Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: Finance and Budgets

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying A (nother) Baby Product

If there’s one thing that women do while pregnant, it’s shopping. Shopping and expecting a baby seem to go hand-in-hand, and admittedly, most of those purchases are necessary. You’re going to have to fill your home with equipment and supplies you have never needed before so that you’re ready to welcome your new baby.

However, if you read enough guides, you will find yourself with a shopping list so long that it feels you will never complete it. How can a baby need so much stuff? The demands are endless, and naturally, every product manufacturer absolutely insists that their product is completely necessary. Of course, you want the best for your baby, so you buy… and then find yourself joining the ranks of parents who don’t use half of those so-called “essential” items.

Before your next purchase, it’s worth running a few questions through your mind to see if a product truly is needed, or if it’s one you can skip.

“Can I Envisage A Scenario Where I Will Use This?”

Many products will pass this question with ease; it’s simple to imagine when you’re going to use a breast pump or a toy that can also monitor your baby’s breathing while they sleep. More esoteric products, however, will fail this test, helping to shorten your shopping list in one fell swoop.

“Does This Product Fix A Problem?”

The majority of products will pass this test as well. Concerned about your baby rolling over while sleeping? There are plenty of baby pillows that can help fix that issue. Worried your baby is going to struggle to adapt to their new environment? Then you can look for the best baby sound machines to help meet that need. A huge number of baby products are expressly designed to meet the needs of parents, so this test is relatively easy to pass.

What won’t pass is decorative and novelty items. These items are nice, of course, and there’s no harm in having a few, but you don’t want to go overboard and stretch your budget as a result.

“Is This Something That Will Be Used Frequently?”

The most important products to buy are those that will be in constant use, such as baby monitors, strollers, highchairs, and car seats. These are the items that should command the majority of your budget.

However, if an item is only designed to be used in certain, infrequent situations — such as when your baby has a cold — then it’s wise to leave these products on the shelf for now. You can always purchase them in the future, when you’re experiencing the problem that these products are designed to ease.

In Conclusion

There’s enough shopping to do to meet the essential needs of your baby, so it’s important to avoid making life even more difficult by buying additional items that may not be necessary. If a product can pass the three questions above, chances are it’s a good purchase; if a product fails, then you might want to leave its purchase until a later date or not at all. With less shopping to do, you can focus on enjoying being pregnant, and look forward to greeting your bundle of joy!

 

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Improving Your Finances at the End of the Week

Raising a kid is expensive. Being a single parent can also be challenging, even when both parents are working together to pay for kids’ doctors bills, child care, and activities. I’ll admit it–my strong suit is NOT budgeting, and I like to provide fun experiences for Katie and myself. I also want her involved in sports and other activities, so I have been trying hard to stop eating out so much and THINK before we spend money. When this contributed article came in to me, I thought it had some good tips, especially during the holiday season and when personal property tax is due in Missouri! Here you go: 

Finances are a big part of our lives: they dictate what we can and can’t do; and despite plenty of people declaring that “money isn’t happiness,” it is stability! Everyone can understand how good a little bit of leftover cash at the end of the week can feel.

It can often feel like you’re spiraling out of control when it comes to keeping your money in line, but it doesn’t have to. We could all do with a helping hand from time to time, so here’s some tips for you to consider when it comes to making ends meet.

Rethink Your Goals

Maybe you’ve been thinking  over your fiances over for a while, strategizing and planning in the spare minutes you have, but your money situation still doesn’t make any sense. However, setting yourself some good money goals is the first step in making sure you can improve on your current standing, as you immediately have something to work toward instead of floundering blindly.

Add up all your expenses for every week, including groceries and bills and any extraneous prices you’ll have to fork out for, just to give yourself more of a realistic view. Then, budget accordingly! Write down a budget that you think you can stick to with your finance goals included. 

Contact Your Service Providers

So your internet bill has raised again, and it’s the most useful asset in your modern household; you’re tearing your hair out. It’s time to contact the broadband man and make sure you have the best package to fit your family’s current needs and internet use. 

If your area has more than one gas or electric company, you could very well find a better rate or deal with another company; there could always be another option when it comes to your utilities! This is something people don’t often think about and just accept the bill they have to pay as is. These packages often aren’t advertised, and companies never want to lose a customer to a competitor, so they’re likely to accommodate you if you query it.  Your current provider can also give you some options on budget and consistent billing as well as ways to save on the power you use.  It doesn’t hurt to call and find out your options. 

Get Yourself a Piggy Bank

Yes, it sounds a little childish, but this is often a key component to getting a little extra cash when you need it. Save up all the pennies you have, and drop them in the slot, and then open it up at the end of the month. We’re often surprised at how much spare change can turn into real money that can go towards us and our families.

Even the idea of a piggy bank makes us unlikely to go spending money that we don’t really have. When the pennies are out of sight and thus out of mind, we’re more likely to save.

Buy Off the Bottom Shelf

We can’t always wait for deals or coupons to come for all products we need; and a lot of the time, companies get us to buy things we don’t want or need. That means it’s bottom shelf buying time. It’s not quite a well-known fact, but stores put the stuff they want us to buy at eye height, meaning the most expensive stuff goes there. That means we need to be aware of their crafty ways and work around them.

Search both the top and bottom shelves in the aisles for the best deals and the store’s own brands, as they’re so much cheaper. There really isn’t much difference between the ingredients and quality in the store’s brand than in the bigger food companies. It also means you can bulk buy and not feel guilty about it.

Look into Loan Options

So if you have some experience with having a lack of money, then you’re probably looking at this option with a quizzical eyebrow. Yet, this is an option if you really need the extra help to get yourself out of a bad financial situation in the short-term, and you think you could manage the payment at the end of the loaning period.

You’ll need to check your credit report before securing a loan and making sure any paid debts aren’t still lingering around on there, as that can pull down your score; often, they aren’t removed automatically.

You can find bad credit secured loans all over the place; you just need to know what to look and ask for. First place to start your research is the internet, as that has a lot of the information you will need for your task. Whilst it can be quicker to just find a lender and apply online after this, you don’t want to be too hasty and make sure you understand what the terms are. Take the idea to your bank if you’re looking for a more traditional loaning method; they too often have advice that’s invaluable and on a more personal level. It’s always worth a try after all!

Do you have a tip for budgeting or saving money? 

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Cutting The Cost of Parenthood

contributed post

From the moment you first find out you’re pregnant and that initial flush of joy fades, all moms-to-be find themselves asking the same question, “How am I EVER going to be able to afford this?” The good news is that nobody’s ever ready for the trials (and joys) of parenthood; and while of course some expectant parents are financially better off than others, it’s worth remembering that parents of all kinds of incomes have been getting by for as long as the human race has been around. That said, there’s no denying that a child can put pressure on your domestic finances. With the average cost of raising a child to the age of 17 approaching $240,000 , it’s enough to make any parent-in-waiting balk.

The good news is that the cost of parenthood can largely be ameliorated by a combination of ingenuity, thrift, invention, and common sense. While the default setting for many new parents is always “worry”, cutting financial costs is one of the many ways in which moms and dads can make life easier for themselves. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Never replace when you can repair

We live in a culture of disposability, where the pervasive logic is that when something breaks, it should be replaced rather than repaired. This is a shame because with a wealth of knowledge available to new parents through digital means, you can learn to fix just about anything from torn clothes to broken toys. While kids grow out of clothes quickly, you can learn to make alterations that can significantly expand their lifetime, and it’s worth looking into different types of embroidery machines. At a younger age, when kids grow emotionally attached to their clothes yet haven’t learned to be fashion snobs, this is particularly useful.

Plan your meals and batch cook

Whether you’re a parent or not, one of the surest ways to waste money is over-reliance on takeout and restaurants. Sure, everyone loves a treat after a hard day’s work, but a home cooked meal can rival anything bought at a restaurant at a tiny fraction of the cost. You can make a family night in just as special with candles and music without paying ludicrous restaurant prices.

You can also make substantial savings at the supermarket by shopping smart and avoiding impulse purchases. You can plan your week’s meals and shop accordingly, plus save time and effort by cooking in batches and making a bolognese or curry sauce, chili, or lasagna that will last the family for several meals. Reducing meat and dairy and upping the veggies will ensure that your weekly shop lasts longer, too.

Get creative with vacations

Family vacations are often perceived as way more expensive than they need to be. A great family vacation requires only three things; fun, family, and love. Everything else is bells and whistles. Taking a road trip not only saves on expensive flights, but allows your family much more freedom and control over your vacation, reducing the risk of stress and things that can go wrong.

Mom and son photo at the top of the post found here

 

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