After spending about $350 or so on various cloth diapering supplies (cloth diapers, cloth wipes, wet bags and a diaper sprayer), the question of course comes up as to how long it will take me to earn my money back. I mean, the lack of waste is nice, but it’s a bit of a financial commitment and money’s tight for us. Knowing when the payback is reached is a nice reassurance.
Payback for us won’t come as quickly as for others. We always bought the store brand Target diapers, which are significantly cheaper than name brands such as Pampers. A mid size pack of Target diapers runs under $11 pretax, versus $16-45 for Pampers, depending on the number of diapers in the package.
The number of diapers in a package drops as the diapers get bigger, so that they can keep charging the same price per package. This makes it hard to do more than approximate things.
And I haven’t even tried to figure in the cost of disposable wipes. Diaper costs alone should be sufficient to show the benefit in a reasonable time frame.
$350 is around 32 packs of diapers. Less actually, since that’s pretax, so I’ll call it 30 packs. Still too many but I would rather overestimate than under.
It’s hard to figure out how long to assume each pack will last on average. Call it two packs a month at the size I buy. I’m guessing here, based on a newborn using 8 or so diapers a day while an older child uses 5-6 a day.
So 32 packs would go for 16 months.
I’m skipping a few factors here. On the disposable side, there’s the cost of going to get the diapers, which is small as I can combine it with other errands. However, the need for them in the past often caused trips to Target that could have otherwise been combined with later trips. The more you shop the more you buy, you know?
As noted above, I’m also skipping the cost of disposable wipes.
On the cloth diaper side there’s the cost of doing laundry. Probably a load every other day in the early days, then spread out depending on how well I can stand waiting. Plus the time to handle the laundry, including hanging them out on the clothesline in good weather for them to dry. But I do that with all the laundry these days, so I really don’t think of it as a big deal anymore.
There’s another factor to consider. One site I saw said it’s an average of 30 months of diapering with babies. However, I’ve also heard that cloth diaper babies tend to potty train earlier. I like that benefit, even if there’s no obvious cost savings with cloth. But it does mean that the financial cost of disposables adds up for longer.
And one more subtle cost factor. This is absolutely my last baby, so I can’t spread the cost out over multiple children. I had my OB make sure of that with a tubal ligation during my C-section. Too bad I didn’t discover cloth diapers sooner.
But cloth diapers have a resale value if they remain in decent condition. When the time comes, I can go to a forum such as Diaper Swappers and get something back for what I’ve spent already. That can bring the payback time frame way down.
Overall, I’m enjoying these early days of my cloth diapering adventures. I hope it continues to go well for us. The money saved and the decreased waste make the extra work worth it for me.