Saving Money with Reusable Cloth Diapers

Here at Growing a Green Family we’re looking at how to save $50,000 by going green. In case you’re curious, so far we’ve managed to save $13,761.00, just by taking some basic green actions. That does leave us $36,239 left to go, but cloth diapers should cut a nice big chunk off of this figure.

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Image by Flickr User simplyla

How many disposable diapers will you need?

The average newborn baby can speed through 12 diapers in a single day. Older babies and toddlers use less, but still average around 6 to 10 diaper changes a day. That’s a whopping total of 7,500-8,000 disposable diapers over 2.5 years. However, many babies are in diapers longer. Still, for the purpose of this post, we’ll assume you toilet train one of your children super fast.

How much will all these disposable diapers cost you?

It sort of depends on which diapers you use. This being a green blog, I suggest you use the least toxic disposable diapers possible. I’ll be using Seventh Generation Free and Clear Baby Diapers because they’re probably the most popular less toxic disposable diaper around.

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Seventh Generation Free and Clear Baby Diapers

Below are typical diaper prices, if you buy in bulk, along with the sizes you’ll need for various baby ages – although note, the sizes are only average estimates. Some babies run bigger or smaller of course.

  • Newborn diapers – up to 10 lbs – 25 cent per diaper (1 mos to 1.5 mos) – 12 diapers a day – 540 diapers = $135
  • Stage 1 diapers – 8-14 lbs – 20 cent per diaper (1.5 mos to 4 mos) – 10 diapers a day – 750 diapers = $150
  • Stage 2 diapers – 12-18 lbs – 25 cent per diaper (5 mos to 7 mos) – 8 diapers a day – 480 diapers = $120
  • Stage 3 diapers – 16-28 lbs – 18 cent per diaper (8 mos to 23 mos) – 8 diapers a day – 3,600 diapers = $648
  • Stage 4 diapers – 22-37 lbs – 32 cent per diaper (2 years+) or Stage 5 diapers – 27+ lbs – 37 cent per diaper (2 years+) depending on your kid – 5 diapers a day – 750 diapers = $255

Total diapers needed – 6,120 for one kid, 12,240 for two kids.

Total cost = $1,308 for one kid, $2,616 for two kids.

You’ll also need some Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Training Pants (55 cent per pant). We’ll assume one of your kids potty trains fast, by age 2.5 and the other not until 4. For the first child you’ll need about 5 months of training pants, along with regular diapers, or about $247 worth of training pants. For the second child, you’ll need about $1,133 worth of training pants. That’s a total of $1,380.

Total diapers + training pants for two kids = 14,749

Total costs for two kids = $3,996

Keep in mind that research shows that the average family, with two kids will go through 16,000 diapers, so there’s a good chance I underestimated price.

How many cloth diapers will you need?

Again it depends on what sort of cloth diaper you use. In this case, I’m going with ease of use, which for me, means you use all-in-one-cloth diapers or a hybrid, which are a little more expensive, but also easier than traditional pre-fold cloth diapers. Some choices include:

Once you choose a brand, you’ll need to choose sizes and amounts. I suggest going with real sizes, not one-size-fits-all, mainly because fit can be iffy. To read more about how to choose the best cloth diapers, I suggest reading Eco-nomical Baby Guide, which has an excellent cloth diaper section, or you can simply read Cloth Diapering Myths to get started.

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gBaby Bundle

Overall, say you use gDiapers with reusable inserts. You’ll need about 6-8 little gPants per size (small, medium and large). You can get the gBaby Bundle which comes with 12 tiny gPants, 6 small gPants, 80 gRefills and a swishstick for just $125. Then you’ll also need 8 gDiapers Little gPant Diaper Covers Medium ($136), gDiapers Little gPant Diaper Covers Large ($79) and 3 or so packs of reusable gDiapers Cloth Diaper Inserts ($79). Plus probably an extra 6 or so diapers along the way ($79). Total cost for the gDiaper system = $498.00.

Now, if you go with another brand, like FuzziBunz Perfect Size Diaper, you’ll need about 12 small, 12 medium and 12 large diapers. That’s a total cost of $577.

If you don’t want to work too hard, you could also go with a mega set, such as the GroVia Live Package ($349), which pretty much allows you to cloth diaper your baby for his entire childhood so long as you add 24 extra shells ($196). Charlie Banana is also easy, as they offer quick sets with 6 reusable diapers + 12 reusable inserts. Once you buy all the sets you need, it’ll be about $600.

You won’t need training pants, as larger size cloth diapers double up as both diapers and trainers.

Charlie Banana cloth diapers

Other supplies you’ll need for cloth diapering:

  • A few wet bags, which hold wet cloth diapers and inserts on the go, such as Itzy Ritzy Zippered Wet Bag – $36 for two.
  • A bin for wet and icky diapers – same cost as the garbage can you’re using for disposables.
  • Disposable inserts some of the time (maybe) when out and about or on a trip. $34+ depending on how often you use them.
  • A book about how to use and care for cloth diapers. Again, I suggest Eco-nomical Baby Guide – $14.
  • Water for washing and laundry soap. You can use basic, natural laundry soap and cold water. You’ll wash maybe every two days or so. I’m not figuring in this cost because you’ll also spend money on gas to go and get disposables, plus extra garbage fees to toss those disposables, so I’m guessing it all evens out.

Total diapers needed for cloth diapering – about 36, although most people collect a few more. Plus you’ll need reusable inserts – about 24 to 30. If you use disposable inserts, you’ll need more and it’ll cost more, but I suggest reusable inserts on most occasions.

Total cost of cloth diapers – it varies depending on brand, but on average about $556 plus supplies = $636.

Note that this is a high estimate in my opinion. You can easily pick up gently used all-in-ones at your local thrift store or baby consignment shop. Seriously, we’re talking $1 to $2 diapers, which would bring your costs down considerably. You can also register for cloth diapers for your baby shower.

Plus, don’t forget, cloth diapers will last through both kids. Assuming you need to replace some diapers and inserts, which you will, your total cloth diaper costs should only be around $700-$800 if you splurge and $120 – $300 if you really shop around at consignment stores. If you use basic pre-fold diapers, you’ll save too.

Here are some more cost comparisons of cloth diapers – what real parents spendcost of cloth diapers and cost savings of cloth diapers.

Comparing costs

Overall, if you have two children, you’ll spend $3,996+ on disposable diapers. If you go with cloth you’ll spend about $300 to $636 for both kids that’s a savings of $3,360 for two kids. Even if you totally go nuts and splurge on all sorts of adorable reusable cloth diapers, plus buy brand new for both kids you’ll still save around $2,724.

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Image by Flickr User IngaMun

PLUS…

Beyond cost benefits you’ll be helping the planet. Most research suggest that 250 to 500 years is a conservative guess as to how long disposable diapers will sit in the landfill after you toss them and most conventional disposable diapers are 100% gross. They’re stuffed with icky SAP, pesticides, perfume, latex, chemicals and plastic (made with non-renewable oil) and other junk.

Where we’re at right now…

TOTAL SAVINGS SO FAR: $17,121.00

$ left to save: $32,879

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Comments

  1. says

    We are seriously into cloth diapers. (My husband calls it a hobby/obsession of mine) and I appreciate your attempt to make the numbers realistic. I try to keep my calculations current so I can talk to would-be cloth diaper using moms as they try to figure out if it really is cheaper. One of things a lot of them don’t think of is that most disposable diaper families use a diaper genie or equivalent. Those replacement bags are really expensive; that significantly adds to the cost. According to my calculations, using a trash can and two washable wet bags saves another $80-$100 a year over diaper genie refills. We are personally big fans of the bumGenius one size diapers or prefolds and Thirsties covers. I’ve definitely spent more on cloth diapers than I had to for convenience and because they are just so darn cute. I’ve been tempted to buy cloth diapers more so than clothes. Another important note regarding disposables is when you have to pay way more by buying a small package in an inconvenient place because you are all out of diapers. This has happened to everyone I know at least once. I have a few really cheap second hand cloth diapers I keep around for if I miscalculate how long to go between diaper laundry. Definitely cheaper than running to the corner store or gas station for an overpriced pack of disposables.

  2. says

    @Laundry Lady – Yeah, something about the costs that is for sure off is the non-bulk packs of diapers. I almost never see people I know who use disposables, buy in bulk all the time. They always end up with those silly little packs from convenient stores while on a trip or coming home from work which are SO expensive. The diaper genie bags are insanely expensive too – my best friend had one four years ago so I can only imagine now.

    This is one of those variable cost issues. You always have people who argue laundry costs and hot water (even though you can wash cloth on cold), then there are the luxury cloth diaper splurges (some people get really into designs), then there’s gas and so on to get disposables. I knew going in that my figures wouldn’t be perfect due to all the variables, so although I usually do break down costs as well as I can, I decided to give an overall view of the diaper situation. It’s a hard cost analysis to do!

  3. Jennifer Chait says

    PS another wasted cost of disposables are all the ones you waste – the ones with the funky tabs, the ones your baby pees on, and so on!

  4. Steph says

    I used cloth diapers for my first, they cloth diapers + EC for my second….and then I sold my used diapers and got a chunk of change back. It’s very economical.
    EC seems scary to a lot of people but it’s actually quite flexible and terribly hygienic and economical. One of the other bloggers I follow just posted an article about it: http://annie.paxye.com/?p=4544
    Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene by Ingrid Bauer for a great intro to EC.

  5. Jennifer Chait says

    @Steph – great point about reselling used cloth – another way cloth is less expensive! Can’t sell back disposables for sure. I know a few parents who have gone diaper free and they liked it. I like the idea, but it’s a time issue for many parents though I think. I mean, if you work or are single, it’s likely more of a challenge. The kids I know who went through EC well, had at least one very attentive at home parent. But, I don’t know a ton about it from first hand knowledge so maybe it could work under other circumstances too.

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