When my baby was tiny, I was in denial at the sheer number of diapers she went through.
I remember selecting one of the smaller packages at the grocery store, thinking, “This has 30 diapers in it, so it should last for a while.”
Ha! I’ll blame that math on sleep deprivation. I had to go back to buy more later that week.
Here’s the truth: Babies go through a lot of diapers. You’ll probably change your baby’s diaper thousands of times by the time she’s a year old. The (only) upside of all that diapering: You can save a lot of money if you do it right.
Here are the best ways to save money on diapers, starting with the most affordable option.
1. No Diapers
The only thing better than saving money on diapers is not paying for diapers at all. How, you ask, is that possible?
Elimination communication involves paying attention to your baby’s “poo cues” from day one so you can hold your little bundle of joy over a toilet when it’s time to go. You’ll continue to use sounds and signals in association with toilet time until your baby can eventually use the toilet on command.
Although elimination communication has recently gained some popularity in the U.S., it’s much more common in areas of the world where people don’t spend much time indoors, and where parents are more likely to stay with their kids all day long.
If you’re intrigued, check out The Penny Hoarder’s full post on the topic. If it’s not for you, you might like the next most affordable diapering option.
2. Cloth Diapers
Even when you buy the fanciest cloth diapers on the market, factor in the cost of washing, and splurge on accessories like a diaper sprayer and wet bags, cloth diapers usually cost less than disposables over the course of a few years. Most parents also plan to re-use the cloth diapers for their next baby, which increases the savings.
Besides affordability, cloth diapers have other advantages over disposables: They come in cute patterns and colors, they’re easy on the environment, and, in my experience, the double leg gussets and back flaps are much better at preventing leaks and blowouts.
Unfortunately, cloth diapering also requires getting more hands-on with the dirty diapers, and also requires a lot more laundry (you should wash cloth diapers at least every other day).
If you’re interested in cloth diapering, you’ll quickly learn that there are a lot of options available. You’ll save the most money if you buy basic prefolds (also called “flats”) and separate waterproof covers. Opt for the one-size covers so you won’t have to buy more as your baby grows. Since you have to do the laundry almost every day anyway, you won’t need to buy more than a few days’ worth. You can also buy fewer covers than diapers, because the covers often survive a few diaper changes unscathed.
If you’re willing to pay a bit more, you can upgrade to cloth diaper inserts (no folding required and some stay-dry features), or to the more expensive diapers that come completely put together (all-in-ones). Some crafty parents opt to save more money by sewing their own diapers, or even by creating cloth diapers from old T-shirts and towels from around the house or from the local thrift store.
(One bonus savings tips for cloth diapers: If you want a diaper sprayer, don’t limit yourself to the ones that are marketed for diapers; any handheld bidet will do.)
3. Disposable Diapers
Most parents choose disposable diapers for the sake of convenience — even some cloth-diapering aficionados switch to disposables when they’re out and about. You’ll still find plenty of ways to save on diapers:
Consistently choosing the generic option is one of the simpler ways to save. Store brands often cost half the price of brand-name options, but their quality varies. I’ve heard good things about the generic options at Target, Costco and CVS.
Also, consider generic wipes; they seem to be just as good as their brand-name counterparts and, unlike diapers, there’s no risk of messy disasters if their quality isn’t quite as good as the name brand.
Join Loyalty Programs
Plus, most diaper brands offer their own loyalty programs, which typically involve submitting codes from the boxes you buy and entering them online.
Your grocery store might offer its own coupons, and there are plenty of coupon opportunities online. You can also use the same apps that you use to save on groceries, such as Pirc, which will send you email alerts whenever your brand of diapers is on sale at a store near you, and Ibotta, which occasionally offers rebates on diapers in exchange for a picture of your receipt.
Other Tips and Tricks
As with any retail product, buying in bulk is cheaper, so go for the big boxes if you’re sure your baby will be in that size for a while.
You can also try to keep your baby in smaller sizes longer because the smaller sizes have more diapers per package.
Finally, toilet-training your child and moving him out out of diapers as soon as you can is a great way to save — though you can’t necessarily control a child’s potty-training timeline.
Good luck, Penny Hoarders!
Your Turn: How do you save money on diapers?
Lindsay Luebbering is a freelance writer and former journalist living in Cincinnati, Ohio. She helps people and businesses communicate in clear, consistent and compelling ways.