Being a new parent is always a lot of hard work. Babies need constant feeding and care. There are sleep schedules to figure out. Symptoms to monitor. Soothing, shushing, and swaddling to master.
But for Jessica Frazier, her babies brought an extra layer of work. She poured her energy into figuring out how to afford an adequate supply of diapers. “I try to stick to a budget,” she explained. “It’s math. You have to break this stuff down, in every sense of the way possible.”
Frazier soon found she was changing her first newborn’s diaper eight to 10 times a day. She can rattle off store prices like an auctioneer soliciting bids. A pack of diapers only comes with 28 at Stop and Shop, she said, going for $8.99 a pop. That doesn’t include baby wipes, which go for $15.99 a case. It all adds up to a hefty sum. It costs a family about $1,000 a year to buy a supply of average-priced diapers for one child. For someone who works a full-time minimum-wage job, making just over $15,000 a year, that’s a huge expense.
So Frazier does what she can to bring the sticker price down. “I would find and cut coupons,” she said. “I do pay attention to who has sales.” She plans ahead, trying to make sure she doesn’t run out of the diapers she buys on discount. But, she added, “things don’t always work out.”
“God forbid if they have diarrhea,” she said. That will increase the daily diaper count to a dozen. Forgetting to buy them ahead of time means a trip to the corner store, which sells a pack of diapers for $10.
She tries to stock up on other things—for instance, purchasing meat in bulk and freezing it so it lasts months—but it doesn’t work the same with diapers. “Kids go through diapers every day, every other minute,” she said, and a baby who today is a size two may be a size three within a week.
There have been times when Frazier simply couldn’t get enough diapers to keep up with her kids’ needs. Recently she had to put her 2-year-old son in diapers meant for swimming [retail price: $10 for a pack of just 18] until she could get more. Other times she’s had to put cloth underwear on him until she could get to a store. “I’m cleaning up pee all day,” she said.
It’s meant making sacrifices. “I might need this gas, so I hold off on getting a diaper,” she said. “If I needed a new pair of sneakers it was, ‘Well, this is just going to have to wait.’” She would skip bills, trying to double up the payments later when she had more, even though that meant incurring an extra $5 for being late. Instead of getting an oil change for her car, she would add some extra oil to the engine.