“I can’t afford the start up costs of cloth diapering.”

Over the course of the last nine years that I’ve been involved in cloth diaper sales, a reoccurring argument has been brought up.

“I can’t afford the start up costs of cloth diapering.”

I understand that concern. I do. While there are inexpensive diaper sets, most people would only give it a fair shot with a pocket diapering system or an all-in-one system. So, you’re looking at somewhere around $20 for a diaper. While I think 10-12 diapers is suitable, I know a lot of you don’t want to wash every day and shoot for a reasonable 16-18 diapers to constitute a complete stash.

I have a few issues with the “start up costs of cloth diapering” argument for not using cloth though, I have to tell you. It doesn’t make sense. Are we Americans so short sighted that we can’t see past a few months into the future?

We don’t conceive and deliver a child in a couple of weeks. We have three whole seasons to plan for our children’s arrivals.  There’s no rule that says that you have to buy your cloth diapers all at the same time.  Buy a diaper a week. Everything Birth does sell diapers individually. If you don’t want to pay separate shipping charges each week, you could set aside a piggy bank for your baby while you save and make your child’s first piggy bank purchase a set of new diapers.

Think you don’t even have an extra nearly twenty bucks a week for a time period of 18 weeks to do that? Well, I don’t have an inkling of an idea of how you plan to buy disposables for the next three years then.

All we need to do is prioritize what matters to us. If cloth diapering is really important to you, the initial start –up costs will not deter you and will be an investment worth their weight in gold.  Here’s 18 ways the average American wastes the price of a single cloth diaper regularly without even realizing it:

  • One lunch out for two at a place like Applebees.
  • One car ride’s worth of gas into the city to go to the mall and look at new baby stuff.
  • Late fees for not paying our bills on time one month.
  • Two week of tanning
  • A half of a manicure
  • A hair cut at a mediocre salon
  • One 20 ounce bottle of soda a week for one trimester
  • Dinner for one with a drink at a place like Outback.
  • A homemade dinner of steaks (instead of burgers) cooked on the grill.
  • One week of buying name brand groceries instead of store brand.
  • One week of not using coupons at the grocery store.
  • A couple weeks of cable TV. (Heck, giving up cable TV for less than the duration of your pregnancy will leave you with enough money to buy the entire set of diapers and have plenty left over.)
  • One coffee shop drink a week for less than one trimester.
  • A pair of maternity jeans.
  • A maternity sweater.
  • 6 bags of prewashed, precut lettuce instead of six heads of lettuce you have to prepare yourself.
  • One week of junk food.
  • One visit per week to a fast food joint for one month.

Don’t like going without? That’s fine. (Though, I assure you, if you have to go without to buy a cloth diaper a week for half of your pregnancy, you’ll have to go without a lot more to afford disposables in the years ahead.) Let’s talk about ways you earn the cash for a set of cloth diapers. Here are some ideas:

  • Get a part-time job in the evenings at a gas station or grocery store and stay there for only three weeks. (I guess that’s not the best Karma… but it’s being mentioned to put things into perspective.)
  • Sell some of your old books on Amazon.
  • Have a garage sale.
  • Sell old baby items from a previous child on www.birthdepot.com.
  • Get on a Freecycle group and when someone gives something away, turn around and sell it on www.birthdepot.com or Craigslist.
  • Offer a spring cleanup service cleaning up dog waste. Post it on your facebook. Charge $50. Clean six yards. Then “wash your hands” of the whole thing.
  • Post an evening babysitting service on your facebook page. Babysit one night a week for one trimester.

Don’t like doing extra work because you’re pregnant and already tired enough as it is? I understand. I still have more ideas on how to not have to worry about the start-up costs of cloth diapering. Register for your baby’s cloth diapers on the Everything Birth website and have your friends and loved ones front the bill. If your relatives feel bad about buying you “just a diaper,” simply explain that since it’s washable, they’re essentially buying you the equivalent of about a thousand disposable diapers. Explain to them that cash invested in a cloth diaper is a better financial investment than even investing it into a Savings Bond.

And for goodness’ sake, if you do get a Savings Bond as a gift, cash that puppy in for a couple of cloth diapers. Even before it matures, you will see a far greater return in just three years on your investment into a cloth diaper than the standard “doubling” that happens after like a decade with a Savings Bond.

And, while I’m on the subject of cloth diapering being a financial investment, let’s not forget that when the diapering years are over, if you’ve chosen your diapers carefully, you’ll most likely be able to sell your old used diapers for almost what you paid for them when they were new.



  1. Heather P

    Great article, just the other day I watched three USED Fuzzi Bunz (without a picture of the inside’s of them posted) sell for $80, brand new they would have been around $45. Another set of four used Fuzzi Bunz also sold for around $90!!!!!!!! Go without, get the diapers, they are WORTH IT! You save up front and make your money back and then some at the end!

  2. Stephanie

    I love this article! I too struggled with “the upfront cost of cloth diapers is a lot” blues. My daughter is 10 months now and I am SOOO pro cloth!! However, being our first, we decided we wanted to get used to changing a disposable diaper before we put too much on our plates! hehe, if I only knew what I know now!! I didn’t even do any research until after my daughter was born. When she was 2 months old I received my first two Fuzzibunz in the mail and fell in love! My mom and I bought 6 more immediately, and for the next two months we did cloth during the day and disposables at night. Over that time I bought about 6 more Fuzzibunz, and by 4 months she was a full time fluffy bum. I regret not researching it before she was born – I would have realized how awesome they are, and not to mention that if for some reason (can’t even think of a logical one!) I didn’t like them, I could resell them for almost the full amount initially paid! We had FOUR baby showers – imagine how many diapers I could have gotten if I had registered for them?!

  3. Or find a rep have a Diaper Party:) As the hostess, you get fabulous deals. Plus, you are showing your friends (even the ones who don’t yet know they love cloth!) how amazing CDs are!

    Many of us reps have been very successful hosting Diaper Showers for people, too:) I once had a friend receive $700 in diapers and products! She didn’t need to buy a thing, and is loving her fluffy baby!

    Great blog, Dawn!

  4. Brittany Higgs

    So true! I agree with this 100 percent. I got pregnant decided to cloth diaper and 5 months into the pregnancy lost the baby due to incompetent cervix. It’s been two months yesterday since I lost him.
    I didn’t think about baby stuff for a few weeks but one day I realized that this would be a PERFECT opportunity to start building up my stash. I’ve been entering giveaways and watching for good sales and in one months time I’ve won 5 and bought 1. I don’t expect I’ll win that many each month at all, but I’m putting aside enough for two diapers a month. I’m cutting back on buying clothes, eating out, traveling (gas is spendy these days) and now that all those things are gone I’m working more! It’s awesome and by the time I have another baby in a year or so I should have plenty of diapers to cover that little bum!

    Sorry for all the info. Just had to put my two bits in especially about giveaways. Even when you don’t win you learn a ton about cloth diapering and see lots of great reviews.

    • I lost a child from an early stillbirth as well. That was over ten years ago now. She had a genetic problem, I feel your grief must be so much more tremendous because your baby was probably otherwise healthy. I remember two months into my grief what I was feeling, and I just wanted to tell you that if you don’t have a full support system that will listen and not be afraid of what the might hear from you, find me on facebook, because I will listen to you and I won’t ever be afraid of what I hear. Look me up if you want (Dawn Babcock Papple.)

      And also… I think that it’s really smart what you’re doing planning for you future children now!

  5. Jen

    While I understand this article greatly! I already go with out those things. I have not had cable in two years. I don’t drink soda or coffee from shops… Junk food consists of vanilla wafers. ECT ECT ECT. I still have a hard time shelling out for cloth diapers( they are very important to me however because I know they save me the planet and my child troubles in the long wrong) that’s what should be important. Cloth diapering I see as an investment. A really good investment. all it requires is (alittle) extra work.

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