Don’t Overlook the Tiny Things

making small changes

Once all of the big items in a budget are under control (things like lowering debt payments, cutting out unnecessary expenses, negotiating better deals on services, eating at home more, buying store brands, etc.), people often find themselves wondering where to go from there. If cutting the big things has solved your financial problems or given you the extra money you need, great. Maybe you don’t have to go any further. But if you still need or want to make cuts, you have to start looking at much smaller things.

The good news is that there are a lot of these tiny things in most people’s lives. Many people never realize it because they don’t look that closely. However, if you start to question every product that you use, you’ll likely find that there are plenty of places you can conserve and save money. Here are some examples to get you started.

Dryer Sheets

Many people don’t realize that dryer sheets can be used more than once and still retain their effectiveness. You can also cut them in half and get similar results. Using either strategy can cut your dryer sheet expense in half.

Trash Bags

Don’t take out the trash until the bag is full. This cuts down on the number of bags you use. Also, reuse plastic shopping bags to line small trash cans. Then you won’t have to pay for small trash bags at all. (If you’re embarrassed about this, use “real” trash bags in your guest bath, but put shopping bags in the other baths.)

Laundry and Dish Detergent

Do some experiments to find out if you can cut back on your usage. Many times, the manufacturers’ recommended amount is more than you need to do the job. If you can cut down on the amount you use per load, you can reduce the number of packages you buy per year.

Paper Towels, Napkins, Tissue and Toilet Paper

Don’t use a whole sheet when you only need a tiny corner (say, to squash a bug or wipe up a tiny spot). Don’t unspool the whole roll when one or two sheets will do the job. If you barely use a napkin at a meal, keep it for the next meal. For more savings, buy fabric napkins and use rags instead of paper towels.


Reuse baggies that have held just a few cookies or chips. They’re still good for the next day’s lunch. Unless it’s held meat, a messy liquid, or a chemical-based product, you can reuse it and cut down the amount you buy. You can also buy reusable containers and eliminate the expense entirely.

Foil and Plastic Wrap

As with baggies, if it was only lightly soiled or not at all (as in the case of a covered dish where the food never touched the covering), you can reuse it.


Chances are that you don’t have to use a ton of deodorant; one or two swipes will do. You don’t have to put a huge glop of toothpaste on your brush because a smaller amount will do. You don’t need to unspool half the roll of floss when you only need a small length. You don’t need to drown yourself in perfume or body spray or use a big blob of shampoo. Take a look at your use of toiletries and cosmetics and see if you can use less.

Cleaning Wipes and Cleaning Products

You’d be surprised how far one wipe can get you, or how much of a counter one spray of the cleaner will clean. You don’t have to use a ton of wipes or saturate a surface to get it clean. Don’t forget that you can also make your own cleaners which will be just as effective as the store-bought ones.

Food Servings

Many people are surprised when they start measuring their food according to the serving size indicated on the package. That box of cereal that only gave you four servings suddenly gives you eight, for example. When you cut down your portions, the food lasts longer (and you lose weight). This is just one of many ways you can save money on food.

Paper and Ink

Print on both sides to prolong the pack of paper. Ask yourself if you really need to print the item or can you just save it to your hard drive. Also, print only the pages you need. Use the preview function so you can see which pages you need to print and only print those. These are just a few ways that you can save money on paper and ink.

Every time you use less of something, it prolongs the amount of time before you need to buy it again. If you can cut your usage down to where you’re buying fewer packages of these products per year, you’ll see a small jump in your net worth. Take a look at the products you use and do some experiments to see what you can use less of.

(Photo courtesy of victoriapeckham)

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4 Responses to Don’t Overlook the Tiny Things

  1. ella says:

    I believe that every centavo counts. So, looking at the smallest things will help you save a lot. Before, I disregard the first digit of the cost. Now, looking at the picture closer, I realized that I need to cut the budget down to the very last digit of it.

  2. jay says:

    Good advice. Not surprisingly, doing with less of (or without) these “tiny” things can also make a huge, positive impact on the environment.

  3. Minny says:

    Absolutley Ella. ‘A penny saved is a penny earned’ is a saying here. The easiest money you will ever have is that from your main job.

  4. Gail says:

    I haven’t bought paper napkins in years and I can usually make a roll of paper towels last a year. We use cloth napkins picked up at yard sales and there is essentially no extra cost to washing them if you throw them in with your towels on laundry day. I found when I switched over to hankies that they are LESS irritating to your nose and hold up much better that paper although I do keep some paper tissues around for company or really big blows! I knew my DIL was a girl after my own heart when she was visiting once before they got married and she asked if she could borrow some hankies as she had forgotten to bring hers!

    Why would anyone be embarrassed to be using plastic grocery bags in the bathroom that guests might see? Who cares what they think? I see those same size bags being sold at the store and I wonder what idiot would buy them when they are going to get 10 or more free on checkout! Perhaps seeing an old grocery bag as a can liner would help your friends get a hint of why you aren’t having money problems like them.

    What is embarassing is if you have a huge house and no toilet paper available. I visited a friend’s house once that had 6 (SIX) bathrooms. I needed to go and asked to use the BR. Just a sec she says and comes back in a minute or two–“sorry we don’t have any toilet paper”. Since that point I’ve seen that she and her husband have declared bankruptcy twice. What is the point of having such a house when everyone in the county can read in the paper that you had to file for bankruptcy? If they had started off with a much smaller house and stuck with it, they could have paid their bills and been able to afford toilet paper!

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