One of the most popular reasons to cloth diaper is to save money. Depending on which still of diapers you choose – and which disposable diapers you are replacing – you can save from $1,500-2,000 or more per baby by using cloth diapers. That is a pretty big savings. Putting it a bit differently, what could your family do with an extra $20 every week if you did not have to buy diapers?
One of the big objection I hear about cloth diapers is that there is an initial startup cost of $150-500. Some families say even that is too much for them. I understand, our family has been through some rough times financially as well. Cloth diapering on the cheap is possible!
Here are some ideas to help you get started cloth diapering on a budget – or how to get started cloth diapering affordably.
* Start with cheaper options. No one actually needs a $30 diaper, no matter how cute or rare the print. While the $20 diapers are simple to use and usually well-made, you can certainly have a great cloth-diapering experience with less expensive options. For under $100 you can get 24 infant cloth diapers, 4 high-quality diaper covers, and a diaper fastener in a prefold cloth diaper package. That is a full stash of diapers for the first 6-9 months for less than $17 a month.
Better yet, those diapers will likely last through a second child. A full stash of diapers for the next 2 years or so will cost you about $150 – or $6.25 per month. Need something even cheaper? Bummis offers a cloth diaper starter kit for under $30 with 3 cloth diapers and a cover. Start with replacing 3 diaper changes per day and you’ll save close to $1 a day.
You can get a full stash of one size cloth diapers for under $100 if you use flat diapers or Econobum ($100 for 24 one size diapers – or $3.33 a month for 2 1/2 years!). Bummis pull on covers are also very economical and a dozen flat diapers, a Snappi and 4 pull on covers will cost you less than $50.
* Evaluate your priorities. For many families, the money is there – they just prefer to spend it on other items. If you really want to save money with cloth diapers, you may be able to find the money by buying fewer unnecessary baby items or finding cheaper options. A $50 diaper bag instead of the $150 diaper bag gives you $100 towards your goal of cloth diapering. While there are thousands of items sold for babies, you really only need a safe place for them to sleep, a way to keep them warm, a way to feed them, a safe car seat, and a way to diaper them. A lot of the other stuff is just extras!
I sometimes see families with an expensive name-brand diaper bag, overpriced stroller, and tons of useless baby gadgets complaining that they can’t afford cloth diapers. While it is true that many families struggle with cloth diaper startup costs, often the money is there if you rearrange some priorities. Buy the cloth diapers first, then use the savings to get the other items you want if you still feel the need.
* Invest in quality! Don’t waste your money on Chinese cheapie knock-off diapers. Good diapers last and you can feel good about diapering your baby with sustainable and ethical diapering options.
* Buy a few at a time. If you buy one cute cloth diaper every two weeks during your pregnancy, you’ll have a really nice stash of quality cloth diapers by the time your baby arrives. You can also take advantage of cloth diaper layaway options or start by buying a half dozen diapers and adding to your stash each pay day. There are many ways to build a cloth diaper stash without putting all the money out at once. Also, don’t forget about your baby registry! Most cloth diaper stores offer a baby registry. Encourage your family and friends to buy you what you need instead of something you may not even use.
* Buy used. If you can’t afford cloth diapers any other way, consider buying used. Just be careful of the source. Check used diapers for ruined elastic, loose snaps, and other problems before purchasing them. Wash used diapers several times before using them to be sure they are free of residues and anything else you don’t want on your baby.
* Make your own. I consider this a last-resort option because it can turn out to be just as expensive as buying good diapers if you are not really careful to keep costs down. Learning to sew good diapers is not hard, but there is a learning curve. Buy quality materials and get a good pattern – don’t try to save a couple of dollars and waste your time creating diapers that are unusable. You can buy PUL online (the waterproof stuff) (try PUL at Fabric.com or PUL at Joann.com, or my store http://www.SewClothDiapers.com) or you may be able to find it locally at Joann craft stores. I have heard both really bad and really good things about the Babyville PUL sold at Joann. If you buy it from them, wash it several times before you use it to be sure that it does not delaminate. If it comes apart, they will only refund if it has not yet been cut.
Making prefolds will cost you about as much as buying them unless you use nearly free materials, so your time is best spent on making fitted or pocket diapers if you are buying the materials.
You can use recycled materials for cloth diapers as long as you wash them well to remove any detergent or fabric softener residue. Old t-shirts, flannel sheets or receiving blankets all make good absorbent materials. Wool sweaters can become diaper covers.