It's that time of year to make goals or resolutions for yourself and your family. For many, that includes "going green" and/or tightening your budget. If you've looked into cloth diapers, you know that they are expensive. Of course, so are disposables, but the financial outlay is spread out over the years. You probably also know that when you calculate how much each disposable diaper change costs you, those cloth diapers will "pay for themselves" many times over, quite quickly. Even so, spending $10-$25 per diaper instead of $10 every few days, is tough on the old budget.
It reminds me of the "I Love Lucy" episode where Lucy wants to buy a freezer:
Lucy: Look, it says this freezer pays for itself.
Ricky: Well let me see. (looks at paper) Hey maybe we ought to get one.
Ricky: As soon as it's done paying for itself, tell it to come on over.
As soon as those diapers are done paying for themselves, send them over! Ha!
We were on a very tight budget when we switched to cloth, and I started with a very small stash, washing often and adding diapers as our budget allowed, but there are other ways to do it!
Go slow: You don't have to buy a whole stash of cloth diapers at once. Buy a few and see how you like them. Every time you use one, that's one less disposable you're using!
It's not all or nothing: If you're nervous about using cloth at night, nap time, while you're out and about...you're not alone! A lot of us were. You can still use disposables when it's convenient, we won't kick you out of the club. ;-)
Prefolds: A lot of our mothers used prefolds, and they are still a great, economical option. If you are thinking about folding and pins, stop right there. Pick up one or two dozen cotton prefolds, 3-4 covers and simply fold the prefolds in thirds and lay them in the cover! When baby is wet, swap the diaper out and let the used cover air out for the next change. Covers can be hand washed & air dried if they are stinky or dirty and you need them ready to use again quickly. You can even use cloth at nap or night time by using a hemp prefold. Don't want to trifold? There are cloth diaper inserts available that allow you to use an affordable cover with inserts in place of prefolds. There are covers available with hook & loop closures that make changing cloth as simple as a disposable.
Flats: Flats are even more affordable than prefolds. Instead of being fabric sewn in 4 layers (usually 8 in the middle) they are one big layer of fabric, and are likely the diapers your grandmother used. You can "pad fold" them, which is hardly more difficult than trifolding a prefold! Fold in quarters, then trifold and lay in the cover. The really nice thing about flats is how quickly & easily they wash and dry, and you can even hand wash them in a pinch.
Blankets/towels: You can use flannel receiving blankets and inexpensive flour sack towels the same way as flats. You probably have everything you need on hand to start diapering right now! If you secure a flat with pins, snappi or Boingos, you can use fleece pants as a cover, and most of us have at least a few pair of fleece PJ pants in our kids' drawers!
DIY: If you can sew, there are loads of free patterns and tutorials available online for making your own diapers. Even if you aren't an expert seamstress, you can alter inexpensive diapers to make them work better for you (sew flats into prefolds etc.) If you prefer a "stay dry" diaper, you can get fleece from the craft store, and cut it into rectangles to lay on top of prefolds or flats; no sewing required.
Wipes: Another big expense is disposable wipes. There are affordable cloth wipes available, or you can use inexpensive baby washcloths as wipes, or cut up an old receiving blanket!
As you aren't spending money on disposables, put that money aside. You can buy cute diapers with the money, or you may even decide that the budget friendly method isn't so bad, and spend that money on yourself instead!