17 Ways to Use Cloth Diapers on a Budget
Cloth diapers are an excellent way to save money over the long term, but some brands or styles of diapers can run into hundreds of dollars just to get started. If you are using cloth diapers because money is tight, finding that money upfront is challenging.
But fear not!
Here at Simple Being, we have 17 ways to cloth diaper on a budget. Most ideas cover the diapers themselves, and one looks at how you can save money caring for your diapers.
In addition, you don’t have to only choose one idea. A fabulous way to save money on cloth diapering is to mix and match these ideas, saving a little here and a little there so that in total, you save big.
But enough talk, let’s get on and take a look at our 18 tips for successful cloth diapering on a budget.
Pre-folds & Flats
The most affordable way to use cloth diapers is to use flats. These are the large, square fabric diapers, the type familiar to your grandparents.
A ten-pack of flats can cost as little as $2 each. However, you will also need a way to fasten your diapers and some diaper covers. Assuming you need 24 diapers, eight covers, and one set of fasteners, a complete flat-fold diaper system will set you back roughly $180.
Pre-fold diapers are a little more expensive, but not by much.
However, there are a couple of downsides to this way of cloth diapering.
- Many brands of cloth diaper covers are made in different sizes, so you’ll need to buy new sets of covers as your child grows.
- Other caregivers may struggle with flats and fitteds, making it more difficult to leave your baby with someone else.
- Fitteds and pre-folds do not work for everyone. Some people find having to fold the diaper around their baby, fasten it, and then put the covers on more trouble than they can stick with long term.
All-in-Twos & Flour Sack Towels
Another low-budget option is to use all-in-two diapers with flour sack towels.
For this, you will need four packs of flour sack towels. These are large squares of lint-free cotton that you can find online or at brick and mortar stores like Walmart. You’ll also need eight all-in-two diapers.
Rather than folding the flour sack towel like you would a flat diaper, you fold the towel into a rectangular shape, the same size as the space in the all-in-two diaper. This has the advantage of being more affordable than inserts, as well as providing you with the flexibility to fold the towel to accommodate your child’s size, shape, and pee production levels.
To buy 24 flour sack towels and eight all-in-two outers will cost roughly $45 for flour sack towels and $160 for covers making a grand total of $205.
The downside of this system is that although the flour sack towels are highly absorbent, they may not hold the volume of pee you need them to. As a result, some people find they have to change their child every two hours or less.
Yes, we are biased, but we think pocket diapers are the best cloth diaper system for people on a budget.
You can pick up 24 Simple Being cloth diapers for $154 by choosing four of our six-packs. Each six-pack includes six pocket diapers, six inserts, a wet bag, and a roll of disposable liners, so you have everything you need straight out of the pack.
If you are setting up a baby registry, you can include cloth diapers. If you have very specific needs about the baby items you want, and they come from a range of manufacturers, choose a registry company that allows you to place items for any website on your list.
This gives you the flexibility to choose your cloth diapers, a diaper pail, wet bags, and any other accessories you would like, no matter what brand they are.
Diapers as Gifts
Before Simple Being, we were planning to use cloth diapers but were also wondering if we could afford the upfront costs all at once. So we came up with the idea of asking for our diapers of choice as gifts for our birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, etc.
This wasn’t a big deal from our perspective as we weren’t bothered about gifts for ourselves, and it solved the puzzle of how to begin saving money long-term without having the money to invest in what we needed.
Mix and match diaper styles
There’s no rule that says you have to choose a single style of cloth diaper and stick with it.
While it does cost slightly more to mix it up in the diaper draw, you can pick up some flour sack towels and all-in-two covers for use at home and some pockets for going out.
If you are one of those people who know their way around a sewing machine, then you can consider making some diapers of your own. Patterns and instructions are readily available online, and we do know of some people who are very happy with their homemade diapers.
The advantage of DIYing is that you can make diapers in any colors and patterns you like and adjust the size of the diaper to your baby’s weight.
The disadvantage is that you do need a certain amount of skills and equipment. For example, you have to be adept at sewing elastics into the legs correctly, and you’ll need the gear to put snaps on.
In addition, you can buy PUL, or another waterproof fabric, which may run up the cost, or you’ll have to pick up eight diaper covers or so.
Wrap your inserts
On some cloth diaper websites, groups, and forums, you’ll read about how you have to have dozens of spare inserts so you can double or triple up on them. Or you’ll find comments about how you have to have the super expensive after-market inserts that promise to suck up all fluids instantly.
Having some spare inserts is handy; after all, as your child grows, they will inevitably pee more, but there are more affordable ways to manage that don’t involve extra inserts that need a second mortgage.
Flats, flour sack towels, and prefolds can all be wrapped around and insert or folded and laid inside with your existing inserts.
The one thing to be aware of if you wrap or double up your inserts is this:
Microfiber soaks up fluids more quickly than cotton, hemp, or bamboo. So, if you stack your inserts ensure you put your microfiber insert on the top so it can soak the pee away from your baby’s skin as quickly as possible.
A cloth diaper co-op works like this. An organizer, with a tax-id, because this is a business transaction, takes orders from the co-op members. The organizer then makes a group purchase for a discount on the retail price. Then, the diapers are delivered to the organizer, who then parcels up each person’s order and sends it to them.
The advantage to co-ops is that you will be able to get diapers at a discount, but there are many actual and potential problems.
First, one actual problem, and that’s timing. The entire process can take several weeks, sometimes up to a couple of months. This is because the organizer places an order, which is then manufactured specifically for them, which takes time.
Obviously, if you need your diapers in a hurry or even within the next two months, this is not the option for you.
Secondly, you are likely to save from 10% to 15% on your total order, which may or may not be worth the wait.
Next are the potential problems.
Some diaper co-ops are genuine, legitimate group buying opportunities. Still, there are many, many shady if not downright dishonest people out there who use the co-op principle to scam people out of their hard-earned cash.
First of all, some cloth diaper co-ops have taken the money and run, along with everyone’s money, leaving the members out of pocket and without diapers.
Secondly, some co-op organizers either knowingly or unknowingly buy counterfeit diapers of low quality. There’s no way to send these diapers back and receive a refund, and at best, you’ll have some diapers that will see you through until you can buy some good-quality replacements.
A diaper bank either loans or gifts diapers to someone in need. Exactly what is available depends on the particular diaper bank. Still, generally speaking, a bank will provide you enough diapers to use, washing daily, and will swap outsized diapers as your child grows.
Some diaper banks provide a specific style of diapers, while others are unable to meet family requests.
There are national, regional, and local diaper banks across the US.
Pre-loved diapers can be found everywhere, from Craigslist to Facebook. There are even large Facebook groups dedicated to buying, selling, and trading cloth diapers.
The advantage of pre-owned diapers is that you can get a bigger bang for your buck than you would with new diapers. This is especially important if you are on the fence and unsure whether cloth diapers are right for you.
Buying a few secondhand diapers and trying them out will give you a feel for what’s involved before you take the plunge and layout your hard-earned cash on something that may not work out.
This is also an excellent way to try different styles or brands of diapers before committing too much money, as well as an option for picking up a couple of extras to supplement your current stash.
If you know someone who has been cloth diapering and plans to do it again, just not yet, then it’s worth asking if you can provide a temporary home to their diapers. If you can find someone willing, this is another excellent way to try before you buy.
Stagger Your Purchases
You don’t have to buy all of the diapers you need at once. You can buy one day’s worth of diapers and gradually build your stash up so you can go two or three days without washing.
Ask Companies direct
Some cloth diaper users have written about their success in contacting cloth diaper companies directly and asking for samples or freebies. While this isn’t a practical way to build up all of the cloth diapers you’ll need, especially in a short space of time, it can never hurt to try, and you could end up with a couple of extras.
Look for Contests
It’s not just cloth diaper companies that give away free diapers; you’ll sometimes see contests for either all of the diapers you need, a set of diapers, or even just one or two starter items.
Again, this isn’t a practical option for building a complete supply of cloth, but it is another option for some extras or to try out a new brand or style.
Free Amazon Gift Cards
There are various “get-paid-to” or GPT websites around. These are sites such as Swagbucks, where you can earn money by watching videos, playing games, surfing the net, and answering surveys.
Some sites will payout through PayPal or a direct deposit to your bank, while others send you an electronic gift card code that you can spend on Amazon.
While you are never going to make a fortune with these sites, and you do have to research the legitimacy of a website before you begin.
Save Money on Cleaning - Hang to Dry
Finally, you can save money on your day-to-day expenses by hanging your cloth diapers to dry rather than putting them in the dryer.
Cloth Diapers Can be Affordable
So, there we have it, 17 ways to save money when you are using cloth diapers. We’d love to hear any ideas you have, so give us a shout on Facebook or Instagram and share your thoughts with the cloth diaper community.