That’s the number of babies that were born in the same year as my son: 2017.

And at an average of 2,500 diapers used per baby in their first year, that’s about 9.5 billion diapers that he and his mini peers will have gone through by the time they turn 1.

That’s A LOT of diapers.

Which is probably why the cloth vs disposable diapers debate is such a hot topic, considering its impact on both the environment and the baby’s budget.


  • Considering cloth diapers? Try these.
  • Using disposable? Learn how to get cheap diapers.
  • Try out my #1 guaranteed money saving tip in the article below.

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new take on cloth vs disposable diapers - which really saves money


For me, I went with using both cloth AND disposable diapers to strike a balance between not wanting to put too many diapers into our landfills but still having convenience at certain times like when we were out & about.

When it comes to saving huge on diapers, though, there is one technique that hardly anyone talks about, yet is guaranteed to save you tons of money on this necessity in my baby checklist.

I’ll fill you in on the secret and walk you through how to use it on your own baby, so you can stop throwing money away in the diaper pail.

In this post, you will learn:

  • Whether or not you really do save with cloth diapers
  • The #1 technique for slashing your diaper costs that hardly anyone talks about
  • Step-by-step tips on how to get started with that technique

Is it cheaper to use cloth or disposable diapers?

To address this question, let’s start by looking at the baby expenses associated with each diapering method.

Of course, there are always variables to consider, such as:

  • Number of actual diapers used
  • Brand/cost of diaper
  • Frequency that diapers are washed
  • Amount of detergent used

That aside, let’s do a basic comparison of annual cost:


Supplies: $2500 (average # of diapers used per year) x $0.28 per disposable diaper = ~$700 per year

Laundering: only for blowouts/when clothes get soiled

budget quality cloth diapers


Supplies: 20 cloth diapers at $60 + 40 diaper inserts $10 = $70.00

Laundering: several times a week

Essentially, it comes down to how much you spend to clean the cloth diapers to determine which system comes out cheaper for you.

So do you really save money using cloth diapers? For me, the answer was definitely yes.

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If you’re worried about throwing dirty diapers in with your regular laundry, just soak the diapers first.

Rinse the soiled diapers, then throw them into into a bucket of soapy water to soak.

By the time you do your next load, the diapers will be decent enough to toss in with the rest of your laundry.

How much money do I save with cloth diapers

Based on my personal experience, I bought 20 diapers and 40 inserts on sale. The total cost for supplies was $55.98.

In terms of laundry, I didn’t feel like we did more than usual since we washed the diapers with our regular laundry load.

Here’s another way to compare the costs. Let’s say the average load of laundry costs $2 (we hang dry our clothes so that’s not an unreasonable figure).

Did I do 600 more loads of laundry than I normally would have each year (or divided by 12 months, more than 50 extra loads per month)? Definitely not so I know I am way ahead.

In that first year, we spent $117.98 altogether for both disposables and cloth diapering supplies (not counting laundry). In year two, we only spent $68.14.

So how much can you expect to save with cloth diapers? That’s actually harder for me to peg because I employed another technique that was a total game-changer and helped me rack up over $1000 in savings on my baby in these two years so far.

stack of cloth diapers - save money on cloth vs disposable diapers

The secret to saving big money on diapers

Use less of them.

Or better yet, none at all.

And no, I’m not talking about letting your baby sit in their dirty diapers longer. Eww.

Let me explain.

Babies aren’t born expecting to be put in diapers. They simply get accustomed to having them because we parents insist on using them.

Once you let your baby go diaper-free again and learn to hone in their verbal or non-verbal cues to determine when your little one needs to be relieved, you can essentially train them to not do their business in diapers anymore.

In America, there’s a term for this concept called “elimination communication.”

In other countries, this idea is referred to as “the normal way to raise a baby.”

In our case, we opted for a middle path. We put our son in diapers, but tried to hold him above a toilet or training potty whenever we thought he needed to go. We gradually worked our way up to him telling us when he needed to go.

As a result, we increasingly got him to pee outside of his diapers, to about 90% potty trained by the time he reached 2.

My son’s two-year progression

The graphs shows what percent of time he was in disposable diapers (green) vs cloth diapers (blue) vs diaperless (gold). The percentage in green is how often we were able to actually get our son to pee in a toilet or receptacle.

Month 1

cloth vs disposable diapers - month 1
100% disposable, 0% cloth, 0% diaperless


getting our son to pee in the toilet

Way too scared to hold him above a potty, for fear of dropping him right into it!

Months 2-12

cloth vs disposable diapers - months 2 to 18
25% disposable, 75% cloth, 0% diaperless


getting our son to pee in the toilet

Convinced Papa Chang to try cloth, and it turned out to be easier than we thought it would be. Mainly used disposables overnight and at outings.

Built up more courage to hold son up over training potty, but kept cloth diapers on otherwise.

Months 13-17

cloth vs disposable diapers - months 2 to 18
25% disposable, 75% cloth, 0% diaperless


getting our son to pee in the toilet

Our son progressed to sitting on his training potty (with our physical support) as opposed to us hovering him above the toilet.

Month 18

cloth vs disposable diapers - months 2 to 18
25% disposable, 75% cloth, 0% diaperless


getting our son to pee in the toilet

Son was regressing and not having it when we told him to sit on the potty.

Months 19-20

cloth vs disposable diapers - months 19 to 20
25% disposable, 65% cloth, 10% diaperless


getting our son to pee in the toilet

His potty routine was less of a struggle, so we took the next leap of faith and introduced him to going diaperless.

Months 21-24

cloth vs disposable diapers - months 21 to 24
25% disposable, 20% cloth, 55% diaperless


getting our son to pee in the toilet

We’re okay with him going diaperless 100% of the time and my in-laws are too, but my parents aren’t on board with it when he is at their house. Hence, the odd percentage.

Our son is pretty good about verbally telling us when he needs to go, but he still has 10% of the way to go to be potty-trained in our books. That 10% coincides with the 10 seconds it takes for me to step out of the house to throw trash away in the morning, during which he conveniently decides he needs to relieve himself somewhere other than the potty.

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How to get started with elimination communication

First off, it’s important to attempt this only when you and baby are comfortable doing so.

For me, I was sweating bullets from paranoia of dropping the kid in the toilet when I first attempted this at the few-weeks old stage, so I decided to wait until his neck and back muscles were more developed before I tried again.

On the other hand, Papa Chang’s mom was more experienced, so she had to no problems confidently holding the baby and getting him to do his thing over the potty when he was days old.

For the baby, there will be times that they get fussy or cry when you try to get them to do their business in the toilet or receptacle, so don’t force it if they really don’t want to.

Step 1. Watch a video to learn the proper way to situate your baby.
You basically hold the baby facing out, and grip the thighs so they are in a squat-like position. Here’s a video showing you how to do it:

Step 2. Try the positioning on your baby.
You don’t have to go the whole nine yards the first time you attempt this. I started off just holding the baby in that position, with the diaper on, to if I could handle a squirmy baby. After I felt comfortable, then I proceeded to do this with diaper off and above the potty.

Step 3. Establish set times to try this with your baby.
Decide beforehand when you’ll do this versus taking the baby to the potty at random times. I decided that I would start off doing it a few minutes after every feeding, to provide consistency for myself as well as my son.

Carving out the exact times for this rather than waiting to see when my son would give me cues to rush him over to the potty made the transition less stressful.


Try to coincide these times with feedings or naps, as babies tend to pee or poo after these two activities.

Step 4. Pay attention to your baby.
You’ll start to pick up on signals that tell you when your baby needs to go. They might make certain faces or sounds, or become very still when they’re getting ready to relieve themselves. Look for these cues, then try to put baby over the potty when they really do need to go.

Step 5. Train your baby to tell you when they need to go.
Communicate what you are doing and ask your baby if they need to go to help them catch on to the idea that you want them to let clue you in when nature is calling them.

Have them use gestures if they are not talking yet, or have a specific word/phrase you want them to use to make it known that they need to do their business.

Step 6. Try going diaperless.
Not gonna lie. This was a very scary step. But our son had less accidents than we thought he would.

The thing is, kids are pretty smart. If you put a diaper on them, they’ll do their business in it because they know they can. Leave it off, and they are less likely to. Probably because they don’t want to be lathered in their own urine or fecal matter. So be bold…and cover your floors.

Step 7. Keep at it.
Having a consistent schedule is incredibly helpful for getting them to learn how to go. We usually put our son on the potty at these times:

  • In the morning after he wakes up
  • After meals
  • When he gets up from naps
  • When it’s been a while since he’s had liquid
  • When we ask him and he tells us “no” too many times
  • When he’s just standing there and abnormally quiet
  • Before going out

And it’s worked out great. We’re already $1000 ahead of the game in saving on diapers, and counting. Plus, we’re about a year early on potty training, which does make parenting life so much easier.


The real way to save money when it comes to diapering won’t be solved by focusing only on the cost of cloth vs disposable diapers. Find ways to get your baby to use less diapers, like making the effort to potty train your kid early. Your wallet and parenting life will thank you for it.


  • Considering cloth diapers? Try these.
  • Using disposable? Learn how to get cheap diapers.
  • Try out my #1 guaranteed money saving tip from above.



sylvia wu aka mama chang headshot


Sylvia, aka Mama Chang, is a personal finance blogger out to prove the possibility of navigating high-cost living on a low-cost budget. Paid off college and condo in her 20's on under $55k salary. She wants to teach others how optimize money to maximize quality of life. Dual income with kids, based in Hawaii.

Hangs out on Keeping Up with the Changs: Pinterest