How to Afford Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers will save you money, sure – you’ll spend $2,000-2,500 on disposable diapers for one baby birth to potty, and only $100-600 on cloth diapers for the same time period.  But it can be hard to come up with that chunk of change to get started cloth diapering, especially since you won’t fully recoup your costs for weeks or months of not buying disposable diapers.

Before I go any further, I want to say something to the moms out there reading this who truly do not have any wiggle room in the family budget to implement any of these ideas.  To the moms who think, “If I read one more ‘saving money’ article about cutting down to only basic cable or giving up my daily Starbucks, I’m going to scream.”  I’ve been there, a lot of us have, where you are just trying to figure out how to pay rent AND buy food.  Jen Labit, founder of Cottonbabies and inventor of BumGenius, started cloth diapering  so she wouldn’t have to choose between diapers and groceries.  There are organizations out there that provide cloth diaper layettes for low-income families, so please contact one of them.  They are there to help.  For locals to Dallas and Fort Worth, there is the DFW Cloth Diaper Project (  Another one I know of is Giving Diapers, Giving Hope (  If you know of any others, please share in the comments!

Here are some other ideas:

If you are currently pregnant, estimate how much you would be spending on disposable diapers once the baby is born.  To do this, select which brand of diapers you want to use and divide the package cost by the number of diapers in the package.  This gives you your cost per diaper, which will probably be around $0.17-0.25.  Multiply this number by 10 (estimated number of diaper changes per 24-hour period), then by 30 (number of days in a month).  This number will be how much you will spend on disposable diapers in a month.  If you want, add in the cost of disposable wipes – figure that you will use 1 wipe per diaper on average and do the math the same way.  So for example if you want to use diapers that are 25 cents each, 25 x 10 x 30 = $75 per month spent on disposable diapers (not including wipes).  Start setting that amount aside now each month before your baby is born.  If you’re currently 4 months pregnant and have 5 months to go, that means that by the time your baby is born you’ll have $375 saved up for cloth diapers – which will buy quite a nice stash of one-size diapers!

Also, Baby Showers are a great way to get help building your cloth diaper stash.  Don’t just ask for cloth diapers though, or people will get you Gerber burp cloths and safety pins.  Specify which brand you want, or use Amazon’s Universal Registry feature to add products from our online store ( directy to your registry.  Another option is to request gift cards ( that you can then use to purchase whatever you most need for your stash.  It may take a little convincing your friends and family that YES, you REALLY DO want cloth diapers, so make sure they know that is what you really, really want, or you will not get them.  People like to buy what they are familiar with and may not realize just how helpful a cloth diaper gift would be.

If you are crafty at all, you can DIY cloth diapers with varying levels of sophistication.  If you are not very crafty, you can cut rectangles of cotton towels with pinking shears (the zigzag scissors, this is to reduce fraying) or fold flannel receiving blankets.  You want the finished product – piece of towel folded in thirds or receiving blanket folded multiple times – to be the right size to lay inside a diaper cover.  You will have to buy the cover, unless you can make them out of PUL, velcro, and elastic.  If you are a little more handy with a sewing machine or a needle and thread, you can sew yourself an entire stash.  This was the first diaper I made, a Rita’s Rump Pocket. It’s a stuffable fitted diaper made with flannel and stuffed with whatever absorbent insert you want.  There are also instructions there (or links to instructions) for making pull-on fleece covers for a buck or less.  You can use the same pattern that makes a fleece cover to make an upcycled wool cover too – just find a wool sweater from a thrift store and cut it like fabric!  Here is another fun link for sewing a diaper stash for $30 or less made from old tshirts:

Buy Used. Craigslist is my favorite source for used diapers because I can see and touch them before buying.  Other sources are, DFW Cloth Diaper Group, and the gently used section at Babies Bottoms and More (in store only).


Start Slowly.  While it is certainly easier to make the switch from disposables to cloth all at once, there’s no rule that you have to do it that way.   When we first started cloth diapering, we had about 8 diapers… between 2 babies!  I would wash the diapers every night, so we would start fresh in the morning with cloth diapers.  We’d use the cloth till we ran out, which was usually right after lunch.  Then we’d use disposables for the rest of the day until I could wash the cloth again that night.  This meant that we were going through only half as many diapers, so I had to buy them half as often.  When the time came that I would normally buy diapers, I found that I still had some left, so I took the $50 I would have spent on diapers and bought more cloth diapers.  $50 can buy approximately 18-24 prefold diapers, or 9-12 diapers and 2 covers, or 2-3 pocket diapers or all-in-one’s.   After 4-6 weeks of doing this, we had saved enough money by not buying disposables to fill out our full stash of cloth diapers.  All savings after this went directly into our wallet!  Here’s how to start cloth part time.

Get 6 prefolds ($12 for 7-14 lbs, $15 for 14-30 lbs )

And 2 covers (Econobum one-size for $8.95 each or Thirsties Duo Wraps for $12.75 each

A pack of Snappis ($5.75 per pair

While you’re there, add a free sample of detergent, flushable diaper liners, or cloth wipes to your cart:

Your total cost will be between $35.65 and $46.25.  This  is 6 diaper changes.  Each day that you use 6 cloth diaper changes you save between $1.02 and $1.50 (depending on the cost of your disposable diapers.  If you use all-natural diapers your savings will be even greater with cloth!) Within a week, you could save 10.50.  Within a month, you could save $45 – congratulations, you’ve recouped your costs already!

If you have any more good links to free diaper-making patterns or tutorials, please share in the comments!


Cheap Diapers

(Advance warning: please excuse me.  I have just discovered and have had way too much fun with it.  Hence all the pictures in this post.)

I am not one to spend a lot of money on fancy name-brand things.  100% of the furniture in our house, with the exception of our recliner and our mattress, is from either craigslist or Ikea.  I LOOOOVE shopping at thrift stores – the people at Goodwill recognize me.  Store brand groceries make total sense to me – why pay more for a fancy label, right?  So it may come as a surprise to you when I say that shoes and diapers are two things I will definitely spend more money on for a quality brand.  Shoes, because I had foot surgery in college and there are very few shoes I can wear comfortably – so once I find a brand that is comfortable and lasts for years, I stick with it.  (Shout out to Chaco sandals here, I love you Chaco! – just bought my second pair.  My first pair lasted for 8 1/2 years.)

So why does it make sense to spend a little more on diapers to get a reputable brand?

1.  Diapers are a highly functional item.  For decorative items, the quality really doesn’t matter that much.  The $9 polyester curtains in my room from Anna’s Linens serve two functions: hang there and look pretty, and block light.  They do both jobs just as well as the $150 curtains from the department store.  There’s really no such thing as “wear and tear” on curtains, and if they fall apart the first time I wash them, well, $9 over 2 years, still cheaper than the department store.  But diapers are another story.  Cloth diapers, ahem, have to put up with a lot of crap!  They get washed in HOT water every 2-3 days for 2+ years.  Then sunned.  Sometimes soaked.  If you put a tshirt through this wash routine it would fall apart.  Then when on your baby, diapers have a job to do.  If the elastic on your pants gets a little stretched out, well, you wear a belt.  If a snap on your shirt pops open, you stick a safety pin in it and call it a day.  But if this happens with a diaper while on a baby, you could have a lot of mess and a lot of frustration on your hands.

2. Design Matters.  To use the curtain analogy again, there’s not much too curtains.  Basically you need a sheet of fabric with a hole on top to slide a rod through, and they should be long-ish enough to be on or near the floor.  If they’re 2 inches too short, it’s not a catastrophe. Unless you’re on an HDTV show or something.  But with a diaper, what if the insert is a little too short?  So your little boy pees right over the top of it and the diaper leaks?  What if the “one-size” diaper you bought doesn’t adjust small enough to fit a baby smaller than 6 months?  What if the manufacturer tried to skimp on fabric costs and made a slightly smaller diaper that your baby outgrows at a year old?

3. Warranty, warranty, warranty.  Most name-brand diapers offer a warranty.  Cottonbabies (BumGenius) offers a 1 year warranty on all of its BumGenius, Flip, and Econobum products.  Fuzzibunz offers a LIFETIME warranty on the snaps and PUL (waterproofing)!  What this means is that if your diaper experiences a warranty issue within the warranty period, you send it back to the company and they will REPAIR or REPLACE it for free.  Some companies, like Thirsties, will even send you a prepaid envelope for you to send the defective diaper back to them so the only effort on your part is literally picking up the phone to call them.  Why should you be worried about warranty issues?  Well, diapermaking is an art, not a science.  Sometimes the lamination wasn’t fully fused to the polyester outer, sometimes the snaps weren’t pressed on tightly enough, sometimes the thread or the elastic has a weak spot that will break under pressure.  And none of these flaws can be seen until the diaper has been used, and washed, and washed and used some more.  And more often than not, a warranty claim leaves you better off than when you started.  For example, I had a BumGenius Elemental that was 10 months old and the elastic came out of one side.  I sent it to BumGenius and they sent me a brand new Elemental.  Trading an old diaper for a new one, for free?  Sign me up!

4. Resale Value.  As you probably already know, there is a huge market for used cloth diapers and an entire website ( dedicated to buying and selling used diapers.  Sometimes parents sell their child’s diapers after the baby is potty trained, but sometimes also it’s when they start to like a particular style better than others – moving more into natural fibers, for example, and getting rid of polyester.  Well known brands will have a much higher resale value than the cheap brands.  The $5 diapers on ebay?  Frequently the only resale value is “free for shipping.”

Now of course we are all budget-minded, that’s probably one of the factors that led you to consider cloth diapers.  The good news is that there are many different systems of cloth diapers within the reputable brands made with quality materials, smart design, a good warranty, and decent resale value.  For example, with BumGenius products alone you can go with a $100 “birth-to-potty” Econobum kit, or on the other end of the spectrum you can spend nearly $600 on a stash of 24 organic all-in-one’s with accessories.  But all of them give you the same quality and peace of mind, because let’s face it, it’s a horrible feeling to spend money on a “bargain” and then have it fall apart and have to buy it all over again because there wasn’t a warranty.

Next time I hope to write about diapering on a budget, ways to stretch your dollar when building your stash and to make the upfront cost of cloth diapering less painful.