April 21, 2011

Can We Really Save Money by Switching to Cloth Diapers?

This is just getting ridiculous. I have never, never gotten sick of calculating lifetime prices, unit costs or comparison methods. Ever.

But Tuesday night, as Mr and I were going through the diaper trial box, pulling out the ones we liked and trying to figure out what we might need for Jr and any future kids, I almost wanted to stop.


Instead, we went on calculating, which took us all over the place. I can now say that I know how to convert therms to cubic meters (and what a therm is), what the wattage of my dryer is, and how much we're paying for water. Courtesy of Mr Electricity, here's the tool we used to calculate the impact that increased laundry will have on our budget: (I wish we'd found it earlier in the evening. Then I could have gone to bed earlier and not been such a hot mess in the morning.)

Too much? Can't we just assume that cloth diapering will cost somewhere less than $1,733.75 and leave it at that?

Obviously I can't. Don't forget, I'm not just a cheapskate, I'm a time hoarder, so if cloth diapering will only save us a little money in the long run, but will use up a lot more of our precious time, then we're not doing it.

So here are the assumptions, the list of what we think we'll need (shortened, with the help of my dear friends on Facebook and their super-duper, deserving of maple candy help), and the cost breakdown:


Jr will be at least two more years in diapers and uses at least 5 diapers a day. The cheapest I've found disposable diapers we like is $0.19 per diaper, and we'll likely have one more baby, who will be in diapers at least 3 years. That's where the $1,733.75 comes from.

We go through about one box of disposable wipes every two months, and a good median price (somewhere between my preferred "on sale with a coupon" price and the "chump" price that I get when I'm desperate) is $13. So that's $312 in wipes

We'll have to wash the cloth diapers every other day or so. One bag of Rockin Green detergent should yield about 90 loads, which means we'll need to buy one (at $20) every six months or so for the next four years. That's $160 in detergent.

The increased use of gas and electricity from an extra load of laundry every other day will cost somewhere around $680 (you can see from the calculator that we initially looked at a load of diapers a day, using the dryer for each load. But I'm a line-dry kind of gal, and already mentioned that we plan on washing every other day. So I used half the amount and spread it over four years.)

Supply List:

Oh yeah, and we have to buy the things too (and pay taxes, and possibly shipping).

6 Thirsties Duo Wraps 6 Bummis fleece liners
24 Indian cotton unbleached prefolds 2 GroVia wet bags
24 cloth wipes $191.89 (after my $25 gift card)

Cost Breakdown:

Disposables and wipes for Jr and the twinkle in Mr's eye: $2,045.75

Cloth diapers, accompanying gear and extra laundry for Jr and the hypothetical third baby: $1,031.89

To borrow a phrase:  ::head explosion::

Only a  $1,013.86 difference? Amortized over four years, that ain't much to gain.

Don't get me wrong, it's enough. I'm the girl who makes an extra grocery stop to get $0.30 off of her weekly milk, remember? $253.47 per year is a lot of money. It's just not quite as dramatic as I would have liked, seeing as I eschewed the fancy fitted diapers I really wanted (Thirsties Fab Fitted, in case anyone has an extra $20 lying around) in favour of the plain-jane prefolds.

And there's lots of room for the cost of cloth diapers to magically balloon, too, right? Which means it's a "no" to the diaper sprayer. And to the pretty wet bag. And you know how much I like new and fancy baby things.

Does this mean we're doing it? We're going to stop all the navel-gazing, hand-wringing, and diaper blogging and actually invest in a set of cloth diapers (and stuff)?

You bet it does.

That felt momentous.

And (for those of you that have stuck around this long, there will be a prize at the end), I cannot recommend a rental package enough if you're thinking about switching to or starting off with cloth diapers. I can't imagine committing to cloth diapering in order to save money if I hadn't actually held the diapers and used them on Jr for a week.

Remember me? I didn't even know what a prefold was. I would have gone with a more expensive system - not because I made the choice to, or because it would work better for my family, but because I didn't know any better.

If you live in Southern Ontario, go look at The Cloth Diaper Shop's rental package. Lisa has been my right arm this past week - you've seen her around in the Facebook comments. (Disclosure)

And now, the prize:

**If you want to read all the navel-gazing, hand-wringing and diaper blogging from the beginning, here's the series:
Cloth Diapers: Better Late Than Never? (At BlogHer)
Taking the Plunge...What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into?
Jr's Expensive (But Cute) Bum
A Week of Cloth Diapers (on Facebook)
In Spite of Myself, The Cloth Diapers Arrive