Giving Up Paper Products to Save Money

In looking for ways to be more frugal, I often find that giving up a little convenience can be a great way to save money. The alternatives generally don’t take much more time or effort, and the financial reward in the long term can be great.

One way to save money is to give up paper products. I’ll admit I’m not nearly as far along in my quest to go paperless as I’d like to be, but slowly I’m cutting the paper products out of my life (with the obvious exception of toilet paper).

The savings go beyond money. In giving up paper, you keep unnecessary items out of our already crowded landfills. That’s being a good steward of the environment, too. Some ways that I have (or am trying) to give up paper are the following:

Give up napkins

This is actually next on my to-do list. As a family with children, we can go through a lot of napkins. My plan is to search for cloth napkins on clearance and to make my own napkins out of inexpensive fabric. There are some easy patterns here. And for special occasions, these napkins are really cool! Maybe I’ll try them someday, if I get ambitious.

Give up paper towels

It’s really not that much more difficult to use regular towels or rags in place of paper towels. I haven’t completely given up paper towels yet, as I still use them to prevent splatters in the microwave, but that’s about all I use them for anymore.

Give up Lysol wipes

I will admit to being addicted to Lysol wipes. They are so handy! But I’ve resolved to stop using them once I’m out of the three containers I bought on clearance. It’s really not that much harder to take my homemade cleaner and spray the counters and wipe them down with a regular rag.

Give up paper feminine hygiene products

Mrs. Micah recently bought the Diva Cup and says it works well. Stephanie at Stop the Ride bought the Keeper, which is a similar product. For under $30 you can buy a Diva cup that will last up to 10 years, and quite buying tampons! I haven’t done it yet, but I might try soon! They come in two sizes: pre-childbirth & post-childbirth.

Give up disposable diapers

I’ll be the first to admit that this might not be a money saving measure, unless you go for the very basic cloth diapers with diaper pins or snappis and diaper covers. However, cloth diapers are more environmentally friendly….and the new ones are cute and almost as easy to use as disposables. I know. I used them on my youngest. :)

Have you replaced any paper products? What have you replaced? What are you working on? Is there anything you can’t see yourself giving up? Do you have any tips for those of us who are still working on giving up our convenience products?



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By , on Apr 15, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{39 Comments}

  1. After taking time to read your articles, I now know that we can work towards saving even more money here at Homestead Family Community. This is a community that many people have come to live together in a frugal, Christian, way of life. It is the best way of life that I could have imagined.

  2. AlliBaba1234:

    Congrats on going paperless!

    I had a Keeper, then moved to the Diva Cup when the Keeper passed its prime. No leaks, no odor, no discomfort like with tampons. I’ve never had qualms about using it in public- probably b/c I usually don’t have to, since you can leave it in up to 12 hours if your flow’s not too heavy. I’ve had to use tampons a few times since, and only after using the Keeper/Diva Cup did I realize how awful they are and how much I HATE them.

    I also use cloth pads from http://www.lunapads.com. Lunapads are awesome (the best I’ve tried), don’t leak (and I leaked often with disposable pads), don’t irritate me like plastic ones, control odor, etc. I love love love them. Haven’t used plastic pads for years. You can also make your own cloth pads if you’re gifted in that way- just make sure to sew in a PUL layer (buy online if not available locally) unless your flow is super-light.

    We plan to use cloth diapers for our baby (coming this fall!). I WILL NOT use disposables, just can’t do it in good conscience.

  3. Carol:

    I have used cloth napkins for at least 28 years. When my husband and I were first dating I made him dinner and he was greatly impressed with cloth napkins. Not that he married me for that lol. We use shop cloths, rags, white wash clothes etc. My kids and I have always recycled, milk jugs, glass, paper, cans and was happy when in Phoenix we finally had a recycling can. We do not have anything like this now where we live so we recycle cans and paper and have to drive to recycle them.

    We use canvas bags we get at the store and garage sales. We also get lots of napkins at garage sales, I got a big lot of them in a basket for 50 cents last summer. I always look for napkins, yarn and canvas bags at yard seles.

    Carol from Pueblo

  4. Lynnae:

    I can see a lot of you are a lot further than I am in going paperless. It gives me something to strive for!

    @Rachel – the kind of cloth diaper can definitely make a difference, and different diapers work well on different babies. And when we cloth diapered, diaper duty was all on my shoulders, as well.

    @Nancy – Thanks for the link, and I’ll go check out your post.

    @David – Thanks for the hydrogen peroxide idea for bleaching. I hate the smell of bleach, anyway. But how does it work? Do you just put HP directly on the stain and let it sit for a while? Or do you add a cup to your laundry like you would bleach? In the summer I line dry my clothes, and the sun helps with stains too.

    @Frugal Babe – you have just described my ideal office. Someday…. And good for you!

  5. We’re nearly paperless at the Frugal Babe household. We use washcloths and towels instead of wipes and paper towels, and we’ll be using cloth diapers for our nearly-here baby. The biggest change we’ve made is to make our home office nearly paperless. We store everything on our computers, with external hard drives as backups. We use an electronic fax service (trustfax.com) that routes all incoming faxes straight to our email inbox. Nothing gets printed out at all. We use phone and email for just about all of our correspondence, and haven’t bought paper for our office in over a year. We also opted out of credit card offers, which cuts down on the amount of paper coming into our house.

  6. It’s been one of those days. I got so carried away with the topic that I also forgot to tell you I posted about it on my blog and linked back to you. Now I’m going to quit writing and go get another cup of coffee to see if they helps my state of aleartness.

  7. It’s me again. I forgot to check the notify me box. ;p

  8. Thanks for your post I’ve enjoyed your topic and all the comments. I’m trying to be both more frugal and more environmentally kind in my lifestyle. I’ve decrease my dependance on both paper and plastic, but it’s happening in baby steps. I’m just not able to go cold turkey on this, but it does get easier and easier the longer I’m at it.

  9. Thanks for mentioning all these Lynnae, it’s great to spread the news!

    And about the “white cloths are great because you can bleach them” – that kind of defeats the purpose of going paperless to help the environment, as bleach is a very toxic chemical that then ends up being absorbed into our skin from the cloth and finds it’s way to our ground water. A better alternative would be hydrogen peroxide, if you have to “bleach” cloths.

  10. I tried to get my sons out of disposibles. I don’t know if it was the type I was using but I found they leaked and I had to change them a lot more often. The plastic pants left nasty marks on my babies skin. I found them hard to get clean and my husband refused to change them as he hated the idea of putting the waste down the loo.

  11. With you on all those! Well I still use the occasional paper towel, but that is usually when I’m behind on laundry! :) I bought nice napkins (on clearance) for the dinner table, but for the kids throughout the day we just use old towels and wash clothes.

    Thanks for the link love btw. The keeper has taken some getting used to but it was worth the investment.

  12. This is a great topic to bring up! I grew up in a household that did NOT believe in paper or plastic. My parents were strange, but progressive, I guess ;) I don’t use paper napkins or paper towels, etc. We were all cloth-diapered and I know my parents saved a load of money with three kids all in a row in cloth diapers :D

    I liked what a couple people said above about how reducing plastic is more important. I agree that paper is less harmful in a landfill than plastic, and therefore I like being conscious not to buy bottled things (water, juices, etc) or use the plastic bags at the store (I bring a cloth one or two). Eliminating the plastic is important – even when it can be recycled, using it less is just BETTER (especially because it would reduce our need for oil to make it).

    :)

  13. Great post – I switched (mostly) to cloth menstrual pads about a year ago, for home, which at least cuts my costs in that department in half without driving me bananas carrying extra stuff back home later.

    I got el cheapo napkins at target, and love them for napkins, hankies, wiping up, etc, and feel no guilt about bleaching the ever living heck out of them. Added cost to wash is negligible for me – it usually just tops off the load I’m already going to run.

  14. Mary:

    Love this topic. A couple of ideas:

    I’ve avoided most paper towel use for 2-3 years now, as well as paper napkins. In addition to the cloth substitutes and hankies, I keep some newspaper on hand – to wipe up or take a pass at those unspeakable pet messes or really oily messes. The newspaper gets the worst of it before I use my 3rd-best cloth wipers.

    In public restrooms – ever notice the mounds of paper towels that mount up in the waste bin from hand washing, when there’s no blower available? Your hands are wet but clean – and the towel seldom gets soaked. Dry, and put it in your pocket. Use it once or twice again. Cut your public paper towel consumption by 1/2 or 2/3. Or, like blogger No Impact Man, carry a cloth around with you! (I’m not so clever to remember mine all the time.)

    Finally, I cast a vote for the Keeper – after 4-5 years of use, I never leave home without it. Truly the least messy of all feminine solutions (and I imagine the Diva is equally good!).

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