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Frugal Living: How to Diaper Your Baby For Under $100

Updated on August 18, 2014

Yes, it is possible. Yes, it does involve using cloth diapers. Okay, yes, the price is a little higher if you consider a couple of other factors, but it really isn’t that bad and I promise to give you tips on keeping those costs low too.

A Quick Look At Diapering Costs

No one but you can figure out how much you are or would spend on disposable diapers. With all the brands, sizes and deals out there, it’s just impossible to give you an exact number. In general, assuming you change your child’s diaper ten times a day during the first three months and anywhere between eight and ten times each day until your baby is two and a half years old, you could spend somewhere in the ballpark of $3000. The number would of course increase or decrease according to brand, how often you change diapers each day.

While searching online, you may find a lot of people saying you could spend anywhere between $300 and $500 for a complete diapering system upfront, and this turns a lot of people off from cloth. Yes, you might be saving money, but not everyone can afford to spend that kind of money at once. Then you begin considering washing the diapers and buying special detergents, and before you know it, using cloth diapers may seem like a huge hassle and not as much of a money saver as people once told you.

The truth is, you can save a ton of money using cloth - if you know how. I knew I would never afford the upfront costs of a standard cloth diapering system, so I challenged myself to see if I could buy enough diapers for $100 or less. Needless to say, I was successful, but more than that, I found several methods of doing this as well as some money saving tricks for washing these diapers to boot. Guess what else, I didn’t even spend the $100 at once.

You see, the trick to successful cloth diapering is to not rush. You need to experiment and find out what works best for you. People that cloth diaper and go back to disposables are usually people who invest in one system, don’t like it, and just give up. I highly recommend buying one or two different brands of diapers at a time. That way you don’t have to do cloth full-time right away and you can see if you like them. If you don’t you can always sell them and get most of your money back. This post isn’t about the pros and cons of cloth, so let’s just move on to the good stuff.

Diapers Purchased
9 Econobum Prefolds w 3 Covers
12 BirdsEye Flats
4 Kawaii Covers and Inserts
Gen-Y Cover
Fleece Blanket

How I Diapered My Baby For $100

Prefolds and flats are the least expensive diapering choice, so that is where I started my search. They aren’t the prettiest of diapers available, but really get the job done!

At first I thought I would invest in an Econobum Full Kit for $48.95 plus free shipping, but when I realized that buying three trial packs would save me more money and I didn’t want the free wet bag anyway since it is small and I knew I could get a better deal somewhere else on that. Buying three trial packs brought my total up to $41.85 and gave me roughly enough diapers to change my baby for a day. I also bought a dozen used Birdseye Flats from Hyena Cart for only $10 which gave me enough for another day of diapering. I then bought a lot of four Kawaii covers without inserts for $25 - all with free shipping. Since my baby doesn’t do well with wetness against the bottom, I also needed fleece liners. I made my own using a fleece blanket I bought for $5.99. This brought my total to $82.84, leaving me with $17.16 left over to “splurge” on a very cute Gen-Y diaper cover for $15 shipped from Diaper Swappers. At the end of it all, I ended up spending $97.84 and since everything was one size except for the Gen-Y cover, I was able to use it from birth to potty training.

The Truth About Miscellaneous Cloth Diapering Costs and How to Keep Them Low

I know a lot of parents are sometimes interested in cloth diapering, but are afraid that the other costs such as electricity and water will make cloth diapering cost more than using disposable in the end. The truth is, there are a few other “must-haves” for cloth diapering, but when it comes to the water and electric bill, most parents don’t see much of a difference. If you are still concerned, there are ways you can keep them low.

Tips to Maintain a Low Water and Electricity Bill

  • Hand wash. I know you are thinking that it’s gross, and to be honest with you, it’s not something I enjoy doing. Some moms actually prefer it though because it actually helps combat diaper stink better and also saves on detergent.
  • Line or air dry. Almost every cloth diapering parent does this at least part time and this is because if you leave your diapers out in the sun, it helps reduce stains. This does leave your diapers feeling a little stiff and may also take more time to dry, but a few minutes in the dryer before you put them away fixes both those problems.
  • Use wool dryer balls. They supposedly reduce drying time by 25%. They also keep your diapers and clothes softer. Some people also claim they also reduce static.
  • Use a high efficiency washing machine. There are even washing machines out there that calculate the least expensive times to use your washing machine and will automatically run during those times if you want. HE machines are great, but they sometimes lead to more diaper stink issues compared to top loaders.

Other Hidden Costs of Cloth Diapering

  • Diaper Pail and/or Wetbag - You may find you need at least one in the house and a small wetbag for when you are out. There are a few that you can buy inexpensively.
  • Wipes and/or Wipe solution - You can use cloth or disposable, most people opt for cloth. You may use soft washcloths or splurge on some nice cloth wipes. Many parents also make their own wipes with scrap fabrics. If you use cloth, you may also need a wipes solution. Many parents end up making their own or just using water.
  • Diaper Sprayer - The necessity of one depends on who you are speaking to. I never used one, but many parents swear by them.
  • Detergent - Cloth should only be washed in detergents that contain no dye, brighteners, enzymes or fragrance (essential oils are okay). There are a few [expensive] detergents especially made for cloth, but some commercial brands such as Planet Ultra are okay as well. Some parents also use Free and Clear detergents - which still have brighteners - with success. If you use something like Planet or Free and Clear for all your laundry, it will help keep detergent costs a little lower. Some parents even end up making their own detergent.
  • Cloth Diaper Addiction, Amber necklaces, Baby Legs, etc - Buying cloth is addictive, mostly because there are so many cute prints available. Luckily, you can sell some of your current stash to buy new prints or even trade with another mama. Many parents who start using cloth usually also end up using things like amber and Baby Legs too.


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    • profile image

      Anselmo 2 years ago

      I love cloth wipes! I use flannel sqreaus surged around the edges in plain old water, but they work really well. I actually prefer them to disposable wipes, ESPECIALLY for #2 s, because it takes a lot less to get baby's behind really clean.

    • profile image

      Amy 5 years ago

      I've been using the first tub of Charlie's for the last five months, and it's maybe...halfway empty? So, a really really long time.

    • ThisisShe profile image

      ThisisShe 5 years ago

      Since buying my original cloth diaper stash, I admit that I did buy a few other cute diapers, not because we needed them, but because they were cute. I always sold my cloth diapers to fund new ones, which kept the price low. I love that about cloth diapers - there is no way you can sell your used disposables for any money!

      Spending about $400-$500 is average for many cloth diaper users, I know a few people who've spent much more than that, but they are usually those mamas who are into Goodmama diapers and buy diapers solely for the prints.

      How long does your Charlie's Soap last you? I never tried it, but I've been tempted too. BumGenius is my new favorite detergent, and it's lasted me a few months already, making it a great buy, but since I know a few retailers around me who sell Charlie's Soap, I've been thinking about trying it out. I am just a bit nervous because I heard some babies are sensitive to it, and my daughter has a very sensitive bum.

    • profile image

      Amy 5 years ago

      Counting my entire stash (8 GroVia shells, 24 snap-in inserts, 4 EconoBum covers, 19 prefolds, 2 pocket diapers with soakers) and my "cloth diaper accessories" (2 containers of Charlie's soap, a diaper sprayer, 12 cloth wipes, large wetbag, small wetbag, and one cloth diaper safe rash cream) - I spent $476.23.

      I was very careful in buying only deals, and semi-used (some people bought and then gave up so many were in new or like-new condition). Calculating how much it would have been to diaper my baby in Kirkland (Costco) diapers, by 11.5 months of diapering, we break even. And since I probably would have sprung for the nicer Pampers, we would have broken even by 7.5 months!

      Yes, sometimes the temptation to buy another cover because of cute-ness is strong, but I resist just like I would baby shoes or toys. And even if you do buy a few extra, used cloth diapers have great resale value or can be used for more than one child if you take good care of them! This article is great, though, for those that are scared of a $300+ investment.

    • ThisisShe profile image

      ThisisShe 5 years ago

      I totally fell for the prints. After a while, I did end up buying some more diapers - just for the prints! Funnily enough, after a few more months, I ended up selling them and going back to my original stash. Prefolds and flats are simple, but really great. Since the Econobums are so absorbent, paring them with a flat is a perfect night solution for us, so it really is a great stash for us.

    • sadie423 profile image

      sadie423 5 years ago from North Carolina

      I didn't tally my total- though it is probably more than $100. We went with prefolds and Kawaii. I can see how it would be addicting, there are so many cute prints, but I don't usually fall into that. Good info!