Photo (cc) by Inf-Lite Teacher
When it comes to child rearing, the bottom line is that disposable diapers are a pain in the budgetary butt. A baby-centric website called The Bump suggests parents may spend $2,000 to $2,500 on nappies from birth to toilet training.
Kerry Taylor of the Squawkfox personal finance blog is a touch more conservative. She estimates diaper costs at just over $1,900, plus the potential costs for extra garbage pickup or landfill fees.
Taylor uses cloth diapers and estimates the total outlay – initial purchase, utility costs and special detergent – to be just $550 after factoring in the resale value of the diapers and covers.
“Cut the crap: Cloth diaper your kid and save [77 percent] over disposables,” she advises in an article called “Price Check: Are Cloth Diapers Worth It?”
The fact is that many, many parents won’t even consider using cloth. If that’s you – or will be you, nine months from now – then use the following tactics to cover your baby’s butt for less.
You don’t have to belong to a warehouse club to get the best price. Supermarkets, drugstores and discount stores regularly run sales, and there are always diaper coupons to be had on sites like The Coupon Mom, Favado and A Full Cup.
Bonus: These sites match sale prices with coupons at major stores in every state, and provide links to downloadable coupons if you’re not a clipper.
Comparing apples to apples
Prices change from week to week, which is why it’s much easier to let those sites do the math. For example, you recently could get Huggies for 20.8 cents each on sale at CVS. That price was slightly lower than the Costco everyday price of 21.7 cents, according to Stephanie Nelson of The Coupon Mom.
Then again, Costco sometimes offers some awesome coupons (e.g., $6 off a 180-count package) and offers free shipping. If you’re a member, which works out to about $1 per week, this might be the way to go. (Tip: Another warehouse store, BJ’s Wholesale Club, accepts manufacturer’s coupons.)
Another oft-cited source is Amazon.com. It’s not always the cheapest, but some parents don’t want to take the extra step of visiting a coupon site and/or shopping in stores. Instead, they’ll just subscribe to regular delivery of disposables through Amazon.
The site’s Amazon Mom program offers, among other things, a 20 percent discount on diaper and wipes subscriptions. But after the 90-day free trial, you have to pay the $79 annual fee for Amazon Prime to keep all of the benefits. You’ll be automatically upgraded to Amazon Prime unless you opt out.
Whether you price the didies yourself or let a site like Favado or The Coupon Mom do it, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. In “8 Tips to Save Big Money on Diapers,” Cassie Michael notes that size 3 Huggies Little Movers and Huggies Snug and Dry cost the same – but one has 31 diapers and the other 36.
“Even if you save a dollar or two each week, over the lifetime of diapering your child this could be hundreds saved,” says Michael, a mom of five who blogs at The Thrifty Couple.
Your mileage may vary
Her best price is 15 cents per nappy when she combines coupons with sales on the “club pack” diapers at Target. Michael buys as many at that price as she has coupons for, since diapers don’t have an expiration date.
Those club packs are name-brand diapers, by the way; they’re just sold in larger quantities. However, some parents swear by store-brand diapers. Michael compared average name- and store-brand prices and found a difference of up to 9 cents per diaper, which adds up to hundreds of dollars over the long run.
Don’t overbuy the newborn size, but feel free to stash the larger varieties because your baby will be in them longer. To be on the safe side, tape the receipt to one of the boxes; if Junior undergoes a growth spurt you’ll be able to return the product.
About those sizes: Don’t rush to switch Junior out of newborns the day he hits 12 pounds on the pediatrician’s scale. The manufacturer’s suggested weights aren’t hard-and-fast rules, according to Kyle James of the Rather Be Shopping coupon site.
“All three of my kids could easily exceed [the weight] by several pounds and still fit comfortably in the diaper,” James says. Since smaller sizes cost less, you can save quite a few bucks by moving them up to the next level only when the diapers stop fitting properly.
James is a big fan of Diapers.com, which features online coupons, sales, free delivery and competitive pricing without the need for a warehouse or Amazon Mom membership. If you do decide to go the Diapers.com route, access the company through a cash-back shopping site for a rebate of up to 2 percent on each order.
Katie Bugbee is another fan of Diapers.com – specifically that site’s house brand of nappies. “They also add coupons and refer-a-friend codes to lower your costs,” says Bugbee, who is the senior managing editor at Care.com and writes about parenting.
More tips from the pros
Use the following tips to keep costs low:
- Watch for clearance sales. Believe it or not, disposables have styles that go in and out of fashion. If a decorative design is discontinued, you may score huge savings. Stephanie Nelson once saw a table of diapers at just $1 per box.
- Use a discounted gift card. If buying from Target, Walgreens, CVS or Rite Aid, you can save as much as 11 percent by paying with a gift card from the secondary market.
- Seek out special deals. “Baby clubs” offered by brands like Huggies and Pampers mail out coupons. Points programs like Gifts to Grow let you save up for toys, magazines and other items; I once interviewed a woman who bought Christmas gifts that way. If you’re buying from drugstores, make sure you’re signed up for their rewards programs.
- Ask and ye may receive. Family/friends want to know what you want as a baby gift? Answer “Diapers, please,” but make sure they’re not all in the newborn size. If your BFF is planning a shower, ask her to consider a diaper cake – a faux confection made of layered didies. I’ve also heard of a diaper raffle – everyone who brings a box or bag of diapers to the shower is entered to win a prize (one of those discounted gift cards, maybe?).
- Use your rewards. Too busy to travel now that baby makes three? Instead of saving up for airline tickets and hotel rooms, cash in rewards credit card points for gift cards to Amazon, Target or other retailers. I’m a huge fan of the Swagbucks rewards site, which offers e-credit to those retailers, too.
- Check the “manager’s special” section. I sometimes see bags of diapers in the scratch-and-dent bin. They landed there because a bag was torn or a box was partially crushed, and the savings are significant – 50 percent or more.