Are You Spending Too Much on Diapers?

Even though we can save an easy $16 per month by scrimping on diapers, sometimes it’s hard to take that step when people are always telling us, “Sacrifice All for Your Offspring,” and “Brand Names Are Better.”  I have to admit, when I walk through Target with a pack of store-brand diapers, I feel those glances that seem to say, “Do you even deserve to be a mother?”

How to Save Money on Diapers

Despite (real or imagined) peer pressure, I am now raising my third child on cheap, no-name diapers and thus far, the little guys don’t seem scarred. (I’ll check with their therapists in 20 years.) True, generic diapers don’t have elastic waistbands to rival Nike sweatpants or the most popular Disney characters, but I don’t find they leak any more than fancy diapers.

Now that I live in New York City and my mini-van is long-gone, I order diapers online. While you can’t find generic brands on Diapers.com, I buy the least expensive brand (Luvs), get free shipping by stocking up, and avoid spending $158 on who-knows-what in Target when all I needed was diapers.

How Much Do Diapers Really Cost?

Here’s how the most popular brands measure up (when you buy an extra large case) at Diapers.com. All three brands got an average customer rating of 4 out of 5 stars, based on over 150 customer reviews.

Price per diaper (size 3)

  • Huggies Snug & Dry     $0.23
  • Pampers Baby Dry     $0.22
  • Luvs     $0.18

Still not convinced? Luvs, made by the same company as Pampers, has a money-back guarantee: if you are not satisfied with their leak performance, all you have to do is send in one unused diaper, the UPC, and your receipt, and they’ll send you your money back plus postage.

Store-Brand Diapers Around the Country

Almost all pharmacies and grocery stores — Walgreens, CVS, Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid, Albertsons — sell their own brand of diapers. I have tried the following store brands (which not available online) and they are all completely acceptable:

Price per diaper (size 3)

  • Safeway     $0.23
  • Kroger     $0.16
  • Target     $0.13

As you can see in the Safeway example, not all generic diapers are cheaper, partly because some don’t come in large cases. And opinions about no-name diapers are all over the map — there are both enthusiastic converts and name-brand loyalists — so it’s best to give the diapers a whirl yourself (well, you know what I mean).

Start Out Crappy and Move Up

With low-cost products that I buy often, I always try the cheapest brand first. Why go straight to the top when I might be satisfied with less? If it’s not acceptable, I move up to the next price point. This way, I avoid that low-rent feeling I might get when downgrading to generic diapers from Pampers.

For example, I tried several different store-brand diaper creams and was not impressed. Runny and ineffective. Instead of going straight to the fancy-schmancy Mustela or Boudreaux’s Buttpaste, I tried mid-range Desitin and it works great for us.

Advantages of Buying from Diapers.com

How to Save Money on Diapers

By the way, I don’t gain anything if you shop at Diapers.com, but since I’ve shared with you the advantages of online shopping, here are some things I specifically like about buying from Diapers.com:

  • 1-2 day shipping
  • Free shipping if you spend over $49
  • Lowest online price guarantee
  • If you like coupons, you can still use them by mailing them in
  • No schlepping from store to car and car to house
  • Easily make the free shipping minimum by throwing in other stuff you need regularly (like wipes and bath soap)
  • Avoid stepping foot in a store, which (for me) can lead to being tempted into buying more than I really need

Disadvantages of Buying from Diapers.com

  • Some store brands are cheaper. If you have a Target nearby, you can save a further $0.05 per diaper.  (But again, the savings may be cancelled by other purchases you are lured into making while you are there.)
  • 1-2 day shipping is fast, but it’s not as immediate as throwing diapers into your cart if you’re already at the store.
  • Shipping boxes create waste (which may be counteracted by gas and pollution).
  • Diapers.com now has much more than diapers — from hand soap to Halloween costumes. The $49 free shipping minimum can encourage you to throw something unnecessary in the virtual cart.

Eco-Friendly Diapers

One brand I haven’t tried yet is Seventh Generation. Seventh Generation diapers are unbleached, thus reducing the amount of chlorine that is released into the atmosphere and water. I buy Seventh Generation unbleached paper towels and toilet paper and copy paper made from recycled materials, but at $0.31 per diaper, I’m a little reluctant to spring for their diapers.

You can find a (favorable) review of Seventh Generation diapers at the Baby Cheapskate blog, where readers commented that you can print out diaper coupons at Seventh Generation. (N.B.:   You can only use two coupons per validity period and within a month of printing, and you have to sign up as a Seventh Generation member to print the coupons).

How to Save Money on Diapers

I usually don’t use coupons unless I can save enough to make it worth my time, but I’m tempted to try Seventh Generation anyway because they claim that “if every household in the U.S. with babies replaced just one package of diapers processed with chemicals containing chlorine with our chlorine free diapers, we could prevent 2,800 lbs of chlorinated hydrocarbons from polluting our air, lakes and streams.”

This brings up an interesting question. How much are you willing to sacrifice to help the environment? Also, have you tried generic or off-brand diapers? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Subscribe to Frugal Mama for the lowdown on wipes.

Share this post:

27 comments

  • Sarah Jane December 12, 2013, 7:05 pm

    Hey ladies, IDK if you already know about Amazon Mom or not, but I just recently found out about it. You save 20% on diapers and wipes when you join + you get free two day shipping. I’m a first time mom that stays home, so I’m pretty happy about being able to save some money on diapers. If you want to check it out, here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/mom/signup/info?ie=UTF8&refcust=UZSYLEIA6QYV7YJCUTVZE57GVY&ref_type=generic Hope this can save you some money too!

    Reply
  • Beth Dolar April 24, 2012, 2:52 pm

    This article is SO familiar, it’s what I struggled with with my children, and many of my friends have as well.
    I started a business to address this problem with diaper sample packs. We offer up to 11 different types of diapers in a variety of sample packs, so moms with new babies can try out several different kinds without having to buy an entire pack of one that doesn’t work out. It makes it easy to find out if the cheaper diaper works as well for the child or if the more expensive one is better.
    You should check us out at http://www.diaperdabbler.com!
    I know you already have your hands full with 4 little ones, but if you end up having another, or have a friend who does, let us know and we’ll send you a complimentary pack.
    Love your blog, btw. So many fantastic ideas. Have a great day!

    Reply
    • Amy April 26, 2012, 10:28 pm

      Hi Beth,

      What a unique idea! I love the name you chose too. I so appreciate your offering to send me or a friend a trial pack. We’re soon phasing out of diapers but I will keep it in mind for a friend.

      Thanks again, Beth,

      Amy

      Reply
  • Amber Stroyer December 1, 2011, 4:12 pm

    I know this post is old but I have to comment on the Seventh Generation. I was using a cloth diaper service because we live in an apartment with shared laundry and they were organic but were giving my daughter a rash at only 3 weeks old. So I decided to switch to the disposable which I used with my first daughter and rash gone! So..for now it’s disposables. Cloth was costing us about .25 cents per diaper at 80 diapers a week. Now we order from Amazon, the seventh generation size 1 and they come out to .16cents per diaper. So, maybe you did try them and I wish I could have told you this info when you wrote the article but that’s ok, we are saving over $20 a month and right now with the way the economy is and living in Southern CA it’s a great thing to save money and help the environment a little, certainly not as much as cloth, which I hope to go back to some day!

    Reply
    • Amy December 2, 2011, 3:38 pm

      Hi Amber,

      Wow, $0.16 per diaper for Seventh Generation is great! I too love the convenience and prices at Amazon. Do you do one of the subscribe and save clubs? Haven’t delved into that myself.

      Thanks for writing in,
      Amy

      Reply
  • angie December 5, 2010, 9:56 pm

    I have to agree with the cloth diaperers! They are really good. I used disposable with my first and switched to cloth for my second. I am a working mom and cloth works for me! It is simple. I have tried many kinds, but I prefer the pocket one-size diapers. I found ecobritches to be really nice. I think you can only buy them online at http://www.ecobritches.com, but shipping was free when I ordered.

    Reply
  • Amy January 14, 2010, 8:39 pm

    Satre and MakingTime: I’m really enjoying reading your thoughts about cloth diapers: the ups and downs and the cost analysis too (in NYC anyway).

    I have heard mixed ratings about the liners, which for me, would be essential since most poo around here is not solid.

    But if they did work, then cloth would have a whole new appeal to me. Can anyone else chime in about disposable cloth diaper liners?

    Reply
    • Terri December 1, 2011, 3:37 pm

      We have used disposable cloth liners in our house and they work great. With some brands, if your child just pees in the diaper you can wash them and reuse them. We now use a fleece liner in our diapers and you can just pull it out if it has poop in it and swish it in the toilet and the poop just falls right off and then you can wash them and reuse them and it saves you even more in the end with money

      Reply
  • MakingTime January 7, 2010, 9:31 am

    I’m jumping in late here, but wanted to share my 2 cents on cloth. I used cloth almost exclusively with my first child – even when traveling (as long as the trip was either short or had sufficient laundry facilities). I really liked cloth. It does just feel better. And I did not find the laundering difficult, especially in the breastmilk-only phase, when you can (no kidding) just put the diapers in the laundry with no preparation and they will come out clean. (That said, if I was doing my laundry in a laundromat, that would pretty much rule out cloth diapers for me – you could look into a service that delivers clean diapers and picks up the dirties once a week; I found that cost comparable to disposables and the convenience is unmatched.)

    I always did a pre-rinse and then washed on hot. Diaper manufacturers will tell you not to use bleach (or very much detergent) and I never have. Getting them quite dry, either in the sun or in the drier is sufficiently germicidal, I think. The sun does do a great job of fading stains, though.

    My only complaint with a little baby is that mine have always had trouble going to sleep with a wet cloth diaper on. Since it seems like they are always going to sleep at unpredictable times, nursing to sleep, and peeing all the time, especially while nursing, I find that aspect difficult for the first few months of life. For that reason, I am currently using a mix of cloth and disposables with my second child. I’m hoping to go to mostly cloth soon, as her sleep patterns regularize and I can put her in a disposable for sleep (my son slept in cloth and many people have their children sleep in cloth, I just have come to a personal middle ground on this issue!)

    My son is almost three and has been in disposables only for months now. We moved and used disposables “temporarily” during that transition, then he’d kind of outgrown the diapers we had for him and it seemed like he’d be potty trained “any day now” (now it’s looking a loooong way off, though). Plus, he poops a LOT. Several times a day. And it’s not solid. So, cleaning smushy toddler poop off cloth diapers multiple times a day just kind of killed it for me. If he had normal toddler poop, something I could shake off into the toilet once or twice a day, he’d definitely still be in cloth.

    I have never tried the disposable liners, but may look into it with my second child (she poops much more rarely than my son and I’m guessing I will be able to know when it’s going to happen).

    Reply
  • satre January 1, 2010, 7:17 am

    Cloth diapers break even in terms of cost in NYC. When we lived on 34th St. I did a cost analysis for the cloth diapers we used with our daughter. It turned out that the cost of doing laundry offset the savings over 3 years making them turn out to be basically even.

    Then I did a cost analysis for if we actually lived somewhere where we could have our own laundry machines and it turned out that we would break even from the cost of buying the machines to wash the diapers. Of course, we could also wash other clothes too, but it was discouraging.

    The advantages were all those mentioned before so we went with cloth, but always had to have backup disposables for the occasional babysitter because most people are clueless how to manage cloth.

    When we moved to the upper east side, we tried using cloth with our newborn son, but quickly found that the laundry machines in our building were wholly inadequate to get them clean, so we reluctantly switched to disposable. Fortunately we had a friend who wanted to buy all the cloth diapers we had stocked up and we didn’t lose all that $$.

    Reply
  • Amy December 16, 2009, 2:25 pm

    Hannah and Al: It’s very refreshing to hear positive experiences with cloth diapers. I had no idea that there were disposable liners, that the diapers don’t leak, and that they eliminate the need for diaper cream. These three factors make cloth a lot more attractive, not to mention the environmental advantages.

    The part about the bleach is an issue, however, plus all the water (and labor) in washing them. But I guess no method is without its downsides.

    Thanks so much for weighing in!

    Reply
  • Al December 15, 2009, 4:55 pm

    My experience is similar to Hannah’s. I used cloth diapers with both my boys. I never had a problem with leaks or diaper rash, and those diaper liners are wonderful. It doesn’t take long for a smart mom to figure out what time of day to line the diapers. The downside of cloth diapers is the same as disposable diapers: environmental. Whereas the disposables fill up landfills, the cloth diapers take some chemical warfare to clean up. Of course, you can use green detergents and Borax instead of bleach, but then you’ve got to hang the washed diapers to dry in the sun to get the germ-killing effect of bleach. I always loved hanging out diapers. It’s sort of meditative activity. Unfortunately, hanging out diapers in the sun isn’t always an option in the city. So I guess you’re back to bleach. Still, bleach is what many cities use to purify water for reuse, so perhaps the environment effect isn’t such a huge impact after all.

    Reply
  • Hannah December 10, 2009, 11:48 am

    Hi Amy,
    I’ve been using cloth for almost 2 years on my 3rd child and love that option. Not only have I saved a lot of money, but I feel I’m making a good choice for the environment and my child’s health (no icky absorbant gels/chemicals against my child’s skin all day). The cloth diapers breathe, so baby gets less diaper rash (no need for Desitin!). Also, my son seems very comfortable. Would you rather wear a paper diaper or a super soft organic cotton velour one, for example? If you are into the cute factor, there are many colors and prints to choose from. I love cloth! I wish I’d tried cloth with my older two.

    To be extra frugal, you can resell you used cloth diapers on sites like diaperswappers when you are done and recoup a good portion of the upfront investment (which can be as little as a about $200, or as much as you want to spend)!

    What do you think the downsides of cloth are? Laundry & pooop? The laundry does take some extra time but isn’t crazy assuming you have easy access to a washer/dryer. Yes, you have poop to deal with but the cloth diapers very rarely leak (maybe 3 times in 2 years!), so I never deal with poop blowouts on clothing. That saves effort laundering baby clothes and trying to get poop stains out.

    There are also very thin flushable liners that you can lay in the diapers, and then just plunk the whole thing in the toilet. That solves the issue or rinsing/swishing before putting the dirty diaper in the pail.

    It’s worth giving cloth a try!

    Reply
  • Nancy December 9, 2009, 4:17 pm

    I know this isn’t the point, but I just have to say I find the concept of characters on diapers so bizarre and creepy. I mean, Pocohantas was a real person and played a significant role in U.S. history. Can you imagine telling her that some day she’d be the face that little girls pee on? Or explaining it to the 19th-century Frenchman who wrote Cinderella?

    Reply
  • Katie December 7, 2009, 2:48 pm

    You left out the CHEAPEST diapers over time… cloth. New cloth diapers are very user-friendly, and if you make sure to buy enough initially, you’ll only have to do a load of diaper laundry every 3-4 days. (Who wants to do laundry every day?) This is much cheaper than disposables over time, even including the minor increase in water use, and very environmentally friendly… the best of both worlds. I wish more people would give it a try rather than just writing it off as too difficult.

    Reply
    • Amy December 7, 2009, 10:11 pm

      I appreciated hearing all your thoughts: you bring up some good points.

      Re defective diapers: personally, I have rarely had a problem with tabs breaking on generic diapers, but I agree that this would make one think twice since we hate to throw away unused stuff.

      Re early potty training: a fascinating solution! Many of us get so into the groove of changing, that it’s hard to bite the bullet and take on the challenge of potty training, esp. early. But it’s a unique idea and one certainly worth pursuing. Apropos of the old adage: No pain, no gain.

      Re G diapers: I’d love to hear some testimonials on these. Someone told me they tried to use them and it was a disaster, but I’d be very interested in hearing a more detailed account. Anyone out there used G diapers?

      Re cloth diapers: Same here. I’d love to hear a personal experience. I have to admit I’ve never tried them, but to me the downsides seem to way outweigh the environmental and cost upsides. Anyone else have thoughts on cloth?

      Reply
      • Terri December 1, 2011, 3:32 pm

        At one point I had 3 kids in cloth (2 1/2 year, 1 1/2 year and newborn). I love using cloth and wouldn’t go back to using disposables. Cloth has changed so much over the years, they make it easy to cloth diaper. With the newborn I only used prefolds and covers during the day and pocket diapers at night and the older two I only used pocket diapers. The intial investment in the diapers can be as little or high as you want, it just depends on what brand you go with or style, but also, when my kids are done and potty trained I can sell the diapers and make back some of the money back. We don’t deal with diaper rash either. In the last 9 months we have spent $20 on disposables and that was because we were moving and we were waiting on a new washer/dryer to arrive. Best thing yet, is we never had a blowout with newborn poo and the worry about it ruining clothes.

        Reply
  • Ghi December 7, 2009, 2:12 pm

    I think helping the environment is important, but I too always used Luvs… If you haven’t tried them yet, the 7th Gen brand diapers don’t have any kind of deodorizer in them, which is fine if you are in the house, but when you are out and about and your child urinates or has a BM, they smell like it. Which could a) make you change them more often thus using more diapers or b) make you feel guilty for leaving them in a pee-filled diaper. ;-) Hopefully they can eventually develop a ‘nicer’ diaper for both parents and the environment!

    Reply
  • Lakshmi December 7, 2009, 2:10 pm

    I was thinking of trying a disposable / reusable hybrid : http://www.gdiapers.com/
    Anyone have experience with these?

    Reply
    • Jennifer December 5, 2012, 2:21 pm

      What’s up with all these questions?I use Food Lion Brand bc they are aesmowe! Just as good as Huggies, and much cheaper. I also hate Walmart brand in these as they hold next to nothing! And over nights just aren’t fun like that. I’m not sure how many are in the size 1-2 in the FL brand, as my daughter is in 4 s now But it’s 7.99 for the small pack (36 in the size 4 s) 6.99 if on sale!

      Reply
  • Adrienne Shulman December 7, 2009, 2:07 pm

    I tried using generic diapers but was discouraged to find that i had to throw away several unused diapers in each package b/c the tabs would break off! This turned me off from an environmental perspective.

    Another way to save money (and have a smaller environmental impact) is early potty training. The difference between starting potty training between 18 & 24 months versus 3 or 4 years can save you hundreds of dollars and thousands of diapers from reaching a landfill.

    (4 diapers/day * 365 days/year = 1460 diapers per year)

    Reply
  • M December 7, 2009, 8:22 am

    I really like your formula of starting at the low end and working up–if necessary. I think I’ll try to apply it in the grocery store, etc.
    M
    p.s. Regarding Luvs. Since we know they are made by Proctor and Gamble–same as Pampers, I think it is safe to assume that much of the added cost for Pampers is due to packaging and advertising. I know this same truism applies to other products, such as cosmetics.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge