There are lots of great reasons for choosing cloth diapers, but the most popular reason is to save money. While cloth diapers definitely save money over the long-term, a major obstacle for many families is the perceived high startup cost. I’m happy to say that’s definitely not always the case though. There are many ways to cloth diaper on a budget! In fact, here’s a comprehensive list of 12 ways to get cheap or even free diapers.
Often people only see the big name diapers that cost $20-$30 apiece (or more). But like any consumer product, cloth diapers come in a wide range of features and prices. Many diaper systems are more economical than you might think. They may not be as fancy as that limited edition, custom embroidered, all-in-one, organic unicorn hair diaper, but they’ll do the job you need for a fraction of the cost.
Whichever cloth diapering option you choose, commit to saving a small amount every pay cheque to slowly build up your stash. Even if you’re only using cloth part-time, every diaper you don’t throw away saves you money.
1. Flat Diapers
Flats are the original cloth diaper. When you think of old school diapers and rubber pants, these are them! Flats are large squares of fabric that you origami fold into a pad, kite, or other diaper shape. Add a Snappi to hold the diaper together, a waterproof cover, and your’re done!
2. Prefold Diapers
Prefold diapers are another economical option. They cost slightly more than flats, but they’re still very budget-friendly, come prefolded to save you time, and will last you through multiple children. My Bummis prefolds outlasted two babies and over 600 washes, and there’s still plenty of use left in them! Like flat diapers, use a Snappi fastener and waterproof cover.
3. Flour Sack Towels
Some moms use flour sack towels. These are highly absorbent cotton kitchen towels that can be repurposed for cloth diapering. Flour sack towels can be purchased at many big box stores (Walmart, Target, Real Canadian Superstore) or you can pick up flour sack towels online at Amazon.
4. Cheap Pocket Diapers
If you’re looking for something more “modern,” you can look into a class of very economical pocket diapers manufactured in China and sold online. Major brands include Sunbaby, Alva, Kawaii, and Happy Flute. Out of all of them, I recommend Sunbaby diapers because the quality tends to be more consistent, they last a long time, and the owner follows fair labour laws.
If you prefer the convenience of buying these foreign-made diapers from someone local to you and not having to wait weeks for shipping, a moderate surcharge is fair. However, beware of resellers importing various diaper brands, rebranding them with their own label, and marking up the price two, three, or even four times the factory direct price. (Note that Sunbaby doesn’t resell or rebrand their diapers.)
5. Register for Diapers
If you’re an expecting mama, register for cloth diapers for your baby shower! Many local and online baby boutiques offer a registry, and Amazon has a Baby Registry as well. Amazon allows you to add items from any site for one easy-to-manage registry.
6. Cloth Diapers as Gifts
Let friends or family know that cloth diapers are a welcome gift. I loved finding cloth diapers wrapped up in a reusable wet bag under the Christmas tree!
7. DIY Diapers
If you’re crafty, why not try sewing your own? Here’s a huge list of free or almost free cloth diaper patterns. If you’re not handy with a sewing machine, you can also add snaps to prefolds to turn them into budget-friendly fitted diapers.
Did you know you can even make an upcycled diaper from an old t-shirt? What a neat way to breathe new life into old clothes! (Video courtesy of The Real Diaper Association.)
And here’s how to make your own economical no-sew fleece covers! (Video courtesy of Dirty Diaper Laundry.)
8. Hand-Me-Down Diapers
If you’re lucky enough to have a friend or family member already using cloth diapers, not only can you pick their brain for cloth diapering tips and tricks, but you might also receive some hand-me-down diapers. I got most of my overnight diaper stash of Mother-ease diapers from my sister-in-law, and I sent some back to her when she had her second baby. I’ve also passed on diapers to other friends. Sharing is caring!
9. Buy Used
Many mamas save money with used diapers. In fact that’s one of the unexpected cost-saving benefits of cloth diapers. You can often sell your diapers when you’re done to recoup part of your initial costs.
There are lots of places you can find deals on used diapers. Here are just a few ideas:
- Your local kids swap or flea market
- Local baby/children’s consignment stores
- Your local buy/sell/trade (BST) Facebook group
- Cloth diaper brand-specific BST Facebook groups, particularly if you’re looking for something specific
- Facebook Marketplace
- Diaper Swappers
10. Diaper Co-ops
Another money-saving strategy is to team up with other mamas to go in on a co-op. That’s where a group of people agree to pitch in together to buy diapers in bulk to take advantage of wholesale or volume pricing.
If you’re considering going in on a co-op, I urge you to be careful and do your research. While some co-ops are run legally and ethically, many are not. Most name brands don’t allow co-ops, and if the organizer doesn’t follow through, you may be out money with no way to get it back. You may also not be covered under warranty. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Co-ops: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truth.
11. Cloth Diaper Banks
Low income families can apply for assistance through a cloth diaper bank. Search for a local cloth diaper bank or apply to a national organization. In the US, check out Giving Diapers Giving Hope and Rebecca’s Foundation Cloth Diaper Closet. In Canada, visit Cloth for a Cause, Babies in Cloth (Alberta), or One Diaper Canada (Ottawa and environs).
12. Enter to Win!
You can also win cloth diapers! Check back here or sign up for my emails to be first to hear about cloth diaper giveaways. Visit Change-Diapers’ Friday giveaway linky or Cloth Diaper and Babywearing Giveaways on Facebook to browse cloth diaper and baby carrier giveaways from all around the web.
Have you found any other ways to save on cloth diapers? Let me know in the comments!
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