Cloth Diapering the Super Budget and Relaxed Way (Part 1 of 2)

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Out of our $300 a month budget for household expenses, one fifth of that ($60!) was going toward the cheapest diapers and wipes I could get my hands on.  About the time my second child turned three months old, I realized that having two kids in diapers was just not going to be sustainable.  Either we start spending more and watch our dream of owning our own home slip a little further into the future, or I would have to get creative.

I decided to get creative.

When I first heard about cloth diapering, my first impression was that it belonged to the crazy hippie earth-lovers’ movement.  (You know, the people so green they refuse to own cars and switch to hitchhiking)  Anyhow, my second impression was disgust.  “You mean, people actually wash poo in their washers?  That’s just gross.  Not for me, thank you!

But the more I looked into it, the more I realized the huge money-saving potential.  Since I knew that my husband and I were not done having kids anytime soon (Lord willing, of course), a little investment now could pay off quite a bit in the long run.  And so, with martyr-like resolve, I decided to bite the bullet and enter the world of cloth-diapering.

And world it is.  There are a gazillion different brands and types and sizes and fabrics and folds and patterns and snaps and inserts and creams and detergents and no-nos and swap sites and everything else you could ever imagine or get confused by.

Although there are tons of different reasons and ways to cloth diaper.  Here, I’ll be sharing my way, the super-cheap and relaxed way.  When deciding what kind to get, those were my two requirements..

First, I wanted the cheapest of the cheap, without sacrificing on quality or sturdiness since I wanted them to last for multiple children (and still wanted them to do their job of keeping smelliness where it belonged).

Secondly, I wanted something low-hassle.  (Do I really need to explain this one?)  Life with two kids is busy and life with more than two is probably only getting busier.  I didn’t want any sort of complicated care routine adding to my to-do-list.  I wanted to diaper and wash and repeat.  None of this diaper, spray, soak, wash with specialized detergent only, and then hang-on-the-line-to-dry-because-your-dryer-will-melt-it business.

Eventually, I found exactly what I was looking for.  I sacrificed a bit in the convenience department (there’s a bit of fancy folding involved), but otherwise they’ve been very functional, extremely budget, and easy to care for.  And my little self grocery raise has been fun to play with too.

After reading a gazillion amazon reviews, I settled on these traditional prefold diapers from Osocozy.

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These covers from Thirsties (I can usually use the same cover for the entire day, just swapping the actual diaper underneath as it gets soiled.

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A set of snappis to secure the diapers in place.

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And a few wet bags to keep the dirty diapers in until I had enough for a full load.

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I crunched the numbers for you all below.  Keep in mind that as a new cloth-diaperer, I bought everything completely new.  I did not like the idea of using some other child’s once-pooed-in diapers on my child.  However, now that I know just how clean these diapers are capable of getting (I’d use them to clean my face, y’all), in the future I’d have no qualms about buying used.

THE COST (buying new):

24 Prefold Diapers – $48

6 Diaper Covers – $90

1 Set of Snappis – $10

3 Wet Bags – $57

Total for complete set: $205 (a little over what I was spending on 3 months worth of disposables AND these diapers should work for future children as well!)

I should also mention that there are two sizing options for the kind I used.  The first size (adjustable) should fit a baby from 6 to 18 lbs.  After that, a second set is needed that should cover a child up until 35 lbs (which is about what my 3 year old weighs).  The snappis and wet bags can be reused, but you’ll need to purchase about $140 of new diapers and covers once they outgrow the first set.

But even if I add that together ($345), that’s still under what I would be spending in 6 months (and my almost-three-year old is STILL using diapers overnight).  If you were interested in cutting costs even further, you could buy used or even get away with half as many diapers and covers if you’re willing to wash more often.  (I wash mine about every 4 days.)

In my next post, I’ll be discussing my process of using and caring for them, along with several unanticipated perks I’ve discovered along the way.

32 thoughts on “Cloth Diapering the Super Budget and Relaxed Way (Part 1 of 2)

  1. Valerie says:

    Wow, your story sounds a lot like mine! http://atlantamomofthree.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/what-do-you-think-cloth-diapers/ I went with the same sort of diaper too, called Econobums (covers + prefolds). Hmm, I haven’t tried the snaps, though, and maybe I should because his prefolds shift around quite a bit in the cover. :/ I look forward to your next post! 😀

    • Great hearing from you, Valerie! I originally was not interested in the snappis. I thought they looked funny and were an unnecessary expense. However, once I tried them, I’ve loved them! They really help keep the prefold *exactly* where you want it. Because of that, you don’t have to change the outer cover as much. Awesome little accessory. I’ll be sure to check out that link! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Amanda says:

    Hi there! Found your blog a week or so ago and have really enjoyed reading your posts. I have three kiddos under four so (when I get a few minutes on the internet!) I enjoy blogs that I can relate to 🙂 Your content is a lot of fun 🙂

  3. Sarah says:

    When my first was born I used prefolds and plastic pants and pins because I had to. I was 16 when he was born and though his daddy and I got married, a 19 year old working at Lowe’s didn’t make enough to allow for luxuries like disposable diapers! We now have 5 children and my husband is a pretty successful small business owner (8 years after baby #1) but we still use cloth diapers. My favorites now are Alva Baby pocket diapers I buy from Amazon. 🙂

  4. This sounds so familiar! My first two were 15 months apart and we were going through diapers like CRAZY!! The first thing I tried were (used) pocket diapers, but the ammonia build up in the microfiber inserts was awful! The second thing we tried was prefolds with covers which we still use and love. The third thing (my favorite) was fitteds with covers. So now I use a mix of prefolds and fitteds. I buy them used in good condition so I can get them much cheaper than buying new. Thanks for sharing your story!

  5. faithalkire says:

    Reblogged this on faithalkire and commented:
    yep that sums up my why in half a nutshell. I am a left over hippy somedays i think. lol

  6. Valerie says:

    I am so glad you talked about Snappies because I bought some and they came over the weekend in the mail. Just trying them out today and so far I love them! Thanks!!

  7. Michaela says:

    Totally agree – have the same system and love it. Also have tried fancy pocket diapers and the tried and true cheap way is way better at preventing leaks. I end up doing laundry about every day though because my 2 year olds poo smells so nasty. How do you keep your smell from building up so bad? How many times do you rinse before washing? I also read your budgeting series- have you tried making your own laundry detergent? Easy and so cheap!!

    • Thanks for reading, Michaela! My wetbags are sturdy enough to keep the smell in for us. Also, he’s been doing most of the pooing on the toilet, so it’s mostly #1 that ends up in the diaper for us. I did the math for making our own laundry detergent before, but I think I came up with a similar ingredient cost to what we spend on Walmart’s great value powder. We buy a huge tub for about $7 that lasts us FOREVER, so I haven’t felt like that’s been stressing our budget much. Thanks for reading and commenting! So glad to have you along!

  8. bmwbeamer44 says:

    Have you ever tried Amazon Mom? I only spen 28$ for 160 size 4 diapers a month, and we buy wipes from Walmart like once every 4-6 months for 12$. That is the cheapest place I have found.

  9. bmwbeamer44 says:

    Also, how many prefolds did you find you need?

  10. eddie says:

    Used to be a product called “Diaper Sweet” no idea if anything like that is still on the market but a handful in a diaper pail with about 2 inches of water and it kept the diapers smelling like baby powder. I tossed the load in the wash each morning (poo diapers were rinsed before they went in the bucket) never believed in letting them sit in wet pants and when they were new born would sometimes go through 2 and 1/2 dozen a day…always had a washer and dryer…that works so much better for me than having a garbage can full of yuk for the week…especially in the summer time…they had disposable diapers then too but I thought the cost was prohibitive.

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      Thanks, Eddie! I’ve never liked the idea of diaper pails, although I suppose they’re not too different than the wetbags I use now. The wetbags do a great job of keeping the smell at bay for us!

  11. Julia says:

    Where did you purchase all your new supplies, were they all at the same store (or website)?

  12. Jamie says:

    For future, as I’m sure you may find that your covers will need replacing after a few children (I got about 3 kids worth out of my brand new ones) you should look into assuntastore.com – a non-profit org that sells diapering supplies to support their charity work with sick & orphaned infants in China. I like their covers just as much as more expensive popular brands and they told me that their products are made by adults earning a fair wage in safe conditions. (They actually meet their suppliers in person if I understood their staff correctly.) I’m not affiliated in any way, just a like-minded mom who is a happy customer. Have a great day!

  13. Tiffany says:

    In about a month and a half I’ll be having my second son. The first one I single mommed it, so I used disposable diapers and they were a big waste of money. At the time I didn’t have the know how to be as frugal as I am now. I love this post because I have been wavering on what to do for diapering because of costs. So thank you so much it has been a big help! I have a question though…What do you do with the soiled diapers when your out and about? Plastic bag or did you purchase a wet bag for the diaper bag?

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      Great question, Tiffany! I disposable-diapered my first as well, but I’m never going back now that I’ve tried cloth! It’s saved us SO much money and frustration. I did purchase two travel-sized wetbags, but I have several friends that just use ziplock baggies. It has the potential for not being as ‘pretty’, but it does the job of keeping the mess and smell in where it needs to be. Hope that helps!

  14. audra says:

    I’m about to jump back on the cloth diaper band wagon. Cloth diapered my oldest, used disposables for my 2nd and 3rd and want to CD my 4th and 5th (not twins but I am pregnant with #4 and want a fifth in a few years).

    How often do you seem to change your baby during the day? Does 24 pre-folds really last you most of the week? When I was using pre-folds and covers, it seemed I was changing her 12-14 times a day. She’d pee and super soak herself to the point of being uncomfortable and cold. I had to wash diapers every other day and was getting so tired of it. She also wouldn’t sleep through the night because the diapers were wet and cold. I eventually turned to disposables because the wick away the moisture.

    I am currently sewing some pocket diapers with a stay dry lining and absorbent inserts, but with pocket diapers, you have the change the entire diaper when they pee/poo. I got tired of pre-folds and eventually donated my stash but kept my diaper covers. Any thoughts or advice? THANKS!

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      Great hearing from you, Audra! A lot depends on your baby (how sensitive their skin is, how frequently they go, etc). I easily do 10-12 diapers a day when they’re a newborn-4ish months old, but after that, we tend to slow down to 4-6. With my one year old, I usually change him about 3 times a day (when he wakes up, after naps, and before bed) unless he makes a stinky one. 😉 But all kids and cloth diapering styles are different. It will probably take some trial and error, but you’ll eventually find a system that works best for your family.

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