Saving money on diapers is essential for most parents. It’s one of the few aspects of our budgets that we can change.
As a mom of 5, I have changed my share of diapers, but I have a unique history of using both disposable diapers and cloth. So here I am going to lay out everything you need to know about saving money on diapers!
I loved my experiences with cloth because it saved us a ton of money. On average, it can save you $1,000 – $2,000 from birth to potty training. And the best part was that I NEVER had to make a midnight run to get diapers.
Are Cloth Diapers Right for Your Family?
There are several things you need to consider to evaluate cloth diapering and its fit for your family.
- You need access to a reliable washer. Most washers will work, even laundromat or manual washers.
- You need to use a commercial detergent. Homemade detergents don’t work. End of story.
- You need to know your water’s hardness score. Explained below.
- You need a place to dry your diapers.
Hard water has minerals like calcium or iron dissolved in it. While these minerals are delicious, they can leave stains on tubs (iron laced water stains red), clog thin lines, and build up in your diapers causing stink and repelling.
This score is important because if your water is moderately or very hard, you will have to add a water softener (like borax, washing soda [NOT Baking soda], or Calgon) in order to properly clean them. While these additives aren’t expensive, they can strain a budget.
For mildly hard water, you will be limited to either powdered detergents (which contain softeners) or adding softeners with liquid detergents.
Commercial detergents are required to clean diapers.
Weak detergents like Sun require much more detergent than strong ones like Gain or Tide. Plant-based detergents work, too, but you may need to use more than recommended on the bottle.
I never recommend homemade detergents because they don’t clean. Soap is not the same as detergent on a chemical level. Please leave me a comment if you’d like to hear more on this!
If you still think cloth is a good choice, next you need to decide how often you want to wash.
To properly clean diapers, you must wash them twice. A short prewash to remove any debris and flatten the cloth to facilitate movement of water and detergent all the way through the cloth. This wash needs detergent. The second wash is long and needs up to 3x the recommended amount of detergent. I recommend washing twice every week making for a total of 4 wash cycles and 2 dryer cycles.
Here is why this is important: washing less often keeps the water and electricity bills from going up but requires more up front investment in diapers. Washing everyday, as some people do, can make a difference on those bills, depending on how much energy and water costs in your area. It can also increase detergent costs.
Update: I first wrote this article in 2018 and had been cloth diapers since 2014. With my last born in 2019, I decided to use disposables and saw absolutely no change on my water or electric bill.
Saving Money on Diapers: Disposables
Disposable diapers are amazing. When I was having my last child, I immediately knew I needed to use disposable diapers to take some pressure off of me. It was like breathing a bit easier.
So here is a list of tips I have, in no particular order.
First, brand matters. I have used disposables during travel, illnesses, etc, and have used brand name and off brand including the cheapest of the cheap. I have used Best Choice ($2/package of 27 newborn) and was surprised! They were cute, sturdy, and absorbent. So, my advice is experiment with brands and see which you like.
When you find it, and it’s brand name, don’t panic.
- Join their rewards program. Many diaper companies have them and will also send you coupons.
- Buy in bulk. Diapers don’t ruin and can be easily stored. If your child outgrows them before they are gone, try selling unopened packs on Facebook Marketplace.
- Use coupons. The secret to getting a really good deal is saving your coupons until the diapers go on sale, then using them. For instance, let’s say your brand is $9 regularly. It’s on sale for $7 and you use a coupon for $1/off. You just saved $3 and you get the $9 package for $6! My local dollar store prints a coupon on every receipt for $5/off a $25 purchase which can be used on these purchases. So let’s say you buy 5 packages of diapers at the sale price of $7 (7*5=$35). You have a $1 off coupon for each package and a $5 off store coupon from the last receipt. $$35-7=28-5= $23. 7 packs of diapers for $23 is just over $3/package.
- Look on Facebook MarketPlace and Craigslist. People have extra diapers that they often sell after their child has outgrown them. Couponers will also sell at discounts. Only buy unopened packages. Do not buy *Comfees* brand as these are WIC and other public program diapers. Unused portions are supposed to be returned to the WIC office.
- Ask for diapers of all sizes on your baby registry (whether it’s for your first and your Baby Shower or your 15th and your “Beer and Diapers Party”).
Please add any tips you have in the comments below!