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?


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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  1. LJ:

    Paperless is something I really have been working on. Not only have I given up on paper towels for good, but I am slowly weaning myself from the lysol wipes. They’re handy,but a waste of money and a burden to landfills and the Earth.

    As far as feminine products go-I had an IUD in for the past 18 months and well, that worked out mighty nice-no monthly visits with that puppy in place. I’ve heard a lot about the diva cup and may give it a try in the future.

    I also agree with everyone talking about giving up plastic. I have eliminated a lot of our plastic consumption by switching to reusable water bottles, reusable containers instead of ziplocs, and using regular glasses instead of those oh so handy red plastic cups from costco.

    I also reuse a lot of plastic containers that come our way. Margarine tubs are great for storing kids play-doh and art supplies and I reuse those plastic yogurt cups and baby food jars to store my tiny scrapbooking supplies.

  2. Great post! We haven’t used kitchen paper towels for years, and we never have used wipes or paper plates.

    Hey, I tagged you to do a Lemonade Meme

  3. Great Ideas! I’ll have to think of how to work these ideas in to my life. Thanks.

  4. This is one of those days that I am thankful to be a man. I fall into the squeamish camp on this one.

    There should be a warning at the top of posts that include discussion of the “diva cup”.

    Oi Vey

  5. Kate:

    Great idea to ry and rduce the amount of paper we use but for me the number one enemy is plastic. I am trying to give up buying anything that comes in plastic and if it only comes in plastic then i make sure is a recyclable one.
    It really drives me crazy just how much is covered in plastic and don’t get me started on plastic bags.
    SO go girl, the more of us that can cut back on waste the better. :)

  6. We used cloth napkins and rags. We used cloth diapers when I had kids in diapers, for the most part. I use the Diva cup. We use very few disposable items. I believe it does make a difference. My monthly output for disposable items is nill most of the time. If I were to buy paper napkins, tampons and disposable diapers, I could easily drop $30 or $40 a month on stuff to fill the landfills.

  7. John Simpson:

    I’m not so sure I can go paperless. I can understand paper towels, napkins, and even Lysol wipes. I cannot, however, give up my toilet paper. Charmin has been very good to me. I will NOT go back to the days of wiping with one’s left hand.

    – John

  8. Dr. Nicole:

    Great blog! Just had to subscribe because I am all about being frugal. I don’t think cheap and frugal are the same thing. I like to be frugal because I am not being wasteful…trust me I love a nice extravagant expensive dinner…but why not save money on napkins to buy it? I prefer the feel of cloth napkins anyways. I will have to blog about that diva cup on my site. Thanks for the tip!

  9. Marci:

    I got my cloth napkins at garage sales – grandkids love the variety. Also got my extra kitchen towels there. Use older washclothes for wipe ups also. Love the idea of bandanas for bibs!

    Raised my 3 in cloth diapers. 4 dozen diapers was all I needed. Throw in the wash machine, throw in the dryer, throw in the basket – done. Did a load every night when I got home from work. No problem. They washed while I cooked dinner and dried while I ate dinner and did dishes.

  10. So glad to have found your blog, I’ve just started my PF blog and I’m already finding it helps keep me motivated!

    I try to be very green, using only reusable products, saying no to plastic bags, buying from local farms and not purchasing imported foods etc. Always wish I could do more!!

  11. Rebecca Rivera:

    Hi! I use cloth menstrual pads and I love them. They work great! I buy from a great work at home mom: her customer service is great!
    I also don’t buy paper towels or napkins as cloth and washcloths work great!
    By the way it takes water to make all these products, especially the cloth diapers so it is still better to wash your own. -Becky in NJ

  12. Hestial:

    These are some great ideas!

    When we moved, we replaced paper napkins with cloth ones. There was a 4-pack of brightly-colored “kitchen cloths” at the dollar store, which actually make nice big napkins.

    Paper towels we replaced with about 6 wash cloths from a sale at target. I use them for cleaning, wiping up spills, etc.

  13. Bellen:

    Cloth napkins – have been using for all the 40 years of marriage, with and without 3 boys. Some I bought new, some were gifts, some I made. Best place to buy – Goodwill/Salvation Army/thrift. I change them about every 3-4 days (we are not particulary messy). Since I also use dishtowels, have about 24, for drying dishes and in place of paper towels, I just wash all of these together every 2 weeks. I do NOT iron and I dry on a drying rack.

    In making them yourself, just cut a large square or even oblong, simple hem (and it can be as large as one inch) and you’re done. Again, find a tablecloth or sheet at Goodwill/thrift store to use. Remember, these are napkins not haute couture.

    Also, if you can find 100% bandanas they make great napkins and tie-on bibs for kids & adults. Plus, they are often found inexpensively.

  14. vigilant20:

    I just found your blog and it looks good :) I went paperless a few months ago and I don’t miss it one bit!

  15. I think going paperless is a great move, although difficult to make. Paper is probably the most biodegradable product you use on a day to day basis. Cutting back on plastic would be better for the environment, but probably equally as hard to make.

  16. I’m a big fan of the cloth napkins too. My mom always used them, so I’m used to folding a few napkins in with everything else in the laundry. I also love microfiber cloths for cleaning. I have a set of six that have lasted three years now.

  17. I haven’t been able to make the diva cup work for me, but I could make more effort to become paperless in other areas of life!

  18. Lee:

    I second the Diva cup! I purchased one last November and really like it. It very quickly paid for itself. One of my best frugal/environmental moves, by far. I purchased mine from Lucky Vitamin where they sell for 19.98 plus 5.95 shipping- a little cheaper then the link you provided.
    Two things some may not like about it: if you are squeamish, this is probably not the product for you, and also if you work outside the home, depending on how much privacy you have in the restroom, it may not be the most practical.

  19. one more thing: white napkins are easy to bleach to help keep them clean looking.

  20. SusanM:

    I am a novice to the whole living green idea but while I think going paperless is a great idea. I am wondering about the water and energy it takes to wash the all the cloth items you are replacing paper with. Do you know of any comparative analysis??


  21. i gave up paper napkins years and years ago. i think cloth napkins feel so much better than paper anyway. my only tip is to buy 100% cotton ones. napkins with synthetic materials tend to smear food rather than absorb it.

    also, i bought all white napkins and i just throw them in with my white laundry whenever i do it. it really doesn’t seem to add to my laundry since i do them a few times a week with everything else.

  22. I have a plastic cover that is designed to go over things in the microwave. I picked it up for a few dollars at Target. I love it, it was a very worthwhile investment.

  23. Two things. We use a huge pack of cute washclothes that I bought on clearance for general wipe up and as napkins. They work much better than traditional cloth napkins.

    Also, if you are unsure about the Diva cup try Instead first and see if you like them (they are a disposable version but since you use them for 12 hours you use much, much less and save a lot of money.)

  24. I had a few people email me about the Diva Cup when I blogged about dumping my purse…and several tampons fell out. A good friend of mine is a huge fan of the Diva…both for the environment and for the huge cost savings over years.

    My sister uses cloth diapers for her newborn. The initial cost is significant, but since cloth diapers can be used as the child gets bigger the math worked on the side of cloth. Actually, cloth won by a landslide…and prevents bigger landfills.

  25. I’ve really enjoyed the Diva Cup. Takes a load off my mind at work because I know it won’t fill up during a 4-hour shift. Or at night, because it doesn’t leak.

    If we have kids, I’m definitely going to explore cloth nappies.

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