Don’t Dispose of Your Money When Buying Diapers

by David Ning · 20 comments

Your average infant will wear over 7,000 diapers before toilet trained. That’s a lot of money you are essentially throwing away. If your goal is to save money on diapers, you really should consider using cloth diapers that you wash yourself. If, however, you just can’t imagine doing so, there are other money saving tips I can offer. But first things first, let’s start by looking at cloth.

The Basics of Cloth Diapers and the Cost

Cloth diapers have changed a lot in the last 20 years or so. Unlike in my infancy where you would pin on a strip of bird’s eye fabric and then cover it with plastic pants, today’s cloth diapers are pre-folded, shaped, and are covered with a variety of comfortable, colorful and adjustable wraps.

The initial outlay is greater than with disposable diapers. You will need at least three to four diaper covers per day, and you should have at least twice that number available so covers can be washed and dried. Good quality covers will cost about $20 each.

The diapers can be purchased by the dozen and you will probably go through eight to ten per day. Again, you want enough for at least two days. Prices vary but contoured diapers will cost more than straight ones which run about $20 per dozen. Different sizes can be purchased to accommodate a growing child.

In the end, you can expect to spend about $20-$50 per month while your child is in diapers. This will include your supplies, washing and depreciation. Of course, you can reuse your supplies when the next child comes along, lowering the cost further.

Disposable Diapers Don’t have to be Prohibitive

If you choose to go with disposable diapers, you don’t have to purchase the most expensive brand. Find the cheapest diaper that fits your child well. It really does vary from brand to brand, by the way. A baby with chubby legs will do well with one type of diaper, while one with slender legs will do better in another. Only experimenting will let you know what works for your child.

Once you settle upon a brand, sign up for the company newsletter and coupon e-mails. This may not save you much, but believe me, this is a time when every penny counts.

You can also purchase your selection of diapers in bulk if you search online. A number of websites offer this service and will deliver to your door, free. Generally speaking you will spend about $40-$70 per month on disposable diapers and supplies.

Unfortunately, one of the costs few people consider when using diapers is that of the environmental impact. It is estimated that disposable diapers account for between 1.5-2% of the total volume of landfills worldwide. Additionally, there are significant concerns involved with the waste material leaching into ground waters. These factors are mitigated to some degree with cloth diapering, but that option increases water usage.

There really is no optimal solution one way or another from the environmental perspective. Financially, you pay more for the convenience of disposable diapers, about $20 per month, adding up to $720 over 3 years. Only you can decide if that price is too much to pay for ease.

This is part of the How to Save Money on Everything ebook. Get your free copy by signing up for the free frugal newsletter.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Nancy says:

    $50 a month?. Are they kidding? I can get the easy diapers, all brand new and supplies for like $800-$900. These will last until potty training. So 2-3 years (or up to about 35-40lbs depending on the child). This includes your cloth wipes, diaper sprayer, pail liner, wet bag, etc. And these are the diapers that are no covers, no pins, just snap on. And I have no problem buying used and have before. Just sanitize them. NBD. And if you have a HE machine then washing and drying costs are pretty low. So while in 2 years, you will spend $2,000 + on sposies you will only spend a little over $1k on cloth. That is IF your child potty trains by 2. Good luck on that.

  • JoDe says:

    I buy new and used diapers. Just because I cloth diaper doesn’t mean I don’t have a nice arse washing machine that has a cold water sanitize button. So hmm a diaper that has no stains and is completely sanitized, I bet you wouldn’t know the difference between my used or new dipes. Also there is no way in heck I spend $50 a month diapering my kid. I have spent a whopping $374 on my stash and that’s including wipes which will get my son through potty training. My water bill is maybe $7 more per month since diapering and since I hang dry my diapers and only “fluff” them up for about 15 minutes I’m not paying any more for gas. We just cook less. LOL jk. Also my kids don’t have the disgusting chemicals next to their most sensitive parts.

    To all my fellow CD mama’s Thank You for trying to keep this planet alive for my kiddos.

  • Shannon Macri says:

    I’m 39 and still wear cloth diapers. I just love to go in my diaper instead of wiping my butt. I save alot of trees a year not using toilet paper. GO GLOBAL WARMING.

    • KB2momma says:

      I guess we cloth diaper users (new or used buyers) care a little bit more about whether our children have a planet to grow up on more than we care about whether our kid has a diaper on that may have been used before by another baby.

  • m says:

    Yes cloth diapers have made a comeback. Check diaperpin dot com, that is the most useful website for modern cloth diapers.

  • marci357 says:

    Cloth diapers can be found for pennies at garage sales – $1/dozen for 4 dozen is what I found recently- in great shape. Once bleached and cleaned to your satisfaction, they are good as new. Covers can also be found.

    $10 forever or til they wear out is what I paid altogether for 4 dozen and covers- now that’s Cheap. For a grandchild’s arrival 🙂
    Also can be sewn – patterns available free online many places. Helps if you have old flannel pj’s, or can get them at a rummage bag sale.

    Technically it is illegal to throw disposables into the garbage to be disposed of, unless they have been rinsed out….. as it is human waste and belongs in the sewer or septic system… at least in our area…. Obviously a lot of lawbreaking non-greenies out there who don’t even realize it – and obviously it is not enforced… but that’s a lot of extra unlawful garbage that doesn’t need to add to the land fill problem.

    As a Grandmother, I am still find a use for the cloth diapers – I use them on my swiffer mop 🙂 Then wash them out .

    • Shannon Macri says:

      OMG. You’ll give your kids used diapers? Being frugal is one thing but you’re being cheap. What do you do with the money you save?

      • Only if you buy goodmamas says:

        Once they’re washed they are no different than buying used clothes at a thrift store/garage sale. A lot of parents buy used diapers to use on their kids and then resell them once their kids are out of diapers.

  • Roger says:

    Back in 1993, we were living south of Boston and were fortunate enough to be able to use a diaper service that picked up and delivered that was fantastic. They were a “green” service that provided environmently friendly ointment as part of the service. Because of using cloth and this service, our son never had diaper rash for the first 6 (six.) months of his life – which is why we were bummed when I was transferred to Ohio and there weren’t any diaper services for our other two kids.

  • Mark says:

    I never even knew that cloth diapers still existed. I guess they are making a comeback.

  • Ben Stiller says:

    I remember when I was a kid my mother used cloth diapers for my baby brother; she had two dozens of it and bought new ones whenever some had to be replaced. She kept those cloth diapers and gave it tome when I had my first born. It is still useful and actually lasted for a year and a half. This proves that cloth diapers, although expensive on first time purchase but is cheaper if we are looking at its usefulness.

  • Jill says:

    I feel like no matter what the cost of diapers is like, whether it is in the form of water or disposables, it is like any other normal cost that you have in your life once you decide to have children. I do like how you can go to different sites to sign up for coupons, but I definitely try to use generic as long as my little one doesn’t have a negative reaction to it. I would consider cloth, but cloth is only worth it in areas where using the amount of water it takes to keep them clean is not in dire straits. You have to balance water usage for your area vs landfills, to determine what would have the least environmental impact.

  • We’re thinking about cloth diapers too. I like the environment friendly aspect, but we will need a diaper service. Our washing machine is shared and I don’t think our condo mates would like to deal with the cloth diapers…

  • KM says:

    There is an option that both saves money and is environmentally friendly: natural infant hygiene. The one thing it doesn’t save is time since it’s time consuming to learn your baby’s signals of when he needs to go. I have to admit I didn’t have much of that in the beginning, but as things are getting easier and I know his signals better, I am starting to use that method. It’s quite convenient, actually. All you use is wipes and the occasional diaper in case you miss something.

    • Darwin says:

      I agree. Both of our kids went diaper free from a very early age – maybe six months old, maybe earlier. Very, very rare for them to miss. A handful of times total. Also, you’d be surprised how many places make restrooms available (even places that don’t have a restroom for the public), when the needy party is a little kid.

  • debt free daniel says:

    We spent a lot of money just for disposable diapers until somebody suggested the use of cloth diapers. more economical. plus we don’t add up to the worsening case of global warming. it is also more comfortable for babies since it is breathable.

  • Dominique @Dominique's Desk says:

    We don’t have cloth diaper services here where I live and with 3 kids and no helpers (grandparents or maids) I’ve been using disposable for my 2mth old as newborns use more the diaper costs about $30 per month.. Cloth diapers maybe cheaper and more environmental friendly but the more modern type really take a long time to wash(added water and electricity costs) and can easily set you back by $500 or more as initial investment.

    • Only if you buy goodmamas says:

      I have cloth diapered two children from birth to potty training and have spent a whopping $250 total (for five years). That’s a whopping $4.17 per month, per child. The diapers are sitting in a bin waiting for baby number three to arrive which depending on how long that baby wears the diapers, it will bring the monthly cost even lower. Once I’m finished with the diapers I have the option of reselling them or repurposing them into something else. No landfills clogged with diapers that will take hundreds of years to break down.

      • Only if you buy goodmamas says:

        Forgot to add, no grandparents or maids here either. They don’t take that long to wash/dry. I worked full time and went to school full time and washing and drying them took as long as one regular load of clothes.

  • Coach Kip says:

    We have a new born and we subscribe to a diaper service called smile mommy. It is great. We get cloth diapers every week that are clean and in good shape along with covers, burp cloths, and wipes. When a diaper is soiled all we do is throw it in a bin and they come buy and pick it up once a week. We don’t clean anything, dispose of anything in the dump, and it is easy as can be. We love it.

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