Last week I looked at ways to save money on feeding a baby, this week I’m covering the other end…with nappies.
Using cloth nappies rather than disposables is the second major way of saving money on having a baby (along with breastfeeding). Below are a few ways that we used to reduce the cost of nappies.
As usual, I’d love to hear about your savings tips and nappy experiences in the comments below.
Cloth v Disposable Nappies – a cost comparison
Using cloth nappies is almost always cheaper than using disposables. I say almost because if you buy the most expensive modern cloth nappy or MCN on the market, wash in hot water, use brand-name detergent, and dry using a dryer, then yes, you may end up paying more for cloth nappies (although the initial capital outlay is offset if you have more than one child).
On the other hand, if you buy cheaper nappies, wash in cold water and line dry, the cost of cloth nappies is much, much cheaper than disposables.
And of course, the environmental impact of cloth nappies is much less than disposable nappies.
When the little fella was younger, I ran a cost comparison between our costs, based on our usage, and the cost of disposables, I’ll reprint it here:
We use the flannel flat nappies which cost $1.70 each. I wash every two days and each nappy gets worn approximately three times a week. Over the course of the first year, the amortised capital outlay is less than 1 cent per wear (the little fella is still wearing these nappies at two and they will be used for the new baby, so actually, the capital cost is much less, but we’ll stick with 1 cent for simplicity).
We soak the nappies in commercial nappy soaker, wash in cold water, make our own laundry detergent and line dry. Electricity is around 4 cents per wash (calculated as per our electricity bill), water is around 6 cents (as per our water bill) and detergent and soaker around 20 cents for a load of 14 nappies. This makes the cost of each wash approximately 30 cents – 2.14 cents per nappy (incidentally, costs have risen since I first did this calculation, it is probably closer to 3 cents per nappy now).
We also use a liner in our nappies for convenience, which adds another 3 cents to the cost of each wear.
Adding together the amortised capital cost, the cost of washing and the cost of a liner, the total cost per wear is 6 – 7 cents for the first year (again, a little less if the same nappies are used for more than one year or for more than one child, which is our case).
To compare: Woolworths homebrand disposable nappies are around 30 cents each. Huggies brand nappies are around 70 cents each. Assuming we average about 6 nappies per day throughout the first year, we save around $500 in the first year compared to purchasing homebrand nappies or $1,380 compared to the Huggies brand.
Saving money on cloth nappies
I know that a lot of people swear blind by the Modern Cloth Nappies – we tried both the MCNs and the old-fashioned flannel flats and actually preferred the flannel nappies.
The upside to the MCN is that they are easy and quick to use– their design being very similar to that of a disposable. If you get the ‘all-in-one’ design, then you don’t have to worry about separate pilchers. Depending on the material, they can also be quick drying. The downside is that they can be expensive and depending on the type you purchase, you may have to buy different sizes for your growing bub.
Flannel flats are a lot cheaper (as stated above, around $2 each, compared to around $10 – $30 each for an MCN if purchased new). We found the flannel nappies to be easier to use, one-size-fits-all and easily adjustable to suit bub’s (and now toddler’s) size and shape, easy to wash and very quick drying. They are also multi-functional – we cut some up to use as bum wipes and burp cloths, clean nappies (as they are) are good for vomit spills and burp cloths, they’ve also become part of play as tents and blankets for teddy and the little fella can help me hang them on the clothes horse (I’ll talk more about pilchers and fasteners below).
[For more information on our nappy system see: In one end and out the other – cloth nappies six months on.]
So, if you’re looking for the most inexpensive option, flat flannel nappies are the way to go.
You can also make your own MCNs using recycled materials. I’ve written an article in the past explaining the different types of nappies available (because it can be a bit confusing – at least I found it was), different materials used and tutorials on making your own nappies. You can read about making your own nappies here.
Another option is Elimination Communication (not using nappies for either some or all of the time). We used this method with success for the first few months until the little fella was more interested in crawling around than sitting, at which point we reverted to solely using nappies – it was easier both for us and the little fella. You can find out more on EC and our experiences here.
The final option, which I haven’t explored myself and maybe if you have, you might tell us about your experiences in the comments below, is a nappy delivery service. I once knew people who ran a nappy service and it was very popular and profitable (although a lot of hard work). The Eco Mum (a great blog) also runs a Modern Cloth Nappy service in Sydney (soon to expand to other regions), if you are interested in looking at how these services work.
Saving money on disposables
At around 8 months of age, we found that the cloth nappies were leaking at night and we were changing clothes and bedding several times a night. We tried a few MCNs without any luck and decided to use a single disposable nappy for over night.
If you have any suggestions for cloth nappies that don’t leak at night and that keep baby dry when they sleep through, I would LOVE to hear about them in the comments below (I found one that looked promising but is not available in Australia). We would really prefer to go back to a cloth nappy for the night times also.
When it comes to disposables, we found the homebrand ones to be just as effective as the more expensive brand variety, for half the cost. Other mothers I know swear by Aldi nappies, although I haven’t tried them myself.
I’m a little hesitant when it comes to bio-degradable or ‘eco’ disposable nappies, mostly because we can’t afford them, but also because generally for something to bio-degrade, it has to be exposed to air, water and critters, not buried in a plastic bag deep beneath the earth. On the other hand, they may use less chemicals and have less of an environmental impact during manufacture, which is the other important factor to consider when it comes to disposables and the environment.
Aside from buying homebrand nappies to save money, you can keep an eye out for specials and discounts and stock up during sales. Discount chemists are also a good source of cheap nappies and sales as well as discount stores like Big W. When comparing brands, don’t forget to look at how many nappies come in a packet and go for the smallest size range that fits your child, because as they get older and the nappies get bigger, there are less in a packet and therefore more expensive per nappy!
We use a combination of homebrand ‘chux’ cut up into little squares, and cut up flannel nappies that can be washed and reused, for wipes. A little squirt of natural soap on a chux square helps clean a dirty bum when bub is older (we just used water for the first couple of months).
You can make your own wipes with chamomile or other scented natural products, but I neither had the time nor did I think that stuff was necessary.
When out and about, I always carry a bottle of water for myself (and now the little fella), so I can use that to dampen a chux square. Plain old toilet paper is a good alternative if necessary.
Liners are completely unnecessary but convenient for poo disposal. As the little fella is fairly regular, I don’t always use a liner. We use homebrand liners, although these are not flushable, Eenee has flushable, bio-degradable liners. I like Eenee products – not so keen on the cost of their postage (they are in Tasmania). Biome Stores also stock their products, which is more convenient if there’s a store near you.
The little fella went through a stage of doing a poo as soon as we put on his (disposable) night time nappy. Using a liner (and changing it immediately) kept the nappy clean so we could continue to use it rather than using two each night.
Pilchers and Fasteners
If you use flannel flats, you will need pilchers and fasteners.
You can buy plastic pants very, very cheaply from Kmart or Big W – they last about 5 seconds before tearing.
I found the best ones are the Eenee plastic pants – they are supposed to last 100 washes and can be tumble dried as well as being ‘breathable’. So far, they have lasted very well for us. Although much more expensive than the cheapo plastic pants, as the Eenee ones last longer they end up saving us money (and less waste!) in the long run.
Old fashioned nappy safety pins are very cheap from discount stores or chemists. For convenience, I found the Snappi to be an excellent alternative and also inexpensive. I used to be able to buy the Snappi in Kmart, but they don’t seem to stock them anymore. Any suggestions on where to find them (apart from online) would be welcome.
Change table and change mat
A change table is one of those things that comes down to personal preference. My friend is a chiropractor and is eternally aghast that I never used a change table.
We used the bed (or the floor) instead. It was just as convenient. When bub was little and I was changing way more nappies, I just knelt down to prevent a sore back. I did make a vinyl change mat from recycled materials, which was invaluable for the early months when accidents happened, but now we just use either an old towel or a clean flannel nappy as a change mat.
Buckets and Soakers
To soak or not to soak? We experimented with both options and found soaking the nappies kept them cleaner, smelling fresher and the little fella suffered from less rashes (he gets eczema, and ironically, un-soaked nappies would actually make it worse).
We have tried soaking in vinegar and this works a treat, but if you are (ahem) lazy and leave the bucket for a few days, it does get pretty nasty in there.
Homebrand nappy soaker is much cheaper than the brand alternatives (see ingredients here) – this is what we use. Alternatively, you can use eco soaker, but it costs a small fortune – try vinegar (and bi carb) first.
A bucket (or two) with a tight fitting lid is invaluable if you decide to soak nappies. A regular cheap bucket is useful to put nappies in to carry to the laundry.
Finally, a good pair of rubber gloves saves hands (I also get eczema) as well as reduces ick factor when rinsing ‘number threes’.
That’s it for our nappy experiences and how we saved money over the last two years. As you can see, I’m a big fan of cloth nappies, both for financial and environmental reasons.
What are your tips and experiences on saving money on nappies? I would love to hear about them in the comments below.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.