When people talk about cloth diapers, many people think about the environmental benefits in using them. What only some people think of is how much money one can save using cloth!
Disposable diapers can cost between $1700 and $3000 PER CHILD by the time they’re potty trained.
By contrast, you can get 2 dozen really good, one-size, pocket diapers for just over $400 from BumGenius, which should not only last all the way through potty training, but may also work for a second baby. What a savings!
But what if $400 is more than you can afford?
That’s a lot of money to lay out all at once, even if it will save you a bundle later.
Have no fear! Here are 12 tips for diapering on a budget (because they’re cheaper by the dozen) that will help you, no matter what your budget.
1. Shop Sales
Most online cloth diaper retailers run specials periodically, allowing you to scoop up high quality cloth diapers at a nice discount.
Sometimes they’re prints or patterns that weren’t so popular, other times they just got a good deal from the manufacturer, and sometimes it’s a big promotional time like Black Friday or another holiday.
In any case, if you watch the sales, you can almost always avoid paying the full retail prices!
2. Earn Free Diapers And Use Loyalty Points
Many online cloth diaper shops, like Kelly’s Closet, offer a free pocket diaper with a purchase of a certain amount – as of right now at Kelly’s, that’s if you spend $99, but sometimes it’s even as low as $49.
If you’ve been watching the sales and maximizing your purchase power, you can get quite a few diapers with that purchase amount, plus one for free!
You can also earn loyalty points when shopping with online stores – usually a point per dollar spent, but some stores offer ways to earn extra points beyond your spending level.
If you accumulate 225 points at Kelly’s Closet, you earn a $10 gift card, 500 points will get you a $30 card, 750 will get you a $50 card, and 1000 points will earn you a $75 card.
Yes, you often have to spend a lot to get a reward from the points, but if you do all your baby shopping (clothes, baby carrier, diaper rash creams, etc.) at one online store, it can add up quickly.
3. Shop Seconds
If you sign up for emails from cloth diaper manufacturers, like Cotton Babies, you can receive an email alert when “seconds” become available for sale!
“Seconds” diapers are usually still excellent quality, but there’s a minor flaw in the manufacturing process that keeps them from being perfect.
Sometimes it’s slightly crooked sewing on one seam, sometimes a small blemish in the fabric.
Often when I buy seconds, I can’t even tell why they were considered seconds in the first place!
And I’ve gotten them between 25% and 40% off the regular price, which is a great deal.
“Seconds” aren’t always available, so keep your eyes open and save your pennies – because when they’re available, they go fast!
4. Buy “Made In China” Diapers
This is kind of controversial in the cloth diapering world, but it’s such a money saver that it has to be said.
There are several companies in China that make cloth diapers with similar features to the high end brands, and sell them for a LOT less.
Are they as high quality as, say, BumGenius, Grovia, or FuzziBunz?
In a word, no.
But they are (generally) functional and cheap, which is usually what many people are looking for in a cloth diaper.
A few of the better known brands are Kawaii, Sunbaby and Alva – they all have mixed reviews on how well they hold up, but with a price point starting at $5 a diaper, many people decide to take the risk.
I’ve personally used Alvas and Kawaiis, and had generally good results with them, although I didn’t follow the washing and drying instructions for the Kawaiis and they delaminated after a few months.
eBay is a super place to buy diapers, whether new or used, because of the satisfaction guarantee eBay offers on all its’ sales, and because you can use eBay gift cards you earned on Swagbucks to help pay for your purchase.
(What? You don’t know about Swagbucks? Next tip!)
There are really good deals to be found, especially if you search “cloth diaper lot” – that helps weed out all the individual diapers being sold brand new, and helps you find a bundle deal with another mom whose baby just potty trained.
However, if you prefer brand new diapers, you can find decent deals if you look carefully.
But beware! There are some super cheap cloth diapers on eBay (also made in China, but without a name brand) – 10 pocket diapers and inserts complete with shipping for only $25 or thereabouts.
Watch out on these – they might work for a little while, but the quality is bound to be low.
If they fall apart after a few weeks, you won’t have saved any money by having to replace them with more expensive diapers!
OMG, if you are not a member yet, go over and sign up for an account right now!
All you have to do is use it instead of your usual search engine, and you’ll earn points toward free gift cards.
Yes, free. Completely – no shipping charges or anything.
Their gift cards start around the $3 mark, and cost 300 Swagbucks – 100 Swagbucks translates to a dollar in “real” money.
If you use all the different methods to earn Swagbucks, you can earn as much as $100 in gift cards in a month!
Don’t believe me? This blog post at Snail Pace Transformations shows exactly how to make it work – http://snailpacetransformations.com/swagbucks-set-a-goal-earn-it/.
At that rate, if you start when you get pregnant, you could get a full stash of the fanciest, name brand diapers out there, and pay nothing out of pocket!
Here’s the link if you don’t already have an account – (full disclosure, this is my referral account, and I get a bonus of 10% on whatever points you earn.) If you’d rather sign up through a different link, that’s great too!
Amazon gift cards are their most popular, but you can use those points to earn gift cards for many major retailers, like eBay, Target, Walmart, and many other places, and many of those stores offer good cloth diapers online.
(Don’t be a sucker and try to buy them in store – all you’ll find are Gerber diapers, which are barely good enough to blow your nose with. Be patient and order online!)
This is a new website for me, as I just joined recently, but it shows a bunch of promise.
It’s sort of a bartering website – people post their unwanted items for a certain number of “Yerdle Dollars”, which are really barter credits.
If you see something you like, you click “get it”, and then you only have to pay for shipping.
When you first sign up, you automatically get $25 Yerdle Dollars to get you going, and you can earn more by posting unwanted items from around your home.
(If you’ve been using the KonMari method of tidying your house, this could be a good way to turn your items that don’t “spark joy” into some much needed cloth diapers for your baby!)
If you sign up through my link, you can start off with $35 Yerdle Dollars and free shipping on your first order (full disclosure – I get a bonus of $10 Yerdle Dollars if you sign up through that link. No skin off my nose if you’d rather use a friends link, though!)
Cloth diapers do show up here, but all the really good items go very quickly.
If you have a smart phone, there’s an app you can download that will alert you if something in your desired categories has been posted, so you can hurry to the website and order it.
I’ve done very well in finding cloth diapers (and when it comes to it, lots of other baby items) on craigslist.
Yes, they will be used, and yes, you have to exercise caution when meeting someone to make a purchase, but in general I’ve had nothing but positive experiences both buying and selling on craigslist.
You may have to wait a while for the right purchase, but patience pays off.
Another benefit (or curse) in dealing with people face-to-face is that prices are often negotiable – you may be able to bargain the seller down a few dollars, but don’t get greedy – if something is offered at $75, offer $70, not $50.
9. Try Prefolds And Covers
Thoreau says “Simplify, simplify.” It’s great advice, especially if you’re diapering on a budget.
Prefolds are wonderful – thick, absorbent, simple, and easy to wash.
They come in several sizes, so all you have to do is either fasten with a Snappi, or trifold and lay them in a cover, and fasten the cover.
When I used prefolds, I bought (used) 2 dozen infant sized prefolds, 2 dozen medium size, 2 dozen “regular” size, and 1 dozen toddler size.
I didn’t buy them all at once, but I only needed 2 dozen at any given time, and my one-size covers lasted all the way through – all I needed was 6 well made covers.
If I were buying brand new prefolds and covers, Osocosy prefolds cost $27 a dozen for their smaller size, and $42 dozen for the larger sizes – 2 dozen of each, along with 6 durable Econobum covers, would tally in at just under $210 before any discounts or Swagbucks gift cards.
10. Try Flats And Covers
Remember how I said “when I used prefolds”?
I’m still diapering a toddler and I’m expecting again, but I don’t bother with prefolds anymore.
I still use those covers, but instead of prefolds, I use flats.
Since flats are just a large, single layer of cotton, I can fold them to fit any baby, and they wash SO easily and dry fast!
Best of all, they’re the cheapest possible option – I use flour sack towels from Target, which are only $3.99 for a 4 pack.
$24 for 2 dozen diapers that will last from birth to potty, with no fussy washing and drying needs? Sold!
Then you only need about 6 really good covers, like Econobum, which only cost $11.95 each – $71.70, plus $24 is only $95.70. That sounds like a bargain to me!
11. Sew Your Own
What if folding the flats is too much for you to manage on a regular basis, but you’re pretty handy with a sewing machine?
Try sewing your own!
Some people like to start with fitted diapers, since you can sew them out of nearly any absorbent fabric you have on hand, add some elastic and Velcro or snaps, and have a fully functional diaper that only needs a cover.
But if it’s covers you need, Babyville Boutique came out with a line of diaper materials, including waterproof PUL, interior wicking fabric to make pocket diapers, fold-over elastic that provides stretch and binds the seams, and snaps (with snap pliers to attach them) and hook and loop tape, all available at various craft stores.
My local JoAnn Fabrics carries the Babyville line, and I understand Hobby Lobby does as well.
The PUL material runs between $12.99 and $14.99 per yard, but most of the stores offer frequent coupons of at least 40% off.
I can personally attest that you can cut out 5 – 6 diaper covers per yard, sometimes more depending on the size cover you’re making.
Before the elastic and fasteners, that gets the cost per cover down to $1.50 (40% off the $14.99 fabric, divided into 6 covers).
After adding the fasteners and elastic, that may bring the cost per cover up to $3 each. Not bad!
And you get to pick the cute fabrics and matching accent colors!
You could also make them into pocket diapers, and that does drive the price up a bit because you’re using twice as much fabric, but it still will cost less than buying all but the flimsiest pocket diapers on the market.
12. Make No Sew Covers And Diapers
OK, all that sounded like a real money saver, but sewing makes you break out in a nervous rash.
You can still make functional diapers and covers without sewing, though they might not look as cute.
That’s OK, though – they’ll still work, and that’s what really counts, right?
Kim Rosas has a video tutorial (below) on how to make a no-sew diaper cover from fleece material, and flat diapers from old, XXL T-shirts.
If you get the t-shirts from your old, stained clothes pile, and the fleece cheap with a coupon, this kind of diaper stash can cost you only $10 or less!
The question most people ask is “does fleece really work as a waterproof cover?”
The answer is yes – to a degree.
Polar fleece fabric, much like the wool it tries to simulate, both repels moisture and absorbs it, but doesn’t feel wet to the touch until it’s 30% saturated.
So, fleece covers work pretty well as long as you change the diapers frequently and air the covers out every change.
They may leak a little if your baby has been sitting in a high chair or car seat for a long time, since the pressure can make the moisture soak through a little faster, but that can be avoided if you use more diaper layers inside the cover.
With all these methods to save you money, anyone who wants to use cloth diapers should be able to afford it!
All it takes is a little ingenuity, some planning, and deciding what kind of diapers you really want.