Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saving $$ Makes Sense!

Raising children is expensive business, and they say that the younger years will seem cheap once you have a tween who desires an mp3 player and the coolest new shoes! I didn’t want finances to be the reason my husband and I didn’t start a family, and for me cloth diapering has been a gateway into the world of frugal living. I know that there are sometimes questions raised about the validity of the claim that cloth diapering is cheaper than disposable. People cite the fact that you have to pay to wash the diapers, and that some diapers can get so pricey per unit. I decided to hash out the math and try to figure out the realistic prices for a few options. I used Amazon dot com and Target dot com for the disposable diapers, and Diaper Junction dot com for cloth and accessories. Assuming an average span of two years until potty training (which, let’s face it, is sometimes a lot longer!), these are my findings. I think they’ll speak for themselves!

I am comparing the cost of Pampers diapers, because they are commonly used, readily available, and somewhat average in price (usually around 20 to 24 cents per diaper). For the disposable diaper cost totals, I assumed the following usage:

Month 1-2: 12 diapers per day, 720 diapers total

Months 3-6: 10 diapers per day, 1200 diapers total

Months 7-12: 8 diapers per day, 1440 diapers total

Year 2: 8 diapers per day, 2880 diapers total

If you rely on a brick-and-mortar store like Target, or even if you use their online store, you might not realize how much extra you are spending on disposable diapers over time. I found Pampers Swaddlers in size 1 with 180 diapers per package for months 1-2; Pampers Cruisers size 4 with 140 diapers per package for months 3-6; and Pampers Baby Dry size 6 with 112 diapers per package for 7 months through 2 years. (I realize that the sizing isn’t perfectly aligned, but I chose what I thought would be an average purchase since every baby will grow through sizes at different rates.) These are the cost results for Target:

Month 1-2: 4 packages = $167.96

Months 3-6: 8 packages = $318.96

Months 7-12: 13 packages = $467.87

Year 2: 26 packages = $935.74

Target Total cost = $1890.53

Amazon offers somewhat significant savings, especially when you join Amazon Prime or Amazon Mom and find coupon codes. Using the same frequencies, I considered the cost for Pampers Sensitive Swaddlers in size 1, 180 count, for months 1 and 2; Pampers Cruisers with DryMax in size 3, 204 count, for months 3-6; and Pampers Baby Dry size 6, 128 count, for months 7 through 24.

Month 1-2: 4 packages = $158.16

Months 3-6: 6 packages = $245.28

Months 7-12: 11 packages = $449.68

Year 2: 23 packages = $940.24

Amazon Total cost = $1793.36

Now let’s look at the costs for two different types of cloth diapers. We’ll consider the overall cost of prefolds and covers, which are usually considered the cheapest option available. We’ll also look at the cost of an All-In-One one-size diapering package, which is known to be a pricier option- though many parents like AIOs for their ease of use and similarity to disposables in form and function. I used Diaper Junction dot com for the costs of the following cloth diapering options.

An AIO package is a good way to save money if you feel attracted to one particular type of diaper. The GroVia 24 diaper package allows for washing every 2 days. Because the diapers are one-size, they should fit from the newborn stage through potty training. (Some very small newborns will need to use special newborn-sized diapers for the first few weeks.) While each GroVia AIO costs about $22, the 24 diaper package brings the unit cost down to $20.45 per diaper, for a total of $490.80. When you consider that each diaper will probably be used about 15 times per month, you can calculate that the cost of one of these diapers per use will be only $0.056 over two years!

Prefolds and covers can be easy to use and so economical. I considered the Diaper Rite prefolds and covers packages, which come in four different sizes. Each package includes 24 prefolds and 4 covers, which is enough to wash every 2 days. If you were to purchase this package in newborn, small, medium, and large sizes, your total cost for diapering from birth through potty learning would be $353.80.

Of course we must factor in the cost of the extras required for cloth diapering to get a realistic and fair look at the total costs involved. If you purchase three wetbags- 2 pail liners and one for the diaper bag- you can expect to spend about $40. (Mine cost $30.50 for 2 GroVia pail liners, and $11.50 for one Bummis zippered wetbag.) A simple push-top trash can can be found for about $10 online or at a local store.

If you choose basic Tide original powder, you can expect to spend about $67 over a two-year period. (Amazon has two 120-load boxes for only $44.73!) Utilities will differ based upon your location, and whether you use warm water or cold water for your wash. Assuming three cycles per washing day, you will do about 1080 wash cycles in 2 years. With an average cost of $0.14 per load with cold water, you will spend about $150 in 2 years. Using warm water cycles will set you back about $345 in the same amount of time.

Altogether, the cost for extras should fall between $270 and $465 over your child’s two years in diapers. This adds up to an overall cost between $624 and $819 for prefolds and covers. AIOs will total approximately $761 to $955.

A few additional considerations I’d like to address:

  • In some areas, garbage costs will increase your overall cost to use disposable diapers.
  • While some people are hesitant to use so much water to wash the diapers, the fact is that water is a renewable resource that can be filtered and reused after it leaves your drain pipes.
  • The alternative is in excess of 6,240 disposable diapers per child sitting in landfills for possibly hundreds of years, usually unable to decompose because they do not get direct sunlight to encourage the process.
  • Because cloth may be reused for multiple children, you stand to increase your savings exponentially with each additional child.

The bottom line? The minimum amount of money you stand to save, using the examples I’ve presented, is about $838.00- the cheaper Amazon disposable cost versus the more expensive AIO with warm water washing. If you consider the difference between going to Target for your diapers and choosing prefolds and covers with cold water washes, you’re looking at savings of over $1266.00! I don’t know about you, but I would rather go on a great vacation with my son than spend that money on something I’m going to throw away!


  1. Thanks for this, helps me justify the $$$ of my AIO's.

  2. Glad it helped, MommaDonna! It made me feel better as I was researching and calculating, that is certain!