderly (but increasingly chaotic) house, and feed a frantic, sleep deprived family….oh, and do it all on either half our normal income, or with basically a second mortgage if paying for daycare. Emulating those who look like a million bucks dressed in Target (excuse me: Tar-Shay), sprinkled in with designer hand-me-downs, I’ve managed to BE FRUGAL this first year of parenthood, stretch our fewer dollars, yet make being thrifty actually fun (and a little addicting). Here’s how.

My Top 5 ways to be a Frugal Mama:

1) Buy and sell clothes and gear locally. Facebook groups that facilitate baby clothes and gear swapping are growing explosively in many towns. I keep an envelope of the money I make from selling my daughter’s stuff and use that stash for the designer gems I’ve found at a fraction of the price at these sales. Some of my favorite finds have been from Tea Collection, Jacadi, and Hanna Andersson in like-new or new condition with prices more comparable to what I’d pay on the sale rack at Macy’s! The envelope challenge makes it a game for me, and keeps the addiction in check. If you are in the Boston area, the HIGH-END Baby & Kids Clothes Group is open to all nearby towns. Also in this area, Arlington Closet Sharers has over 1600 members. If a facebook group like this isn’t in your area yet, consider starting one if you have time to be an admin, or take advantage of local consignment shops where you often find brand new [ie: NWT] cute things too. You will want to know the fancy acronyms to shop on these sites!  NWT= New With Tags  EUC= Excellent Used Condition!

2) Babysitting co-ops. With no money transferred, you sit for other families, and they do the same for you. These often start with a group of friends whose kids do playdates anyway, so babysitting doesn’t even feel like work. As they grow, other friends often get added in. Find the right group, and it can be an amazing way to keep mom and dad happy with date-nights, without the costs. I’ve also found it a wonderful way to meet other families locally. For everyone to feel comfortable, you may want to avoid total strangers. I found mine through a new friend I met after having my daughter. Mommy and me classes could also be a good way to find families you can trust.

3) Pinterest and Mamajamas! Find step-by-step DIY directions on ANYTHING and EVERYTHING on Pinterest. Whether decorating your nursery, finding games to play with your kids or looking for birthday party ideas, you can save oodles easily with Pinterest as your guide. Check out the Mamajamas Pinterest Page if you haven’t already for tons of parenting resources and ideas. Speaking of Mamajamas, you can save a bundle using the site to get advice from your veteran parent friends on the products they recommend (and don’t!). With Mamajamas lists as your guide, you can buy the right product the first time around (I’m looking at you diaper pail) or the right quantities (I wish I had been told I didn’t need to buy ANY 0-3 onesies for myself). And yes, since this is the Mamajamas blog, you had to expect there would be a shameless plug for the site in here somewhere.

4) Library. Books for mama and baby are obviously a no-brainer to check out of the library. But many libraries also have FREE sing-alongs and reading classes for kids of all ages. Some also carry free museum passes or coupons for other events. I go to the library so much, I feel the librarians are like friends!  

5) Use your Freezer! When I fall behind on my meal planning, I end up more disorganized at the grocery store. This often leads me to buy five times more food than I should and resort to more prepared meals-–which are not as healthy–and, no surprise, cost more. So now when I am feeling organized, I try to cook even bigger batches of food (and baby food) and stick them in the freezer. I also freeze leftovers. This makes my future meal planning infinitely easier knowing dinner is already made–plus, my cost per meal for the week goes WAY down.

Parenthood is expensive and often exhausting! I’ve found that the more connected I become in my community, and with other families, the more ideas I get on how to prudently shop and save and ultimately offer the most I can to my family (time included!).

By Christy Mraz
Christy Mraz is mom to an almost one year old baby girl. She’s also the most recent addition to the Mamajamas team. SHE IS THE EYES, EARS–AND TYPING FINGERS–BEHIND OUR SOCIAL MEDIA. A SELF-PROCLAIMED FOODIE, ADDICTED TO COOKBOOKS AND Epicurean MAGAZINES, SHE’s very excited about CONTRIBUTING RECIPE IDEAS FOR BABY AND BUSY FAMILIES…. IN the MEANTIME, FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND PINTEREST and you’ll see (or rather REad) a lot of Christy.

New Moms: Where Do You Go When You’re Lonely?

Mom and AlexNew motherhood can be a lonely time, even for those living in vibrant urban areas. When Rachael Fanopoulos had her first child, she was living in the biggest of big cities, New York City. Nevertheless, it wasn’t easy for her to find a community of like-minded parents and good parenting resources (and we all know that the internet can be a scary place when it comes to locating quality parenting advice). That’s when she discovered Mommybites, a national online parenting community, and started attending their NYC events with her infant son. Through Mommybites, she was able to connect with other first-time parents who were going through what she was experiencing, and tap into a rich trove of online courses and resources.

When Rachael moved to the Boston area a few years later, she was determined to help the Boston parent community access the same support she received in New York. So, in 2012, Rachael founded Mommybites Boston with the goal of “empowering moms” by connecting them to each other, experts and local resources. Today, the Mommybites mission has never been more relevant in the Boston area, especially in light of the recent abrupt closure of a local parenting institution, Isis.

So when I sat down with Rachael to get her take on baby products (she sees lots of new moms and lots of baby gear!), it was no surprise that her advice focused less on what products you have, and more on surrounding yourself with the right community and resources:

Nothing can prepare a new mom for how drastically your life changes after baby arrives. You can read all the books and have all the right gear, but being a new mom can be an emotional, exhausting and overwhelming time (as well as the most joyful and rewarding time of your life). Having a friend or moms group to lean on is the best thing you can do for yourself. They help you realize that everything you and your baby are going through (isolation, feelings of self-doubt, for instance) are normal.
While making sure you have a strong supportive community around you in the first couple of years was Rachael’s primary message, she also had some down-to-earth advice on baby products that didn’t disappoint. She made a fantastic Mamajamas list, which focuses on stylish, yet budget friendly baby gear options. She also had strong opinions on categories of products you don’t necessarily need. For example, she advises to skip the high chair and go with a booster instead:

I don’t think moms need a big high chair – just go with the booster seat from day one. It will save space in your dining area and also make the baby feel like they are eating on a chair, at the table, with the family from the start.
Rachael recommends the Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat as a practical and economic booster seat option.

If you’re pregnant or a new mom and looking for some support, I highly recommend getting involved with Mommybites. They have tons of new moms groups popping up in the Boston area regularly, and their larger events are great too. I recently went to their Mom’s Ultimate Night Out and it was really fun (as well as lucrative – they had tons of giveaways and a nice gift bag – I downed an entire disc of free Taza Cinnamon Chocolate on the way home). So perhaps I’ll see you at their Mother’s Day Event in Cambridge?

Parenting in the modern age has become more isolating than ever, as families spread out over vast distances, and our lives become increasingly busy. When you have kids, you finally realize why so many people say “it takes a village.” So if you don’t already have that village or want to expand yours, and you’re living in the Boston area, I can highly recommend Mommybites Boston as a good place to start cultivating one