Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stop being SO SMUG!

Money troubles are really starting to get to me.  Although Mike's salary can handle the mortgage and bills, if we want to ever have any fun then we need something extra coming in: namely, ME working.  My usual client isn't sending any projects my way at the moment, and no-one else is biting when I send out e-mails and make enquiries.

So, while we wait for other people to figure out how much of a fuckin' genius I am at making their work look brilliant, we have to figure out some ways to cut costs.  We're not massive spenders, to be honest (I can't remember the last time I bought a new piece of clothing), and most of our 'fun' money goes on the odd meal at Subway or buying new clothes for Little O because he grows like a weed.  Actually, he hasn't gained a single ounce in the last three months so we haven't needed any clothes recently, but the tales about his weight gains and losses are enough to fill an entirely new post, so I'll leave it there.

One of the things we've considered doing to save money is investing in cloth diapers.  I KNOW they're called nappies in the UK, but if I'm going to start translating British and American English every time I mention them then things will get very boring, so please just accept that Little O knows his bum-coverings as diapers, and we'll all be happy.  So yes, cloth diapers.  I've read a lot about them recently, but until Little O turned a year old, we had no time to devote to extra piles of laundry and we've simply chosen the more convenient route.  I think you'd find it hard to argue that we didn't deserve a little convenience in his first year....

So yesterday we started looking at purchasing some cloth diapers for real.  I went on to the Fuzzi Bunz website and had a poke around, watching the helpful 'care for' and 'application' videos, and generally cooing over all the lovely little baby bottoms wearing fluffy, colourful diapers.  However, nowhere on this website does it give prices, so you have to explore their sellers and distributors for a break down in costs.  I went to the Fuzzi Bunz Store website and was excited to see they sell packages of cloth diapers to save customers money.  "Whoo hoo!", I thought.  "This will be A LOT cheaper than buying disposibles!"

Oh, how wrong I was.  Numerous websites recommend buying four- to five-dozen cloth diapers so that you can do a completely separate load of laundry for them and not risk ruining your silk sheets with baby poop and extreme temperatures (one load hot, one load freezing cold).  Have enough, and you can spend only one or two days a week washing diapers, while your little one wears the dry ones.  So, when I was looking at costs, this figure of four- to five-dozen was firmly in my mind, and I went straight to the packages of 18 or 24 diapers to do some calculations.

18 One-size Fuzzi Bunz: $284.25
24 One-size Fuzzi Bunz : $442.80
(NOT including sales tax)

If you want to buy the recommended four- to five-dozen diapers, then you're looking at start-up costs for JUST DIAPERS of at least $1,000!!  Then you have to consider how to store dirty diapers (handy diaper pails or some smart drawstring pouches for about $15 each), how to wash dirty diapers (two washes: one hot, one cold), how to dry diapers in the horrible winters we have (tumble drier), and then all the other incremental costs like wipes, spare pads, paper liners ($7 for 100) that you don't necessarily NEED, but they make the cloth diapering experience much less stressful.

So... to get us up and running, we'd be looking at around $1,000 to $1,200.  The diapers are one-size, which is nice, and they'd last us until Little O potty-trains (if he's capable of it - we don't know yet), but we'd still have a larger water and electricity bill every month, as well as purchasing paper liners and wipes.  So every month we'd probably be forking out an extra $20 anyway.

Generic, Target-brand diapers are $13.82 for 82 size four disposible diapers.  We get through a box about every three weeks, so our monthly out-goings for diapers is about $20, and that's being generous.  Wipes are bought in massive, commercial-size boxes containing nine packages for about $9.  We go through one box about every six months, so our wipes cost us about $1.30 a month.

Let's run some numbers for the next two years, assuming it will take us that long to potty-train Little O.

Cloth diapers: Year One (12 months)
$1,000 start-up
$15.60 wipes
$12.00 spare pads (9)
$84.00 paper liners (100 liners for $7)
$30 - $50 extra water and electricity

= $1,161.60

Cloth diapers: Year Two (12 months)
$15.60 wipes
$84.00 paper liners
$30 - $50 extra water and electricity

= $149.60

TOTAL for two years: $1,311.20

Disposible diapers: Year One (12 months)
$240 diapers
$15.60 wipes

= $255.60

Disposible diapers: Year Two (12 months)
$240 diapers
$15.60 wipes

= $255.60

TOTAL for two years: $511.20

DID YOU READ THAT?!  We would actually spend nearly THREE TIMES as much on cloth diapers if we made the switch!  That's quite remarkable.

I have a theory on cloth diapers and the people who buy them.  Parents can be a little... smug... sometimes.  We hit upon a magic formula (and I'm as guilty as the rest of them - Little O sleeps like a fuckin' baby and everyone remarks on how well we must have taught him) and we like to feel that our parenting skills are infinitely superior to everyone else's.  Parents who spend a large of money upfront on cloth diapers watch other parents throwing disposible diapers in the shopping cart every month and feel VERY, VERY smug.  They forget, of course, that they spent a thousand dollars when their child was first born, and they forget how much extra water and electricity they use because it's absorbed in to their household costs.

Handily chosing to ignore the enviromental impact of disposible diapers (and this is actually a major concern for me, living half a mile from a landfill), I'd have to say that the myths about costs and convenience are just ludicrous.  Even if you invested in one-size diapers and used them for two children (presumably buying a few more because you still need that four- to five-dozen per child), you're still looking at extraordinary costs.  Yes, Fuzzi Bunz are in the premier league of cloth diapers and there are cheaper brands available, but if you're the type of parent who's going to invest in your baby's comfort, your own sense of smugness, and saving the environment, wouldn't you go for the brand that offers the most convenience, cuteness and brand-security?  I would.

So, cloth diapering families, stop being SO SMUG!  You are NOT saving any money!  Perhaps if I believed in buying Pampers or Huggies the pricing would work out more in your favour, but I don't.  My son craps in his diapers so we only buy generic brands, and I'm afraid that this equation just doesn't add up.

The next person who tells me they save $4,000 a year by cloth diapering will get an earful.  And a small lapel pin that says: "I am a self-righteous cloth diapering prick".



  1. Hi. I ran across your blog and just wanted to give you a little more information. You actually only need 2 dozen one size cloth diapers to last you from birth to potty learning/training. That is a total of $442 if you are going the Fuzzi Bunz route. That is not for one year, that is for 8 lbs to 35+ lbs. You can also get wipes, etc. But for just the diapers, that is it. I've run a cloth diapering store for 5+ years - www.simplewondersdiapers.com. Please let me know if you have any questions about cost breakdown or the cost savings.

  2. Thanks for the info, Sultana! I guess there is a lot of misinformation floating around the ol' interwebs if you only need two-dozen one-size diapers instead of four or five. It's good to know.

    I still don't think we'll be making the switch though. Even if you only spend $442.80 on your initial purchases, you'd still be spending $754 over two years... which is still more than disposibles.

    HOWEVER, assuming you buy one set of diapers at the very start of your first child's life and both they and any other children wear them for three years each, THEN I could see the cost savings. You'd only be spending $149.60 a year, instead of $255.60. Two points though: 1) This is still not a saving of $4,000 a year, which some bright spark bragged about to me earlier this week, and 2) As we're still only thinking about more children and are not definite about it yet, I'm not sure the difference in cost is worth it for our family.

    You don't seem a smug sort, which is rather lovely. :) Thank you for correcting my sums.