How to reduce the cost of paper products in your home

Saving on Paper Products

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

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Saving on Paper Products

I have been able to get my grocery budget to $35 a week or less. What I want to know is how do I get my paper products under control (toilet paper, tissue, paper towels)?

Watch for Sales and Buy in Bulk

You can change paper napkins to cloth napkins that can be laundered. For toilet paper and tissues, watch for the sales and stock up. Buy in bulk and never completely deplete your supply. You pay more for softness. What amount of softness do you need? Now, select your brand of toilet paper/tissues accordingly.
Dixie in Stamford, NY

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Did you know old-fashioned handkerchiefs are making a come back? They're easy to make from old t-shirts. Just cut them into the appropriate sized squares. No hemming required! You can wash them with your regular wash.

For paper towels, I keep a supply of old, ratty kitchen towels that I had given to me for free. A few of them I've hemmed, but on the most part, I haven't bothered. Except for the greasiest of jobs, they do 90% of the jobs ordinarily done by a paper towel. I wash them with my white towels, which get washed in hot water and bleached semi-regularly. Because they're already old and ratty to begin with, I don't worry about stains, etc., and keep my "good" towels for dishes only.

Toilet paper? Well, I admit I haven't gone that far yet, but last time we were visiting my husband's grandparents, I noticed that they have a box of scrap cloth (mostly old cut-up t-shirts again) and a bucket for "used" cloths in their bathroom. Even if you used a similar system for everything but the dirtiest of jobs, you could cut your TP usage significantly.

There is extra laundry, but you'll still come out ahead even after factoring the costs associated with the extra laundry. I also use cloth diapers and cloth mama pads and have calculated that I save roughly $1000 a year on diapers and $120 a year on mama pads.

Move Away from Disposables

With the exception of toilet paper, you can use non-disposables for everything you mentioned. Our grandparents used hankies when they sneezed. They used old diapers, towels, and soft cloths for household tasks. If you don't have any, look for them in yard sales and thrift stores. Cotton is all I use. A small pail with either a little bleach or vinegar is great to dump your cleaning cloths and then run a wash load when it is full weekly. If you use bleach, it is probably better to keep it covered tightly or the house will smell of bleach. Some baking soda in the wash helps, too. It will "bubble" with vinegar, but everything comes out nice and clean.

Know Your Prices

My suggestion for toilet paper savings is to look at square footage per roll/package. Number of sheets is unreliable, because paper companies recently reduced the size of a sheet of toilet paper by half an inch in width. The brand that I finally decided on (two ply) used to have 500 sq. ft. per 12 double roll package. That half-inch reduction reduced the sq. ft. by 100. It's now 400 sq. ft. for the same price, so the price has risen about 20%.

Also, know your prices. The product I use runs anywhere from $5.49 to $7.50 per 400 sq. ft. I only buy when it is available below $6 per 400 sq. ft., and I stock up then so I won't run out before it goes on sale again. I do use a coupon for this product whenever I get hold of one, but they are rare.

For tissues, buy when on sale and stock up. Compare number of tissues per box, price, and quality. Store brands can be rough, and lotion tissues can leave your eyes oily if you wipe your eyes with them. I stick with the two medium quality name brands, buy whichever is cheapest at the time, and again, stock up for between sales, using any available coupons.

Paper towels are mostly for convenience. I avoid buying them if possible. However, I compared square footage per roll per price, and also compared the regular size sheets with the half-width perforated sheets (pick-a-size, etc.). I find that even though there is a little less total square footage in the half-width sheet rolls, I use less to pick up spills on the floor with those smaller sheets. This brings the over all price of the paper towels down for me, because the roll lasts longer. I also compared absorption rates, and although there are brands that are cheaper, they require multiple sheets to pick up the same spills as the brand I buy.

My paper goods costs per month average out to $1 per month for tissues, $1 per month for paper towels, and $6 to $7 per month for toilet paper. I hope this helps you to save some more money.

Replace Paper Towels with Coffee Filters

One way to cut the expense of paper towels is to replace them with coffee filters! I get 700 filters for less than $3 at Sam's Club. I use the filters to clean windows, wipe up messes, to absorb grease under burgers, etc. I even take them in my lunchbox to use in the microwave at work for under a burger or to cover a bowl of soup, etc. You can use a filter in just about any way you would use a paper towel.
Diana in Chesapeake, VA

Take Advantage of Loyalty Cards

Get a loyalty card at a drug store. CVS is my favorite because their rewards print right at the end of the receipt. I often receive a $10 gift card for buying $30 worth of products. Sometimes they offer "money" back in the form of dollars off your next visit. You can combine these store rewards with coupons for additional savings. You also get rewards when you fill prescriptions and use a reusable shopping bag. Oral care items can consistently be acquired for free after rewards. Name-brand shampoo and other hygiene items and toiletries can be purchased cheaper than grocery store generics once coupons and rewards are figured in. It's also helpful to find a coupon blog that matches sale flyers and coupons. A "coupon matchup" search will turn up several.

Eliminate the Need

Eliminate the need for most paper towels and tissue by cutting up any old towels or clothing you have on hand to use for the purpose you'd normally reach for a paper towel or tissue. Old towels clean up everything from the bathroom sink to a baby's bottom quite nicely. Toss them in the washer with soap and a half of a cup of bleach to sanitize. Wipe noses with handkerchiefs or squares of old shirts. Toss in the washer when you get a bunch. If the job is too "gross" to reuse the towel or tissue, you can throw away one or two without derailing your budget.
JD in St. Louis

Start a Rag Bag for Messy Clean Ups

Not much you can do about toilet paper other than look for bargains, but the use of tissues and paper towels can be cut way down. We only use tissues if we have colds or the like. Otherwise, we use handkerchiefs and wash them. Paper towels wrapped around lettuce are air dried and reused for cleanup purposes. They aren't dirty, so why throw them out? We keep the use of paper towels to a minimum by using microfiber clothes in the kitchen. They are washed after every use or every couple of uses, depending on what I used them for. One microfiber cloth in a load of wash doesn't make any difference in the volume of laundry. For heavy-duty stuff, we use rags from the rag bag that contains old clothes, old towels, etc. It's kept especially for this purpose.

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