Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cloth Diapers on the Cheap

One of the biggest obstacles to switching to cloth diapers is the initial cost. Although the overall savings (not to mention the benefits for baby's health and the environment) are enough for many families to desire the switch, having to shell out many hundreds of dollars all at once can be a big deterrent.

Here's a couple of ways that we have saved on cloth diapers, and some corners you can cut to make that initial expense (and any further expenses) a little less burdensome.

1. Buy Used

This is obviously a big one, and the obvious first choice for many of us who already buy clothes at thrift stores and furniture off Craigslist.

Used diapers may sound gross, but many mamas treat their cloth diapers like fine linen - only using the best cloth diaper-friendly detergents, no bleach, line-drying, and sunning out all stains. The result is that you can buy used diapers that are in great condition for cheaper than new.

Most cloth diapers have great resale value, so treat 'em well and you could easily get some of your money back when you're done using them!

Stores that sell preowned diapers inspect them carefully and rate them according to quality, so you can be sure you're getting diapers in the condition you want.

Some great places to look for used cloth diapers:

Craigslist - ours usually has a couple pages worth of cloth diapers.

Diaper Swappers - a great site to buy, sell and trade all things cloth! (Another option on this site: many mamas have an "In Search Of" list, and are willing to trade dipes for something on their list. See #3 for more about trading!)

Fluff Swappers on Facebook

2. Buy Clearance Items & Seconds

Many stores sell "second" quality items, overstock, discontinued or unused returned items for a deep discount.When diaper manufacturers come out with a new version of their diaper, the old ones need to be cleared out quickly - what a great way to get perfect diapers for cheap!

Usually seconds have minor flaws that don't effect the functionality of the diaper. I've gotten some great deals on seconds and haven't even been able to tell why they're less than perfect!

Some places to find clearance and seconds:

3. Trade or Swap for Diapers

Bartering is back! Even though cash may be limited, you may have items or skills that other people want! I've used Swap Mamas to get quite a few of my diapers. I've either traded items I have or sewn crafty little items to trade for diapers. Sometimes a diaper that just doesn't work for you is exactly what another mama is looking for!

There may be local diaper swaps happening in your area (check local natural foods co-ops, natural baby stores, and other baby-related businesses for swaps!). These are great places to meet other cloth diapering families and score some new-to-you diapers, while passing yours on to someone else.

There are online swap groups as well:

The Fluff Exchange on Facebook

Cloth Diaper Swap on Facebook

Diaper Swappers - buy, sell, trade!

Swap Mamas- no money is exchanged on this site. You can "swap" for almost anything, but there's also a specific cloth diaper category.

4. Trade In Your Used Diapers for New Ones

This is similar to trading and buying used. Some stores allow you to trade in your outgrown diapers to receive store credit for new ones.

Of course, if you're planning on diapering another baby, you might want to hang on to your outgrown diapers so your next baby can be diapered for FREE, but if you're diapering your last child or cash for new diapers is especially short, this can be a great way to "size up".

Keep this in mind as you use your diapers - you'll get a lot more value for your used diapers if you have kept them in excellent condition and stain-free. Line drying and sunning to remove stains are two of the best ways to extend the life of your diapers and maintain their value.

Trade 'em in here:

Cotton Babies Growing Up in Cloth Program - When your baby outgrows your cloth diapers, you may be able to trade them in for credit at Cotton Babies! 

5. Try to Win Diapers!

There are TONS of cloth diaper giveaways on the internet. Tons. If you have the time and desire, you could probably enter a dozen giveaways a day!

Most require things like leaving comments on blogs, "liking" Facebook pages, and signing up for newsletters. If those things aren't a problem for you, it could be a great way to get cloth diapers for free.

I personally have tried to win diapers on occasion but the amount of email newsletters and Facebook pages I had to join started to get to be too much. However, I do know that some people have built most of their stash via giveaways!

Here's a few places to start for giveaways:

Feed Your Stash Fridays at Diaper Junction

Fluff Fridays at The Cloth Diaper Whisperer

6. Watch For Sales
This is pretty obvious, but it's worth mentioning. Online cloth diaper retailers almost always have sales going on! Signing up for their newsletters will give you a heads up on which items are currently on sale. Also, diaper manufacturers will often offer deals on their diapers, regardless of where they're sold - for example, BumGenius is currently offering a Buy 5 Get 1 Free sale.

Your local retail cloth diaper store will most likely have periodic sales as well!

7. Earn Reward Points for Free Diapers

Many stores offer rewards programs to help you earn free diapers. Usually each purchase will reward you with a certain number of points, which you can redeem when you have enough. Sometimes you can also earn rewards for leaving product reviews, referrals, participating in polls, and signing up for their newsletter. Sometimes there's a time limit in which to use your points, and some products are excluded due to manufacturer regulations. Still, if you have a favorite site to buy diapers, a reward program can be a great deal! 

One of my favorite local cloth diaper retailers also offers a rewards program. Be sure to check for similar programs at your favorite local cloth diaper store!

A few online rewards programs:

Clementine in a recycled wool cover.
8. Sew Your Own Diapers 

Wow, there are so many resources out there for sewing your own diapers if you have a sewing machine (doesn't have to be fancy!) and basic sewing skills. Cloth diaper fabric is easy to find these days (even Joann's is selling diaper supplies, patterns and fabric now!) and there are many patterns for sale & for free online. Often times you can use thrifted material to make your own diapers too! (See my other post on recycled wool diaper covers).  

Here's a couple great links to get you started:

Very Baby - a one-stop shop for sewing diapers! 

Little Comet Tails cloth diaper patterns

Mega-list of Sew Your Own Diaper resources

How to Sew a Prefold the Real Way 

Katrina's Soaker Pattern (I use this one to make ALL my wool diaper covers!)

Knit or crochet your own diaper covers/wool longies! Many patterns can be found on Etsy. (Like this one and this one).

Turn prefold diapers into fitted diapers (I've used this tutorial on some of my prefolds and I love it!)

Make Prefolds from recycled t-shirts!

9. Buy Less-Expensive Diapers

Kind of a "duh", but the easiest way to spend less on cloth diapers is to....spend less on cloth diapers. ;)

There are lots and lots of fancy diapers out there with lots of amazing features. But many times a big price tag comes along with the bling. The fancy diapers may be alluring, but going with something simpler will definitely save you money. When buying diapers, consider how much each diaper change is costing you. 

For example, Benjamin is 5 months old and I change him roughly 4-5 times a day. (He can make it through the night without a change). Now let's say I'm using BumGenius Elemental All In One diapers (I do own one of these that I bought used and it's a great diaper!). These cost $24.95 new and are one of the fancier diapers commonly sold at retailers. You snap it on baby and go, and toss the whole thing to the wash after changing. So these diapers would cost me $25 a change, or $100+ a day. 

Newborn Moses in a prefold & cover
Now lets say I'm using Diaper Rite Prefold diapers (which are my favorite and make up the majority of my stash!) in size medium, along with a Diaper Rite Cover.  The prefold costs $2.59 and the cover costs $8.95, so each change would cost me $11.54 - less than half the cost of the BumGenius! But that's not all! Often times only the prefold needs to be thrown to the wash - as long as the cover isn't poopy, I can wipe it off and hang it to dry for the next diaper change. In this way, I can use just 2 covers each day instead of 4 or 5, so my cost-per-change is reduced even more! Using recycled wool covers or homemade prefolds would cut the cost of each change down to only a couple of bucks per change.

There's obviously a lot of variables in how much each diaper change costs based on what kind of diapers you buy. If you use all-in-ones or pocket diapers, the whole thing gets tossed to the wash each change. Using prefolds or fitteds with covers, or all-in-two systems allows you to sometimes reuse the cover for more changes.

I like to have a few "fancy" diapers to keep in my diaper bag for on-the-go changes, but have found prefolds and prefitteds with covers to be the most economical for the majority of our diapering.

10. Special Discounts

Some people in special circumstances can receive discounts or free diapers. There are military discounts, diaper grants for missionaries, and free cloth diapers for low-income families. Check your area for local cloth diaper banks (like Heiny Helpers) if the ideas above are still out of your means. 


And remember, if you care for your diapers properly, they should last for your next child to use! You could potentially diaper a second child for free!  Now that's a cost-savings you can't beat.  =] 

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1 comment:

loves2spin said...

What a well-thought-out and researched post on this subject! "Back in my day"... (sigh)... there were no "fancy" diapers. For the first 4 babies I used gauze pre-folds and flat, square birdseye. Then I found some terry nappies and oh, my! Those were the BEST. Used "plastic pants" for years and then switched to homemade woolen soakers. It really is not necessary to spend a fortune on diapers. Actually, I loved folding and stacking them and after 6 babies could practically do it in my sleep. I am certain, also, that for those who are truly without funds, diapers can be made from soft used pieces of discarded cloth clothing and the like. I made some of my diaper covers from thrift store woolen sweaters that I felted in the washer and dryer and then cut and sewed into soakers. I also knitted some from my handspun yarn. Funds were tight! Now all six of them are grown up, married, happy and glad they learned to economize at home. :D