Slash Your Budget One Item At A Time

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How to Slash Your Budget One Item at a Time

Vol. 1: Use Cloth, Not Paper

The easiest way to really learn to eat right is to cut one or two bad things out of your diet at a time. The same can me said for your budget.

One of the first things I did when I stopped working to stay home with my son in 2005 (I was 41, he was 17 months)  was assess where we spent our money. The good news for us was that we were leaving the North East for the South, so the hit of my leaving my nice-paying job was not going to impact us as much as it would have IF we had stayed up North.

I confess I was completely overwhelmed. Having always worked, I had no idea WHAT to do in a new state, with a toddler, much less REALLY what it took to live frugally. Not that we were rich, but when you have two incomes, it’s easier than one. I was so blessed to be able to reach out to a friend who had already been through it and she said, pick one thing at a time to cut back on.

The first was not going out to eat so much. Sigh. The second was replacing paper with cloth. “WHAT?”, you say.  YES!!

What I can tell you is that cutting paper towels & paper napkins out of our budget saved us about $25 – $30/month.  That may only be $300 – $360/year. But if you pare down in other ways, it’s amazing what you can shave off your bottom line.

Some of you are saying, what kind of paper towels did you use? I like Viva. They feel the most sturdy in my honest opinion. AND I always had a coupon. Think about this – how many times do you reach for a paper towel to clean up a spill OR dry your hands? I only have one child and we used a ton. How about you?

So, let me tell you how I cut out paper goods.

Cloth Napkins – we use switched to all cloth, all the time. We always used cloth growing up and if you go to garage and estate sales you can get really great deals on white linen. Or – if you are like me, you eat lots of tomato-based dishes and wanted darker ones. I buy them in groups of 12 if possible and have a ton of them.

White Bar Towels – We bought a ton of WHITE bar towels (you can buy them on sale) and when they get yucky looking, they become garage towels. Eventually they just get tossed because they are that bad.  But – using them in kitchen clean up is the best. We use them for spills, for dusting, for everything that we’d normally use paper towels for.

White Face Cloths (or wash cloths) – We buy them in bulk. You know in Wal-Mart, Target or K-Mart, the stack of ten that is $3 or whatever. Those… I use the white ones for cleaning. When I clean bathrooms, I carry a bag with me that I put them in as I clean. Also – you can use a spray and get rid of the Clorox wipes too (just saying!)

*** we use white for cleaning towels because we can bleach them! I feel better about being able to use bleach!

Colored Face Cloths (or wash cloths) – We have a ton of these. I would say well over 100 in our home at all times. We all have our own colors:  Me – I use varieties of pink, my son uses varieties of blue and my husband uses varieties of green. Additionally we use earthen toned ones in the downstairs bathroom.  This saves me on washing bigger towels all the time. For instance, I wash my make-up off nightly and use a fresh towel each time. I don’t have to use my hand towel or bath towel to wash or dry. I have plenty of littles.

Here are two pictures. One is of a set of five reusable bar towels for $9.99. The other is Viva Paper towels roll of six – and when they are gone they are gone.

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The first picture, you can use, bleach and re-use, therefore you will not spend that basically $12 every other week shopping (if you shop that often like I do). It really does add up!

I confess, I do have a roll I keep handy for mirrors (I don’t like streaks). But they are no longer an item on my every two-week grocery shop. And that – saves me money! And once your family and friends get used to it, and realize that you are 1) saving money and 2) saving trees (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) they will all be on board.

If you try it, please let us know.

Blessings – Emily


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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. We cut out paper towels around September last year!! And I have not looked back! We only keep a roll of paper towels for grease spills and cleanup, which rarely get used but are nice. If you have a solution for getting grease out of the cloth/towels, I would love to know!! I would like to get rid of them all together.

    I use old white t-shirts for dusting (have since I was a little girl) and they work well on mirrors and windows too! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Hi Annette,
      Thanks for the question. I soak the towels every once in a while in Oxywash. You could also use a combo of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. I found it a couple years ago and when I stumbled upon this blog called Frugally Sustainable.

      If you search it, you will see that a few “green” bloggers link back to her. She gives safety tips, etc.
      Further, check out just plain vinegar for getting rid of stains. Some examples are here -


  2. We started doing this a few years ago in our home, too! When money started getting tight. I love that I’m teaching my children to be frugal – something my parents never taught me!

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Hi, there! I’m Heather Bowen, and I am so glad you’re here.

My passion lies in helping homeschool moms balance marriage, motherhood, homemaking, and homeschooling all while remaining sane!

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