29 July 2009

The Diapering Debacle Part I- Cost Analysis

I will come right out and say it. I use disposable diapers, I have rarely even flirted with the idea of using cloth. For a long time I just chalked it up to being lazy, my perception that disposables were just as cost-effective and my hypothesis that the overall environmental impact was the same. With all that said I have read some great posts about diapering that really got me more informed and well, with number two on the way, now is a good time to think about what I might like to try differently. So off we go.

First I wanted to look at the cost aspect. So many seem to feel it is way cheaper to cloth diaper so I did the math.

Bear in mind for the calculations that it is recommended that you:
-wash no more than 24 diapers at once
-use the highest water setting to ensure agitation and rinsing
-wash twice, a hot/cold and a cold/cold
-dry for 60-90 minutes
-use certain detergents

All the hows and whys of cloth diaper maintenance are not fully explained here, but those basic guidelines created the parameters by which I estimated cost.

Here is my breakdown:

I want 36 diapers (minimum) to cut down on laundry doing and I like the FuzziBunz at $18 a pop.
There are lots of detergent designed for this and most people say they average about $50.00 a year for that.
My washer uses 40 gallons of water per cycle on the commercial setting, so that is 80 gallons per diaper load. I pay .013¢ per gallon of water.
In electric it costs 2.8¢ for the cold/cold wash, 34.2¢ for the hot/cold wash and 47¢ to run the dryer for an hour.

Lets do the tally:
Diapers: $648.00
Detergent: $50.00
Washing/Drying (2x a week): $2.08 in water + $1.80 in electric = $3.88/week * 52 weeks = $201.76
Total it all up and I spend $899.78 on a year of cloth diapering. Divide this by the $35.00 I budget per month on disposables (thanks to sales, coupons and using our credit card points for Target gift cards my actual cost averages out to less, but whatever...) and that is 25.7 months of disposable diapers. My daughter was potty trained at 26 months. We still use diapers for nap and night, but now a case for $17.00 (give or take) lasts for 5 weeks.

For me it is an even proposition.

Granted this does not include the decrease in cost over time, the use of the diapers for a second child or the options of line drying and buying used diapers. However, it also doesn’t address the fact that my daughter would have outgrown the small set of diapers at 10 months, requiring the purchase of another set, the additional year of maintenance to the tune of roughly $250.00 and/or any replacement/repairs the diapers may need. Additionally I would have probably been purchasing disposables for the first few weeks, as many do, and with the large amount of traveling and moving we do, some additional disposable purchases would probably have been made to fill the gaps when we are sans washer and dryer. Again, its looks like a comparable argument on cost. Everyone should do their own math since our washer/dryer set is pretty low tech, and our urban utilities may be pricier than some and so on. This may not be true for everyone, and it does not mitigate the fact that “one-time” investments may be easier than monthly budgeting, but the caveat here is to actually do the math before assuming that cloth will be a money saving strategy.

Next installation will address environmental impact, which cost aside, may be enough of a motivating factor for many.


Ginger said...

I'm interested to see what your thoughts are in the next installation. My husband and I have decided (gulp) to try cloth, for a variety of reasons, so I love reading other people's takes on them.

Alexis said...

Cool on trying them out. I know lots of people who LOVE them and I must admit that they are just so cute too! What I am finding out is that it is pretty much a wash on all the factors involved, so it really is just a matter of preference. For me, inherent laziness will always win out, but not all are slackers like myself.

Anonymous said...

Also, the gross factor of having a "soak bucket" of poopy, stained, soggy diapers hanging out in my basment sink would totally turn me off.

My grandma told me the stories of emptying the diaper in the toilet and then being so tired she just kept a bucket of soapy water and used diapers in the bathroom--and right then and there I said, "Okay! I'm going with Huggies!" I can't even imagine having to deal with that everyday.

Ms. Weires said...

Just a point of interest, I know a couple who use them, and the grossest part, the inserts go in a mesh bag by the changer, and when a diaper catastrophe occurs, or the bag is full it gets put in the basement. They wash the inserts with the bag, the smell is contained, again unless hell hath broken loose. In that case, a full spraydown of the house might be necessary anyway. Dump the pail, get a couple mesh bags.

Alexis said...

Jaci and Ms. Weires- I confess the logisitics of what to do with icky ones is not something I have researched alot. I can see how it could get icky, and with the DH here havineg super-special-snowflake status when it comes to that kind of ick factor (I know, it is ridiculous, but I do digress)it might motivate me not to do it. With that said, lots of people do it and have no problems. Additionally I am sure the tchnology for storage has come a long way...maybe that will have to be part of my diaper expose!