Saturday, October 11, 2008

Buy Fewer Disposables

#12 Saving Money Tip – Buy Fewer Disposables. This country has gotten disposable crazy. Everything is disposable – diapers, plates, cups, bathroom cleaners, mops, rags. and food wrap. Not only is it bad (VERY BAD) for the environment, it is expensive (VERY EXPENSIVE). It is a bad habit to buy disposable products. Yes, it’s quick and yes it’s easy, but it’s expensive. Did I mention disposables are expensive? I am not going to do a cost analysis of each product because it’s been done hundreds of times other places. Suffice it to say when you use products one time and throw them away, the cost is high. Products that can be used over and over again save money in the long run.

It pays to invest in some cloth rags or even better to use washcloths or old clothing that has torn. They can be used to wipe down the kitchen table, to clean the floor, wipe down the bathrooms, for dusting, etc. These can be thrown in with your regular towel load in the washing machine.

Paper products for meals are another area where costs add up. Using paper cups, plates and napkins can take a nice chunk of change from your pocket. Most people already own glasses and plates. Use those instead and throw them in the dishwasher when you’re done. You’ll still come out ahead in cost. Many people do not own cloth napkins. But this is another area where people can save money. The initial cost of buying cloth napkins or making them yourself will more than make up for the cost of paper ones over the long run. Again, you can throw them in with your towels that you are washing.

If you have a baby, try cloth diapers. They take a change in attitude, but the savings are significant especially if you have more than one child. The initial outlay costs vary depending on how expensive of a diaper you buy. But once they are bought the cost of washing them in your washing machine is small compared to the cost of buying disposables each week at the store.

Lastly, let’s talk about cleaners. I’m thinking of those mops, dusters, and toilet cleaners that are one-time-use products. These are expensive! I don’t know the cost because I don’t buy them. But any plastic gadget that needs to be thrown away after one use is going to cost big time. Use rags and mops or brooms instead. You can get your toilet bowls and bathroom floors just as clean.

Disposable products have become so commonplace that people don’t think twice about buying things for one-time use and throwing them away. Change your attitude toward disposables! The purpose of disposable products is not for use in everyday life. Disposables have a place in our society and that is for when you are on the go, on vacation, and on the run. Marketers of these products have convinced us it will make our lives easier to use them on an everyday basis. What it actually does is give the makers of these products more money and put much more trash in the landfill.

When you buy things for any use, think long-term. The longer something will last, the less cost per use it is. And save disposables for the times you really need them.

In Real Life (IRL) – I dislike disposable products in general. Mostly because I cannot stand to picture where all of these products are going when we dispose of them. Also, since I’m frugal, I like to get the best use for my money. So I mostly use items that can be reused. Mostly. I’m not perfect. For example, when our first child was born 7 years ago, I invested in high quality cloth diapers. I spent about $400. Gulp. By the second year of her life, I had spent less than my friends had on their disposable diapers. She was trained early, so they were put away for baby #2. Baby #2 wore the same diapers for her diaper wearing days. There was no cost involved other than washing them. When we were blessed with baby #3, I was excited about using them again. Some had worn out and I did buy some replacements. After 1 year, he is still wearing them. When we are done, these diapers will get sold and I will recoup some of my initial cost. We have used some disposables along the way – when we go on vacation or away for a long day. And my second child took a bit longer to get potty trained then my first and she outgrew the diapers. I knew she was close to being potty-trained so I didn’t invest in the bigger sized diapers, using disposables for a few short months instead.

One area I haven’t been great in is using cloth wipes. I don’t know why. I try to keep a spray bottle of water and cloths near where we change diapers and I do use it when it’s there. But I also use disposable wipes. I’m bad, I know. I’m trying to get better at it.

In real life, we don’t use paper cups or plates unless we’re having a birthday party. Even for barbeques with friends, I try to use my regular dishes or outdoor ones. I don’t use cloth napkins, though although I am thinking of changing that. In reality, I don’t usually even give my kids napkins with their meals and I wash them off with a washcloth when we’re done. I’m going to try to start using cloth napkins for me and my husband, though.

I don’t use paper towels very often. I own them and use them sometimes, but I keep washcloths in the kitchen and use them for spills and to wipe down counters and floors. I usually just put these with our other towels to be washed. Very easy. I do the same with cleaning other parts of the house. I mostly use washcloths.

I do own a Swiffer. I admit it. And I like it. My mother-in-law gave it to me when we moved in and I didn’t give much thought about it. I don’t use it too often but when I do, I use the rags a few times and then turn them over and use the other side. They’re not the best thing for the environment, but not the worst either.

When wrapping up leftovers or giving my daughter lunch for school, I always use containers that can be used again. I very rarely use plastic bags or aluminum foil. I don’t think I’ve bought aluminum foil, plastic wrap or bags in over a year. Yes, it’s a bit more work to wash through them each day, but the cost savings are great.

Overall, when I’m buying a product or looking to buy one, I do think of the consequences of what I am using. Can it be used more than once? What will happen to it when it’s done? Even though I am a big believer in cutting down on waste because of environmental impact, the cost savings is greater too. So even if you don’t give a hoot about how the earth will look in a hundred years, it will save you money to cut down on the number of disposables you buy.

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