When the stork decided to drop a little bundle of joy on me and my husband, we made one decision that I just knew would put us on the path of enlightened, savvy parenthood. We were going to wrap our new baby in cloth diapers.
It made economic sense. As we crunched the numbers, we found that our local diaper service charged a little less than my estimate of what disposable diapers would cost. It made ecological sense. We could pat ourselves on the back every time we avoided throwing a bundle of plastic into a landfill. And with a service picking up our stinky pile for cleaning, I could do all this without ever having to wash a single dirty diaper myself. Obviously, we were brilliant.
As I'm sure all you parents out there can already sense, it wasn't long we got our comeuppance.
The best laid plans
It happened one Monday, when I put our bag of used diapers out on the stoop for the delivery van to retrieve and magically replace with a pile of bright, clean diapers. I looked at it, and noticed that the bag was kind of small.
I didn't exactly want to poke my nose in there to take a closer look, but the pile of clean diapers we had next to the changing table, which went unused during the past week, suggested that my plan wasn't working as well as I had hoped. Come to think of it, last week's pile of dirty diapers hadn't been that big, either.
It seems that, for various reasons, we had been reaching for disposable diapers more often than not. Our little bundle of joy was kind of small, so she didn't fit the modern diaper covers that have replaced painful pins to keep the cloth attached to the baby. We reached for a disposable diaper anytime we didn't want to chance a leak.
We had been using disposables for various errands and other ventures outside the house. We had also, in an admittedly selfish decision, been using them overnight to reduce the number of times that one of us had to do a bleary-eyed diaper change.
All that added up to an expensive diapering dilemma. An occasional disposable diaper wouldn't bankrupt us, but I was forced to admit that we had been paying for almost enough diapers to cover two babies. With some reluctance, we gave up the diaper service and switched fully to disposables.
A lesson in following through
What did I learn from this? Good intentions don't save money. Diaper-makers Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) and Kimberly Clark (NYSE: KMB ) work hard to make their products convenient and competitive, and I'm sure many parents have decided to fall off the cloth bandwagon after a month or two. Yet while this rather malodorous situation is a clear example of good intentions gone astray, it's certainly not the only time I've made a financial misstep with the good intentions of saving money.
There were the weeks I diligently bought groceries to bring my lunch to work, then bought a sandwich every day in the cafeteria. There's that yogurt maker still sitting in my basement, unused, that could be passed along to a penny-pinching gourmand. I suspect the basements of the nation may be full of plastic bins holding contraptions that were meant to save money.
Lesson learned. We'll need that extra diaper money for the college fund, anyway. Now we just have to figure out whether to invest in those diaper stocks, or start thinking ahead and buy Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) -- for all those Band-Aids we'll be sticking to scraped knees.
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Come to think of it, Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple already owns shares of Johnson & Johnson, which is an Income Investor recommendation. She welcomes your feedback. The Motley Fool disclosure policy wears big-boy pants.