Save Money Fast: Don’t Buy Disposable

If you’re looking to cut your spending in a hurry, one way to do that is to stop buying so many disposable products. Disposables may seem like a good deal because, for example, a pack of paper plates costs $2.00 and a set of durable plates costs $40. However, the durable plates will last you many years, whereas you’ll be back at the store buying more paper plates in two weeks. At that rate, it will only take you ten months to recoup the cost of the durable plates. Every time you use the plates from then on will be “free.” Buying reusable products does require a larger outlay of cash on the front end, but the amount they reduce your monthly spending over time is dramatic.

Paper towels: I used to spend about $10 per month on a large pack of paper towels at the warehouse store ($100/year). Then one day I saw a pack of twelve cheap washcloths at Target for $2.50. I bought those and started using them to clean up most messes and it has worked wonderfully. I just toss them in the washer after each use and wash them with the regular clothes. It costs me no more in time or washer expenses to care for them and now I only buy a big pack of paper towels about once a year. That’s a savings of $90 per year.

Napkins: Just as with paper towels, I’ve discovered that cloth napkins are more cost effective than paper and very easy to clean. I bought a set of eight napkins on clearance for $2.00. I used to buy about one big pack of napkins for $6.00 at the club store and they’d last about two months ($36.00/year). I no longer buy paper napkins at all, so I save that $36.00 per year.

Paper plates, cups, and plastic cutlery: These might be great for picnics or large gathering where you don’t want to do the dishes, but for day to day use, durable plates and silverware are more cost effective. One box of plastic cutlery might last you a month and cost $4.00, but a set of silverware may cost less than $40 and last for ten years or more.

Ziploc bags, foil, and plastic wrap: Instead of putting sandwiches, snacks, and leftovers in baggies or wrapping them in foil, invest in a good set of plastic or unbreakable glass storage containers. There are many sizes and shapes available today for almost any storage need. A box of baggies may cost $2.00 and last a month, but a good set of storage containers costs less than $30 and lasts for five years or longer. When I quit using baggies, foil, and wrap I dropped about $70 per year off my spending. I still buy foil for some applications, but one roll usually lasts longer than a year.

Lunch bags: Buy a reusable lunch bag or box and save the cost of brown bags. You don’t even have to buy the lunch bag. Many places give away insulated lunch totes as promotional items. That’s how I got mine and it works great. Savings: About $20 per year.

Batteries: Rechargeable batteries are great money savers over disposables and they come in all sizes. They’re great for things that eat batteries like digital cameras, gaming controllers, and handheld tools. A 4-pack of disposable batteries costs about $3.00, but a 4-pack of rechargeables (with charger) costs around $18.00. Six uses in your digital camera and you’ve paid for the rechargeables.

Shopping bags: If your stores offer money back or money off your shopping order for bringing in reusable bags, these can be a great money saver. Many reusable bags are inexpensive or even free through promotional giveaways. When not in use for shopping they make great lunch totes, or just handy bags to carry things in. I bring ten bags to my store which gives $0.05 back for each bag. That’s fifty cents back on every shopping trip. Over a year of weekly shopping that’s $26 per year.

Disposable cleaning supplies: Disposable is all the rage in cleaning products these days. Toilet scrubbers, wipes, and mops are all disposable now. But they are also pricey. A canister of wipes is at least $2.00 and you may get 45 wipes. Using your own rags, sponges, or cheap washcloths and a spray on cleanser is far less expensive. A regular toilet brush can last for years. If you’re worried about germs, clean it with bleach occasionally and let it dry in the sun. As for disposable mop products like Swiffers, you’ll come out ahead economically by buying a reusable mop for what a box of refills costs for the Swiffer.

Bottled water: A case of store brand bottled water runs about $4.00 for 24 bottles. Yet you can buy a stainless steel, filtered water bottle for about $30 (much cheaper if you don’t mind your tap water and want to forego the filter). If you normally drink four bottles of water per day, the case will last you six days, meaning you’ll buy about four per month for a total of $16/month in water. At that rate your bottle pays for itself in two months.

There are three other areas where you can save a lot of money by choosing reusable over disposable, but many people have a harder time adjusting to them: Cloth diapers, Diva Cups or similar (for feminine needs), and handkerchiefs instead of tissues. If washed and cared for properly, these options are no more unsanitary than their disposable counterparts and they are much less expensive over time. Only you can decide whether or not you’re comfortable with reusable versions of these items of it you’d rather stick with disposables.

This isn’t to say that you can never use disposables. There are some messes that are so gross they require paper towels. Sometimes baggies are necessary. If you’re going on a special picnic, paper plates may be better than china. Sometimes it makes sense to use a disposable product and that’s okay. It’s when you rely on them everyday for everything that they start to take a big chunk out of your daily budget. Cut down on your use of disposables and watch your savings climb.

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11 Responses to Save Money Fast: Don’t Buy Disposable

  1. sewingirl says:

    Remember when every household had a rag bag (box, drawer, etc.) I still do, but it has gone out of style. All of our old towels, sheets, and worn out clothing items were cut into useable sizes, and then washed, or thrown away if necessary, and it didn’t cost a dime.

  2. Annie Jones says:

    Great post! We do all of the things you mentioned, at least to some extent.

    I started using a Diva Cup about a year ago. I’m 45, and oh how I wish I’d found out about them sooner. All the money I could have saved!

    But there are more advantages than just saving money. Of course, using a Diva Cup reduces waste. Menstrual cramps are much less severe than when I used tampons. And not one single time have I had leaking like I did with tampons. They are simply a much better alternative for me.

  3. A very informative article. In times past we think that using disposal items was easy and quicker. Yes they were but also expensive if we want to live frugal. Now is the time for us to go back to the days were every cent is needed and so we cannot afford to waste money again.

  4. Tightwad says:

    I can go you one better

  5. Cindy M says:

    Don’t laugh, I’m probably about the only one I know who’s seriously done this, but what about old-fashioned hankies to cut out the expense of buying kleenex? I found both a 3-pack of inexpensive cotton ladies and a 4-pack of men’s white hankies at one of the dollar stores. I use the bigger men’s hankies at home and tuck clean a ladies hankie in my purse when necessary. I actually prefer them to kleenex now and haven’t had to buy a box of kleenex for ages. Just throw them in the wash often. Don’t know if you could get a loved one to carry one, but I remember my dad years ago never minded pocketing a clean one daily. I don’t even mind ironing the ones I keep in my purse.

  6. minny says:

    I came into a lot of old towels – I cut them into squares and hemmed them on the machine – they are fab, just like you say. They clean much more easily than paper towels.

    Babies nappies (as we call diapers), here in the UK many counties give a starter kit of cloth nappies and bin, chemicals etc. This is to try to stop used disposable nappies in the landfill where the waste goes. AMAZINGLY, hardly anyone takes advantage of this although they are told!

    There is always the time when disposable is useful for convenience – but – as you say – the amount of money to be saved here can be staggering!

    Great post.

  7. Hazel Watson says:

    I’ve nearly always avoided using disposables, basically because I’m frugal (read: cheap) and I still do have a rag bag. However, I’ve found that many of the man made fabrics are not much good for cleaning because they do not absorb well.

    It’s been many years since my babies were in diapers, and I’ve since worn out all I had. But I found an entire bolt of diaper fabric for $1.00 several years ago and am still making dishtowels from it! Also, you can find lots of used terry cloth towels and cotton sheets in the re-use shops. (You can tell the 100% cotton sheets pretty easily because they clearly need ironing!)They can be used as is, or cut them up for smaller rags.

  8. Gail says:

    Absolutely!!! I have had the same roll of paper towels for 2 1/2 years now and it is barely half gone. Only used for the worst of the worst now–stuff I don’t want in the washer. We use rags (old t-shirts once they fall off hubby,old towels, old washclothes, etc.), we use cloth napkins, we use hankies (I’ve picked up plenty of lovely ones at yard sales), etc. It is a huge savings. When we had little ones I used cloth diapers.

    Every time I see someone at the store with their mounds of paper goods i just shake my head at the waste.

    The only thing we can’t do is the water. We have a well that due to my illness I can’t afford to risk drinking the water so we buy drinking water by the gallon. It is an expense I hate, but I hate being sick worse. The only way to avoid it it a very expensive system to hold and filter the well water which we can’t afford. We have to filter all the water that comes into the house, but as we can’t be sure when we have had heavy rains, etc. if it is safe to drink (filters can’t take out all germs) I don’t take the chance. But still when I think of all the savings I do with not using other disposables, I feel better about it.

  9. Samantha says:

    I completely agree with the tips given in the article. By buying reusable items you are doing you’re bit for the environment and thus also saving a lot of money. It has a twin effect. I use reusable eco-friendly bags and do my little bit for the planet and my purse. Bagsbuy has a good selection in eco-friendly bags and good discounts too.

  10. Pingback: Eco-friendly Shopping » Impact of Human on Earth

  11. Ara says:

    I think when we go for disposables, we’ll spend much than spending less. And we can’t guarantee that its safe and we’re doing the right thing. Because disposables contains other harmful chemicals that may impair our health as well as our environment. I would still choose buying stainless steel containers as my food storage because I can guarantee that I can save more, and protect our nature.

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