(ARA) - Having a husband in the military, a 2-year-old daughter and a newborn son hasn't been easy on the bank account for Linda Souza of Richlands, N.C.
"We've been a one-income family since I got pregnant with our daughter. We've had to cut back to necessities in order to save as much money as we possibly can, especially after we bought a house in 2009," says Souza. "Everything was feeling a bit tighter."
Families across the U.S. are feeling the financial crunch just like Souza. The financial pain can be especially hard when baby makes three. In fact, the average start-up cost for a new baby is more than $7,200 according to expert estimates.
In an effort to help her family survive the financial squeeze, Souza took matters into her own hands.
"I began to actively look for ways to save money. One option I found was cloth diapering. Cloth diapering seemed like a foreign language to me when I first started looking into it. Now I encourage every new mom who wants to cut costs to cloth diaper," she says.
Today, Souza estimates she saves at least $166 per month by cloth diapering her son, Evan.
"Being able to save money makes me feel like I'm contributing to our family in more ways than just staying home with my kids," she says. "It makes me feel a sense of pride that something so simple could not only be healthier but also beneficial to our family too."
Saving money is the top reason moms like Souza consider cloth diapers, says Kelly Wels, the author of the award-winning book, "Changing Diapers: The Hip Mom's Guide to Cloth Diapering."
Wels says the average family can save about $2,000 over the life of their baby's diapering years if they cloth diaper their baby instead of using disposables. She says the savings are even greater when you use the same cloth diapers for future babies too.
"While it's known that cloth diapering can help a family save money, what isn't known is just how easy cloth diapering can be," says Wels. "You simply wash your diapers at home and you're ready to go - and you never have to buy more diapers again. Of course one of the real draws to modern cloth diapers is that they are so cute and come in every color in the rainbow. Moms who use cloth quickly discover that diapering is fun."
Wels adds that with today's selection of modern cloth diapers, such as bumGenius, FuzziBunz, Rumparooz and gDiapers, families can find a brand that fits their lifestyles, needs and budgets.
Stay-at-home-mom, Grace Matthews, of Clarksville, Tenn. agrees that cloth diapering is a major money-saver.
"We went from two incomes to one when my daughter was 5 months old. I was a registered nurse but I couldn't get the hours that worked with day care while my husband was deployed," she says. Matthews ultimately had to give up her job to stay home full-time with her daughter.
Matthews' sister had tried FuzziBunz cloth diapers; while the cloth diapering system didn't work for her, ultimately she said her sister's willingness to try cloth diapers led her to try it too.
"My initial upfront cost was $400. We figure we're saving about $60 to $70 per month by using reusable diapers, $25 per month by using reusable wipes, and about $15 to $30 per month by not using diaper rash cream, which we don't need any more since we switched to cloth. I used to go through a tube of diaper cream every week when we used disposables," says Matthews.
Overall, Matthews says she cloth diapers her baby because "it feels right" for her family.
"I feel like I am doing something positive toward the bottom line each month. Because I am not contributing at all to the family finances, this [cloth diapering] can make me feel like I am doing something," she says. "Not having to buy diapers and wipes makes me feel like all our money isn't literally being thrown away each week."
Wels says that Matthews' family is like so many other families today.
"Every family is looking for ways to cut back, especially in recessionary times. Even moms whose full-time job is caring for the kids and home can feel like they are making a significant financial contribution by helping their families cut back on wasteful spending," says Wels.
Matthews agrees and says that cloth diapers offer her family a long-term financial benefit. "We will use the same cloth diapers with subsequent children and save even more. You can't beat that."