Cloth vs Disposable Diapers – The Accountant’s Way

One of the reasons I chose to be an accountant was because it is a career with a set of skills. Which I can use to benefit me both professionally but also in the home. One of those is the ability to perform a cost benefit analysis. And with some changes coming in my household I applied the same type of cost benefit analysis strategy I would to helping a business owner make a decision, to making a personal decision within our home. Cloth vs Disposable diaper.

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I read 15 to 20 articles comparing the cost of cloth to disposable diapers. And I’d be lying if I said that over half of them were diaper retailers (Cloth or disposable), because everyone wants to sell you something. So, in the interests of doing my own due diligence, I performed the following analysis, and thought I would share it.

I’m simply a curious accountant who is going to be a dad again. And I wanted to get some real answers. In that spirit, if you find a major hole in my analysis, let me know. I did this to learn, and will be happy to continue to do so.

My disclaimer, before we begin:

  • The question of diapers, relates to a lot of other topics related to parenting which are quite sensitive. Including but not limited to: potty training, breastfeeding, and carbon footprint. I have briefly touched on them, but more than anything, I have not made any assumptions within based upon my ideas of the right or wrong way to raise a child. If I went earlier or later on a particular area of interest, it is because I’m estimating conservatively. I would rather err on the side of spending more in an estimate than not. This is an estimate after all. The size of your baby or the speed it grows could throw this entire analysis off base, it is meant to be a guideline to help aide in making a decision.
  • My hope is whoever reads this understands the bulk of my analysis is fiscal, not moral or ethical. This topic is convoluted enough without getting into all that stuff. And I wanted to lend some clarity to one aspect of the conversation.

Key assumptions

  • Baby wipes not included
  • Child in diapers until 3 years old. We are projecting conservatively, and based upon normal American babies. Based upon culture or region age of potty training can change. Some believe that cloth diapers potty train children earlier. And we gradually reduced diaper usage from full to near zero by the 3rd birthday. Again, please don’t be sensitive, we erred conservatively.
  • Based upon children in 50% quartile
  • Does not account for premature babies
  • Reasonable effort to find best deals made, not accounting for big box stores, or coupons. Nor does it consider buying used, or selling when your baby outgrows their diapers. But those could affect your decision.
  • Brands we selected were meant as a benchmark for market niche, each representing a market segment: discount, organic, baseline or other. We don’t have a preference for any brand. For disposable pricing we did go on Amazon, and in full disclosure, we have a Prime membership. This is mentioned because we understand lower income families don’t have access to discounts through Amazon, or Big box stores where they can leverage the heavy discounts, but for the purposes of picking a price, we needed to start somewhere.
  • Assumes perfect inventory usage, and by unit cost. If you over purchase, or purchasing in large containers there may be excess. Let’s be honest, there will be excess, because in inventory management, and especially with babies, we are making our best guess.
  • Cloth diapers purchased in the beginning are used throughout entire span of child’s life. Additional purchases will change this potentially significantly. What this means is, keep your wife out of Target and off the internet from buying “really cute” diapers and trying to tell you they are an investment.

Disposable Diapers:

  • Disposable costs at year 1
    • Luvs – 447.6
    • Huggies – 785.4
    • Seventh Gen – 1,247.40
    • Bambo Nature – 1,496.40
  • Disposable costs at year 2
    • Luvs – 324
    • Huggies – 626.4
    • Seventh Gen – 885.60
    • Bambo Nature – 1,144.80
  • Disposable costs at year 3
    • Luvs – 156
    • Huggies – 382.20
    • Seventh Gen – 366.6
    • Bambo Nature – 390
  • Disposable costs overall
    • Luvs – 927.60
    • Huggies – 1,794
    • Seventh Gen – 2,499.60
    • Bambo Nature – 3,031.20

There are both fixed and variable costs associated with Cloth diapers. We accounted for a toilet sprayer, and spray reducer for initial purchases in addition to the diapers. Liners come in both disposable and reusable we included both options in our considerations. We also calculated in the additional laundry requirements. Because you will not be throwing them in with the normal wash.

For the purposes of calculating initial number of diapers to purchase we assumed about 40 diaper covers. For inserts, our projection was 40, because babies are small waste factories. For cloth diapers without inserts we selected 40, based upon 18 being used every 2 days, which is a reasonable wash cycle, with a lot for flexibility. The number of diapers used daily will go down, but the wash cycles won’t go down proportionately, as dirty diapers need to be washed. Additionally, with a set of 40 being purchased, there will be flexibility if some are damaged for whatever reason down the line.

We also know that life happens, and that disposable diapers are not going to be eliminated so we calculated a 90% success rate on usage of cloth diapers and used Luvs brand for those 10% times we aren’t using cloth diapers.

  • Fixed costs
    • Spray hose – 40
    • Splash guard (Spray pal) – 25

Cloth Diapers

Cloth diaper costs include the fixed cost of the purchase of the first 40 covers, and 40 liners, or if no liner is required, 40 cloth diapers. Variable costs of disposables used, laundry, and disposable liners were also added in. As the choice of liner is separate and based upon individual need or preference, that has been broken out as a separate fixed cost.

  • One Size (No liner requirement)
    • Rumparooz
      • Initial investment – 560
      • Year 1 – 874.76
      • Year 2 – 212.40
      • Year 3 – 195.60
      • Total – 1,272.76
  • All in one (Liner required)
    • Laimala
      • Initial investment – 159.93
      • Year 1 – 587.02
      • Year 2 – 395.89
      • Year 3 – 261.86
      • Total – 1,244.77
    • Bumgenius
      • Initial investment – 1,078
      • Year 1 – 1,505.09
      • Year 2 – 395.89
      • Year 3 – 261.86
      • Total – 2,162.84
    • Blueberry Organics
      • Initial investment – 1,318
      • Year 1 – 1,745.09
      • Year 2 – 395.89
      • Year 3 – 261.86
      • Total – 2,402.84
  • Pocket Diaper (Liner required)
    • Mama Koala
      • Initial investment – 266.6
      • Year 1 – 639.69
      • Year 2 – 395.89
      • Year 3 – 261.86
      • Total – 1,351.44
    • Thirsties
      • Initial investment – 733.33
      • Year 1 – 1,160.42
      • Year 2 – 395.89
      • Year 3 – 261.86
      • Total – 1,818.17
    • Bumgenius
      • Initial investment – 742.13
      • Year 1 – 1,169.22
      • Year 2 – 395.89
      • Year 3 – 261.86
      • Total – 1,826.97

Liners

We considered Disposable liners to support solid waste when the baby begins to transition into solid food. Disposable for solid waste, reusable liner for liquid waste. We marked it at 6 months. Every family is different, this was just a very early point, leaning toward being conservative.

  • Nora’s Nursery (10 pack)
    • Initial investment – 99.88
  • Naturally Nature Charcoal reusable (12 pack)
    • Initial investment – 131.88
  • Naturally Nature Bamboo Reusable (12 pack)
    • Initial investment – 103.88
  • Grovia Disposable Liner (200 pack)
    • Year 1 – 123.33
    • Year 2 – 183.49
    • Year 3 – 66.26
    • Total – 372.08

Variable Costs

Cost of laundry assuming .75 per load and laundry 20 times per month. We played with the numbers on this, it is the largest continuous expense related to cloth diapers after the initial purchase and anything that can be done to keep it down, either considering efficiency of laundry machine, or cost of soap, looking at it from a per load perspective. But if you aren’t conscious of the costs related to laundry than the savings from cloth diapers can be lost. As well as any environmental impact.

  • Laundry costs
    • Year 1 – 195
    • Year 2 – 180
    • Year 3 – 180
  • 10% disposable usage
    • Year 1 – 44.76
    • Year 2 – 32.4
    • Year 3 – 15.60

Final summary

Based upon our assessment:

On a cost basis, Luvs is cheapest overall. But not every baby can tolerate Luvs and it may not be as capable of handling the serious business of diapers that is needed to make it the core of diapering within your family. Family dependent of course.

The most expensive diapers are the disposable eco friendly and sensitive skin brands. If you have a baby with sensitive skin, it may be best to go with a cloth brand, for cost purposes. It will be important to wash thoroughly and consider laundry detergent with the cloth diapers though.

On a cost basis, we choose the Pocket Diapers over the All in Ones, there may be some non-cost based benefits, but when looking at the numbers we lean toward the pocket diapers, they are a few hundred cheaper. The One sized is middle of the road, but for hygiene reasons, we may lean away from these.

When it comes to liners, we would lean toward the charcoal, this is where the rubber meets the road (Or some other awkward analogy) and the extra $30 for a full 48 set isn’t a bad deal.

Our overall decision is a close call between Huggies and Cloth Diapers. They are within a couple hundred dollars lifetime cost, which could be flexibility on either end. Things that could impact your decision either way, is how hard do you want to work? Cloth is harder to maintain, between all the laundry, and rinsing, whereas disposable is a drop in the trash can. There is an argument, a really solid one for the impact upon the environment (A complex question, here is a link that discusses it.). If it were a simple matter of cost, were I comparing the two I would lean more toward Huggies disposables, they are similar cost and less effort. However, if the baby shower supplied a significant portion of the reusable diapers, or if our baby had sensitive skin I would definitely go with cloth.

It may also be worth considering, that if your family is worried about the initial investment in cloth diapers, buying early can save money. Stores take advantage of people in an emergency. So, look for families selling used cloth diapers or stores with big discounts and stacked deals prior to the birth of your child. Spreading out the initial cost in the 6 months prior to the birth of your child saves you money later on, than it is money well spent.

A few final questions we wanted to answer.

If you have been using disposable, when is it too late to switch?

Our simplified answer is that our numbers for disposable are based upon our assumption that it will steadily decrease from full to almost no usage from 2 – 3. This will be heavily dependent upon the child and the parents. If you are rolling with Luvs or Huggies don’t switch.

If you are using either the eco friendly or sensitive skin brands you could still save money if you switched in the first 6-7 months. This is purely a cost based answer, there may be some intangible reason to switch. The thing to keep in mind is that from newborn to 2 years old there is a 40% decrease in diaper expenditure per month, and potentially a 91% decrease from 2 to 3 years old. The sooner you invest in cloth diapers the better.

Does the answer change if the child potty trains sooner?

Yes, looking at Huggies to Pocket Diapers at the 2 year mark, it is cheaper to go with Huggies.

If cloth diapers potty train faster than disposable than are they still worth the difference in cost?

Yes, this because if you didn’t purchase the cloth diapers you would be using the disposables. Which would increase in total expenditure over time. If you were using Huggies for 6 months more in the last year compared with being satisfactorily potty trained in cloth diapers that is a difference of almost $300. Additionally, you would save the $149.82 worth of laundry, liners and extra disposables calculated into the cloth diapers.

Here is the link to my Google Sheets where I did my calculations.

 If you want to see how we can help you solve your business related problems, here is a link to our calendar. We would love to talk with you. No diapers, please. 

Disclaimer: The information contained in this document is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or tax advice. It is not intended to be a substitute for obtaining legal, accounting, or other financial advice from an appropriate legal professional, financial adviser or for the purpose of avoiding U.S. Federal, state or local tax payments and penalties.

Pokemon Go – The Accountant’s Way

I’m going to be up front and honest. I play Pokemon Go.

I have my reasons, of which I will discuss, but I do enjoy the game.

But as the game is deceptively complex, and if a “Trainer” wants to catch them all, they need to play smart. And because . . . 4a3e4f9e2c8194f18e6a0ed55ba9b0ccee9469efdb0a6fa08e51a282c0e0e200

The analysis I performed, is similar to what we at Wilson Lake would perform for a business who wanted to determine the the ROI for various service lines. The goal being that in a moment where a business owner needs to make a decision, they can fall back on the results of their ROI analysis to make a snap decision. That is our goal for this. We want to facilitate Trainers making intelligent decisions when they are presented with multiple options and scarce resources. Of course, if you have a lot of Pokeballs, and unlimited time . . .

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I play for 3 reasons:

  • As a Dad I play Pokemon Go with my son, it gives us something to engage with together, on even terms. He is much more knowledgeable than me though.
  • Allows an opportunity to teach: patience, savings, and problem solving. It is my chance to sneak in some Dad lessons without him knowing. IMG_6649
  • Because I played Pokemon Blue when it first came out and it is a lot of fun.

**To the left, is our character (named by my son) and our buddy Larvitar.**

When playing it is important to establish goals.

  1. Catch them all
  2. Battling
    1. Access to Rare Candy, to level up rare Pokemon
  3. Increase level
    1. Improves available resources to support catching them all
  4. Gain badges
    1. Brag worthy, but also facilitates catching of Pokemon

We want to be able to identify very clearly, when we have scarce resources, either Pokeballs or time, which Pokemon to catch.

First, as the first two goals are a given, catch new Pokemon, and catch powerful Pokemon. We need to move on to the more complex part, which is what Pokemon will give us the greatest ROI.

We broke them down into classes:

  • Pidgey Class – 12 Candy to evolve
    • Caterpie
  • Rattata Class – 25 Candy to evolve
    • Geodude
    • Sentret
  • Ekans Class – 50 Candy to evolve
    • Growlithe
    • Snubbull
    • Paras

We utilized the following Key Assumptions

  • Only considered the Pokemon with the highest pop up rate.
  • Pokemon are disposed of immediately after evolution
  • Which type of Pokeball used is irrelevant
  • Use of Berry’s and special event bonuses are also irrelevant

At first glance we did a quick analysis of how much experience could be gained by evolving an equal number of Pokemon from each class. For a total of 15, which is the required amount needed to evolve 5 Pidgey, 2 Rattata, or 1 Ekans. If we do this, for each Pokemon, how much experience do we gain?

  • Pidgey – 4000 XP
  • Rattata – 2500 XP
  • Ekans – 1900 XP

Further analysis in the below chart shows how, throwing accuracy, and throw bonuses can affect the ROI.

2nd throw no bonus
2nd Throw w/curve
1st Throw w/curve
1st Throw w/curve & Excellent
1st Throw w/curve & Great
1st Throw w/curve & Nice
XP per evol cycle
4000.0
4150.0
4450.0
4750.0
4600.0
4525.0
% Difference Rattata
60.0%
56.6%
50.8%
46.2%
48.4%
49.6%
% Difference Ekans
111%
113%
117%
121%
119%
118%
XP per evol cycle
2500.0
2650.0
2950.0
3250.0
3100.0
3025.0
% Difference
31.6%
35.9%
43.9%
51.2%
47.6%
45.8%
XP per evol cycle
1900.0
1950.0
2050.0
2150.0
2100.0
2075.0

Accuracy, and first catch bonus count for a lot, and no surprise to anyone, Pidgey is the leader for exp ROI.

Keep in mind that not all Pokemon within these classes are created equal.

Pop up rate is a huge factor, if you are after experience points, a common Rattata class is more valuable than an uncommon one. Because you are more likely to gather the other necessary candy needed to evolve it. An example would be a Rattata vs a Machop. We don’t see many Machop, so a Pokeball spent on the Machop will take longer to materialize as an evolution compared with Rattata.

Game Goals, no matter what, a new Pokemon, or a Pokemon needed to evolve to a new one is top priority. Because of the rare candy that can be gained from raids, Battle capable Pokemon are valuable. The easy one for us is Rhyhorn. We have a few Rhydon, but for Raids, they are great and a better one is always welcome because it can help us to earn Rare Candy.

Experience points. When you aren’t finding a new Pokemon, or one to Raid with, go for experience points, using the Pidgey, Rattata, and Ekans class structure.

Catch the fun ones. My daughter loves ponies. Do we ever battle with, or do anything with Rapidash? No, but my daughter loves to see Ponyta evolve into Rapidash. Same with Pikachu, my son loves that little mouse. So, we catch all of them, and he gets to evolve it as often as possible.

Badges matter, not a lot, but they do. They increase a Trainer’s ability to catch other ones. Before we had a Charizard, we caught a lot of Growlith, because it helped us with the Fire Badge, which facilitated an increased chance of catching every Charmander we found.

In Order of precedence:

  1. New Pokemon or required candy to evolve.
  2. Pokemon for battle.
  3. Pokemon for experience points.
  4. Pokemon for fun.
  5. Pokemon for badges.

Remember to have fun, and be safe.

Click here to see my calculations.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this document is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or tax advice. It is not intended to be a substitute for obtaining legal, accounting, or other financial advice from an appropriate legal professional, financial adviser or for the purpose of avoiding U.S. Federal, state or local tax payments and penalties.

How to lose 20 lbs in 6 weeks – The Accountant’s Way

I’m serious about the headline.I’m going to explain how. Because as a part of my “Accountant’s Way” series I use accounting methodology to solve other problems that I encounter.

So, to reiterate, I lost 20 lbs in 6 weeks.

I didn’t use a product. I set a goal, used quantifiable measurements to record my progress along the way and adjusted as needed. Not sure what that means, I’ll show you. First, here is a graph of my weight loss. Because accountants love graphs.

IMG_6714To give a little background. I am a veteran, and a hobby while I was in the service, I worked out. So, for the 14 years I was in the service, physical fitness was a part of my life. As I transitioned out of the military, through college, and into a family lifestyle I went from a lean 185, to a soft 205. I decided that I didn’t want to be that type of father, husband, or accountant.

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So, I set up a plan. and I considered my skills. Because…

And I got to work.

I used two apps on my phone, which I will disclose, but they were tools, and they can be supplemented with any other app, as needed. What is important is what I measured and how I behaved during the period from June until the middle of July.

I used my Apple Watch, to measure my fitness activity and an app called Lifesum, to measure my calorie intake.

I thought about everything with the very simple equation of:

Calorie in – Calorie burned = Net Gain/Loss

Kind of like Revenue – Expenses = Net Income/Loss

See, Accounting.

But I wanted to lose. So I needed to make sure that I burned more every day than I consumed.

I knew a few things about human behavior. I knew it was only natural to overestimate my workouts, and underestimate my calories. So, I was conservative in either direction. Unless I measured my calories burned I didn’t assume I had burned more. And when I didn’t have an exact measurement for food, I erred on the side of documenting more. Every time.

It was also, important that I did this throughout the day, to make sure I didn’t end up in a mess. One big lunch can make dinner miserable. So, I would either eat a lighter lunch, or work out when I got home. My workout app of choice was Sworkit if only because it was easy to use, only required some time, and my living room floor.

The keys to all this wasn’t the workout app, or really the workout. It was that I used the workout to move the calorie expenditure into the range I needed. Always trying to be an overachiever, but really just trying to get it so I burned more than I ate. I believe that had I not worked out, but kept my calories in line with the formula I would have lost weight just as fast.

If you don’t have an apple watch, or other similar device, then some apps, like Sworkit can estimate calories burned. Which is ok too, as long as you are really doing the workout. Neither the calories consumed or the calories burned is anything more than an estimate. I just tried to make it a good estimate.

The only thing that isn’t an estimate is weight. Which is the final piece. Every day, every meal I documented my calorie intake. And I would always keep it below my daily calorie goal. But I also needed to track the only metric that really mattered. My weight.

So, every weekend, and only on the weekend, preferably Saturday morning, because Saturday and Sunday are the days I’m most likely to blow my calorie budget. I would weigh myself, in the morning, on an empty stomach. The goal is to be consistent, and reduce the amount of factors that could affect weight. Remember, consistency. This eliminates the, “It is ok, I just had a big meal” excuse.

Now, I’ve kept it off since I lost it, that was a few months ago, it is now about keeping the right balance.

Calorie in – Calorie out = Net Gain/Loss

Best of luck.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this document is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or tax advice. It is not intended to be a substitute for obtaining legal, accounting, or other financial advice from an appropriate legal professional, financial adviser or for the purpose of avoiding U.S. Federal, state or local tax payments and penalties.

The Accountant’s Way

Here at Wilson Lake one of our core values is Creativity. As a result we aren’t always thinking about the basics of accounting, Often times we are thinking about how it fits into the bigger picture, which may extend beyond business, into our own lives.

As a result we find that the methods in which we solve problems an answer questions within the business and professional space, are applicable to other spaces. Our primary goal with these blogs is to be fun, but we also hope they show that accountants can solve more than basic financial problems. We can also help business leaders answer other questions and solve other problems they may have.

Best of luck.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this document is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or tax advice. It is not intended to be a substitute for obtaining legal, accounting, or other financial advice from an appropriate legal professional, financial adviser or for the purpose of avoiding U.S. Federal, state or local tax payments and penalties.