Early Potty Training: A Sign of the Economic Times?

Dollars & Sense on 10.27.11
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According to the diaper industry, changing dirty nappies six times a day costs parents a whopping $1,500 a year. So it should be no surprise that a recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted some intriguing consumer data that seem to suggest that in a tough economy parents are doing away with diapers, or at the very least using less.

Spending on children, no matter what the economic condition, tends to stay static, according to the WSJ. But a couple of trends, as reported by Consumer Edge Research, shows that Huggies's sales has dropped by 4 percent, while Luv's and Pampers have dropped by 2.5 percent and generic brands by .5 percent.

This coupled with the fact that sales of diaper rash ointments have increased by 8 percent is causing some to paint an economic picture in which parents are opting to buy less diapers --meaning less frequent diaper changes and more diaper rashes.

Another possible indicator of the economic times is that Proctor and Gamble says its "research shows parents are also potty training children earlier to save cash as economic uncertainty deepens." And although there are no hard statistics available on elimination communication, there's certainly been a greater awareness of the practice, one in which a parent learns a child's physical cues in order to anticipate her need to use the bathroom, all sans diaper.  

There is the fact that the U.S. birth rate has been on the decline since 2007, and that diapers are now made with more absorbent materials -- all of which could account for a drop in diaper sales. However many of the drops in sales are recent, and if anything the timing of the drop in birth rate could be a direct result of adults choosing not to have children during a recession, underscoring the power of economics in our day-to-day decision making. Of course correlation does not imply causation, but the data does give us some information to mull over.

Our daughter is nearly out of the diaper woods and now treading on potty training terra firma, but that doesn't mean I've forgotten the panic of racking up an exorbitant grocery bill every time I replenished the diaper cabinet. And while online coupons and auto-ordering sites can save money, it's still a chunk of change on a pretty consistent basis.

What about you - have you and your family cut back or tried out early potty training? Any other tips for helping parents keep their kids dry and happy while trying to stay on budget?

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