Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Can't Afford to Cloth Diaper...Or Can I?

I hear about so many people that want to cloth diaper but say that they can't afford the start up costs. Yes, the start up costs can appear very overwhelming, but they don't have to be! There is no rule that says you have to start cloth diapering full time. It's NOT an all or nothing thing. You can start slowly and build your stash whenever you can. Soon you'll be spending less on disposables and can set that money aside to buy more cloth.

Being an accountant, I started playing around with numbers today. I've come up with a 6 month process to cloth diapering. It does take a little bit of money to start. But after the first month, you will spend the same amount of money (or less) as you would with buying disposables each month.

Of course I've made some assumptions. They are:

1 - You go through 9 diapers a day
2 - A case pack of 184 diapers will cost $42 (this is a sale price on diapers.com with a $1 off coupon. No tax added.)
3 - You have ZERO diapers in your house at the start of the six months
4 - A cloth diaper will cost $20***
5 - You have $50 to make the switch to cloth (birthday money, savings, gift, tax return refund, etc)

***As many of you have pointed out, you don't need to spend $20 on ONE diaper. You can buy a dozen prefolds and 3 covers for under $50...and that would be enough diapers to get you through an entire day.

In one six month period of using disposables (using the above assumptions), you will spend $376 and go through 1,674 diapers (YIKES!!).

Now let's say that you've made the decision to cloth diaper. On day 1, you do the following:

Buy 1 case of disposables ($42), buy 2 cloth diapers ($40) and one container of cloth diaper friendly detergent ($11). So that's $51 more than you would normally spend. That is your investment - a one time cost that is above and beyond your normal diaper budget. This is the ONLY time in the six months that you will spend more than you usually do.

During month 1, you will need to buy another case of disposables ($42). However you are now only using 7 disposables a day vs. 9. Yes, the laundry for 2 diapers can be a bit cumbersome, but if you want to make it work, it's only short term!

During month 2, you buy one more cloth diaper. You also need to buy another case of disposables ($42). Now you're using 6 disposables a day and you've already cut your monthly amount of disposables by almost 100!! Feels good, doesn't it?

By month 3, you buy another cloth diaper ($20) and realize that you don't need to buy a case of disposables this month! You do the happy dance in celebration!

Month 4, again you buy another cloth diaper ($20) and another case of disposables ($42). By now you've cut your monthly amount of disposables by over 150 AND you're using cloth more than disposables. Another happy dance? I think so!

In month 5 you buy another cloth diaper ($20) and decide to only get 1/2 case of disposables ($20) since you see a light at the end of the tunnel and don't think you'll need them for much longer. You are now down to using only 3 disposables a day.

In the final month of the transition, you splurge and buy 2 cloth diapers ($40) and use 1 disposable a day just to get rid of the rest of what you have on hand. No need to buy anymore disposables!! You have 8 cloth diapers on hand, which is a pretty good start!

During those 6 transition months, you spent a total of $359 vs. $376 using disposables alone. And going forward, you are no longer spending $63 each month on disposables. So you can continue to build your cloth diaper stash as you see fit. You can add accessories, if you want (wet bags, pails, cloth wipes, etc) and you can still stay at or below your disposable diaper budget each month. AND don't forget that even used cloth diapers have a great resale value...so when you are done with them you can get some of your money back! Try doing that with a dirty disposable...

Another bonus to starting slow is that you can try out a diaper one at a time to see if you like it. I've seen people buy 24 of the same diaper to start out. Then they decide that they don't like that kind and give up cloth diapering. Starting slowly will give you a great idea of what you like and don't like.

As always, if anyone has any questions, I'd be glad to answer them! You can contact me from my website here.

And for those that are considering trying it out, here's an added deal for you on www.fluffenvy.com. Buy any diaper and any SAMPLE size of detergent and get free shipping with coupon code TRYCLOTH. Free shipping does not apply to full size detergents or prefolds.

Good luck on your journey to cloth! It is well worth it in the end!!


  1. Wonderful post! Starting small is the easiest way for most people who can't afford the initial investment. Another idea is using this season's upcoming tax dollars to save more money next year. It's worth it in the end!

  2. Great analysis! I would also say you can get to start up even faster by buying a dozen prefolds for $13 and two plain Bummis covers for $27. It would cost less and save the burden of only having two diapers (You can use the cover more than once as long as it isn't soiled.). Then buy the more expensive, all in one or pocket diapers later. With your calculations, you could even skip the purchase of that first case of disposables, thereby removing any startup cost whatsoever. Or buy a few extra covers to start with.

  3. Great advice! This is definitely something people don't consider and I think its a very valid point. I started with just 3 covers and some prefolds and then got about 5 all in one diapers, then slowly one by one built our stash and added accessories. $20 is one of the more expensive diapers and there are cheaper options. Some people may also be wondering if in 6 months if the baby would grow out of the diapers, but there are one sized diapers that grow with baby. These usually don't work for newborns but from about 10-30+lbs they are great!

  4. I started with 5 Bummis covers and a dozen prefolds. Those diapers (with the addition of another half dozen Bummis covers and another dozen prefolds) diapered 3 children, and some will cover my fourth baby.

    I would never, ever spend $20 for a diaper!

    Still, great analysis!

  5. This is an awesome post. I always assumed you didn't start saving on cloth until the second child! I'm going to bookmark this blog to share with any moms I know that are on the fence about cloth!

  6. LOL - I am an accountant, so I tend to be overly conservative when I figure things out. You can certainly start for a lot less than $20/diaper but I was trying to prove a point. You can get a dozen prefolds and 3 covers for $46 and that would be enough diapers for an entire day. 12 seconds prefolds = $12 and 3 Bummis Super Whisper Wraps OR Thirsties covers for $11.25 each.

  7. My 2 youngest sons were in cloth diapers and occasionally rubber pants. I let them nap on flannel covered rubber sheets in just the cloth. I washed them myself and dried them on a clothes line. They always smelled like sunshine. It is a little more work, with cleaning out the poop and dealing with a diaper pail and extra laundry, but it is worth it. They never had diaper rash and it is very economical.

  8. You can! We knew that we wouldn't have the cash to wait close to the birth to start buying baby stuff, so we started as soon as we found out we were pregnant. Looking for sales or deals, but always being able to eventually find the item we truly wanted at a reasonable price, even if it was something known for attracting 'celebrities'. We had nine months, so we could wait and see what we found, and then compromise on our choices at the end if we couldn't get it cheap. With diapering, we slowly bought used lots on ebay of the cloth diaper's we thought we liked (we don't know yet, the baby hasn't arrived). The baby just poops in them anyway, as long as the diapers were in reasonable condition, I didn't mind because i could wash them. And on ebay you can buy a kam snap press for $30 and do your own repairs, elastic and stitching I could repair as well. We collected slowly over 5 months and probably spent around $500 over that time (so on the average, Id put aside $30 a week to be safe). We have 64 bum genius aios (normally sell new around $20 each) and double the cloth inserts, with other cloth diapering odds and ends here and there. The baby is due any day now. I hope the bum geniuses are good, I liked them because they go from 7 to 35 pounds, so that we wouldn't have to buy again. But I know the drying time on them is longer, so that's why we stocked up. Good luck and have fun. Just do little searches online, daily, to find what you really want and don't rush into buys that are pricey. : )