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7 tips to save money on cloth diapers.

thMy most recent post on Money Talks News is “How to pay bottom dollar for diapers.” I was startled to see how much people can spend to cover their babies’ butts: anywhere from $1,900 to $2,500.

Myself, I used cloth diapers and highly recommend that route, especially since the diapers have gotten much better. They’re prefolded like disposables, so you just tuck them into covers (no more plastic pants). In fact, they’re so well-made that they have resale value after Junior gets toilet-trained.

That bonus is part of the reason that Kerry Taylor at the Squawkfox personal finance site says she spent only about $550 for her daughter’s didies. That includes the initial purchase, the extra utility costs (she washed nappies every other day) and a butt-friendly detergent.

I can go her one better: I paid $2.99 per dozen for cloth diapers when my daughter was born. Believe it or not, they were “slightly irregular.” Yes, I bought factory seconds.

What’s more, for 15 months I washed the diapers by hand on a scrub-board, because as a broke and exhausted single mom in Philly I could afford neither the time nor the money to go to the laundromat. I hope none of you are ever that hard up.

Cloth diapers really aren’t as awful as people think. Yes, there’s a bit of an “ick” factor but let’s face it: If you have a baby, you are going to have to touch some poop even if you use disposables.

So how to save money on cloth didies? So glad you asked.

1. Buy them at consignment stores. Parents like Kerry are doing a butt dance of their own after their kids are toilet-trained – and they want to make back some of the money they spent. Definitely cheaper than the first-run, as it were.

2. Buy directly from other parents. Look on a parenting board, check Craigslist, put it out in the universe when you’re expecting.

3. Buy them with rewards points. Cash in from rewards credit cards or the MyPoints or Swagbucks programs.

4. Get a diaper service. This is surprisingly affordable in some areas; check the National Diaper Service Directory for options in your area.

5. Use a combination of cloth and disposables. Cassie and Alex Michael, aka “The Thrifty Couple,” use cloth at home and paper when they go out.

6. Make your own. Do a search for “how to make prefold diapers.” Then do another search for “how to make diaper covers.” People are making such items from yard-sale flannel sheets, thrift-store sweaters (which get felted) and all sorts of other thrifty things.

7. Try the “no-diaper” movement. Also known as “Elimination Communication,” this greatly reduces the number of diapers you use. Some parents say they don’t use any at all.

If you’re using cloth, some parents (like Alex and Cassie Michael) swear by a “diaper sprayer” to attach to the toilet. This lets you rinse off the solids instead of doing it the old-school way of sousing the diaper in the toilet and then wringing it out. That method is not much fun. Trust me on this.

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17 Comments

  1. Had to laugh at your last comment. One of my favorite stories about my Mom is that Dad came upon her in the bathroom, doing the souse-the-diaper thing and bawling her eyes out. “What’s wrong, honey?” he asked. “I’m tired of being the middleman for a ball of $hit!” she wailed.
    Of course, this was in the ’50s — there WERE no disposables!

    • Donna Freedman

      My grandmother was the oldest girl in a big family. She told me that whenever she winced at dunking diapers (her siblings’ or her own kids’), she was told that it was good for her hands.
      “If that’s true then I should have had the nicest hands in the world,” she snorted.

      • And speaking of old wives’ tales that get passed down…..when I had my babies in the ’70s an older woman, in her 70s, told me that you should wipe the urine soaked diaper on the baby’s face after you take it off of them. She swore it gave them beautiful skin.

        Needless to say I was horrified and did no such thing.

  2. Carolina Cooper

    For my first 2 children, my Dad gave me a gift of the diaper delivery service. We were in Philly then, and disposables had just come out. I remember the sign on the back of the diaper service truck which said,
    “Would you put your husband in paper underpants?” Ha!
    Since Dad believed that NO ONE should have more than 2 children (though he had 3) he did not provide diaper service for my following 3 children. I washed those diapers in the washing machine—and lived to tell the tale (no pun intended).

    • Donna Freedman

      Hey, I washed quite a few in the sink and neither of us died. Not once.
      It’s a different mindset these days, just as it is with eating so many meals out: Although it costs a lot more than doing these things at home, people seem to have the expectation.
      I know that some people simply will not use cloth diapers, or cook consistently. Those are their choices, but they need to make those choices with a clear-eyed look at the bottom (ahem) line: If you routinely spend three or four times as much on food or diapers than you need to spend, it will have a definite impact on your budget.
      End of lecture. Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

      • Carolina Cooper

        Yo, Donna. Ya’ preachin’ to da choir. We are on the same page. As an aside, and not exactly on topic, but in my day (the ’60s) most Dads did not change diapers, and certainly not if they wrote for the Inky!

  3. Most people throw out disposable diapers–contents and all. This is terrible for our landfills/environment. One is really supposed to flush the solids down the toilet–making cloth no more “yukky” than disposables.

    We used cloth on two kids and I figure that cloth diapers plus breast feeding (and I worked full time–it can be done) provided the beginnings of their college funds.

    I am quite passionate on the topic and hope I get some grandchildren so I can gift them with some cloth diapers!

  4. Yvonne Wilder

    We spent about $250 dollars on diapers, covers and a diaper genie (the sprayer that made diaper cleaning SO MUCH easier) when my first child was born. We used those same diapers for three kids and sold them for $40 on Craig’s List afterwards to a very thankful buyer. When the first diaper sprayer went bad during kid #2, we went to the plumbing supply store, told the guy what we were hoping to achieve, and he sleuthed out all the parts we needed – only $8 instead of $50 for that diaper genie! Cloth diapering is definitely the way to go, especially since those cloth diapers feel wet and uncomfortable once used and encourage those little cuties to start using the potty around age 2!

    • Donna Freedman

      I used the diapers for years as cleaning cloths, once it became obvious (to me, anyway) that I wasn’t having any more children. They’re also great for waxing cars, I hear.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  5. Thanks for the link! I would totally encourage anyone to do part-time elimination communication. It’s totally addicting and boy does it save money (and diaper rash). We actually use a combination of ec, cloth, and disposables, using whatever is easiest at the time. And EC means a LOT less of having to clean poo off a bottom. Pooing becomes a one quick wipe job. So much less disgusting.

    There’s a small learning curve with EC, but nowhere near as big as we’d thought it would be, and it’s smaller the earlier you start. Babies really do have to be trained to use diapers. Part-time means whenever it gets to be a hassle, you just stick on a diaper.

    • Donna Freedman

      We did something like this with my niece, way back in 1973. A sub-par babysitter left her in wet diapers a lot and she developed a nasty rash. My mom thought it would do her good to lie around without a diaper. Then she thought, “Why NOT put her on the potty?”
      People scoffed, but my niece very quickly picked up on the “pee here, not there.” For some reason I spaced this when I was a mom myself, five years later. Maybe I was too tired to remember. But it’s a cinch that the child-care center wouldn’t have gone along with it anyway.

      • The beauty of part time ec is that it can be done at home but not at daycare. Though I gotta say we’re really happy that dc2’s new daycare potties the toddlers.

        • Donna Freedman

          I guess that back then, as an overwhelmed 21-year-old single mom, it didn’t occur to me to think outside the box. Or the diaper pail.

          • We didn’t realize it could be done p/t until we read The Diaper Free Baby, which was published a long time after you were 21. We’d heard of it, but thought it had to be all or nothing, and we certainly couldn’t do all.

  6. spiralingsnails

    Another tip is that if you want to buy new diapers then 1) research & choose your kind early, 2) learn which sites sell them, and 3) be very very patient. We use BumGenius diapers and for the last several years they have usually done a Buy-5-Get-1-Free sale for a couple weeks in the spring & the fall. When you’re buying two dozen diapers @ $18 each (& two years later you need another batch of two dozen since you’ll have two in diapers) that can really add up to some savings!

  7. Cloth diapers are the best! Even when you go expensive, you beat the costs of disposable. I would probably save even more money if I didn’t think they were so darn cute, and buy more than I need.

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