Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable Diapers And Your Baby Budget

Baby in Diapers

By: Katrina

Deciding whether cloth diapers or disposable diapers are right for your baby budget takes some research. The more you plan the better you will be able to make informed decisions before your baby arrives. Easier said than done, I know I was once in that position and with so much information in books and online it’s hard to figure things out.

Sometimes testing out products is the way to go and the only way you will know what’s right for you and your baby. That’s probably why I like to get free product samples because it gives me a chance to use products before I purchase them. Just don’t give up as easy as  I did when it comes to deciding on which diapers to choose.

When the pregnancy test confirms you are pregnant all sorts of new emotions and thoughts scatter in you mind because you now have to think about a baby. A couple of weeks after my son was born my mom convinced me to give cloth diapers a try. We went to a local baby store to research the cost of cloth diapers and more about how they might work for my baby. I learned one thing quick…they are not cheap!!

My mom had offered to make the initial investment for me, but being as I was kind of on the fence about whether or not I wanted to use them, I wasn’t comfortable making that decision on the spot. After some consideration we decided to purchase 3 sets, diaper, diaper cover and inserts. I can’t remember the exact figure, it was a few years ago, but I recall spending around $50.00 for everything.

Using Cloth Diapers

I took the cloth diapers home and I quickly made my decision faster than anticipated. After using the diapers for one full day, I knew they weren’t for me. After having to change my son’s clothes 4 times in a few hours I was done!

I know there are different kinds of cloth diapers out there and I’m sure some work better than others but I still wasn’t convinced. Considering the fact that I wasn’t really sure I wanted to do it in the first place I was discouraged from looking into any other cloth diaper options. Looking back now I do have some regrets.

We are a diaper-free household now and I am so happy for that. Not only because of the cost of diapers but also a major decrease in garbage. Both of my kids were in diapers past the age of two. Based on 2 kids being in diapers for around a total of 5 years, that’s 260 weeks and some of that time they were both in diapers. I figure I spent around $3600 on disposable diapers. Wow!! All that money just to throw away a diaper.

Purchasing my own cloth diapers would have been a rather large investment initially but I believe they would have been much cheaper for me in the long run. The most common recommendation for how many cloth diapers to buy is 24 and that’s based on a 2-day wash cycle. As your baby grows you will require less diapers, but 7-10 diaper changes a day is normal for a new born.

The cost per cloth diaper varies depending on the brand and style you choose, but a full diaper complete with a cover and inserts can cost anywhere from $5-$20 per diaper. That number can be hard to grasp when you think about how disposable diapers can be purchased for less than 25 cents each, even less if you use coupons or buy store brands.

Baby Budget

Preparing for maternity leave and how your budget will be affected with your new baby needs to be planned well  in advance. I did my best to save money wherever I could. Occasionally coupons for store brand diapers can be found but almost always you can find coupons for Huggies and Pampers.

You can even order coupons by calling SC Johnson Baby each month or by ordering coupons online. I always took advantage of stockpiling baby items when I had coupons to save money in my baby budget especially for when I went on maternity leave.  I did use some Pampers coupons in the beginning when my son was newborn then realized that the store brand diapers were cheaper still without a coupon. They worked just fine for us.

Disposable Vs Cloth Cost Comparison

For this comparison I am going to use the higher end, $20.00 cost per cloth diaper and an average of 8 diaper changes per day.

Disposable Diapers      

  • Monthly Cost
  • 8 per day @ 0.25 each = $2.00   $60.00/month>>Over 2.5 years=$1800
  • For myself that is times 2 as I have 2 children=$3600

Cloth Diapers

  • $20 per 24 diapers=$480.00 Initial investment

Note* depending on the brand you choose, you may have to purchase bigger cloth diapers as your child grows. $480 x 2 purchases=$960.

I could have reused the cloth diapers for my second child and saved an additional $2640.00 on the initial cost of diapers alone. You now understand why I am regretting my choice to use disposable diapers as I may have potentially saved money in my budget but also eliminated diapers going to the landfill.

You should keep in mind time, laundry detergents and water/hydro costs which will vary depending on where you live. Although you won’t be buying as many garbage bags to dispose of the diapers, so in turn reducing that cost. Cloth diapers do also require a wet bag for storing when outside of the house, and a pail of some kind at home to store. Both may cost a total of $50.00 combined.

Additional inserts may be desired or required which will cost you $$.

Cloth Diaper Services

To ease the amount of washing and the time involved with cloth diapering, there are diaper services that will deliver, pick up and wash the diapers for you. Like any convenience you will pay but for some this cost might make sense to them.

A local company in my local area is Bear Bottoms Diaper Service. They will do this for $19.95 a week. This would have ended up costing me around $5200.00 for this service. It may not be the most cost effective way to use cloth diapers but if you really have your heart set on it, it can ease the amount of soaking and washing you will have to do.

Looking back now I should have taken the time to really think this through and do a bit more digging around. Talking to other mom’s who have used both diapers to get feedback on costs would have also been a smart decision as well.

The convenience of disposables really outweighed the messiness of a cloth diaper. Had I done enough research I could have saved a lot of money in my budget. With a little bit of patience I might have been more successful with cloth diapers than giving up after giving them one shot. After seeing multiple friends use and enjoy cloth diapers over disposable diapers while saving a ton of cash, I wish I made the choice to use cloth diapers.

What kind of diapers do you use? Do you wish you had made a different decision?

Editors Note: Thanks Katrina. Although we don’t have any children it’s great to learn from those with experience such as yourself especially when it comes to an expensive cost such as diapers.

katrina cbb

Post Contribution: 

Katrina is regular contributor for Canadian Budget Binder and is as passionate about personal finance as she is gardening. Katrina is a horticulture graduate with over 10 years experience with landscaping and greenhouse production.

Her goal is to share her knowledge and experiences blogging about gardening and her continued passion for personal finance in hopes of motivating others. While being a single mom of two and an in-store marketing representative  for major retail shops she also runs her own Landscaping Services in Southwestern Ontario.

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Mr. CBB
I’m from the UK and now a recent permanent resident in Canada. I bought my first house at the age of 21 after University then my second at the age of 24. I’ve always been fascinated with personal finance, savings, learning to make money and watch it grow while combating debts along the way. Canadian Budget Binder is a place where I get to share my experiences with personal finance and learn about yours along the way. I hope you stick around and check me out on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest where I am active on all social media sites. Cheers, Mr.CBB
Mr. CBB
Mr. CBB

Comments

  1. Cat Alford says:

    Thanks for breaking down the numbers! I definitely want to try cloth diapers when its time!

    • What made you want to use cloth diapers? Did you talk to others that have used them?

    • Katrina B says:

      If you know what you are getting into you can prepare for the time involved. I didn’t look into enough and gave up too soon. I wish I had known more. Do you have any friends that have used cloth diapers? I had a couple but I was so comfortable with disposables that I thought they were crazy! I should have listened more though because they were very successful and had lots of tips to share with eachother.

  2. The other thing to consider with cloth diapers is that they require special detergent which are substantially more than normal Tide.

    • What detergent would that be Catherine? It’s Mr.CBB not Katrina as I’m sure she knows.. I’m just curious.

    • Not necessarily! Many manufacturers and retailers are now recommending you use Tide! It is even one of the best rated detergents to use by this website:

      http://paddedtushstats.com/2012/03/09/best-performing-detergents-by-water-type-machine-type-etc-database-update/

      • Katrina B says:

        I do remember that they did recommend a particular detergent. Unfortunately I do not remember what it was called. The jug was the size of a small Tide jug and cost around $15.00 I believe. Thanks for adding that, it’s certainly a cost to consider :)

    • I have never used anything except my normal detergent – I use half the normal amount and a cup of white vinegar in the rinse water. So its actually cheaper than a usual wash as I use half the amount. Who in their right mind would pay so much for a “special” detergent??? lol

      • Katrina B says:

        It is recommended to use a ‘special’ detergent that is free of particular chemicals, as with any product, you do have the choice to use it or not. I walked into the diaper store with very little information regarding cloth diapers and having been told that it was necessary to maintain the diapers I would have likely bought it if I knew for sure I was going to use cloth diapers. There are alternatives of course, such as you have shared, that these stores won’t tell you because it will lose them a sale. Thanks for sharing what has worked for you :)

      • A smaller quantity of detergent and an extra rinse should avoid any build up of chemicals. I have never seen or heard of anyone using any special detergents – the manufacturers sometimes recommend using Fairy brand, but that is just a regular non-biological detergent.

        After looking around on all the real nappy forums I visit, it seems they are available on the manufacturers’ websites, but I haven’t found anyone who has actually used them – the general consensus seems to be that it is just a marketing ploy, a waste of money and any old non-bio will do just fine!

  3. We started off with a diaper service (disposables for the first couple weeks because he was so tiny), and finally dropped it to buy our own reusable diapers. We were a little worried it’d be gross or a pain, but it’s actually very easy and not really a mess at all. We really liked the diaper service, but it was $100/month! We paid $400 for diapers up-front and now our cost is just a little extra laundry and fancy detergent.

    • Katrina B says:

      Starting off with a diaper service until you get the hang of it could be another option! You can get comfortable with using the diapers before having to worry about the cleaning in the beginning. It is definitely a more expensive route than buying your own but may add the convenience needed to get off to a good start. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Christine Weadick says:

    I had three kids and the boys wore disposables, my daughter wore cloth for the most part. With our older boy I was going to a laundromat to do the laundry so that was a factor for disposables. Money was tight when his sister showed up so we bought 3 dozen of the old style fold and pin cloth along with rubber pants usually stocked at the old Woolco $1.44 Days sale. By that time I had a washer and dryer on site so I could wash them every 3 days or so. I used the same detergent for them as everything else, just ran an extra rinse. I had a pail in the laundry tub for the dirty diapers. I was fine with doing it again when my younger son was born but hubby fussed about the smell when I washed them so we went back to disposables. Hubby knew better than to complain about the cost (even with coupons) as I would just tell him that we can always go back to cloth….. He shut up fast. I did use those old diapers for the younger boy…..they made great burp cloths!!!! Even with the boys we had dirty laundry, as when I was potty training they wore cloth pants. Those lovely disposable training pants hit the Canadian market right around the time the youngest was trained and no longer needed them…….just my luck!!! Lol!!!
    I enjoyed the article Katrina!!! By the by I believe it was SqwaukFox that did a similar article a while back and she made much the same points…. Still interesting…..

  5. Nice breakdown Katrina. We’ve had two in diapers for several years, so we know just how expensive they can be. I know that cloth diapers are cheaper in the long run and have many great benefits. However, as crazy as our house is with three little ones running around and running a business disposable diapers are just too convenient for us. It’s one of those things that we’re willing to pay for because of the convenience aspect and the time factor. That said, you have to do what is right for you and your family.

    • Katrina B says:

      Thanks John. The convienence of disposables is certainly hard to look past. I’ve been a single mom since my youngest was 4 months old and both kids still in diapers, I can’t imagine how I would have managed with cloth but looking back at how much I threw away on disposables makes me wish I had thought ahead a little more.

  6. Hey Katrina and Mr. CBB
    This is a debate I’ve wondered about more than once as we are considering having more children. Like you, I haven’t looked too much into it but I think a big barrier for me would be the extra work that comes with having the cloth diapers. Remembering back to my first baby, I was pretty strapped for time and energy – especially in the first three months!
    But I know I would like to give them a fair shot because of the money savings and environment goodness!
    Thanks for the article!

    • Katrina B says:

      You’re welcome Lindsey! Let us know what you decide when the next one comes along,I’d be interested to hear what your deciding factor was. :)

    • I worked out that using cloth actually only took around 30 minutes more a WEEK! Its really nowhere near as much work as people think!

  7. Debt RoundUp says:

    We tried cloth diapers, but found that it really wasn’t that fun to deal with. I know disposables are more expensive, but I will gladly pay the price for convenience on that one.

    • What was the deciding factor?

    • Katrina B says:

      I found that out pretty quick too, I didn’t even make it through a day! I think with a little patience I could have gotten used to it. After seeing how much I spent on disposables it makes me wish I had tried a little harder. All hind-sight now, no more diapers here!

  8. avgjoemoney says:

    We used disposable diapers, too, but loaded up whenever they were on sale. Having twins made finding the next deal a necessity. I like your comparison and recommendations. Thanks!

    • Katrina B says:

      I’m sure having twins the convienence of disposables is a big factor for you! Do you use coupons as well with the sales?

  9. I never even considered cloth diapers because I had to go back to work when my daughter was 6 weeks old and I know the sitter would not have wanted to use them, and I don’t know how I would have felt picking up a bag of nasty diapers at the end of the work day that were sitting around for hours. If I were to do it over and was home more, I would certainly try the cloth ones.

  10. My wife and I had planned on using the cloth diaper altenative for our first child, but we were unprepared for how long it took to clean the diaper. Like you, we didn’t want our disposal diapers going to the landfill, but ultimately we went the disposable route too.

    • I’m curious to know what you mean by “how long it took to clean the diaper”?? I just flush away the liner and any solids and throw the whole nappy in the pai and then when the pail is full, it goes straight in the washer on a rinse cycle, then a normal wash cycle followed by another rinse. It takes no longer to throw a cloth nappy in a pail than it does to throw a disposable nappy in a bin. The washing machine takes care of the washing and the hanging out to dry adds maybe 3 minutes 4 times a week, to my normal laundry hanging. I’m really at a loss wondering what on earth could have happened to your nappies that it took an enormous amount of time to clean each one!! lol please, tell me!

  11. When I worked at a baby store, I always suggested to parents to give cloth diapers a try, especially when the baby is younger. When they’re on a milk only diet, it doesn’t smell as bad as when they’re eating foods!

  12. We used disposable diapers, but I do wish I would’ve at least tried cloth. At the time, with 4 kids in a six year span, sanity and simplicity ruled our decision making. :-)

  13. Tax Savings. In some specific circumstances, when cloth diapers have been prescribed for the treatment of a disease, tax savings may be available through the use of flexible spending accounts and medical expense deductions. This could represent a 10% – 35% savings on the cost of diapers depending on the family’s tax rate.

  14. I’ve used neither up to this point in my life, but I have friends and family on both sides of the coin. The factor that made my sister opt for disposable diapers over cloth was the fact that she has to haul water to her house, and she pays by the truck load. This ups her washing costs considerably, and would make cloth diapering more expensive than it would have been otherwise. It’s another factor to consider that I never would have thought of had she not mentioned it.

  15. I find these numbers confusingly high. I have used cloth diapers ( or nappies as we call them here in the UK for all 7 of my kids. I bought them originally from ebay – yes they had been used lightly, but a soak in nappy sanitizer and a hot wash and they were good as new. I bought 15 one size (birth to potty) plus 5 wraps for £40 – around $60. For a wet bag I used a ziplock bag and for a nappy pail, i used a cheap lidded pail I found in the equivalent of a dollar store – so where the $50 for these items comes from is beyond me! I washed every other day or so – probably 4 times a week. those nappies lasted well for 4 babies, then some of them began to get a bit threadbare, so I replaced the worst ones with pre owned terry towelling squares and a nappy “nippa” – a plastic alternative to pins. I got 12 of these, pre used, from ebay again for £8 including shipping ( about $12) I also bought 4 all in one type nappies at £10 including shipping. I use disposable liners which I buy in bulk – again from ebay and if they are only wet, I wash and reuse them – I can usually get 4 uses out of them before they disintegrate. In total for 7 babies I have spent less than $100 on nappies and wraps and other equipment, and I probably spend another $15 a year on liners.
    Using the figures from the article, instead of $1800 per child x 7 children at $12,600, I will have spent around $310, plus of course electricity bills and detergent ( I use half the amount of non-bio washing powder and half a cup of white vinegar in the rinse water, line dry whenever possible. in bad weather, I hang inside until almost dry and them put in the dryer for 15 mins to soften them).
    I worked out that they maybe take 30 minutes more work per week than disposables, but when you look at the savings, I think its well worth it – plus my children rarely suffered from any soreness, due , I believe to their skin not being in constant contact with the chemicals and bleaches in disposable nappies.

    • Katrina B says:

      Hi Siobhan. What a great option cloth diapers seems to have been for you! Unfortunately, here in Canada our costs are much different than in the UK and we are unable to purchase them that cheap. The $50.00 for the wet bag and diaper pail was referring to a proper wet bag and diaper pail, based on what is recommended for diapers, this is what I came up with. Using a ziploc bag and a dollar store is certainly a frugal, money saving option. I am also wondering if Ebay in the UK has different selling policies than ours in Canada. I am not able to recommend looking for them on Ebay because here it is against their selling policy. Not knowing this I had actually tried to sell the cloth diapers I had used for one day and received a nice email from Ebay stating I violated their policy and my ad had been removed. Lucky for you that you were able to save even more money with the cloth diapers! Thanks for stopping by :)

      • I appreciate that you were using the list price for “official” bags and buckets, but as CBB is a site that aims to save money wherever possible it seems odd that in a cost comparison it wouldn’t be pointed out that you don’t actually NEED the branded items and that a ziplock bag works just as well as a fabric “wet bag” costing many times more.
        Ebay UK does not allow diapers to be listed as “used” either. Sellers list them as “new” and then state that they are used in the listing. A loophole perhaps, but it seems to work. We also have quite a few used nappy sites where you can buy and sell used diapers. Plus several facebook and other social media pages were nappies can be bought – I would imagine this to be also the case in Canada.
        I used to live in Winnipeg and often saw ads on craigslist etc selling cloth diapers very cheaply and even picked up 2 dozen Sears diapers for free on freecycle. However I never actually used them as nappies as I didn’t think they were that absorbent – but they did come in very useful for wrapping up delicate ornaments when I was packing to move back to the UK!

      • Katrina B says:

        This post was leaning more in the direction of comparing the costs of buying new cloth diapers and new disposable diapers. Yes, that would make sense, but I did not want to make recommendations on items that I have no personal experience with. The difference in cost between cloth and disposable diapers is significant already and worth noting, if you can save even more then go for it! Thank you for sharing some frugal ways that have worked for you in order to save you money. I’m sure Mr.CBB would love to have you share a guest post detailing all of your personal tips and experiences saving money with children. Thanks for dropping by. :)

  16. Im surprised the writer had every diaper leak! This is a case of not changing the diarrhea enough. Unlike disposables cloth needs to be changed every 2-3 hours (which is a good thing, means your little one isn’t sitting in urine). I do agree it takes knowing what your doing. I Haber cloth diaprred 5 (soon to be 6) babies. Also it isn’t really much extra work. For those who would like to learn more there are some good sites, I also have a cloth blog called “mama moss diapers” I also agree the cloth cosy is exaggerated (what kinda pail and wet bag costs so much?) And like other cloth moms, I’ve never used special detergent.
    http://mamamossdiapers.blogspot.ca/?m=1
    beth newell recently posted…Fabric For Diaper WrapsMy Profile

    • So you don’t really need to use special detergent when you wash baby clothes and diapers? Sometimes I wonder if its all a big hype just to get parents to spend more money. Thanks Beth!

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