There is no doubt (okay, some doubt it, but really) that cloth diapering can save you a ton of money over your diapering career, but there is still a huge range in what you can spend. For those that are looking for the most economical route for cloth diapering, there are a few potential paths. I have highlighted a few methods here about how to cloth diaper on a budget (and what not to do).
Disclaimer: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning I get a small referral fee if you end up buying something after clicking on the link. Other links are just included for your convenience.
- See if you qualify for free diapers. This will not be an option for most people, but if you qualify for WIC or TANF, you may qualify for a program that will lend you an entire stash of diapers for free. There are several non-profits that are available to help. I have listed the ones I know of at the bottom of this page. DirtyDiaperLaundry.com also maintains a map of cloth diaper banks. Check it out and see if there is one near you.
- Buy used, locally. Buying used can be an excellent way to get a good deal on cloth diapers. Craigslist and other local consignment options are a great start as shipping on cloth diapers can add up and it is also nice to be able to see what you are buying. Check the PUL, make sure there are no holes or de-lamination – if yes, don’t buy these. Take a look at the elastic, does it look to be relaxed? Does the velcro work? Are the buttons broken? If you say yes to any of these last three questions, then you should ask yourself if you are crafty enough to fix it and if the price is low enough to justify that work. Otherwise, pass. Receiving blankets also work really well as Flats, so if you find these used or the hospital gives them to you, great!
- Buy used online. There are many online options too. The most active appears to be various buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook. If you go this route, make sure to get a lot of pictures, ask as many questions as you need to get a good assessment of what you are buying, and make sure to pay with paypal. Paypal provides protection to the buyer if you do not get the item or if the item is not what you expect. If the item(s) come in a different quality then you expected, contact the seller first. If they do not work with you, then you should file a report with Paypal. Do NOT use the friend/family option as you will not have the same protection with this route.
- Make your own. If you are skilled at sewing and have the time, sewing your own is definitely a reasonable route to go. I do not have these skills, but you can buy a pattern and supplies from several companies, including Wazoodle and diapersewingsupplies.com. You can also use what you already have and thrift stores to make a stash for $15, using t-shirts and fleece! Here are some sources for patterns prefold2fitted, diapersewingsupplies, nappynetwork. Also, youtube is a great source for video tutorials.
- Buy new, but choose wisely. The most economical options for cloth diapering with new diapers is flats or prefolds with diaper covers. Here is a breakdown of costs:
|Cloth diapering on a Budget|
|24 Small Flats or Prefolds||$44-$64|
|24 Large Flats or Prefolds||$52-$78|
|10 Diaper Covers (price can range)||$60|
|Snappi, Size 1 & 2 (or boingos)||$10|
|2 pail liners or hanging wetbag
|2 wetbags for out and about||$13|
|10 Newborn covers||$80|
|TOTAL COST:||$299 to $344|
5. Mix of used and new: Flats and prefolds are very hardy. They can take a lot of use and abuse, so these are great for buying used especially if you can find them locally (they are heavy to ship). Cotton receiving blankets also work well as flats, so if you find these used (or if the hospital gives them to you free) you can save a lot of money. This will cut costs even if you buy the covers new.
6. Once you have a working stash, avoid looking at new diapers and avoid other cloth diapering Mama’s – they’ll make you want to buy more. This is only 1/2 in jest – the more you look the more you want, but it is possible to maintain that self-control.
If you decide to buy new, you’ll have a few choices to make:
Flats vs Prefolds: There is more info on this elsewhere, so I’m just going to give the very quick version. Both are very functional and fantastic options. Flats are more work to fold, but will be trimmer on your baby. They are also more customizable in terms of fit. Prefolds still require some folding, but less than flats. I only included small and large prefolds in the chart, but medium and extra-small are also sold. I believe you can skip the medium prefolds, however, this means that you may have more bulk when you have to go up to the size large – they will work, but will not be trim right away. It is nice to have more flats or prefolds (30-36, but you can manage with 24). You can also have a mix of prefolds and flats, so you can have less folding when you want or a trimmer diaper when you want.
|Flat & Prefold Options|
|24 Diaper Rite Bamboo Flats, Small||$64|
|24 Diaper Rite Bamboo Flats, Large||$78|
|24 Diaper Rite Cotton Flats, Small||$48|
|24 Diaper Rite Cotton flats, Large||$58|
|24 Bamboo Prefolds, small||$50|
|24 Bamboo Prefolds, large||$58|
|24 Nicki’s Cotton Prefolds, small or Osocozy Infant||$44 – $48|
|24 Nicki’s Cotton Prefolds, large||$52|
Bamboo vs Cotton: As you can see, there is not a big price difference. Cotton is somewhat less expensive, but bamboo is more absorbent and trimmer.
One-size Covers: My covers estimates are based on the current (Dec. 2015) prices of Econobum covers ($11.95 for 2 covers). Flips and econobums are both great covers by the same company. They worked for Sprout from birth, but she was a big baby. They may not work for everyone from birth. There are several other economical, but quality brands, including Nicki’s Diapers covers ($10-11 each, not great for skinny babies), Sweet Pea ($11.99 each), Imagine covers ($10.95 each, not great for skinny babies), and Diaper Rite covers ($9 each). There are also sales at various stores (see below for comments on this), so keep your eye out.
Pail liner vs hanging wet bag: This has a lot to do with your personal preference and where you will be putting dirty diapers. If you have floor space and want to use a hamper type set up, then a pail liner is a great option (Thirsties and Planet Wise brands are both great). I have two and use one while the other is being washed and drying, then I rotate. A Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag is great if you have somewhere to hang one, but don’t have floor space – or just prefer this option. I think this hanging one by Funky Fluff is also great, particularly if you store your wet bag in the bathroom like we do.
Cloth Wipes: Cloth wipes are super easy to make (as long as you can cut and sew a somewhat straight line – it doesn’t have to be perfect) and work really well. My estimate is based on 3 yards of flannel fabric (frequently on sale at Joann’s), which should be enough for about 30 double layer wipes (40 would be even better). If you have a serger you can make them a single layer, but I assume most people do not have a serger (I don’t). I don’t think there is a big difference between wipes, but these ones are cute if you want to buy some. If you aren’t up for sewing, you can also buy 30 wipes for $10 from here.
Travel wet bags: You could probably manage with one, but I like to have two so that if one is full or dirty, you still have another one accessible. I like these one’s best (thirsties), because they roll up super compact, but many people rave about Planetwise wetbags. Diaper junction wet bags ($6.95) are quite inexpensive, so that is a great option too. Shop Cloth diapers & diaper covers at Diaper Junction
Newborn covers: You may or may not need smaller covers, but I included them in the estimate in the interest of comprehensiveness. If you want smaller covers, I’d recommend going with size small covers (Thirsties, Blueberry, or Gen-Y carry these) rather than newborn covers. My daughter fit into her one size covers since birth, but she was in the 95th percentile for weight. Newborn covers only fit her for one week! For some babies, it may be several months before they really fit into their one size diapers well (typically when they are around 9 or 10 pounds). Another option is to pick one size diapers that have a reputation for fitting a smaller baby. These can be more expensive, but they also will save you money if you do not have to buy a newborn and one size stash. Softbums, Rumparooz, and Best Bottoms all have a reputation for fitting smaller babies.
When and Where to Buy:
AVOID China Cheapies: This is basically what not to do to save money. China cheapies are appealing at first. Many have cute prints and are very cheap, but they may not last you as long as higher quality brands, which will either lead to you giving up on cloth or having to buy more diapers to replace the ones that don’t work. The quality on these vary considerably, one may work fine for the time you need it, but others will de-laminate in a few weeks/months.
Amazon: Amazon is great if you want to have one main Registry with all your baby stuff. This may make things easier for some of your shower guests. They have a pretty wide selection of cloth diapers (Flips, Bumgenius, Rumparooz, Softbums, Osocozy, Thirsties, Planet Wise, Blueberry, Best Bottoms), but not as much of a selection as cloth diaper stores. They also tend to carry lower quality brands as well, so make sure you verify the brands before you buy. However, if you have a registrywith them, you can get 10% off your full order, so this is a pretty nice option. It is also great that the minimum for free shipping is fairly low and there is free shipping for Prime members. Disclaimer: If you use either of the Registry links in this page, I will get a referral fee, which I’d appreciate. However, that is not why I recommend it. Pair an Amazon registry and Amazon Family account (all the benefits of Prime + some family specific deals) and get 15% off your entire registry order! Join Amazon Family 30-Day Free Trial
Cloth Diaper Stores: There are so many cloth diaper stores these days, I can’t list them all. Cloth diaper stores are great in that they have a wide selection of quality diapers and accessories. Some stores, such as Nicki’s Diapers and Diaper Junction, carry their own brand of cloth diapers, which helps them keep the cost low. These stores also often have coupons and loyalty programs (i.e. you get points for each purchase you make, which can then go towards free items or future purchases). Kelly’s Closet, for example, nearly always has a coupon for a free diaper with purchase (the minimum purchase price ranges from $49 to $119, in my experience). Spend only the required minimum to get free shipping and the free item so that you can use another coupon with another order (coupons can typically be used more than once). Kelly’s Closet also has a “wee guarantee” that allows you to try different styles for 30 days and allows you to return the styles that do not work for you. If you stick to one store (most of the time), you’ll be able to maximize your rewards.Click here to visit Kelly’s Closet
Etsy: Etsy has some very cute diapers, though they are not always the least expensive option. Zookaboos is one store that many people like.
BLACK FRIDAY (and other sales): If you are able to do the bulk of your shopping on Black Friday, you can save a lot of money and get fun freebies (including free diapers too). Here are some examples of this past years Black Friday sales. If the stars do not align such that you are buying on Black Friday, watch for other sales, clearances, and grab bags (the pattern you get is a mystery, but discounted).
Seconds : ‘Second’ quality diapers are fully functional and NEW, but have some minor flaw such as a stitch that isn’t right. Many times you cannot even notice the flaw. These are not always available, but they are good deals when you can get them. Typically, you have to get these deals from the manufacturer’s website.
Free Diaper Lending for Families in Need:
- Giving Diapers, Giving Hope
- The Rebecca’s Foundation
- Share the Love
- Help a Mother Out
- Cloth for Every Bum
- National Diaper Bank Network