Tried and Tested Baby Gear – Munchkin Weighted Straw Sippy Cup

***Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. See my disclaimer for more information.

One of the main reasons that I started this website and blog was to try and be something of a resource for other new parents who were dealing with the new financial realities of parenthood. Admittedly, I also thought the potential of earning some affiliate income from readers buying products I have already tried and tested was appealing too. Diversifying my income streams is included in my personal finance guiding principles after all.

When I was brand new to the parenting game, I had a difficult time finding much in the way of resources from other new parents that provided me with useful, practical money-saving tips on which products worked best for them and why they’d recommend them.

By money-saving, I don’t necessarily mean the cheapest. In fact, that’s rarely the case. What I mean is ‘what will get us the best bang for our buck?’. That’s the definition of frugal that FM and ascribe to: making the most economic means of our limited resources.

Related Article: Frugal Finds – A Bargain on a Big Boy Bed

FM and I are the kind of couple that tends to do a ton of research before committing to a major purchase. With a new, tiny human being to make purchases for, almost everything we bought got hyper-scrutinized. We wanted to ensure the products were safe, reliable, and cost-effective.

Sure, there was plenty out there from manufacturers and brands touting how great their own products were. And there were the countless reviews on Amazon to go with each of the 56,215,392,447 (give or take) baby products that it offers through its platform.

But none of it felt concise or trustworthy enough to rely on. The lack of succinct, reliable information was certainly a frustration for us.

While we (ok, mostly FM) did tons of research on what to buy and where we could get the best price, we ended up taking some risks (albeit fairly calculated) and ultimately making some spending mistakes along the way.

On some things we hit on and made the right call, on others we didn’t. Thankfully the mistake tended to be on lower-cost products than the big-ticket items.

One area we really struggled with was with sippy cups when out son was ready to start using one.

At some point I’m going to do an article on all the things you don’t need as a parent, but for today I’m going to focus on a product we ended up being very happy with and would suggest to any of our friends or family going through a similar struggle with finding the right sippy cup for their own kid(s).

That product is the Munchkin Click Lock Weighted Flexi-Straw Sippy Cup.

munchkin weighted straw sippy cup

Before we had kids, we heard friends complain about being on the third, fourth, or fifth (or more!) type of sippy cup for their child.

I found this impossible to believe. How could it be possible for a kid not to figure out how to get liquid from a cup specifically designed to allow a child to do that?

Well, fatherhood opened my eyes to how entirely possible this scenario is!

Before FM found the Munchkin Click Lock Weighted Flexi-Straw Sippy Cup for our son after scouring online mommy groups, forums, and websites, we tried at least three other cups that I can recall.

I don’t remember the exact price of each one, but if you use $10 as a typical price for a sippy cup, we would have spent and ultimately wasted at least $30 on cups our son refused and/or was incapable of using before we found this option.

It’s not much, but it’s also $30 that could have been used on other things like our kids’ RESP, our van loan, or our mortgage. Every cent on those things counts, after all!

Once we discovered the Munchkin option, we didn’t have to try another cup again. Our son has since moved on top “big boy cups”, but we went straight to it for our daughter when she was ready to start drinking water. Sure enough, she took to it immediately.

So what made this specific cup work when so many others didn’t?

First, the weighted straw makes it possible for the child to get a swig of their pop (kidding!) water no matter what bizarre angle they’re holding the bottle at.

Second, on the bizarre angle thing again, is that it stays completely sealed. There is next to no leakage when compared to the other options that we had tried.

Third, the straw is small and tight enough that it releases a manageable amount of liquid as opposed to some of the other cups that made it look like our son was trying to drink from a fire hose.

Finally, and particularly relevant to the theme of this blog, it’s fairly inexpensive. As I write this post, it’s just $6.99 on Amazon.ca.

My only complaint/warning to other parents relates to the cleaning brush that comes with it. As I noted above, the straw is fairly tight. While that’s a benefit to the potential mess the kid using it could make, it does make it rather difficult to clean the inner parts of the straw, since the brush can get stuck. In one instance for us, the wire and bristle piece disconnected from the stem of the brush and became lodged in the straw. Thankfully we noticed it and removed the piece before our son used the cup again, which could have potentially ended up with that piece in his mouth, or worse, being swallowed

Once we discovered this cup, we stuck with it. We had three for our son – one for home, one for daycare, and one for any travels we did. We’ve got one for our daughter at the moment, but will definitely be picking up more once she heads to daycare too.

So there you have it, my first blatant product recommendation since starting this blog more than four months ago.

I’ve added this to my Resources page, which I’ll continue to update as I post more of these reviews of tried and tested baby gear.

Have you had challenges finding the right sippy cup for your kid? Have you used the Munchkin Click Lock Weighted Flexi-Straw Sippy Cup for your child? How did you find it performed for you?

Let me know by leaving a comment below, sending an email to frugalfatherblog@gmail.com, or by connecting on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Also remember to check out the info below on our Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project!

Until next Saturday, thanks for reading!

Frugal Father

 

Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project

Last week’s recipe: Baked Cabbage Roll Skillet Supper

I planned on making this on Thursday night, but things got derailed. I’ll be making it for dinner tonight and will update this section with a brief review as soon as I can after we eat it.

UPDATE: We had this on Saturday and really enjoyed it! It’s basically cabbage rolls, except instead of the roll being the starting point of your meal, you jump straight to the dish being ready to eat with no cutting required. The recipe is pretty straight forward and definitely cost-effective, both big plusses in our house. The end result was delicious and we had plenty of leftovers for lunch on Sunday. There is a fair bit of prep involved and attention required though, so it loses some points there. I chopped the cabbage and onions the night before to speed things up at cooking time, but had to park myself in front of the stove for the bulk of the cooking instead of being able to play with the kids.

Final verdict: file it in the keeper binder!

This week’s selection: Margherita Penne

Frugal Finds – A Bargain on a Big Boy Bed

There was a lot of excitement in our house last week when our son looked out our front window and saw the delivery truck pull up to our house. Inside was a mattress that will one day serve as his “big boy bed”, as he likes to call it.

Our son is nearly two and a half, so FM an I have been preparing ourselves to encounter a major milestone for a toddler for a while now.

So far he hasn’t made even the slightest of attempts to escape his crib. But after he successfully made it through the night in a regular bed when we stayed with family over the holidays (which he was extremely excited about), we decided a few weeks ago that we may as well keep an eye out for something to move him into once he inevitably decides crib rails are no longer a deterrent.

During the annual ‘Boxing Day/Week Blowout’ season we all endure as consumers, we decided to head over to a store not far from our house to get a sense of what type of mattress he (aka FM and I, since we’ll likely end up spending some time with him on it over the years) wanted and what kind of dollar figure we would need to expect to pay.

We were completely upfront with the salesman (who barely allowed us to get five feet into the building before descending upon us) that we weren’t looking to purchase anything and just wanted to test out some beds and get a sense on pricing.

Once we made it into the actual showroom area, sticker shock set in almost immediately. I had completely forgotten how bloody expensive mattresses are!

We spent about 30 minutes testing out a variety of beds. And by “testing”, I mean FM and I taking turns laying down and trying to convince our son to pretend to sleep next to us rather than jump up and down like he was on a trampoline.

Most of the price tags made us either gasp or laugh. Anything that we liked was in the $1,000 and above category, which was way beyond what we were willing to spend. We knew from reviewing advertisements through the Flipp app that we could easily find something of the quality we wanted for about 40% lower than that.

Of course, the salesman couldn’t let us go without a fight. He does have a living to make after all. He asked if he could check the store’s internal system to see if they had a better price available on a couple of the beds we seemed to like.

Truth be told, he was actually very respectful of the fact that we were just there to browse and didn’t want any kind of heavy sales push put on us, so we decided to hear him out.

He took us over to his desk and started punching in model names and numbers. Sure enough, the first two beds we found comfortable remained way out of our price range, even with some substantial discounts available.

The third bed came back at just under $750, which was the absolute maximum budget we had set for this purchase. With this being the first store that we visited, we weren’t swayed at all – we wanted to continue shopping around to get the best deal we possibly could, and this just didn’t feel like it.

We were about to say our thank yous and goodbyes when the salesman got all excited and insisted that he show me something on the screen.

He explained that an order of the very same mattress had been cancelled by a customer at the last second and the company’s nearest warehouse was stuck with a mattress they needed to move out as soon as possible.

The company operates on a just-in-time delivery model. They take the order and a deposit from the customer, place an order for the bed with the manufacturer, receive it at their warehouse a few days later, and ship it out to the customer as soon as they possibly can. This sales model means that they don’t have a lot of warehouse space of their own and don’t want product sitting around.

In situations like the cancellation the salesman discovered, they tend to discount the mattress to get it out the door right away.

In this case it meant that the bed could be ours for $555 plus tax, for a total of just over $625. That’s 45% off the sticker price!

This changed our tune to be sure, but FM still wasn’t convinced. It didn’t change the fact that we were still at the first store we had visited, we had committed to doing research and legwork before making this expensive of a purchase, and we weren’t 100% ready to move our son out of his crib since he hasn’t made an effort to escape it himself.

The salesman came up with a solution for us: put down a fully refundable $100 deposit to hold the mattress, take a couple of weeks to do our research, and make a decision on whether or not we wanted to go ahead.

So that’s what we did.

With a bed on hold, we spent many of our evenings over the following week doing more research. We also had a lot of conversations about when our son would move into the bed and what we’d do with it in the meantime if we did go ahead and finalize the purchase of the one we had on hold.

In the end, we decided we couldn’t turn down the deal we discovered that first day of looking since no other similar mattresses could meet that price.

Listen, I get it. To many of you, spending over $600 on a bed for a toddler isn’t much of a bargain. But to us, this is still a frugal purchase. That’s because to us, being frugal means making the most of our money by making purchases that we believe get us the best bang for our buck over the long-term.

We don’t view this as buying a bed for a toddler. It’s buying a bed that should last toddler through his pre-school, grade-school, and eventually teenage years.

Spending this much now and not having to spend it again for 15 years is a much better option to us than spending $300 on cheaper mattresses that wear out every 5 years, or buying a bed shaped like a car that our son probably won’t want to be sleeping on in his teenage years.

We also came up with what was a pretty obvious solution for “storing” the mattress until it was time to retire our son’s crib.

Our daughter is still in our room with us, so the mattress will go into her future bedroom for the time being. Once she moves over there, the new mattress will either stay in her room for us to crash on in the likely event that she needs some assistance in getting comfortable in her new surroundings, or it will go to our son’s room for him to sleep on if he decides to make the great escape from his current sleeping quarters.

In the end, we’re really pleased with the end result of our research and shopping efforts and we’re looking forward to making our son’s transition from crib to big boy bed as seamless as possible when that day finally arrives.

How do you handle higher-priced purchases like a mattress? Do you research it like crazy or jump on the first deal you think is worthwhile?

Let me know by leaving a comment below, sending an email to frugalfatherblog@gmail.com, or by connecting on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Also remember to check out the info below on our Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project!

Until next Saturday, thanks for reading!

Frugal Father

Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project

Last week’s recipe: Chicken and Onion Tagine.

I found the dish to be really tasty, but it failed from a simplicity perspective. FM is an admittedly picky eater and if it’s something outside her usual comfort zone, she really needs to be in the mood to try something new. That wasn’t the case last Saturday night when I made the dish, which called for curry as a key ingredient – something FM isn’t a huge fan of and wasn’t in the mood for. I had to modify my cooking plans, basically creating two separate versions (one with curry, one without) to make sure we could each enjoy our meal. We’ve done this countless times in the past, but with kids to tend to now, it isn’t feasible to be doing this on a regular basis. The final verdict on this dish: send it to the recycle bin.

This week’s selection: Baked Cabbage Roll Skillet.

Our Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project

I have loved to cook for as long as I can remember.

My enjoyment of it really took off when I moved into a house with a bunch of roommates in university. I got tired of eating the same cheap, unhealthy junk like a student tends to do, so I taught myself how to make some fairly basic, but delicious meals on the stereotypically slim budget a student tends to survive off of.

Over the years I’ve learned to make a wider variety of meals and really enjoy testing out new things anytime I have a chance.

Related Article: A Frugal Family Christmas Dinner

I’m not a top-flight chef by any means. The food I like to make now that I’m (theoretically) all grown up still isn’t not overly fancy. They’re just nice, simple, homemade meals for FM and the kids and I to enjoy.

good day in the kitchen tweet - 06jan19

I love the whole process of meal-making. Selecting the recipe. Building the list of groceries required to make it. Buying the ingredients. Going through the steps of preparing it. The smells as the food cooks. And 99.9% of the time (I’ve had a couple of duds along the way), I enjoy the end result that we get to eat together as a family.

FM often tells me that she’s glad she ended up with someone who enjoys cooking as much as I do, otherwise she may have ended up with scurvy due to her lack of interest in food as anything more than a source of energy to get through the day. She figures she’d just eat the same things all day everyday if left to her own devices!

One of my favourite things about being the primary cook in our collective kitchen is still trying out new recipes.

For years I’ve been pulling recipes that interested me from magazines and printing them from websites as I came across them.

And this is what’s happened with them:

Recipe Pile and Cookbooks

If I had to guess, I’d say there’s probably 200 or more recipes accumulated in that pile. Some of them have been tried and enjoyed, but most got pulled from the magazine or printed from the website and just added to the pile.

Ever since our son came along, my creativity in the kitchen has waned somewhat. Cooking is just one of those things that has received less attention since I became a parent and in recent months, our dinner options have really started to show it.

We still eat the majority of our meals made from fresh ingredients, but the menu is fairly repetitive. I generally draw from a fairly short list of options that require minimal preparation and those dishes are used in a pretty frequent rotation.

Our son doesn’t seem to care about the repetition and our daughter isn’t even at the stage of eating the same stuff as us, but FM and I have found ourselves increasingly uninspired by the meals we build our grocery list around each week.

After opening the recipe cupboard a few weeks before the holidays, FM asked that we do something about it as part of an overall effort we’re putting into decluttering our home.

Rather than simply tossing the pile in the recycle bin, I figured we can kill two birds with one stone: try out some of those recipes and expand our meal options while also whittling down and organizing the crazy pile of paper that we’ve amassed.

To make things interesting, we’re going to try those recipes completely at random!

Each week, I’m going to pull a page from the pile (without peeking at it first), add the ingredients to our weekly grocery list, and make whatever dish I find on the page one night that week.

If we like really like it, it will get filed into a binder for use again in the future and added to our regular meal carousel of meal options. If it’s just ok or we completely dislike it, then into the recycling bin it goes!

Earlier, I had mentioned that a reason for our menu becoming as exciting as watching paint dry is that we don’t have as much time as we used to now that we’re parents.

While this remains true in 2019, fortunately for us, our kids are on a much more predictable sleep schedule than when there’s a newborn in the house. They both go to bed at the same time, which leaves FM and I with a couple of hours to ourselves each night before we go to bed.

FM and I have both acknowledged that we’ve been pretty horribly guilty of not making great use of that time in recent months (damn you, Netflix!). So my plan for accomplishing this goal of returning to a more creative cooking environment is to prep ingredients for the next night’s meal during some of those free minutes.

Each week, I’ll include the random recipe we selected at the bottom of my post and give a very brief review of the one we tried the week prior.

I’ve also set up a Recipes page on the website, where I’ll post any of the dishes we think others might enjoy.

So here goes nothing!

This week’s recipe: Chicken & Onion Tagine.

Until next week, thanks for checking out frugalfathering.com!

Frugal Father

2019 Goals and Objectives

Last week I wrote about the progress I made on my financial goals in my 2018 Annual Review post.

Today’s blog is a look ahead at what I’m hoping to accomplish with my personal and family finances in 2019.

To recap, each December I set aside some time to conduct an Annual Review. I take a look back at the progress that I made in achieving my goals and objectives in the year that was, then develop a (mostly) new set for the coming year.

I consistently focus my attention on five categories: Family, Finances, Health, Personal, and Professional.

For each category, I write down as many things I can think of as possible, then whittle down the list by applying SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely/Time Bound) criteria to each them. The ones that best meet each of those criteria make the short-list, which I then rank in order of priority. What I end up with is a list of five goals in each category that I aim to achieve over the course of the year.

The focus of this blog, of course, is largely dedicated to the financial aspects of parenthood, so that’s the only category I’m going to go into any detail on today. You may find the occasional reference to the other categories’ goals and objectives on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram though.

So without further ado, here’s what I’m aiming to achieve in 2019!

  1. Contribute $5,000 to the kids’ RESP

This is a repeat of one of last year’s goals.

FM and I are firm believers in the value of an education and we want to do our part to ensure our kids have the opportunity to pursue college or university studies in the future.

For parents unfamiliar with RESPs (if that’s you, I’d strongly recommend you pick up a copy of Gail Vaz Oxlade’s Saving for School) , the Canadian government offers very generous grants as an incentive for saving for a child’s post-secondary education. 20% of annual contributions to an eligible RESP are matched to a maximum of $500 per child.

That’s an automatic 20% return on your money, which is pretty much unheard of!

As frugal parents looking to make the most of our money, maximizing the government grants became an absolute no-brainer financial priority the moment we entered parenthood. We intend to max-out the grants again in 2019.

 

  1. Increase our mortgage prepayments by $25 per bi-weekly payment

Our mortgage is the single biggest obstacle standing between us and making substantial progress towards financial independence. FM and I are both extremely debt-averse. A few years back once we were both established in our careers, we decided to make it a priority to pay down our mortgage as quickly as possible by taking advantage of the prepayment options available through our mortgage holder.

In 2018, we paid the maximum of 25% on top of our regular accelerated bi-weekly payments, plus another $125 in lump sum payments on the principle every two weeks.

This year we’re aiming to increase that by another $25 per bi-weekly payment, which works out to an additional $650 over the course of the year.

I have already contacted our bank and had them make the increase. If my annual cash flow forecast is accurate, we should have no problem keeping that up for the entire year. It’s definitely helpful that FM will be heading back to work after her maternity leave ends in just a few short months and earning substantially higher income than her employment insurance payments currently provide.

  1. Make “round-up bonus debt payoffs” with each PCMC billing cycle.

This is an idea I got after listening to Episode #286 of the aforementioned Chris Guillebeau’s inspiring Side Hustle School podcast. In it, the subject of the episode had developed an app to that rounded up the “spare change” from his purchases and put that money towards his student debt.

I’m going to try something similar this year, albeit through a manual process I’ll be doing myself at the end of each billing cycle for the joint credit FM and I use for our family spending.

The plan is to round each purchase up to the nearest $5 and put the sum towards the loan on our van each month. Let’s say our weekly grocery bill comes to $106.70. I’ll round that up to $110 and put the $3.30 towards the van loan. I’ll do this with each purchase that appears on the statement.

A quick analysis of a few months of bills from last year tells me that we’ll be putting an extra $150-$200 per month towards paying off the van.

  1. Use unplanned income to pay off our van loan (on the family side) or to invest (on the personal side)

When I develop our annual cash flow forecasts, the only income I factor into the projection is what we know for certain we can expect. For 2019, this means my paycheque and FM’s maternity leave employment insurance payments and her paycheque when she returns to work in a few months.

But what about money coming in that we aren’t necessarily expecting and/or can’t be accurately predicted?

I’m talking about things like mileage claims I make through work when I need to take my personal vehicle on company business, returning empties to the Beer Store, Paypal cash I earn through Swagbucks, cashback through Checkout 51 or my Tangerine Mastercard, and the like.

In the past, those items would just go into our bank account and help fund our normal day-to-day expenses. This year though, we’re going to give that money a more specific purpose by using it to pay down our loan on the van and augment our retirement savings and investments.

I’m very interested to see just how much these little top ups will add up to by the end of the year!

  1. Make automatic monthly contributions to my TFSA and RRSP

FM is on maternity leave until around the end of April, so our adult allowances will remain fairly low until a regular paycheque starts coming in again.

Because of the reduced income that comes with being on maternity leave, we hit the pause button on the automated retirement savings contributions for much of last year. Instead, we relied on making lump sum deposits if/when the money was available.

As someone who like simplicity, predictability, and automation with his finances, I didn’t like that approach one bit. I found that I was much looser with my spending because my bank balance gave me the illusion that I had more money to spend than I normally would have. The end result was a massive miss on one of my financial goals from last year.

This year, I’ll be returning to automated payments immediately. My TFSA and RRSP both currently reside with Tangerine (sign up for a Tangerine account with my Orange Key number 17131375S1 and get $50 for free!) in a series of investment funds and they have an incredibly simple system to set up those automated transfers through. The cash flow forecast I created for my personal account shows that I’ll be able to make the minimum required deposit on a monthly basis without any issues.

It may not be as much money as I’ve put aside in the past, but such is life with kids. The important thing is to get back on the regular schedule and let compounding do its thing!

So there you have it, my financial goals and objectives for 2019.

In keeping with the spirit of accountability that I want this blog to bring me, I’ll be posting quarterly updates on my progress over the course of the year. My final post of the year will once again feature an annual review that outlines my successes, failures, and progress in achieving those goals.

In the meantime, feel free to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for regular updates on my frugal adventures in shopping, investing, saving, and affordable family fun. You can also get in touch by emailing me at frugalfatherblog@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for another new post next Saturday!

Frugal Father