Can you cloth diaper on little or no budget? Yes you can!
Are cloth diapers expensive? They certainly seem so at first glance, but in the long run they are definitely cheaper than disposables. How much cheaper, is really up to you and the kind of shopper and deal finder you are.
The only reason I chose to go with cloth diapers, was the cost of disposables and the fact that I would have to continue purchasing them week after week and month after month. I couldn’t stomach the idea of spending so much money on something that was just going to be thrown out and then repurchased every week or so. Paper diapers are expensive and they are a budget commitment. The idea that someone was making a continuous flow of money because I didn’t seem to have a choice to use cloth diapers was also maddening. When I found modern cloth diapers, thanks to the recommendation of a friend, I was sold. Once I started using them, I realized that whatever the price of my cloth diapers, once I had what I needed, I was done buying them. That felt a little bit like freedom to me.
My family had a small budget for cloth diapering when we started out, but thankfully we did have a cloth diaper allowance so I was able to purchase a couple of pocket diapers every month. I checked different diaper retailers every week or so for deals, found coupons, and used rewards points to keep my prices low. When I had a stash of about 14 cloth diapers, I decided to start sewing some as well. Using old t shirts, I sewed a couple of fitted diapers for just the price of thread, velcro (and eventually snaps), and elastics. Shortly thereafter, a friend showed me how to knit wool soakers which became another nearly free way of padding my stash. Soon, I found a couple of places that gave reward points for their cloth diapers stores in exchange for blog posts, so I wrote as many as I could to earn the points I needed to purchase a couple of free diapers every few months. I found countless contests and giveaways to enter and won a few diapers that way. Finally, I found ways to review diapers for different places either on my blog or someone else’s. After everything was said and done, I was able to get about half of my cloth diaper stash for free and when my daughter potty trained at two years old, my stash was huge. Long story short, in order to manage that, cloth diapers had sort of become an obsession for me. You can still cloth diaper even if you don’t have money for the start up cost. Here are some of the ways that you can make cloth diapering even easier on a tight budget.
No sew T shirt diapers and wipes
I love to save old clothes that we don’t wear anymore and use them for re-purposing projects. I use this free fabric to make dresses, leggings, shorts, bibs, and fitted cloth diapers. If you have no sewing skills, you can still use your unwanted clothing as diapers. The best thing would be to use your old t shirts and receiving blankets. Simply fold them like a prefold, and use the sleeves or corners like closure tabs. Fasten with a snappi or some pins at the front and then cover. You can also do some simple cutting and make a flat diaper out of an XXL T shirt as demonstrated by Kim Rosas in this DIY t-shirt cloth diaper tutorial.
I used to buy pretty flannel and turn and top-stitch wipes for my babies until I realized, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Now I use those same old T shirts as fodder for cloth wipes as well as diapers. I simply cut them up into squares and stick them in my wipes container. Easy peasy.
Make your own diaper covers
The nearly free way to make a diaper cover for your T shirt flats/prefolds would be to use a 100% wool sweater, or a garment made of fleece. I’ve sewn a couple of pull on wool/fleece covers before and they are surprisingly easy. You can find a pattern online or use a wool cover you already own as a template, and it shouldn’t take you more than an hour to sew. If you used wool, be sure to lanolize it, which is done simply by putting the wool cover inside out in some warm water with a gentle detergent and some lanolin. The warm water will soften and melt the lanolin enough that it will adhere to your wool cover and help to make it more water resistant. There is no need to lanolize your fleece covers.
If you knit, it’s pretty easy to whip up a cover. You don’t even have to know how to knit in the round. If you can do a basic knitting stitch, a purl stitch, a yarn over, knit two together, and you have some sewing skills, you can make a diaper cover out of a triangle of wool fabric. Choose the number of stitches to start with based on your baby’s waist, K2, p2 for an inch or two, add yarn overs coupled with ktogs in the k2 set of stitches after half and inch to an inch (for a drawstring), then continue your ribbing for another half inch to an inch. At this point, switch to knitting back and forth with a k2tog at the beginning of each row, which will gradually decrease your row size and make a triangle. When you are done, pull the three corners together and sew until you have leg holes the size you want, knit an i-chord or crochet a chain for a drawstring, and your cover is done and ready to be lanolized and used. I’ve knit various sizes of this diaper cover and more complicated wool covers and they both work really well for me.
Sew your own diapers
If you sew, you can take those unused T shirts in your basement and make fitted diapers out of them. I used to use velcro to make my fitted t shirt diapers but I purchased a set of snap pliers from kamsnaps.com as well as a bunch of adorable colored snap pieces, and I add snaps to my diapers. Kam Snaps and other diaper making suppliers used to be the only places that had snap pliers and snap presses, but I’ve noticed that cloth diaper retailers, such as Diaper Junction have started stocking cloth diaper repair & sewing supplies.
With your absorbent, soft old t shirts, and the minimal cost of thread, elastics, and snaps, you will easily be able to fill your stash with a ton of handmade fitted diapers that work really well. I’ve been sewing my own fitted diapers for years now and I’ve also used a small variety of store bought fitteds, and I feel that mine hold up to the same quality and absorbency of the fitted diapers that cost me $20 or more. I guess this is why I rarely purchase fitted diapers. If I just give an hour or two of my time I can make 2-4 diapers of my own! Fitted cloth diaper patterns and tutorials can easily be found with a simple search on Etsy or even just through a Google search. There are a variety of free patterns and tutorials out there, and you can also purchase different patterns at a very reasonable price.
If you don’t want to use old clothing, there are a variety of websites out there that sell cloth diaper making supplies. Two sites that I like purchasing from are: wazoodle.com and www.kidsinthegarden.com Wazoodle.com even sells cloth sewing diaper kits—everything you need to make your diapers cut and ready for you to sew. Their large fitted diaper kits sell for only 3.99 a diaper, and having the kit cut and ready to go will cut your sewing time in half!
Okay, so you don’t sew or knit and you don’t feel like being creative with no sew t shirts? No worries! There are still bargain cloth diapering options for you!
Prefolds and Flats
At $2-$4 apiece, prefold and flat diapers, are definitely the most economical cloth diapers available for purchase. They are not only inexpensive, but they are easy to wash, and come in luscious fibers such as cotton, bamboo, and hemp. At first, these types of diapers can seem intimidating because they require different types of folding, but as a former skeptic now converted flat and prefold diaper user, I can tell you that once you get the hang of it, you’re probably going to fall in love with the control you have over how you customize your baby’s absorbency and fit with these old fashioned diapers—besides the fact that you will jump through less hoops when it comes to washing them. Twenty four Diaper Rite medium prefolds you $55.80; twenty four Diaper Rite cotton flat diapers will cost you $43.90; and six Diaper Rite OS Covers will cost you $65.70.
With these prices you can cloth diaper your baby full time for $109.60 or $121.50—and this is the full price without sales, deals, or promotions. Of course, Diaper Rite products aren’t your only inexpensive option. Brands like Imagine and Econobum also offer low budget prefold and flat cloth diapering options.
Used cloth diapers
You can further cut your costs by buying used cloth diapers. This can be nice for trying out some of the more expensive brands, or for getting the already economical types of diapers for even cheaper! Just check out as many details about the diapers as possible—ask about how old they are, how long they’ve been used, and make sure that the price is actually low enough that the purchase is worth it. Also, remember that fitted and prefold cloth diapers actually get better with use and abuse while diapers with PUL and elastic wear out more quickly. You can check out eBay for used cloth diapers as well as Babycenter’s cloth diaper forum, Diaper Swappers, and even your local Facebook yard sale site.
When spring comes around, it is always a great time to get quality used baby gear for cheap at local yard sales, so get out there and into your neighborhoods the minute you start seeing those neon posters stapled to telephone poles because chances are you will come across some great finds—and maybe even some cloth diapers! I know of a couple of people who were able to score a good beginning cloth diaper stash this way.
Most cloth diaper users know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great times to make great cloth diaper scores! Not only are the deals good, but there are so many free gifts that come as incentives for early purchases! I remember sitting up at 11:59 on Thanksgiving with a full shopping cart ready to click “order,” the minute the clock struck 12:00 back when my first child was a couple of months old. I must have been one of the earlier shoppers too because I scored a free Grobaby diaper with that purchase! Of course, Black Friday isn’t the only time for sales. Many brands clearance out old styles of cloth diapers as they redesign them. You can often find these clearances at your favorite cloth diaper retailer and they usually end up on Zulilly as well. I scored a pair of Eco Posh training pants on Zulilly for only a couple of dollars using referral cash I had in my account there.
Sign up for newsletters
Sign up for the mailing list to all your favorite cloth diaper brands as well as cloth diapering blogs and Facebook pages. They’ll give you a heads up on awesome sales and deals. I was able to purchase dirt cheap clearance diapers and seconds diapers both from FuzziBunz and BumGenius because I subscribe to their mailing lists. This will also keep you in the know about redesigns, new prints, and clearances.
Make some of your money back
It seems weird, but you can actually sell your diapers when you’re done with them, especially if they’re in good condition or include unicorn prints and styles. I’ve sold a couple of my diapers over the years and I have earned back, on average, 30%-50% of the original cost.
Shop bargain brand diapers
If you need your diapers now and can’t wait for sales, seconds, or the time it takes to make your own, consider shopping the bargain brands. I’ve purchased just about all of the bargain brands I’ve discovered and I’m usually delightfully surprised at their quality! We have had amazing success with Diaper Rite brand diapers, which come in everything from flats all the way to AIOs.
Imagine Bamboo AIO diapers are hands down my all time favorite diaper ever. As AIOs go, their price is on the low end and they’re constantly having sales and clearances so it’s easy to fill my stash at only $11-$13 a diaper if I wait for the right time to buy. Imagine also carries every type of diaper from their printed flats to their all natural AIOs. Diaper Safari, and Kawaii are some other bargain diapers I have tried and loved. Before you purchase a bargain diaper, make sure it’s inexpensive and not also cheap. Talk with other parents who have used it and get their opinions.
Read reviews on a couple of different sites. See if there are any blog posts about them. If everything comes back positive, go ahead and make your purchase. The good thing about these diapers is that you aren’t putting out much of an investment. When I bought my first Diaper Rite AIOs back when they were made of microfiber, it only cost about $10 a diaper. I told my husband that if the diaper only lasted to the end of my pregnancy (I was really sick and needed something easy which is why I purchased it), then we would have gotten our money’s worth. I was delightfully surprised to see that it went above and beyond not just my pregnancy, but the performance of some of the more expensive diapers in my stash.
Diapering a baby can be so daunting on a tight budget. Though using cloth diapers often eases a family’s financial struggles in the long run, the up front cost can be overwhelming. There are ways to cloth diaper for nearly free, and ways to slowly but surely fill your stash as you come across sales. I suppose I’m not the type of purchaser cloth diaper retailers enjoy because I almost always just purchase just one diaper and only when there is free shipping available simply because I only ever come up with that little bit of money to make my cloth diaper purchases. I just never have the $50-$100 on hand needed to make a bundle purchase. My stash is pretty big now, but it only got that way because I slowly but surely filled it with great deals, contest winnings, review diapers, and my own fluffy creations. With a little bit of time and work, you can likewise cloth diaper your baby without putting a huge dent in your budget. Good luck to you as work to fill your cloth diaper stash with the best deals you can possibly find!
This post does contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my work-at-home-mom owned business. – Julie