• Like a bad penny, debt always turns up…

    unless we change how we interact with money, of course!

    The Bad Penny is dedicated to two pursuits: getting out of debt and staying out of debt! It recognizes that frugality and caring for our planet go hand in hand, and that our unsatiated need for stuff is hurting us in so many ways.

    Easier said than done!


    I am not a finance professional. I write about the world as I know it, and my advice may not be the best course of action for you! Please seek qualified advice for your particular situation.

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On the Path – Part 2 – the Paperless Nursery

A week ago I talked about how we’ve been converting to a Paperless Kitchen. But the kitchen isn’t the only place in the house that uses unnecessary paper.  Six months ago, we started using cloth diapers. 

 A little too far?  I thought so too, at first.  But, perhaps because of my frugal environmentalist slant, I found that I really prefer them.

There are a lot of different choices when cloth diapering, so I’m starting with Cloth Diapering: A Primer:

Prefold: A layered, absorbant square piece of cloth which is held around the baby’s body with pins or a Snappi.
Snappi: A T-shaped piece of elastic plastic with teeth in each end, made to hold a prefold rather than using diaper pins.  The teeth are placed into the cloth at either side of the baby’s waist as well as the crotch, holding the prefold firmly in place.
Fitted: A diaper-shaped wrap that serves the same purpose as a prefold, usually with less bulk.
Cover: A waterproof cover to put over a fitted or a prefold to prevent leaks.
Pocket: A waterproof cover with a fleece liner.  The liner is not attached to the cover in the back, forming a pocket to put inserts into.
All-in-one: A waterproof fitted, often with additional pieces of cloth, or inserts, attached inside to aid in absorbancy.  All-in-ones are generally understood to be less absorbant that other options, though it depends on the brand.  They are excellent for those people who hesitate to use cloth because it can become fussy.
Insert: A piece of cloth inserted into a diaper to add more absorbancy.
Wetbag:  A waterproof bag made to put dirty and wet diapers in.

There.  Now that you know all the “lingo” it will be easier to talk about them!

One of parents’ biggest concerns is the mess and the smell of cloth diapers.  Do they leak?  Do they stink?  Will I have to touch the…you know…poop?  But my answer is…probably not, or at least no more than disposables! When put on properly, I find I change my son with the same frequency as with disposables.  They stink, yes, but since I dump as much of the “dirtiness” into the toilet as I can, they don’t stink as badly as having three or four dirty diapers in the closed trashbin in our son’s room.  And I figure if the cloth needs to be swished, the washer can do it.  So I don’t touch anything nasty!  Most newer washers will have no problem with even toddler poop. (Forgive the wording.  I figured if it was good enough word for my two year old, hopefully it wouldn’t offend anybody here.)

Another concern is cost. Cloth diapers can seem cost-prohibitive.  Our personal favorites are the Blueberry Stuffable All-In-Ones, but at $18 each, who can afford them?  We buy good used diapers off of sites like DiaperSwappers for half the price.  And we wash them well when we get them.  Most of our Blueberrys were bought when the website was having a buy one get one sale and from one mother on Diaperswappers who tried them once or twice and didn’t like them.  At about $10 a diaper, we have two days worth for less than $150.  That’s $150 for diapers that have been worn for four months now, and will likely be worn until he potty-trains.  $150 will buy seven-and-a-half extra-large boxes of Pampers, with about 90 diapers inside.  For us, that would be about four months’ worth of disposables!  You can see how it adds up.

We didn’t choose the cheapest option.  We chose the diapers we did because they worked for us with as little fuss as possible.  Prefolds and covers are usually cheapest. (But don’t buy department store brands!  They aren’t thick enough.  Better to buy Diaper Service Quality prefolds.)

I’ve really only touched the surface of cloth diapering and its benefits.  This is definitely a subject that will require more time!


On the Path to a Paper-less Kitchen

One of the principles of both environmentalism and of frugality is easy: “Don’t waste.”

If you don’t waste it, you don’t have to buy more. You don’t have to use up more resources. You don’t have to throw more away.

In that mindset, a few months ago I started avoiding the use of paper towels and napkins, among other paper products. In fact, I went so far as to go out and buy a pack of bartender’s cloths at Walmart for several dollars.

The Bad Penny's

I’ve also salvaged dish cloths, including many my mother-in-law gets during Christmas from her 3rd grade students. It’s not a pretty picture, but you can see my towel drawer above.

I avoid using these for the really icky things – the mice the cats like to kill and leave for us, blood from hamburger meat that gets on the counter. In the case of the blood, I don’t trust that our washer gets hot enough to kill any pathogens involved, and as for the mice, well…the thought of something touching my counter that picked up a dessicated mouse – no matter how many times it’s been washed – is just really disgusting!

I keep a small plastic wastebasket under the sink, and I throw the used cloths in there (another reason not to use it for hamburger blood!) When I go around collecting laundry, it’s just another stop.

To be honest, it’s so ridiculously easy, I don’t know why I didn’t do it before. It really doesn’t add any strain to my workload, because normally the small cloths will nicely fill up the last little bit of the washing load. And it sure beats going up to the Sam’s Club every couple weeks to buy another pack of paper towels!

But does it save money? Definitely.

We were buying about 4 – 12 packs of Bounty paper towels at Sams Club every year.   That’s $60 a year of paper towels. We were going through about a roll every week.

In the past six months since we’ve started using cloth, we’ve only had to buy a pack once – when we moved into this house. We still have about 5 rolls left. That means we’ve used about a roll a month! We’ll only buy one pack of Bounty in the entire year, saving us $45 (and considering our grocery budget right now, that’s a large amount.)

Of course, we have to look at the cost of the cloth, too. I can’t remember exactly how much I paid for our 10 bartender’s cloths, but I want to guess it was around $7. The rest of the towels were given to us or we’ve had them for years. Washing doesn’t cost any extra, because I’d be running that load with or without the cloths, so there’s no need to add anything for that.

This year on paper towels, we will save a net amount of $38 compared to last year. Next year, we’ll spend even less since we won’t have to buy more towels. Not to mention the amount of trash reduction! (It scares me to picture taking three of those 12 roll packs and just throwing them away. That’s a lot of trash!)

I’m keeping my eyes open for more dishcloths that  people are getting rid of!