Category Archives: planet parenthood

Official Gift Policy

I’ve got a touchy subject that I’ve been struggling with for a while now: How do you tell generous family members that enough stuff is enough?

In our house, my Mother is the gift fairy. Virtually every time she visits she comes bearing assorted gifts. They usually aren’t extravagant, and typically are things she thinks we “need.” My Mother has only the best of intentions, and is always very thoughtful in her gift giving. That’s the reason why it’s so difficult to put my foot down. I’ve tried again and again to set limits and we’ve made some progress, but there always seems to be some extra gift. 

Now to my Mother’s defense, she  understands our green values, and I give her all the credit in the world for teaching me these values. She actually lived off the grid for over a decade, and is currently leading a green school transformation. She doesn’t bring cheap plastic trinkets, and has never given something that was inappropriate or toxic. She knows our BigGuy is a bookworm and brings books on a regular basis, which he loves!  I’ve had discussion with Mama friends, and always try to justify it by knowing that there are plenty of Grandparents who are more egregious consumers and truly “spoil.”  Yet, we don’t want our kids to feel entitled to her gifts.

On a financial level, I feel guilty about her spendy money on us and would rather she save her money to retire earlier and spend more time with the kids! I also don’t have a clear picture of her retirement situation, and want to make sure that she is taking care of herself first. There’s also the larger issue is that it feels like she puts a lot of time, money, and emotional energy into her gift giving that could be better shared with our family in other ways. She is a wizard at sewing and crafts, and I would much rather she spend her extra energy on crafty expressions than shopping. And again to her defense, part of the reason this dynamic has presented itself is because she knows how infrequently I shop for things beyond groceries, and that I would truly rather spend my time in other ways.

So, even with attempts to set limits, we hit another wall after the holiday and birthday season. I’m sure you can picture the preschool meltdown surrounding a coveted book/CD set… Enough was enough, and Hubby promptly drafted our new family policy around gifts.

Official Gift Policy

  • We do not want our children to associate materials things with their loved ones.
  • We value quality time with loved ones over material goods.
  • Gifts do not equal love or can replace quality time and relationships.
  • Material goods create tension over time and resources, creates competition for attention, and exacerbates a culture of consumption.


1. Our family will not accept any more material gifts.
2. The only exception is one gift for Christmas.  

3. A family outing or experience-based gift would be welcomed for Birthdays.
4. Hand sewn gifts, used clothing and used books or supplies for craft projects are still welcomed, but need to based on a larger reward system for good deeds.
5. Any special circumstances must be discussed in advance of purchasing – big or small.

On a recent visit, I discussed our need for a moratorium on stuff in our household with my Mother. The discussion wasn’t easy, as I can feel the emotional energy she pours into each purchase. Once she buys things for us, it’s no longer mere stuff, but special gifts with meaning. I understand that they are a symbol of her love and affection and a way to connect between visits, but I have to listen to my gut. I know that we can create experiences and memories together that surpass the pleasures of stuff. It’s our only viable option for living in true sustainable abundance.

Are we being too strict?
What’s your family story with gifts?
Do you set limits? How?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Diaper Duty

Diaper duty comes with the tasks of parenting. It’s a resource incentive chore in all regards costing time and money, while impacting the environment.

Funny enough, I was dissuaded from trying cloth the first round from another green Mama friend who had been overwhelmed by them with her new born (If you’re intimidated, plan to wait a few weeks or until they clearly fit). In my experience, once you’ve got a routine down cloth is pretty simple and worth the extra effort.

I love the fact that I can now go to Costco without throwing away another $50. BumGenius claims that you can save up to $1,200 and 1 ton of landfill waste.

In our family we’ve tried several different methods, so I’ll share a bit about our experience (Round 1 = BigGuy, Round 2 = Girly):

Round 1 

  • G-Diapers – We bought from the first batch of G-Diapers  to hit the market (which is a hybrid of cloth and a flushable/disposable insert). We had mixed results regarding leaks and blow-outs, but used them most of the time for the first three months. Unfortunately, they weren’t kind to our vintage toilet and after a $200 plumbing bill on a Sunday, we decided to take the plumbers advice and not risk replacing our toilet in an effort to be “green.” 
  • Seventh Generation Diapers – When the G-Diaper cloth shells were soiled we used 7th G brand diapers. We were really pleased with how they functioned. (I just heard that 7th G has  reduced online prices for bulk purchases .)
  • Kirkland Diapers (aka Costco) – After a year of trying to do the “right” thing, economic reality set in for us. I was between jobs and we bought a case of generic diapers at Costco. This led us to buy a membership and sprint toward potty-training.

Round 2

Cloth Diapers – Partly because we felt we had sold out, and partly because our (then) child care center offered a free cloth diaper service, we chose to try out cloth diapers when Girly was born.

  • Cloth diapers have become advanced technology these days, and I think you’d be surprised by the options and how great they work. The fact of the matter is that blow-outs happen, and I’d say they are pretty even on that ranking.
  • All-in-one cloth “pocket” diapers – Cloth diapers first got a bad rep because they didn’t work well at night and often leaked, but these diapers are super soft and fleecy and work terrific as night diapers. Even if you only used them at night, if your child was potty trained by 2 1/2, you’d still save almost a thousand disposable diapers! They are spendy up front, around $15-20 and I’ve bought some on Craigslist and at resale shops. Plus, they are designed to fit from size small to large, so they are worth the cost. These are my favorite brands: BumGenius , Fuzzibunz , HappyHeinys .
  • Wraps Thirsties is the best diaper cover I’ve found, partly because they have a new “duo” line that makes it so you don’t have to buy sm/md/large. They function really well, and once solids were introduced, we can usually use just one wrap per day (yes, changing the cloth regularly!) I like Bummis  too, they even has swim diapers and training pants, which are super expensive as disposables!
  • G-Diapers – Even though the flushables did work for us, we did use the cloth diaper portion with cloth liners with good results. My Mom even made fleece inserts that worked great. This was definitely more affordable than the flushable inserts too.
  • Flushable liners Bio-liners collect all the solids and can be flushed down the toilet. These are the secret weapon for poopy diapers!   

Random Cloth Diaper Notes:

  • I bought enough diapers so I only do 2 loads of diapers per week
  • My “diaper pails” consist of airtight plastic tubs. I have a big one next to the laundry and two smaller ones that I transport a day’s worth of diapers from the bedroom and childcare. They really are airtight and smells open briefly when you open (remember that disposables stink too!)
  • At 8 months my Girly started at a childcare without a diaper service. I carry a tote bag with a small plastic tub. It’s not very heavy my BigGuy even helps carry it to the bus sometimes. The hardest part is the one mid-week laundry load, but now that I have my routine it’s pretty easy to manage. While not the norm, the childcare teachers have been open to learning the new routine and respect my choice.
  • Buy Larger Clothes – If you opt for cloth, remember that clothes are now sized for disposables, so figure that your child will use a size bigger than expected.   
  • Less Trash, but More water/power – Cloth diapers have helped us with our one garbage can per month service. We also have an efficient washer and dryer that helps keep the water/electricity impacts and cost down.

If you want to read more, the best post I read was from a Dad’s perspective on CashMoneyLife , it was just written and he’s a big fan of cloth. There’s also a bit of discussion taking place on the EnviroMom blog. Consumer Reports , and Labor of Love blogs have some decent pro/con lists to consider, although some of the cons against cloth diapers are outmoded, like diaper pins. Thankfully, diaper pins are a thing of the past, I used them as a babysitter and there isn’t much harder than trying to not poke a wriggly baby!

Have you used cloth diapers? 
Do you have any tips?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Saving Early

It’s birthday season in our family, with Girly’s 1st on Monday, and BigGuy’s 4th this Sunday.

We have a generous family, and every year we receive birthday cards with loving notes and checks included. For now these pieces of paper seem inconsequential to our children, even as the cards bring them great joy (BigGuy has actually being playing with his spaceship card every night this week!)

Up until this year I’ve always found some thoughtful way to spend the money, usually new shoes or a family outing. But this year, in light of my newfound financial focus (and my gainful employment), I am ready to start saving their birthday money.

You might wonder how much would $100 actually grow in interest by the time our kiddos fly the coup? According to Suze Orman’s Compound Interest Calculator, if I started with $100 and added $10 a month at 2% for 17 years, Girly would have over $2500!!

To us adults with mortgages and bills, this may seem like relative chump change. But imagine back to when you graduated from high school, and how exciting it would be get this type of cash. I also want to be clear that while I do plan on saving for our children’s college (soon!), this account will not be earmarked for education per se. It will be up to them to decide how they want to spend it when they come of age, whether that ends up being travel or rental deposit; it will be their fund for start adulthood.

I’m going to take a nod from my money savvy sis and open a new SmartyPig account for them which will earn 2.01%. SmartyPig has a fun social function to it too, so you’ll be able to see how full the pig bank grows as our kiddos grow. And while the Grandparents and Great-Grandparents aren’t big Facebookers, they may get a kick out of seeing their money saved rather than squandered.

So, if you’re lucky enough to not need gift money for the essentials, comment below to make the pledge that you’ll open a savings account at your child’s next birthday!

This birthday month has helped me focus on how we really want to celebrate, and I’ll share more on that topic tomorrow.

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Birthing Business

Today is my Girly’s 1st Birthday! As any Mama, this day brings my mind back to place she was born. In our case, that means her bedroom. We planned a home birth, with medical support from a professional midwifery clinic.  

We had a successful hospital birth with our BigGuy, and full health insurance. So, our decision wasn’t necessarily a monetary one, but it did save us a whole lot of cash . All costs were fully covered by our health insurance, including the birth tub and birth kit bought online. I certainly don’t advocate for considering a home birth based on finances alone, but it is a safe alternative to hospitalization. Here’s an interesting article from Fit Pregnancy about Better births, lower costs.

I was inspired by the eye-opening documentary “ The Business of Being Born .”
I had considered myself to be fairly well educated, but
this film made me realize just how the obstetrics industry has been stripping mothers of our right to birth naturally . Statistically, only 1 in 100 American babies are born at home. Yet, 1 in 4 American babies now come by Cesarean surgery and the majority of mothers/babies are sedated by drugs at birth. I feel very lucky that my first hospital birth had minimal interventions and no drugs. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Before I go any further, I want to say that  hospitals are amazing places for high risk pregnancies, where  moms and babies need medical support . In an emergency, I would not have hesitated being transferred and fully appreciate modern medicine.

My top 10 reasons for having a home birth:

  1. Safe – with prenatal care, contingency plans, and professional home birth equipment
  2. Sustainable – minimal carbon footprint
  3. Inexpensive – even with insurance, our first birth cost a few thousand dollars
  4. Comfortable – the comforts of home, even if birth isn’t
  5. Family-friendly – our son announced that she was a girl; our closest family was there
  6. Thoughtful – professional midwives prepare clients with extensive knowledge
  7. Playful – music and water helps relax and energize between contractions
  8. Empowering – you make healthy decisions to benefit you and your baby
  9. Free High – you may not get drugs at home, but the birth “high” is incredible
  10. Home healing – being at home to heal with postnatal visits for baby and mom

If you or someone you know is considering home birth, I’d like to offer up these resources:

My last two cents on the subject: birth is a natural process that has been going on since our beginning; having faith in this mysterious process has helped us endure and succeed. Plus, home is where the heart is, where families grow, and dreams are born.

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.