In our last post, Al and I shared ways on How to Save Money on Cloth Diapers. We went over which type and brands we found to be most cost effective and a few other crumb saving ways to deal with poo, cloth diaper laundry, etc. And as promised, now that we have survived 1 month of cloth diapering, here is a breakdown of our costs, savings, and thoughts on whether cloth diapering is really worth investing in over disposables.

Cost of Disposables

Before we go over how much we spent on cloth diapers, it would help to have some hard numbers on what we are comparing to. We’ll use Kirkland brand disposable diapers from Costco as a reference since those are the ones we would most likely purchase if we ditched the cloth.

A box of Kirkland size 1 disposables contains 192 diapers. So if used over 1 month, that would average 6-7 diapers/day (I read somewhere that Costco conveniently tries to package about a month’s worth of diapers per box, so this seems accurate according to our usage).

1 box Kirkland disposable diapers = $30 = $360/year

Hmmm…..for all the talk about diapers being such a huge baby expense, $360/year for disposables is not as much as we thought. This means that $360/year is the maximum amount that we can save by switching over to cloth diapers. Is it worth it? It’s only $1 a day! Let’s see how cloth diapers shake out.

Cloth Diaper One-Time Initial Costs

As mentioned in our previous post, we decided to use the simplest types of cloth diapers (flats and prefolds), purchased most of them used (consignment event), went with inexpensive covers, and used paper towels as liners (make sure to check out our previous post for more details). So here are our costs for getting started in cloth diapering. These are one-time costs for items that should last us a while.

*Many of these items were given to us from our gift registry or we purchased with Amazon gift cards/credit from returns. So in theory our out-of-pocket expense was much less.

Cloth Diaper Monthly Ongoing Costs

We use disposables at night and during outings, Viva paper towels as liners, and special laundry detergent for cloth diapers. All of these are ongoing costs each month.

Cloth Diaper Monthly Costs

Cloth Diapers vs. Disposables

So how do they compare? Here are the costs comparing full time disposables and the Crumb Saver cloth method, which is a combo of using cloth and parttime (PT) disposables for nights and outings.

Keep in mind that these are based on rough estimates that could vary based on a variety of factors such as:

  • Needing to replace cloth diapers, especially if the cheap ones don’t last as long
  • Water costs (especially if you live in places like CA, but not an issue here in TN)
  • Electricity (but be a good crumbsaver and use the sun instead of the dryer!)

Maxing Out the Savings

Notice that our savings really aren’t that much. With our current system of cloth diapering, even though our initial outlay of costs was very low, we are still only saving approximately half of disposable diaper costs. How could we save even more? Currently we are using disposable diapers at nights and when we go out. This is for convenience and also because we think disposables will be more comfortable and more absorbent for nighttime when we change the baby less often.

However, most true cloth diaperers are more hardcore than we are. If we were to use cloth diapers exclusively, our savings would increase dramatically.

Luxury Cloth Diapering

Our price analysis is based on the Crumb Saver method of cloth diapering as described in our last post. However, if we decided to use the typical cloth diapering methods that are popular on many mommy blogs, we would be paying at least $15 per cloth diaper for the more expensive styles and brands. We would also need to build an arsenal of at least 20 of them just to get through about 3 days of use.  That means our upfront costs would skyrocket to at least $300 on the cloth diapers alone. With these much higher costs, we wouldn’t start saving money over disposables until the second year of use. That cuts our potential savings over 2 years to a maximum of $360.  That’s only a savings of $0.50 per day!  Even for penny-pinchers like us, we would gladly pay that to avoid the additional hassle, mess, and work of cloth diapers at night and when on the road.

Is Cloth Diapering Worth It?

After 1 month of cloth diapering and crunching the numbers, we were extremely surprised to find out that disposables really weren’t as expensive as we thought and that our savings with cloth diapers aren’t as much as we expected, even using the most inexpensive options we could find. We currently are only saving about $20/month. Is $20 worth the hassle of special wash methods, drying in the sun, folding to size, and the undesirable intimacy with poo and pee?

As Crumb Savers, cloth diapering was something we had to give a try and we’ll probably continue for a while. But at $20 per month, with each poopy explosion I am more and more tempted to ditch the cloth and go with convenience. (Of course, if we went exclusively cloth, cloth diapering would have a much larger financial benefit, but I’m not ready to be that hardcore yet.)

So if you’re considering cloth diapering, here is our opinion on when it is truly worth it:

  • You can reduce the upfront investment costs of the diapers themselves – opting for luxury brands and fashionista styles can tank potential long-term savings
  • You use cloth diapers exclusively – in order to maximize the savings
  • You have the extra time (i.e. stay-at-home mom) – if you work or have other children, your time is probably worth more than the cloth diaper savings
  • You don’t have many others who need to learn how to do it (i.e. daycare, babysitters, family members) – putting in the the extra effort yourself is one thing, but putting the burden of the extra work on others may not be worth it
  • You and your child aren’t picky – you aren’t picky about fashion (so you can buy cheap to save more) and your child isn’t picky about what goes on their bottom (some children don’t like that cloth diapers make them feel wet, they may have a hard time getting used to the bulkiness, or may be picky about the inconsistency of using different types of cloth diapers that you get from sundry places secondhand)

So what are your thoughts? Having done cloth diapers for only 1 month, I’m sure there are still many things we need to learn. Share with us what your experience has been with cloth diapers vs. disposables, why you prefer one over the other, and whether you think cloth diapering is worth it. Perhaps you can help us decide whether we should continue or not!