Skip to main content

Save More Money by Ditching These 5 Disposables Items

Published October 10, 2019

4 minute read

By Jim Greene

A lot of disposable products get a well-deserved bad rap for generating a great deal of garbage. But did you ever consider the harm they’re doing to your pocketbook? There’s an old adage in the consumer world: every time you throw something away, you throw money away with it.

The fact is you can replace many common disposable items in your home with reusable alternatives. It will both save you some cash and help protect the planet. Here are five of our favorite (and easy) ways to get rid of those expensive disposable items.

Paper Towels

If you do the math on paper towels, you’ll find that you spend about a nickel every time you use them. While that paper may be recyclable or biodegradable, you can’t recover the money you spend on roll after roll.

Instead, you can buy high-quality, absorbent cotton rags that you can use to clean up around the house. Throw them in the washing machine when they get saturated with dirt, then reuse them over and over. As an alternative, you could even re-purpose old undershirts and clothing as makeshift rags. The average household spends a couple hundred dollars on paper towels every year. That’s money you could put right back into your pocket by switching to reusable cloths.

Grocery Bags

Plastic shopping bags are one of the worst culprits when it comes to avoidable waste. Many grocery stores now charge customers for them, as part of a concerted campaign to raise awareness about the environmental costs they carry.

Stop loading up on plastic grocery bags with every trip to the supermarket. Instead, invest in a few well-made, large cotton or cloth shopping bags. Stash them in the truck and bring them with you to the grocery store. While you won’t be able to retire on the meager money you’ll save, cloth bags are far better for the environment. Remember that they can double as lunch bags and overnight bags in a pinch.

Water Bottles

Public sentiment continues to turn against the bottled water industry. The main reason is that plastic water bottles generate enormous amounts of garbage. Research has shown that bottled water has negligible (if any) benefits compared to regular tap water. If you’re still buying bottled water regularly, it’s time to reconsider your choices. You just aren’t getting worthwhile bang for your buck, and disposable plastics are terrible for the environment.

Get yourself a metal bottle or flask, fill it with tap water, and carry it with you wherever you go. They’re easy to wash, and you can also use them for juice, coffee, soup, and other liquids. If you’re still worried about the quality of municipal tap water, you can invest a few dollars in a home filtration system. They deliver a purified version that is virtually indistinguishable for the water you pay $1 a bottle (or more) to buy in the store.

Napkins

Paper napkins are convenient. But like many other paper products, you can easily replace them with reusable alternatives. Cloth napkins also get bonus points for being a classier and more stylish choice, especially if you’re having company. They’re also very easy to clean, and can be laundered alongside regular clothing in your washing machine.

You can extend this strategy out to other disposable mealtime products, including paper plates and plastic cutlery. While it’s easy to grab these items at the grocery store when you’re heading out for a picnic, all it takes to save that money (and avoid generating the garbage) is a little foresight. Pack plates and cutlery from home in a separate, reusable bag and just wash them up when you return.

Sandwich Bags

If you pack a lunch for work, or if your kids stay for lunch at school, chances are you go through your fair share of plastic sandwich bags. In most cases, these just end up in the garbage after a single use. With so many alternatives out there, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that you might as well be throwing money into the trash every time you buy them.

Make a one-time investment in a large, complete set of reusable plastic storage containers. These versatile products are perfect for sandwiches, leftovers, soups, and just about anything else you might have for lunch. Wash them out at the end of the day and use them again tomorrow. You’ll cut down on waste while saving money time after time. Alternately, you could pick up a nice lunch box or a washable cloth lunch bag.

Want Some More Ideas?

These five examples represent a small sample of the many ways you can save money and do your part to reduce waste. Some of the other things you can try include buying a mop and bucket instead of using disposable floor mops, switching to rechargeable batteries, buying a metal straw instead of relying on single-use plastic straws, and using coffee filtration baskets instead of paper filters.

A growing number of countries are moving to penalize or otherwise discourage the use of disposable products that generate a great deal of waste. For example, Canada recently announced plans to eliminate certain single-use plastics by 2021 by banning plastic cutlery, straws, and other similar products. Consumer awareness is a powerful thing. With the world trending toward greater environmental responsibility, you can stay ahead of the curve and save yourself a lot of money by thinking twice before buying disposable consumer products.

Grocery Bag Spilling Out on Table

Shutterstock

Jim Greene

Contributor

Jim Greene is a freelance writer based in the Toronto, Canada area. He has been writing professionally since 2001 and has an extensive professional background in consumer research, personal finance and economics.

Explore Save Money

Young couple worried about finances Save Money

How To Tell If Your Retirement Is In Jeopardy

One of the most common financial concerns for adults these days is retirement. It comes up over and over again. For anyone concerned about money, retirement is a very big problem to confront. Current (and future) generations of working-aged Americans aren’t exactly fairing well, when it comes to retirement savings. Some studies have shown that […]

Read More about Post Title

7 minute read

young woman running on a trail Save Money

How To Get In Shape On a Budget

I can’t remember which comedian it was who said it, but I remember the line vividly. They were poking fun at the health of Americans, lambasting the way they pay for gym memberships only to drive their cars to get there, find the closest parking spot to the entrance, and then take the escalator up […]

Read More about Post Title

8 minute read

Woman at Farmers' Market Save Money

How To Save Money Shopping At The Farmers’ Market

Buying from a road-side produce stand or a locals farmer’s market is an amazing experience. They are some of the best options for getting fresh (and often organic) fruit, vegetables, meats, and other products, while still supporting local farmers. Farmers’ Markets are certainly a better choice for fresh, high-quality, in-season produce. The prices there are […]

Read More about Post Title

7 minute read

Save Money

Hidden Benefits of a Costco Membership

A Costco membership can do a lot more than help you stretch your grocery budget. A membership at Costco comes with many perks, some of which you might not even be aware of. Take a look around a Costco outlet and you’ll see that deals and discounts can be found everywhere. If you’re trying to […]

Read More about Post Title

6 minute read

Cash, Coins & Calendar Save Money

How To Negotiate Lower Monthly Bills

With unemployment at record highs and job security often unstable, you might find yourself strapped for cash. One potential solution is to lower your monthly bills. We’re not just talking about cancelling services either. It is actually possible to negotiate with some companies for lower rates. While it won’t be easy, it’s possible to negotiate […]

Read More about Post Title

5 minute read

See All In Save Money

More from WalletGenius

Budgeting

How To Plan Your 2021 Christmas Budget

As much as I love gift-giving and the holiday season in general, I often find that it sneaks up on me. If you’re anything like me, you often find yourself in mid-December scrambling to get presents bought, wrapped, and even mailed. That last minute scramble often means paying more for gifts than you intended, since […]

Read More about Post Title

7 minute read

Financial Advice

How To Avoid Paying These Hidden Fees

One of my good friends is a financial planner. He recently told me something very interesting about hidden fees. He basically said that his income comes from the fees that he charges his clients. They are typically based on a percentage of the client’s assets. That means that every quarter (or annually), those fees are […]

Read More about Post Title

8 minute read

Financial Advice

How Do You Justify Your Debt?

Most of us are well aware how debt works. We know we shouldn’t buy things that we can’t afford. Instead, we know we’re supposed to save up for major purchases. It’s just smart financial sense to not make a bunch of purchases that drive up your debt. However, when it all comes right down to […]

Read More about Post Title

8 minute read

Woman stressed from overworking Financial Advice

Are You Actually Working Too Much?

Our society just idolizes “more” for some reason. We often talk about the mentality of “keeping up with the Joneses” in the context of material possessions often. However, I’ve noticed lately that people are just as impressed with those who seem to be “doing” more — and no, not doing more at work. We also […]

Read More about Post Title

8 minute read

Woman working on her finances Financial Advice

Easy Ways to Simplify Your Finances

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius Personal finance is surprisingly simple. Live below your means. Invest for the long term. Keep at it. Prosper. Yet, we instinctively want to complicate the process because we can’t trust that something so important can be so simple. I mean, how can […]

Read More about Post Title

7 minute read

Flipping Houses Home Ownership

How to Start Flipping Houses (And Actually Make Money)

House-flipping is often portrayed as a foolproof path to quick riches. While this inaccuracy can create unrealistic expectations, flipping houses can definitely be profitable if you do it right. And that’s the trick: the people most successful at flipping houses are generally the most experienced. That said, they all started somewhere. There’s nothing like completing […]

Read More about Post Title

6 minute read

TSP Loans Loans

TSP Loan: Everything You Need To Know

TSP loans are specialized loans designed for employees of the United States federal government. They offer federal employees access to a unique loan class that uses their retirement plans to finance their borrowing needs. Financial advisors often liken them to the 401(k) loans available to members of the general public. Yet, TSP loans differ from […]

Read More about Post Title

5 minute read

Trusted provider of accurate rates & financial information