Monday, November 12, 2012

10 Frustration Reducing, Money Saving, Life Improving Tips and Tricks for New Parents

I remember being at the hospital the morning after Sam was born 7 years ago. As I was walking the halls my eye caught something I'd never noticed before: A brochure for a college savings program. It's amazing how your perspective changes and things that were never on your radar screen suddenly become important.

Now that we're through the preschool years and moving on to the next stage I thought it would be helpful to share some idea for new parents that worked well for me.

First, subscribe to Amazon Prime. Reducing the number of errands you have to run will be more valuable than ever plus you get some free video content. If you're not a Prime subscriber yet check out Amazon Mom - even if you're a dad. You just need to have a little one in your life. Great deal.

Here are 10 frustration reducing, money saving, life improving tips and tricks for new parents:

1. Small Screwdrivers

You're going to be opening and repairing a lot of toys over the next few years. This set has come in incredibly handy almost every week.

2. Button Batteries

The first time the batteries go dead on one of their little toys and you try to buy replacements at CVS you'll know why buying these in bulk off Amazon is one of the best deals going. Super-expensive locally and super-cheap online with fast free shipping even without Amazon Prime (since they're tiny and can fit in a standard envelope).

3. Battery Tester

Once the kids get old enough to start repairing their own toys, you might find that as soon as a toy doesn't work they think the battery needs to be replaced. So they'll set aside the old batteries and install new batteries and the toy still doesn't work. After a while you get these little piles of mixed up batteries and it's unclear whether they have remaining charge. A battery tester like the one below will test primary and rechargeable AA, AAA, and 9V batteries. Works great.

While we're on the topic of batteries, I dabbled with rechargeables but found they'd often wind up in a seldom used toy so I'd have to buy more and more rechargeables to keep up. I found buying Kirkland (Costco) AAs and AAAs the best way to go. No shortcuts here that I could find.

4. Re-manufactured Ink Cartridges

Kids love to print. Even after engaging them in a discussion about how expensive ink and paper is and remind them of the environmental impact of needless printing they'll still want to see their creations come to life.

To maximize household tranquility and minimize financial, impact buy affordable off-brand ink cartridges. For our printer, I can get 2 or 3 replacements for each color for 1.5x the price of a single cartridge - a massive savings. Check the seller ratings and go for it. Even if a few of them don't work you'll come out way ahead.

5. Buy Refurbished Apple Devices

A top of the line iPod touch (5th generation) goes for $299. They still sell the 4th generation for $199 with 16GB. Right now Apple is offering an 8GB 4th generation iPod touch for $129. This is an ideal price point for a device that will sometimes allow you to finish your meal in peace, and you won't have a heart attack if your kid drops it on the floor.

6. Books

Chances are you'll likely receive books as gifts so without much effort you'll have an ample supply of bedtime reading material. The single most requested bedtime book? Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever.

Related: Best bedtime routine recommendation we received from a pediatrician that worked? "If you come brush your teeth you will get 3 books. If you don't come now, you'll lose a book."

There's also this fantastic Richard Scarry Christmas book:

7. Best Affordable Toy

Automoblox. Less than $10 shipped for these super-high quality toys are the best $10 toy for a 5 year old boy I've found:

8. Best Expensive Toys

Legos without a doubt. They provide so many hours of quiet, interactive building, but man are they expensive. You can drop $100 at the Lego Store in a second. Oh well, having boys we're lucky - no interest in American Girl.

Best Lego value I've found? The Lego Creator Lighthouse Island. Not only are lighthouses super fun but the Creator series allows the set to be assembled 3 different ways. Pro tip: If you lose the instructions, read them from an iPad from a site like this.

9. Movies

I thought I had this all figured out when I started buying used DVDs of their favorites. But you know what I discovered? They never want to watch something we own. Owning a movie makes it no longer a favorite!

So what to do instead? Ditch the DVDs (they're annoying to keep track of and get scratched) and get a streaming device like a Roku, an Apple TV ($85 refurbished) or both. Rent from Amazon (some titles included with Prime) and watch it on the go on an iPad.

10. Best Holiday Tradition

The candy strip. My mom shared this tradition with us, I loved it, and it's working very well for us. On halloween night when they've returned from trick-or-treating and they're pouring over their haul ask them to count out 25 pieces of candy. Take those 25 pieces of candy and set them aside until December 1st.

Then, create or buy (I've seen these at Home Goods) something they can hang on their wall with 25 pockets in it and place a piece of candy in each pocket. Let them enjoy one piece of candy each day in December rather than gobbling it all up in the week or two after Halloween.

Question of the Day: What are some of your favorite money saving tips and strategies for raising young kids?

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