cloth diapering: saving money

one of the first things you'll hear about cloth diapering is all the money you'll save, not having to buy diapers and wipes every week. but there are skeptics out there who say you probably won't save much, or any at all. figuring out the numbers takes time and patience (especially if you're like me, and your mind withdraws to a hiding place whenever you see numbers), but i decided to do it, and this is what i came up with. it is quite detailed, so stay with me - it gets a bit confusing!

drying diapers in the sun helps with stains

when we were using disposables, we preferred pampers over any other brand, and for wipes, we prefer walmart organic wipes. we don't change middle-of-the-night diapers, which saves us about two extra diapers a day - so a pack of each lasted us just short of a week, usually about five days. 

$10 (pampers) + $2.50 (organic wipes)
total for five days = $12.50

365/5 (days in a year, divided by days 
between diaper/wipes purchase) = 73
73  x  $12.50 (cost of dipes/wipes)
total for one year of disposable diapers and wipes = $912.50 

we also bought a diaper genie at walmart, 
and about every two and a half weeks, 
we'd have to buy another refill.

52/2.5 (weeks in a year, divided by 
weeks between refill purchase) = 20.8
20.8  x  $11 (cost of refill) =
total for one year of diaper genie refills = $228.80

$228.80 + $912.50 = 
$1,141.30 total in diapering cost per year

on average, a child is in diapers 
for about two and a half years. 
$1,141.30   x   2.5 years = 
total disposable diapering cost for one child = $2,853.25

john and i want five children. so -
total cost for five children 
in disposable diapers 
= $14,266.25

figuring out the cost of cloth diapering is a little bit more complicated. the initial cost of cloth diaper supplies can be pricey, but year by year, it is significantly lower than using disposable diapers. it would be impossible to write the exact cost, because most people don't just buy one type of diaper and a couple covers - starting off is very trial by error. here's (generally) how we (plan on) doing it (river has an odd assortment of cloth diapers currently, and we didn't CD him in the first 4 months). also, understand that this is not including the occasional splurge of a cute diaper cover. ;)

little-lions ($6.75 S&;H) unbleached 
prefolds in three sizes (basically, SML):
infant ($17.95), regular ($18), and premium($23)

3 dozen infant + shipping = $60.60
2 dozen regular + shipping =$42.75
2 dozen premium + shipping =$52.75
total for prefolds = $156.10

guesstimated cost for covers at about $12 each, 
and spending about $30 in shipping:
4 small, 4 medium, 4 large, and 3 one-size
total for covers = $210

i was planning on making some wipes out of second-hand XL shirts at goodwill for $2 a shirt. i was going to buy 4 shirts, and estimated about 9 wipes per shirt, so it would have cost me about $8 - however, a friend gave me some hand-made wipes, so...
total for cloth wipes = free

i use snappies as closures instead of pins, because they are way easier. i don't expect a snappi to last through five kids, so i think i'll buy 2 new snappies per kid. two $4 snappies x 5 kids 
total for snappies = $40

$40 (snappies) + $8 (cloth wipes) + $210 (covers) + $156.10 (prefolds)
total for diapering supplies = $406.10

now we have to add the on-going cost of water (in our case, the laundromat) and detergent. we use charlie's soap to wash the diapers, at about 20 cents per load. charlie's soap isn't disinfecting, so to make sure i get the diapers really clean, i add a little oxygen bleach (never chlorine bleach) to the wash once a month. you must wash cloth diapers twice per use. for the cold wash, i hand wash and for the hot wash, i use the laundromat. it costs $1 per wash. we wash diapers three times a week, on monday, thursday, and saturday.

$0.20 (cost for detergent per load)    
x 6 (number of washes per week)
total cost in detergent per week = $1.20

$1.00 (cost per hot wash at laundromat)   
x 3 (number of hot washes per week)
total for laundromat washing per week = $3

oxygen bleach added to the laundry once a month
estimated total for oxygen bleach per month = $0.20

$1.20 x 52 weeks = $62.40
$3.00 x 52 = $156
$0.20 x 12 months = $2.40
total laundering cost per year = $220.80

$220.80 x 2.5 years
total laundering cost per child = $552

$552 (laundering) + $406.10 (supplies)
total diapering cost for one child = $988.10

going back to the laundering cost per child, multiplying by five (for five children) and then adding the initial cost of diapering supplies (because you can use the same prefolds and covers with every child):
total cost for five children 
in cloth diapers 
= $3,166.10

now, back to disposable diapering cost
= $14,303.25

that looks like a good amount of savings to me!

we have limited line space, so we dry some of river's diapers on our crib, saving us $3.75 a week.

now, this is how OUR family is planning on cloth diapering. it's not exactly how it's going to go (i'll tell you already that i've only purchased green mountain prefolds and have yet to buy any little lions :) we will probably have to replace worn covers, we may experiment with different kinds of diapers, snappies will get lost, products may be purchased from different websites where shipping is less or more, and washing them is not always going to cost a dollar a load (especially if we have our own washer and dryer some day!), but any way you look at it, there will be money saved. 

perhaps a family buys only second-hand prefolds at a cloth diapering store for a dollar each, make their cloth wipes for pennies out of garage-sale t-shirts, and use gerber diaper covers, which are about $4 for a pack of 3. or say there's a family who will buy all-in-one diapers in small, medium, and large, thirty of each size, at $25 per diaper, plus 36 factory-made cloth wipes that are $10.75 for half a dozen - you're at $2,314.50 for supplies. and of course, there's the number of babies a family plans to diaper. there are many, many ways of doing the cloth diapering thing. and i'm pretty sure all of them are going to save you some money. ;-D


  1. I'm really glad you broke it down this way. It's really helpful to have someone add in detergent and laundry cost because most don't. Are you using cloth exculsively now?

  2. for the most part, yes - we put him in a disposable at night, because he leaks in cloth (and he screams bloody murder when i try to change his diaper if he's sleepy and just wants to nurse!). i plan on getting him some good, absorbent all-in-one or fitted diapers for night-time use only, but until then, i just don't like having to wash our sheets every other day.

  3. just wanted to throw in that you're supposed to replace your snappi every 6 months i think. ours started degrading after about 6 months and i had to buy a new one because it was getting stretched so thin and coming apart! also, pins are not the devil! i just found the pin love! we cant ever seem to get a snappi to stay put so we use mostly pins now and i have never pricked him! we get a much better fit too!

  4. This is an awesome true break down. I agree the inital investment can overwhelm you, but you have to truely break it all down to see where your savings are occurring:)



Related Posts with Thumbnails