Today’s post is the second in ‘The Costs of Raising Baby’ series. Last week, we discussed how much infant formula costs, and the difference between pre-made and powder formula. Today we will discuss the cost of disposable diapers during a baby’s first year, and what you can do to help ease the financial burden. Changing diapers is certainly one of the less glamorous aspects of parenting, but unfortunately there is no way around it. And after a while it becomes second nature.
How Many Diapers Does a Baby Use?
The first piece of information needed to determine the cost of diapers is to figure out exactly how many diapers you will change that first year. There is a wide range of figures here, depending on your individual usage habits. Some parents simply change their baby’s diaper more often then others. But, using a common diaper guide gives us an average range of between 3,000 and 3,500 diapers.
How Much Do Diapers Cost?
There is even more variability in the cost of diapers than there is in the number of diapers used. For this analysis, I focused on the major national brands (Pampers and Huggies) as well as on store brands (Target: Up&Up, Wal-Mart: Parent’s Choice, and Sam’s Club: Simply Right) and a less expensive national brand (Luvs). There are other brands out there, some more expensive than the major brands and some less expensive than the store brands. But I think most people stick to the brands in this analysis. Before getting to the results, lets look at the different pricing variables.
Smaller diaper sizes cost less per diaper than larger sizes. This is fairly obvious and makes logical sense. These diapers use less raw materials and are cheaper to produce than larger sized diapers. This is why, for the same price, you’ll see that smaller sized packages of diapers contain a larger number of diapers. Looking at the jumbo boxes, you can get 210 size 1 diapers (Pampers) for the same price as 140 size 6 diapers. Diaper size is typically based on a baby’s weight, so the larger your baby the faster they will move into the larger, more expensive diapers. One money-saving technique is to keep your baby in the smaller size for as long as possible. Now, you have to use common sense with this. If it looks like the diaper is too tight and your baby is obviously uncomfortable, then it’s time to move to the next size. Also, if you notice that leaks are occuring more frequently, that can be a clue that it’s time to move up to the next size.
Name brand diapers cost more than store brand diapers. Again, this is something we would expect. We received a large supply of diapers at our baby shower of various brands (name brand, store brand, etc.). We used them all (with the exception of a few packs of size 1′s that our baby grew out of before we could use) and really didn’t have issues with any of them. While there is a definate difference between the name brands and store brands (you can tell the name brands are higher quality), they both worked ok. Generally, there is at least a 10 cent price difference per diaper between the name brands and store brands. At between 3,000 and 3,500 diapers, that adds up to an extra $300 to $350 to use the name brand diapers. Our technique was to use a hybrid approach. For everyday usage at home, we use a less expensive diaper. However, we also keep some name brand diapers on hand to use overnight and when we know we’ll be out of the house for an extended period of time. This way you still save money on your everyday usage, but you avoid any potential leaks or blowouts when you know the diaper will be put to the test.
Another large difference is the size of the diaper package you buy. The most expensive thing you can do is to regularly purchase the smallest, cheapest package of diapers. It may seem like the least expensive option (after all, it does have the lowest sticker price), but the per diaper cost is actually much higher. The per-diaper price variance between buying a jumbo box of diapers compared to the smallest package is just as high as the difference between buying name brand and store brand diapers (at least 10 cents per diaper higher). You may be worried about buying a big box, and then not using them. However, unless your baby is right on the line between sizes you really shouldn’t even worry about that. There is a degree of weight overlap between the sizes as well, which further mitigates that concern.
The Bottom Line
Ok, we know there is a lot of price variability with diapers, so we will work with price ranges here.
- If you use 3,000 diapers and buy large boxes of store-brand diapers, you’re looking at a first-year cost of $475. (For 3,500 diapers it would be $555)
- If you use 3,000 diapers and buy large boxes of name-brand diapers, you’re looking at a first-year cost of $750. (For 3,500 diapers it would be $875)
- And if you use 3,000 diapers and buy small packages of name-brand diapers, you’re looking at a first-year cost of $1,100. (For 3,500 diapers it would be $1,300).
This gives us a range between $475 and $1,300 depending on usage, brand, and package size. Buying store brand and buying large packages can be big money savers and help you meet your monthly budget.
- If you are interested in saving even more money there is the cloth diapering option. This wasn’t something we seriously considered, but I know other people swear by it. Trent at The Simple Dollar has a good post about this if you’re interested.
- For your first child, make sure to ask for diapers at your baby shower. We had a drawing where everyone that brought a package of diapers was entered into a drawing for a prize. We ended up receiving somewhere around 1,800 diapers as a result, which greatly reduced the number of diapers we had to buy. Since ours is the only baby shower I’ve been to, I don’t know how the 1,800 diapers compares with most baby showers.