April 12, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II Reading - Day Four - April 12th

Here is today’s reading from the Tightwad Gazette II. There is quite a bit of information on getting necessities for a baby. I sold all of my stuff years ago so when it comes time to be a grandma, I will be heading to yard sales for a few items.

Before we talk about baby items, we will be discussing barbecuing which I love to do.


Amy came up with an ingenious idea for making a starter for your charcoal barbecue grill.

Make holes around the bottom sides of a clean gallon can with an old triangle punch can opener. Then remove the top and bottom of the can. Make one hole on either side of the top side of the can and attach a handle made of coat hanger wire.

Take out the grill and set the can in the barbecue. Take one or two sheets of loosely wadded newspaper (only use the black and white print) and place them in the bottom of the can. Then fill the can with briquettes. Light the newspaper from the bottom through the holes. Pile more briquettes around the can if you think you will need more.

When the coals in the can are glowing, use tongs to lift the can carefully from the barbecue. The lit coals will pour out of the can and will spread the fire to the surrounding ones.


Many people don’t have the space for a garden nor for container gardening. Some farmers throw away their seconds because
supermarkets won’t take them. Perhaps you can ask around and contact a grower who would be willing to sell you their seconds. Check out the “U” pick places in your area. Also check out the marked down produce at the grocery store.

I’m not sure if this is a possibility, but if you have a farmer’s market in your area and you are willing to take whatever you can get, go there towards the end of the hours that the market is open. Perhaps you will be able to get produce cheaper because the farmer may not want to pack everything back on the truck. As my mother always says, “It’s always worth asking.” Or in the alternative perhaps if you want a large quantity of fresh produce such as potatoes or tomatoes or corn, ask a farmer at the market if you can purchase a large quantity at a cheaper rate.

If you know someone who is an avid gardener, offer to help in the garden for surplus produce or barter for the produce. I wish I could find someone who would like a few loaves of homemade bread for some fresh produce.


A reader wrote in to say that she loves when they advertise cleaners containing ammonia and baby powder that says it has 100% cornstarch. She makes her own ammonia based cleaners and she only uses cornstarch on her baby’s bottom. She saves a lot of money and I would say that she also gets the same results. Amy went on to say that you should never mix ammonia and bleach.


Amy compared the operating cost of using gas appliances vs. electric appliances in her area. Remember these are 1995 prices and she lived on the East coast. Here is what she found:

Gas range/oven - $1.85
Electric range/oven - $10.98

Gas water heater - $14.32 (Based on a 30 gallon heater serving a family of 3)
Electric water heater: $39.99

Gas clothes dryer: $2.00
Electric clothes dryer: $9.90

Of course you have to compare the costs of utilities in your area. Perhaps electricity will be cheaper where you live, so you need to do some research. Once you have this information it will be helpful when it comes time to replace an appliance and you won’t have to wonder if you should choose gas or electric.


Back several years ago Amy and her husband went looking for a couch. They looked at several and they ended up buying what she referred to as a “crate furniture” couch. The style is one in which the wood frame is exposed with back, seat and arm cushions. The reason they chose this is that they knew they needed a couch that would hold up to what children can do to furniture. If a pen or marker touched the seat cushion, they could flip it. You can do this with a lot of couches but with this type of couch you can also flip the back cushions.

Amy did say that it was the only type of crate style furniture in their living room and it went with the other furniture quite well. They ordered the cushions in a very dark navy blue in order to hide dirt.

The best part is that the covers can be removed and washed. Any kid grime on the wooden frame could be easily cleaned with Murphy’s oil soap. When the covers wore out completely they could order new covers for less than what it would cost to have someone make them. Also, the manufacturer sold new foam for the cushions.

In Amy’s household the couch is the most commonly used piece of furniture in their living room. They replaced the foam cushions on the seats after 8 years of use and she said it was like getting a new couch. They also replaced the covers and they noticed that the manufacturer replaced the colors quite often. After buying a new set of covers she was sent a coupon for $50 and she immediately used it to buy a set of the same color of covers but only for the seat cushions. Since the seat cushions wear out so quickly, she has a set of these packed away for when the new ones wear out.

This is where you have to set aside that beautiful living room set that you see in magazines and put that on the back burner for when the kids are older. It’s better to have something that is kid friendly than constantly be yelling at the kids to get off the couch and so on.


Amy sold at a yard sale all of her baby items when her fourth child outgrew them as their family was complete. Then they were blessed with twins. So then she had to come up with twice as much as she had just sold.

So Amy took all of the tips and ideas that she had compiled over the years and put them to good use. In the end she calculated that by the time the twins turned one, she had only spent $100 on them (aside from food and doctor’s bills).

Here is how she did it:

1. Buy used items and when you maintain them, you can sell them again for the same price you paid.

2. Encourage practical gifts from friends and relatives and steer them away from giving you cute outfits that are more impractical.

3. Borrow. A lot of people don’t sell stuff anyway. I borrowed a bassinet from a friend and she was happy to offer it to me.

4. Graciously accept all the second hand things you can. Keep what you can use and pass on what you can’t.

5. Put off necessary purchases until you can find the items cheap and avoid purchasing unnecessary items. Somehow a wipe warmer comes to mind when I read this.

Often some items can substitute for others, at least temporarily. Here are Amy’s ideas:

1. Baby Shampoo – Use regular shampoo being careful to keep it out of baby’s eyes. I couldn’t do this one. I preferred baby shampoo and I could always get it cheap.

2. Baby Tub – Wash the baby in the sink or in the tub with a small amount of water.

3. Baby Wipes – Use old washcloths.

4. Bottles – Baby’s can be nursed until a year old or longer and then taught to drink from a regular cup.

5. Car Seat – There is absolutely no substitute for this. If you need a car seat, some hospitals will rent them to you for a very small fee. This is a good item to request for a baby shower gift.

6. Changing Table – Use a towel on a bed or bureau with baby changing items in a nearby shoe box.

7. Cloth Diapers, Rubber Pants and Pins. Of the $100 they spent, $65 went to these items.

8. Clothes – If you don’t get donations from your friends and families, shop at yard sales. As long as a baby has one good public outfit, it doesn’t matter what they wear at home. I sewed several little nightgowns and easy to sew outfits from material I had on hand. You can even use men’s t-shirts for baby clothes.

9. Crib – Amy said you could use bedding in a bureau drawer for an infant. Put bedding in a playpen for an older child. Ask around to see if you can borrow a crib. Make sure that it meets the new government guidelines and is safe. We were able to get a new crib for $99 back 26 years ago. It was plain looking but I didn’t really care. I used it for both our boys and then sold it for $50.

10. Diaper Bag – use any sturdy tote bag.

Amy has about 10 more suggestions which mostly consisted of not buying items that she considered unnecessary such as a wind up swing and a walker. I think the best remedy is to borrow these items to see if your child would really need them or not. For some children they love a swing and others don’t. The same is true of a walker.

I agree with Amy that it is unnecessary to buy everything new. Remember that you should always keep in mind that some products have been recalled as they may have dangerous pieces. Before using any new or used item, go on the internet and do some research if any of products have been recalled. No matter what an item costs, be it used, new or borrowed or given as a gift, safety should be of a high priority when it comes to your child.

For tomorrow, read pages 37 through 43 in the Tightwad Gazette II. This reading includes Fix-it ideas and many other tips.

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