How to Save Money on Diapers Series – Use Prefolds and Flats

This is part of the Saving Money on Diapers series. For more articles on this topic, click here. There’s lots of lingo in here, so if you need a definition, just click here for the Cloth Diaper Dictionary.

I have a confession for you…are you ready for it? Although I have tried over 100 different diaper styles in the 2+ years of diapering my kids, and although I run all kinds of stats on many different diapers, if I were to do it ALL over again, do you know what I would use?

Prefolds 

No joke.

When I started cloth diapering, I had two goals: save money and have a trim cloth diaper. So I tried a whole bunch of diapers and didn’t DARE try prefolds–that snappy scared the crud out of me. But when I started to cloth diaper my little newborn, I knew I didn’t have much of a choice since I had a limited budget. So I got a dozen prefolds (and a few pockets, AIOs, AI2s for reviewing). I fell in love with the prefolds. There were days where I took a break from reviewing and just enjoyed putting on prefolds. No leaks. Easy to use. And, surprisingly, I never snappied myself to my kid. And it sounds like I am not alone–when I asked you what your favorite diaper was for a newborn 43% said prefolds.

Also, when I asked you what you did to save money on cloth diapers, most of you said to use prefolds (or flats) and a cover. 

So in this article, I want to show you how much you could save by using prefolds and flats.

There are other benefits of using these. Those who use these tend to have fewer issues with the washing–they have to do fewer strips and deal with less stink issues. These diapers clean easier, are less prone to buildup than stay dry  ones, and, in the event that you need to strip them, you can just boil them since they don’t have any waterproof materials like PUL.

So let’s break down the cost (now remember, these are ROUGH estimates):

If you were to use prefolds all the way from birth to potty training (getting a little larger size for when baby is bigger, then that would cost you $200 total (excluding washing expenses and wipe expenses). I have only needed two sizes for my kids, so hopefully that applies to you too. My favorite prefolds are the Osocozy Unbleached Prefolds. Add two or three snappys to that stash, and it is just under $210.

Flats are a little less expensive, at $154 (about $160 with the snappy). Folding can take up a bit more time though. I have a table of different flat folds to help you out if you decide to do this. You want to get creative? This AWESOME blogger  at 2 Sleeping Babies was able to diaper her baby for FREE with items from around her house! Plus in this post, you also see some suggestions she has for cloth diapering a baby for just $51.55!

There is also great article here with information on how to cloth diaper by doing things like using JUST a t-shirt (no snappy needed!).

You could do both. You can use prefolds for the newborn, then buy the AIOs and Pockets and other goodies for when your baby grows out of them. That costs roughly $500 (that isn’t taking into account what you would save by buying used or doing Swagbucks).

Now, mind you, these estimates are not taking into account savings of buying and selling used, so you could save  a little more overall.But this could show you that you could diaper your baby for UNDER $300 (after you take into account washing costs, wipes, etc.). You could make it under $200 if you handwash your diapers.

Do you have any tips for diapering a baby inexpensively? I want to hear them!

Tara Porter

Tara Porter began using cloth diapers in 2011 when she felt that using disposable diapers was costing too much money. The problem was, a lot of the highly recommended diapers weren’t working for her baby. What she finally discovered was that her baby was skinny and a heavy wetter, and that diapers worked differently for those baby types. Because of her professional work with survey design and statistics, she designed Padded Tush Stats as a way to determine how different cloth diapers worked on different babies.

Tara moved on to other career endeavors in 2014 but can still be found online blogging about health and fitness at Fit Baby Steps.
  • Ruth

    Green Mountain occasionally has prefold seconds, and they’re awesome. I picked up a couple dozen when my little man outgrew his OS diapers. Since I needed the biggest size possible this saved me a ton of money.

    I also discovered Target has 30X30 flour sack towels, four for about $4.50. They’re (obviously) not organic, probably chlorine bleached, but I got a dozen of them just to play with and they work reasonably well. I pad folded one and put it in a cover for my five month old and a couple hours later when I changed her, no leaks!

  • http://www.mummytocharis.blogspot.com Sarah Jane

    I agree with you. I choose prefolds because they were the cheapest option. I’m now glad I did because as you said, they don’t have as many stink issues. My husband and I have to pay for our laundry, so the idea of stripping diapers is not something I want to think about. One way I have saved money on diapers is by entering giveaways. I have one 10-15; it’s not a guarantee that this will help, but I recommend people enter, enter, enter…

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  • http://twitter.com/mleerx Michelle Lee

    Prefolds are awesome because you can buy them used and then use them for all your children…I don’t care what CD advocates say, after heavy use with one child until potty learning most pockets and aios are going to be in rough shape.

  • Vicki Hall

    I think one of the most economical ways to CD is to use OS covers (such as Flip ) and pad folded flats . They’re also very trim.

  • Rachael

    If you really want to save $$, I’ve fallen in love with jersey knit t-shirts. Absorbent and stretchy so any fold you can get tight around the legs to contain any mess, even with the bargain covers. I have a ton of different cloth diapers and I go for the t-shirt first every time. The added bonus of flats is you can get them super clean so rash prone LO stays clear. I thought pockets would help, but this is better!

    • http://www.makingitworkblog.com/ Carolyn Russell

      That’s a really interesting idea! Do you have a place you recommend getting the shirts from?

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  • Michelle May Canalita

    I just started using cloth diapers with my 3 week old son and love it! We’re using prefolds and my husband was very skeptical about it but the money we save really won him over. I’ve been playing with the idea of potentially saving more money by making my own prefolds! Loved this article!

    • http://www.makingitworkblog.com/ Carolyn Russell

      Ooh, MAKING your own prefolds! I haven’t known anyone who has done that, but I’m intrigued by the idea! Let us know how it turns out ;)