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 (http://www.dfwclothdiaperproject.org/). Another one I know of is Giving Diapers, Giving Hope (http://www.givingdiapersgivinghope.org/). 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 (www.babiesbottomsandmore.com) directy to your registry. Another option is to request gift cards (http://babiesbottomsandmore.com/giftcard.html) 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. http://handmadebyrita.blogspot.com/2007/10/classic-rrp-ritas-rump-pocket-pattern.html 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: http://fernandfaerie.com/frugaldiapering.html.
Buy Used. Craigslist is my favorite source for used diapers because I can see and touch them before buying. Other sources are DiaperSwappers.com, 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 http://babiesbottomsandmore.com/infpfd.html, $15 for 14-30 lbs http://babiesbottomsandmore.com/thirstiespremcottonprefoldsbaby.html )
A pack of Snappis ($5.75 per pair http://babiesbottomsandmore.com/sncldifa.html).
While you’re there, add a free sample of detergent, flushable diaper liners, or cloth wipes to your cart: http://babiesbottomsandmore.com/freesample.html
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!