There’s no question that disposable items can be incredibly convenient sometimes. But if you stop and think about it, they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.
While it might be quicker to throw something in the trash when you’re done using it than washing it and putting it away, you do have to have to spend time going to the store and buying the same products all over again. The costs for buying products again and again can really add up.
Plus you’re not only throwing away your hard earned money. You’re also disposing of the resources used to make the throwaway products and unnecessarily sending things to the landfill.
No one is suggesting that you stop using disposables altogether, just that you give it a little more thought. Some disposables are hard to live without (such as diapers), but the items on the list below will be barely noticeable once you change a few habits. You’ll need to spend a little money up front to save down the line.
A family of four can save $3,164 a year by cutting back or eliminating the items listed below. Of course, the final savings ultimately depends on what you use now, how much you cut back, and local prices. No matter the exact total, wouldn’t you rather spend money on a family vacation instead of disposable junk?
Use cloth napkins instead. Worried about the laundry piling up? Assign a different color napkin to each family member (or try this fun DIY napkin project). The idea is that if the same person uses the same napkin at every meal, you can wash napkins less often.
Potential savings: Count on saving around $57 a year if everyone in your family uses one napkin at every meal. You’ll also save 4,368 paper napkins from being tossed in the landfill each year.
Wipe up spills with cloth towels. Use rags for cleaning. You can make your own by cutting up old sheets, T-shirts, towels, etc., or buy microfiber towels. For windows try crumpling up old newspapers.
Potential savings: If your household uses one roll of paper towels each week, you can save around $83 a year.
Resealable, plastic storage bags
Reuse them by washing them out and letting air dry. (It’s not a good idea to reuse bags that were used to store raw meat.) There are now several kinds of reusable sandwich and snack bags that are widely available. Store leftovers in plastic or glass reusable containers.
Potential savings: You’ll save around $78 a year if you stop using throwaway plastic bags for weekday lunches and storing leftovers.
Paper coffee filters
Try a reusable coffee filter or make coffee in a French press, which doesn’t require a filter.
Potential savings: About $15 a year if you make one pot of coffee every day.
Single-serve bottled drinks
Carry a reusable stainless-steel bottle to transport water and other drinks when you’re on the go.
Potential savings: About $2,187 if each member of your family consumers one bottled beverage a day.
Save leftovers in reusable plastic or glass containers. Avoid using foil to line baking sheets.
Potential savings: Around $64 a year if you use six rolls of foil (200 square feet each).
It’s much easier to use rechargeable batteries than you think. Rechargeable AA batteries and chargers, ubiquitous for TV and gaming remotes and kids’ toys, are widely available. An added bonus: You don’t have to run to the store when your remote runs out of juice. Just recharge the batteries and you’re good to go.
Potential savings: If you use around 25 AA batteries a year, you’ll save around $28 a year. You can also feel good about not unnecessarily sending batteries to the landfill.
Disposable razors blades
Use an electric razor instead.
Potential savings: About $122 a year if your household uses 54 razor blades a year.
Read your favorite newspapers and magazines online instead of letting the paper pile up at home. You’ll find a lot of interesting content for free online, but even if you have to pay to read articles you’ll still come out ahead.
For example, subscribing to the electronic edition of the New York Times costs $29.95 a month. Compare that to the $769.60 price tag for seven-day home delivery (It’s $608.40 if you live in the Tri-State area.)
Potential savings: Depending on where you live, you’ll either save $530 or $369 a year.