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I remember the first time we ran out of diapers with my newly minted first-born son—I was overwhelmed by the amount of diaper choices available to me at my local big-box store. And as a new, sleep-deprived, barely functioning parent, my first (and pretty much only) priority was to consider my kid's sensitive little bottom, and not necessarily anything related to price. Also, there was the minor issue that I had to take him with me to the store and was sure he'd have some sort of gargantuan poop blowout or screamfest while I was there, which made it a total grab-and-go situation. It was stressful. I'm sure I made a bunch of expensive mistakes in those early days of diaper shopping, but at least I can blame it on the newborn haze. (I can, right?)
If only I’d known then what I know now: Comparison shopping from the comfort of your home is a must. One of the hardest parts is getting familiar with diaper packaging -- many times the Sunday circulars publish prices for diapers without also listing the quantity, meaning you won't actually know if you're getting a good deal until you get into the store. Diaper companies are a bit shady that way; when you go up a diaper size, the price may stay the same, but the quantity in each pack may decrease. Always have a calculator handy if you're pricing out diapers. You'll want to know the price per diaper rather than the price per pack, since there are so many variables to consider. Also look into in-store shopping versus online shopping. Take into account shipping charges and delivery time—it won't be a money-saver for you if you run out of diapers before your next shipment arrives.
To save you the legwork, we did the research for you and uncovered where to score the best deal on name-brand diapers.
Sign up for this free service for 30-percent off select diapers and wipes, plus free two-day shipping. A 124-count box of Pampers Baby Dry diapers (newborn size) is regularly $30 on Amazon.com (about 24 cents per diaper)—but with the Amazon Mom discount, the price of the box drops to $21, or about 17 cents per diaper. Note: Amazon Mom only discounts select brands of diapers, so you may need to be a bit flexible.
Buying in bulk
For larger quantities, warehouses like Sam's Club and Costco seem like they'd be pretty comparable, but we found that Sam's Club priced Huggies Little Movers size-3 diapers at 19 cents per diaper, while Costco fell a little behind at 22 cents per diaper. Three cents doesn't sound like much until you realize you'll be purchasing 228 diapers at once—the price difference comes out to about seven bucks.
Drugstores are probably the worst place to buy diapers. Not only are you going to be limited in quantity (most drugstores do not carry large boxes of diapers), you're going to have to shop sales as well as possibly sign up for card privileges for additional discounts just to break even with other stores' regular pricing. Walgreens and CVS both offer a jumbo pack (23 count) of Huggies Snug & Dry diapers for $12.99 (a whopping $.56 per diaper). On the contrary, that same brand of diapers (though packaged in a larger pack of 76) comes out to about $.33 per diaper at Walmart.
Websites like Diapers4Less.com and Diapers.com offer incentives like free shipping and one-stop shopping, but we found that based on the cost of one box of diapers, you're better off with Target or Walmart. The price of a 192-count box of Pampers Baby Dry was $31.99 on Diapers.com (about 17 cents per diaper); in comparison, the price a little less at Walmart, at $29.95 (about 16 cents per diaper -- hey, all those pennies add up!). Lesson learned: Just because you're buying from a website that specializes in diapers, that doesn't always mean you're getting the best deal.