Too Broke to Buy Diapers?

A recent Wall Street Journal report suggested that tough times have brought parents to a new low — leaving tots in dirty diapers to save money.

Well, maybe. The report noted a drop in diaper sales and an increase in use of diaper rash cream. It even quoted a doctor who was seeing more diaper rash cases. But the article also acknowledged that most of the drop in sales is due to a lower birthrate over the past couple years.

Still, the piece got me thinking that a lot of parents are paying more than necessary to keep baby booties dry. Here are some hints for reducing diaper expenses. (See also: 5 Places to Get Cheaper Diapers)

Cloth Diapers

Estimates for savings over the three years most kids are in diapers are usually in the $1,000-$2,000 range. And there are certainly compelling environmental reasons to use cloth. However, these estimates assume you are spending 17-28 cents per diaper and changing them an average of eight times a day. Bargain shoppers will not save this much. Nor will lazy moms like me who change only five or six times a day and try to potty train at age two. I estimate that disposable diapers cost me only $5 a week, for about 130 weeks per child (two-and-a-half years). Even assuming that I spent more than $5 during those newborn months (a vague memory at this point), the total per-child cost of disposables was under $1,000 — capping my possible savings somewhere south of that.

If you decide to use cloth, consider shopping secondhand or asking for hand-me-downs. Freecycle groups are great for this. Don't be grossed out by the thought of used diapers — after all, diaper service clients use diapers previously worn by other children every day.

Join Amazon Mom

Members of the free Amazon Mom service get 30% off diapers and wipes when they order through the Subscribe & Save option. Add this to free shipping, frequent unannounced sales, and coupons you can load on the site, and Amazon has been my diaper store of choice for a year now. Tip — because prices fluctuate on Amazon, stock up when you see a great price.

Combine Coupons and Promotions

Target, Babies 'R' Us, and drugstores such as Walgreens and CVS all issue store coupons for diapers and take manufacturer's coupons as well. You can pair one of each for every pack of diapers you buy. Target sometimes offers a $5 or $10 gift card for buying packs of diapers — if you come in with a manufacturer's coupon, a Target coupon, and get the gift card, you've often brought the price down to an acceptable level.

Do the Math

Some diaper sales sound like a good deal, but turn out not to be. You need to know your target price per diaper in your child's size in order to accurately price compare. Baby Cheapskate has a GREAT resource for figuring out how many diapers are in a mega or jumbo pack and what makes a good price for each size — the diaper stock-up price chart.

Try Store Brands

Store brands' quality have improved in recent years. While a newborn with a lot of "blowouts"* may need the highest-end diaper you can buy, older tots may be just fine in any old brand. I used Costco's Kirkland even on newborns with no problem, and now that my youngest is a toddler, I find Luvs, Walgreens, CVS, and Target diapers all just fine.

Keep Your Eyes Open

I have purchased opened packs of diapers at garage sales and found boxes with discontinued packaging on deep clearance discount at grocery and drugstores.

Accept Help

Times may be tough, but babies shouldn't be the ones to suffer. If you can't afford enough diapers to keep your baby dry and comfortable, apply to a program such as Huggies Every Little Bottom or apply for other assistance.

* If you're not a parent and don't know what a blowout is, don't ask.

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