Monday, June 29, 2009

Think you can't afford to cloth diaper? You can't afford *not to*!

It shocks me when people comment about 'how expensive' certain cloth diapers are. I suppose the immediate sticker shock of $30.00 for 'only one ' diaper (worst-case scenario, we sell many other lower-priced cloth diapers) is inevitable given that people are used to paying roughly that amount for a monster-sized bag of disposable diapers, but if you sit down and actually do a cost-comparison, even using the 'expensive' cloth diapers as an example, price-wise, they will always beat disposable diapers, hands down.

It's hard to peg an exact dollar amount on how much families can save using cloth diapers since a myriad of factors can affect the overall bottom line:
  • style of diaper; prefolds cost $38.00/dozen (infant, unbleached organic), Blueberry Simplex one-size AIOs cost $28.00 each, and there's a whole range of diapers inbetween.

  • number of diapers purchased; affects not only the initial expense, but how frequently you will wash your diapers, as well as how they will hold up in the long-run (buy more, wash less frequently!).
  • the age at which your child potty trains (your child will sit in disposable diapers for a longer time b/c they are designed to prevent potty learning... a diaper that keeps your baby's bottom wet will help with faster potty training).
  • how many children you have will affect how much money you save in the longrun. If you have more than one child who uses the same set of diapers, you'll save more money than somebody who only uses a set of diapers with one child (think of subsequent children as free!).
  • whether or not you sell your diapers when you have finished using them. Buy a well-known brand, keep them in decent shape, and you should expect to be able to sell them used for 50-75% of what you paid.

To give you an idea of the savings involved, here are some scenarios involving a few different stashes:
3 dozen small prefolds: $114.00
6 small Bummis SWW: $89.70
6 Thirsties hemp doublers: $30.00
2 dozen large prefolds: $120.00
4 medium Bummis SWW: $59.80
TOTAL: $413.50

36 bumGenius 3.0 one-size pocket diapers: $822.60
6 Thirsties hemp doublers: $30.00
TOTAL: $852.60

24 small Sandy's fitted bamboo diapers: $384.00
24 large Sandy's fitted bamboo diapers: $384.00
6 one-size RaR covers: $108.00
4 Thirsties hemp doublers: $40.00
TOTAL: $916.00

You'll notice the wide range in prices -- but we've saved the best for last! The cost of disposable diapers and gDiapers (billed as an 'hybrid system' that's an alternative to strictly cloth and disposable diapers, they are actually more expensive than disposable diapers).
Disposable diapers, assuming they cost $0.35 each (the price seems to vary with size, smaller diapers are cheaper, so this is an approximation -- I've looked at to average the cost of Huggies brand, purchased in "Giant packs").
first 8 weeks, 10 changes/day: $196
assume 6 changes/day for the next 2.5 years: $1916.25
TOTAL: $2112.25 per child

Curious about the cost of gDiapers? You have to buy a kit with 2 covers, and 10 refills (basically a maxi-pad that you sit inside a cotton cover with a little vinyl sling). The kit sells for $38.99, the manufacturer recommends that you purchase 4-6 'little g pants' in each size; there are 3 sizes, so the cost of two kits in each size would be $233.94.
The cost of refills is $19.99/40-pack, which works out to a whopping $0.50/diaper.
first 8 weeks, 10 changes/day: $224.00
assume 6 changes/day for the next 2.5 years: $2737.50
TOTAL: $3195.44

Of course, you have to factor washing costs into the above estimations, so assuming you were washing 3 times/week (realistic with the number of diapers quoted above, in fact, you would be washing less), at an estimated $1.60/load, for two years, that would cost approximately $500. Washing only full loads, line-drying, using high-efficiency machines, washing peed diapers with your white laundry that would be washed regardless (yes, you can wash diapers with clothing!), all these things can help lower your laundry costs.

Evening out the cost of laundry, if you're using disposables, you're likely wasting money on disposable wipes, and diaper cream (higher likelihood of diaper rash), and due to the inevitable blow-outs (poop between your baby's shoulder blades), there is a cost of laundry associated with using disposable diapers.

So are you convinced yet? Still having a hard time swallowing the start-up costs of cloth diapers? There are a few things you can do soften the blow:
  • register for cloth diapers -- I know it can be scary to navigate the world of cloth diapers before your baby is born, but you can always make an appointment to have a staff member help you set up your registry. On a similar note, when friends and family come in to make purchases off your registry, we can see what's been purchased, and make recommendations based on what's left (ie, covers to go with your fitted diapers or prefolds) -- navigating the world of cloth diapers can be just as scary for them!
  • purchase your diapers one or two at a time, while you're still pregnant. This will make the cost of getting set up a little easier, just like it seems easier to dole out $40 a pop on disposable diapers at a time, buying a couple of pocket diapes a month will seem a little easier on the budget.
  • pad your stash with prefolds -- hands-down our most cost-effective option, and most people who try them like them. Everybody should have a dozen prefolds and a couple of covers in their stash!
  • buy used diapers -- not for everyone, but you can save up to 50% off the cost of new diapers, and it's a great way to test the waters. We have regular used diaper swaps at the store, a great way for our customers to recapture some of what they've spent, and a great way for new cloth diaper converts to get started. You can also purchase used diapers at places like, or UsedOttawa, however, it's always nice to see something in person before you buy it.
The bulk of our diapers (mostly prefolds) have lasted through 4 children. Yes, they're thinner than when we started using them, but they still get the job done. I did replace covers between #2 and #3, but still, it's a nominal cost in the grand scheme of things. I simply cannot fathom how anyone could ever use the excuse "they're too expensive" as a reason to *not* use cloth diapers. No matter which way you slice it, cloth diapers cost significantly less to use than disposable diapers... and they're cute to boot!

1 comment:

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