In honor of our first child being born this month, I decided to take a break from my typical finance topics to explore something new: Diapers.
While I have experience with financial planning, I am brand new to being a Dad (and the financial challenges that come with it). Will we switch from Pampers to another brand after several jaw dropping blowouts? Probably. Like all new parents, we’ll learn along the way and I’ll add updates based on our experience.
One thing I noticed my wife spending quite a bit of time on is navigating all the baby diaper programs and deals out there. Is it better to get a Costco membership, use your 5% off Target Red Card, or order diapers on a subscription from Amazon? I didn’t know, but I saw a problem that could potentially be solved with a spreadsheet, which is something that is a bit more in my wheelhouse.
For now, I’m keeping the comparison to Amazon and Target since each have diaper discount programs to entice parents as customers and we already shop at both. I’m sticking with Pampers Swaddlers because, well, that is the brand my wife added to our baby registry to start with. Costco only sells Kirkland and Huggies at this time, so I’m leaving them off the list unless we decide to switch brands. I suspect whichever retailer is the best deal with Pampers is likely competitive with the other popular brands as well.
Red Card: With a Target Red Card, you’ll get 5% off on all purchases. This one is straightforward, the discount applies to everything at Target, not just diapers. I recommend sticking with the debit card instead of credit. That way, transactions come straight from your bank account and you don’t run the risk of accumulating a balance and paying interest. The application is free and easy to do online at https://www.target.com/redcard/about.
Gift Card Offers: Target almost always is offering some type of gift card promotion on baby products. Typically it is something like “Get $15 with a $75 purchase of baby products” or “Get $20 with a $100 purchase of baby products”. While these offers are subject to change, they are a good deal as long as they are active and tend to be pretty consistent.
We plan to stick to the largest quantity boxes ($39.99) when buying since that results in the lowest cost per diaper. We also plan to buy 2 boxes at a time – the current size and a size up. That we’ll always be stocked and also have $80 towards the minimum order to qualify for most offers. You can also use wipes, formula, snacks, and other baby products to qualify towards your total for these promotions typically as well.
Physical Location: A big bonus of using Target is knowing that they are right around the corner and have a good exchange policy. If for some reason we need to exchange a box for another size or brand, that is always an option without having to deal with shipping and more complicated return policies.
Subscribe & Save: A 5% discount is available at Amazon if you sign up for the “Subscribe & Save” feature. Due to changing diaper sizes, this is more likely to be used for the discount, not convenience. You’ll still have to remember to login and change the frequency of delivery and sizes depending on how fast your baby is growing and burning through diapers.
Amazon Prime Subscribe & Save: The 5% discount is increased to 20% if you have Amazon Prime and subscribe to 5 or more products for auto-delivery. Any products we would consider the “Subscribe & Save” option for we currently get at Costco (Paper towels, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.). If we use Amazon for diapers, this is an added discount we would likely skip for now. We do already have Amazon Prime, but it is an added $119 for the year if you don’t – not worth adding if you would only be using it for this feature. If you already have Amazon Prime and use Subscribe & Save on at least 4 other products, Amazon’s already low price plus an added 20% off make Amazon a likely no-brainer for your diaper purchases as well.
Registry: Amazon offers a 20% discount on the first $300 of diapers during the first year. To qualify, you need to create a baby registry through Amazon and reach $500 in items purchased. The good news is if you shop on Amazon anyways, you can simply add any regular purchases to your registry before buying for it to count towards your $500 total. We didn’t actually have our baby registry through Amazon (we used Target) but were able to reach $500 on our own through regular purchases and some furniture for the nursery. While this is a relatively good deal to take advantage of, it sounds a bit better than it is. Your savings are capped at $60 and you need to set up a registry and have $500 of purchases come through to get it.
With 5 different discounts, 7 diaper sizes, 14 quantities offered, and 14 different prices, some behind the scenes number crunching was necessary. I won’t bore you with all the calculations (unless you’re into that kind of thing, contact me). The estimated annual cost is below, assuming 2500 diapers are used for the year:
|Annual Cost (2500 Diapers)
|Target Red Card
|Sign up for free debit card and use for purchase.
|Amazon “Subscribe and Save”
|Subscribe to have Amazon automatically send you diapers at regular intervals.
|Target Gift Card Offer*
|18.8% ($15 on 2 boxes at a time, $39.99 each)
|Spend at least $75 on qualifying baby products (Offer must be actively running)
|Amazon Baby Registry
|20% off on first $300 of diapers during first year
|$500 in purchases from Amazon’s baby registry.
|Target Red Card + Gift Card Offer
|Use your Red Card plus qualify for $15 gift card offer
|Amazon “Subscribe & Save” + Baby Registry
|5% plus another 20% off on first $300 of diapers
|Subscribe to receive diapers at regular intervals, plus have $500 purchased from Amazon baby registry
|Amazon Prime “Subscribe and Save” with 5 or more products + Baby Registry
|20% plus another 20% off on first $300 of diapers
|Amazon Prime membership, plus 5 or more products on subscription, plus have $500 purchased from Amazon baby registry
*Gift card offers are subject to change. For illustrative purposes, I used the $15 gift card for $75 in qualifying baby products promotion and assumed you’d need to buy 2 packs at $39.99 each to meet the minimum. The $20 gift card for $100 in qualifying baby products promotion would yield a slightly lower overall cost, but would also require you to purchase more baby products than just diapers to meet the $100 minimum for the offer.
The case for Amazon: While Amazon offers the most rock-bottom price, it also has the most hoops to jump through. You’ll need to subscribe to diapers and other products, and remember to change the size as your baby grows before the next round is sent. You’ll also need to setup and purchase items through an Amazon baby registry. To get Amazon’s lowest price, you’ll also need Amazon Prime plus subscribe to other products, which just sounds like more trouble than it it’s worth.
However, if you’re already an Amazon Prime member and use the Subscribe & Save feature on other products (or don’t mind going through the effort of setting them up) Amazon will likely be the best option for you. In addition, If Target discontinues their gift card promotion, Amazon would be the better option resulting in $100 in savings for non Prime members. So far, Target has regularly renewed the gift card offers, but it’s worth noting they are subject to change and would make Amazon drastically more attractive if they were to be discontinued.
The case for Target: Target’s Red Card plus gift card offer is our preferred strategy to start. This will cost an estimated $70 per year more than Amazon’s lowest offer, but won’t require Amazon Prime and managing 5 or more product subscriptions when we’re already dealing with a new baby. That, plus the ability to easily make exchanges for different sizes or brands in store makes the added $70 worth it.
If you don’t already have Amazon Prime, Target offers the lowest overall price on diapers, has the fewest hoops to jump through to get the lowest price, and has the added benefit of easy in store exchanges.
I know that in my sleep deprived state I didn’t get all of the names, but special thanks to Dawn, Deanna, Matthew, Jen, Abby, Candi, Alyssa, Jackie, Lauren, Rachel, Yvonne, Fatimah, Mary, Kelly, Anna, and to all of of the nurses, technicians, doctors, midwives, and Mayo Clinic staff that helped us safely deliver our son.