With Michigan’s sinking economy, getting by is tough. It’s even harder with a new baby in the family. Laura Cowan would know. Cowan, 28, worked as a freelance editor for Christian and automotive publications when her world turned upside down. “I got laid off in 2008, a month before I got pregnant,” said Cowan, a Whitmore Lake resident. Trying to save money became a priority. “I turned it into a game—how much money can I save on baby gear? I discovered I could save a ton of money,” she said. “I realized in this economy someone needed to write all that down.”
A blog is born
Cowan created a blog – www.29diapers.com, named for the number of cloth diapers the average baby needs. She’s also gathered her advice into a new book, Ecofrugal Baby: How to Save 70% off of Baby’s First Year. “So many people are so stressed out when they have a baby,” said Cowan. “It can cost $10,000 a year.” That amount isn’t surprising when you add up the costs of cribs, car seats, baby carriers and disposable diapers. Cloth diapers are a big cost saver, said Cowan. “Cloth diapers are really different from the kind our moms and grandmas used to use,” she said. “They are good for the environment. They save one ton of garbage per kid per year. They keep chemicals off your baby’s skin.” This one choice can slash hundreds of dollars from a family’s budget.“By the time the kid is potty trained they’ll save $1,500 – 2,000, and have kept one ton of trash per year out of the landfi ll,” said Cowan.
Playing the game
Finding ways to economize doesn’t have to be a chore. “I love gaming the system,” she said. “The book isn’t about being a minimalist.” Cowan remembers a time she put her principles to work for her daughter Arielle, 16 months, after a relative gave her daughter a Christmas outfit which wouldn’t fi t her by the time the holiday rolled around. “I took it back to Macy’s the day after Christmas,” she said. “I knew they had a bunch of clearance sales, an early bird sale for an extra 20 percent off and I used a coupon I got in the mail.” Arielle enjoyed the windfall. “I exchanged this one outfi t for five onesies, a matching shirt and pants set, a onesie sleeper and matching bib and another pair of pants,” said Cowan.
Free shipping offers and online coupons or promo codes can also reduce costs for parents. Internet sites, like www.freecycle.org and yahoo groups, are other price-shaving options. “You sign up for a local group and get a daily digest of things people are giving away and would end up in the trash otherwise,” she said.
Economizing doesn’t have to depend on acts of drudgery, like clipping coupons, said Cowan. “You don’t know all the ways to save money out there,” she
said. “It makes me more determined to get the message out there. “
Cowan’s self-published book, “Ecofrugal Baby: How to Save 70% off of Baby’s First Year is available at www.amazon.com, www.lulu.com and on her website, www.29diapers.com in ebook and paper versions. You can also pick it up at the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room at 114 South Main St.