One of the biggest misnomers and common fears about cloth diapers is concerns about start up costs. But cloth diapers need not break the bank. Here are some tips and tricks for frugal cloth diapering.
One of the things I am asked most often about cloth diapering is how I could afford such an expensive diapering option. But truth is I did not invest much into cloth diapering. Don't get me wrong, even investing in a costly start up set will save you money in the long run, but we all know that is not feasible for everyone and there are many other options out there.
First things first, if you want to start with brand new diapers there are many frugal options out there.
Flat and Prefolds
The cheapest diapering option would be prefolds and flats with a cover. Prefolds and flats can be bought new for as low as 50 cents to 1 dollar a diaper.
The cheapest most basic diaper is the flat diaper. These are just a single layer square that is hand folded into layers for absorbency. They can be a bit trickier to use, but the dry really fast. You can buy traditional flat diapers such as gerbers birdseye, but a favorite in the frugal cloth diapering community is flour sack kitchen towels which can be found at Target and Walmart for as low as 3.50 for 5. Flats can be folded tons of different ways onto baby or pad folded and laid into a diaper cover. Additionally they can be used to stuff pocket diapers. Due to the fact that they are folded to fit baby, these will fit all through from birth to potty training.
A step up is the prefold, the most popular form of frugal cloth diapering, it too is a piece of cotton but it is already folded for absorbency resulting in a thicker smaller rectangle. These can be folded a variety of ways and then pinned or snappied onto a baby, but they too can be trifolded and laid in a cover or used to stuff a pocket diaper. Though these are much easier to handle then a flat they do take a bit longer to dry, another downside is that these come in sizes and you will have to buy a few different sizes. One should note that various brands have different sizing options, some such as Green Mountain Diapers have a wide variety of sizes, but you do not need every size. A general rule of thumb is to start with Infant size and then later upgrade to regular, if you are expecting a preemie then you can invest in newborn/premie prefolds (these are great to use later as doublers), but most babies are large enough at birth for the infant size. You can find basic birdseye prefolds from gerber (though these are thing and usually require a doubler), indian, or chinese prefolds. Cottonbabies has prefolds starting at 1 dollar per diaper with free shipping.
In both cases the amount needed will vary on the age of the child in diapers as well as how often you plan to wash. Cotton babies has an awesome information page and suggest having 12 diapers per day for each day you plan to go between washes for younger babies, and about 8 a day for older babies. Personally I suggest not going longer then 3 days in between washes to avoid any stink issues.
Both flats and prefolds are just a cloth diaper and require a waterproof top layer. In terms of diaper covers there are many options. The cheapest option for covers are good old pull on plastic or nylon covers, like what our grandparents used. They cost just a few dollars a cover. These only come in single sizes, so you will have to buy new sizes as your child grows.
The next step up would be a PUL cover which can be bought for as little as 5 per cover. These sit on top of the cloth diaper and close with a velcro or snap closure. This style of covers can be found for around 5 dollars a cover and up. Some of the cheapest brands include Kawaii and Thirsties. These covers come in both sizes and one size. The one size can save a lot of money, but generally do not fit a baby until around 10 pounds so you may want to consider investing in a few small diaper covers. Thirties has a diaper called the duo wrap, that while a few dollars more then the sized ones run for 2 sizes one diaper fits from birth to 9 months and the next from 9 month to potty training.
Both of these covers can be wiped out and reused if not soiled. As a general rule of thumb it is good to have 6-8 covers for a newborn.
When using prefold or flat with covers you will need either pins or snappis, just a few say 2 or 3.
If you plan to cloth diaper outside of the home you will need a small wetbag for the diaper bag.
And a diaper pail or hanging larger wet bag to hold your dirty diapers in between washes.
This set up can be bought for around 100 dollars. You can save money by choosing companies that offer free shipping such as cottonbabies, and watching for sales, they recently had all prefolds 25% off.
Here is a blog post from a woman claiming you can start cloth diapering for as low as 20 dollars.
One way to save money while still getting new diapers is to buy seconds. These are brand new diapers with small imperfections, cosmetic in nature, that do not affect diaper function but prevent the company from selling them in the normal product line. Such diaper can be as much as 40% off the retail price. Many brands sell seconds including cottonbabies makers of the econobum and thirsties.
You can save even more money by buying used diapers. While not everyones cup of tea, this is a great option for building a frugal cloth diapering stash. Used diapers can be found everywhere from Craigslist, to ebay, web forums such as Diaper swappers which even has its own feedback system in place to assure good transactions.
If you do buy used make sure you check out the feedback of the person you intend to buy from, both ebay and diaper swappers offer feedback. If you are buying of craigslist you can see the diapers before committing. Make sure to ask about the condition of the diapers, is it stain free, how is the waterproofing layer and the elastic.
Buying used can save you tons of money.
FFS/ Hand me downs
FFS or Free for shipping, as found on diaper swappers or even ebay klieneanzeige in Germany, are diapers that are free aside from the shipping costs. Many of these diapers are well used, but they have plenty of life left, and some just need simple fixes such as elastic repairs. The people posting these generally are very detailed about the condition, but never hesitate to ask. Do note these items are pretty fast moving, especially when really good items pop up so it is worth it to check back often.
Keep an eye out for hand me downs and do not be ashamed to ask. The majority of my diapers are the result of the generosity of one man on a forum I use. He asked where he could donate old diapers, I wrote him and explained my situation he sent me a box of pocket diapers and was happy to see them go to a family who could use them.
Make your own
If you are up for it and have some basic sewing skills consider making your own. Diapers can be made form objects laying around your home such as old t shirts and sweaters? Check out how to sew a frugal diaper stash for less then 30 dollars
Use what you already have
Did you know that receiving blankets can be used as flat diapers?
Or that old t shirts can even be made into diapers without any sewing?
Cloth diapering need not be a costly investment, you can easily cloth diaper for 100 dollars or less, so don't let that misnomer deter you if you want to give cloth diapering a shot.