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How to Cloth Diaper on a Budget

written by: Lindsay Evans•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 3/2/2010

Want to save money on diapers? Choosing cloth diapers over disposables will save you a substantial amount of money in the long run. Although investing in cloth diapers can seem expensive at first, follow these suggestions to keep your costs down.

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    Did you know that the average family spends around $1,600 on disposable diapers per child? And that estimate, courtesy of the Real Diaper Association (www.realdiaperassociation.org), is assuming the child is out of diapers at age two! Clearly, the numbers show that, in addition to being gentler on the environment, buying and using cloth can help you save money on diapers.

    Buying cloth diapers does mean a significant initial investment. Depending on the styles of cloth diapers you choose, you may spend between $300 - $600 or more. Today's modern cloth diaper styles are stylish and convenient, but they can be pricey. Don't worry - there are multiple ways you can minimize your cloth diaper investment.

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    Stay Simple

    Nothing is wrong with using "old-fashioned" prefold diapers. The original budget cloth diapers, prefolds remain the least expensive cloth diapering system. Good-quality cotton or hemp prefold diapers actually work great when used with a modern diaper cover. Pinning is not necessary. An inexpensive device called a Snappi can hold a prefold in place without pins. You may skip this step altogether and simply tuck a folded diaper in it's cover. The cover will hold the diaper snuggly next to your baby's skin.

    Diaper-service quality (DSQ) prefold diapers and dependable covers are available at several online retailers, including Green Mountain Diapers and Green Earth Baby. DSQ prefolds cost between $14 - $36 per dozen, depending on size and material. The average cost per diaper is only about $2.00.

    Cloth diaper covers made of polyester laminate (PUL) material are the most affordable. Bummis, Thirsties, and Imse Vimse make dependable PUL covers ranging from $8 - $15 each.

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    Check Out Adjustable-Size Diapers

    One-size diapers eliminate the need to buy a new set of diapers and covers as your baby grows. The diaper can change size by adjusting the rise of the diaper. Though one-size diapers are more expensive per diaper, they can ideally be all you need from birth to potty-training. One-size diapers come in several styles - All-in-Ones, pockets, or fitted. One-size diaper covers are available, too, if you use fitted or prefold diapers (if you need help with defining these diaper styles, see here).

    Highly-rated adjustable, one-size diaper brands include bumGenius, Mother-Ease, Rocky Mountain Diapers, CuddleBuns, and Wonder Wraps. One-size diapers cost about $25 each. One-size diaper covers cost between $14 - $19 each.

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    Dry Diapers in the Sun

    Using the heat of the sun to dry your diapers will cut back on the energy you use to launder the diapers at home. Hang up a clothesline to use on fair-weather days. The sunlight will not only dry your diapers for free, but will magically remove even the most stubborn of stains! Diaper covers should not be left in the hot sunshine for an extended time, though, as the sun's rays can damage the waterproofing.

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    Sew Your Own!

    If you have basic sewing skills, you can make your own diapers and covers. Patterns abound online for making fitted diapers, soaker pads, pocket diapers, diaper covers, and All-in-Ones. Go to diapersewing.com to get started.

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    Purchase Diapers Gradually

    If you can't afford to get all you need at once, buy cloth diapers as your budget allows. This will actually let you try out different diapers and see what works best for you and your baby. Be sure to put cloth diapers on your baby registry so others can chip in, too.

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    Used Diapers??

    Buying gently-used cloth diapers cuts your costs dramatically. Don't be turned-off by the idea - cloth diapers are meant to be reused! Buying a used version of a diaper you're curious to try is an affordable way to test it at home. You can find great deals on used diapers on eBay or diaperswappers.com. Be sure the seller is honest about any damage, staining, and the overall condition of the diapers.