Plenty of families choose cloth diapers for environmental or health reasons. But for many families, the high cost of disposable diapers is a big motivation to switch to cloth. The truth is, cloth diapers are cheap. Even if you buy new, name-brand, all-in-one diapers, they’re still cheaper than disposables. In fact, you can save $600 to $1000 even if you’re using the most expensive cloth diapers available. Tack on another $1,600 in savings for every child you raise that uses the same set of diapers, and it quickly becomes apparent that you can save a lot of money by using cloth.
However, a family that’s diapering on a budget will often be taken aback when they realize how much the initial investment of cloth can be. The cost of disposables is spread out over time (and often hidden within your grocery bill); the cost of cloth is almost entirely up front. If you want to cloth diaper on the cheap, here’s how to get started.
1. Choose prefolds and covers. Fancy cloth diapers such as all-in-ones or pockets are more expensive because you need a separate diaper for every change. Most families will want around 12 to 20 diapers per child. But buying just 12 diapers at around $18 each (the average cost of a pocket diaper) costs you $216–and you’ll have to wash every day. Prefolds, however, cost around $2 each, so you can get 12 for $24. Add four waterproof covers at $11.50 each, and you can be ready to cloth diaper for a mere $70 investment.
2. Buy used cloth diapers. You can find local used cloth diapers on craigslist and on Atlanta Cloth. Or if you want lots of selection, search on diaper swappers, the online clearinghouse for cloth diapers. If the thought of preused diapers grosses you out, then look for seconds on diaper manufacturer websites.
3. Practice elimination communication. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of going “diaper free”; start out part time and see if you can avoid one diaper change a day. The more time you can stretch between diaper washes, the more money you’ll save in water and electricity. When your baby first wakes up in the morning, hold him over the toilet (for newborns) or sit him on a little potty (for older babies) and give him the opportunity to pee. Every diaper you save means one less diaper to wash, which will save you money in the long run. Also, the less wear and tear you give your diapers, the higher their resell value will be.
4. Resell your diapers when you’re done with them. Take good care of them and use only recommended detergents so they’ll keep their value. Used cloth diapers in good condition with no stains or rips will often sell for 50 to 70% of the new purchase price, so if you bought them used to begin with, you might be able to get back most or all of the money you spent on them.