How To Save Money By Using Less of Common Household Products

Are you using too much toothpaste, shaving cream, and laundry detergent? Even if you follow manufacturers’ guidelines perfectly, you still may be overusing products due to the following reasons:

  • Instructions usually overestimate the amount of product you need to use.
    • Manufacturers have a vested interested in getting you to use more – they want you to run out of the product sooner so you can buy more!
  • Advertisements also may show a misleading way to use a product.  
    • For instance, the instructions on Alka-Seltzer in the early 1960s said to only take one tablet.  But the company introduced commercials that showed people taking two tablets at a time with the famous Plop, plop; fizz, fizz jingle.  The result?  Sales went through the roof.  Suddenly everyone was taking Alka-Seltzer two at a time instead of one.

We’re here to set the record straight on how much product to actually use, so you can start using less and saving more!  See below for a description of products that people commonly overuse and tips for reducing their usage.

Paper Towels

Paper towels should be used sparingly for very messy cleanups, but instead people use paper towels for all kinds of tasks.  If you can break the habit of using a paper towel for everything, you can realize big savings.  Below is a list of common ways that people utilize paper towels (and suggested changes):

  • Used as napkins at meals
    • Instead use a cloth napkin
  • Used as a towel after cleaning hands
    • Instead use a hand towel
  • Used for drying fruits and vegetables
    • Instead use a kitchen towel
  • Used for cleaning the bathroom or kitchen
    • Instead use a dishrag, microfiber towel, or an old shirt

Savings Calculation

Paper Towels Usage Cost
Standard $100
Reduced $25
None $0

Savings: $75 to $100 per year

  • The average family of four goes through 2 rolls of paper towels per week
  • A roll of paper towel costs $1.00
  • The annual cost of paper towels for the average family is about $100
    • If you could reduce your paper towel usage by 75%, you could save $75 per year
    • If you could stop using paper towels completely, you could save $100 per year

Laundry Detergent

Most people overuse laundry detergent by:

  • Using the recommended amount of laundry detergent on the packaging (which can be too much)
  • Using the wrong ‘fill line’ on the laundry detergent cap
  • Being unable to see the ‘fill line’
  • Not reading directions and filling up the entire cap

However, laundry detergent may not even be necessary.

  • According to the co-founder of Seventh Generation, Jeffrey Hollender, “you don’t even need soap to wash most loads“. The agitation of washing machines often does the job on its own.
  • According to the Lake Appliance Repair blog, you should use 1 tablespoon of detergent per load.
  • We measured the laundry detergent cap on our detergent and found that it recommended:
    • 2.5 tablespoons for a high-efficiency washer
    • 5 tablespoons for a standard washer
      • That’s a lot of detergent!

Savings Calculation

Laundry Detergent Usage Cost
Standard $60
Reduced $12
None $0

Savings: $48 to $60 per year

  • The average family does six loads of laundry per week.
  • The cost of name brand detergent is 19 cents per load when using the recommended amount.
    • Using the recommended amount of detergent, this translates to a cost of $60 per year ($0.19 x 6 x 52)
    • Using 1 tablespoon of detergent reduces this cost to $12 per year ($60 x 1/5)
    • Using no detergent costs $0 per year

In addition to cost savings, there are other benefits to use less detergent. When using too much detergent, the following can occur:

  • The washing machine can have develop an odor
  • The drum of the washing machine may feel slimy
  • The washing machine can become clogged over time

Recommendation: Try using one tablespoon of detergent to wash your laundry.  If your clothes continue to be clean by using less detergent, keep using one tablespoon of detergent.  Otherwise, try increasing the amount of detergent slowly until you can find the right amount of detergent for your machine and clothes.

Shampoo and Conditioner

You only need to use enough shampoo to get a lather on your hair.  Doing more will be wasted effort.  In addition, conditioner only needs to cover the bottom half of your hair (unless you have curly hair – in which case all bets are off).

In addition, many people recommend skipping out on shampoo altogether.  Shampoo removes natural oils from your hair and conditioner attempts to put oils back into your hair. However, sometimes this process can be bad for your scalp.  Try shampooing and conditioning every other day to retain more of your natural oils.  On days where you don’t shampoo and condition, simply rinse your hair with water and scrub your hair with a brush.  People have reported that while shampooing less, their hair feel more oily initially, but their scalp adjusts after a few weeks.

Savings Calculation

Shampoo & Conditioner Usage Cost
Standard $90
Reduced $45

Savings: $45 per year

  • Assuming a bottle of shampoo costs $4, a bottle of conditioner costs $4, and each lasts for three months, the cost of shampooing and conditioning for one person is $30 per year.
    • For three people in a household, you could be spending $90 per year on shampoo and conditioner.
      • These costs can increase quite a bit for someone that uses salon quality shampoo and conditioner.
  • By reducing the amount of shampoo and conditioner by 50%, you could save $45 per year.
  • If you stop using shampoo altogether and only use conditioner, you could save even more.

Toilet Paper

People overuse toilet paper.  We get it – toilet paper isn’t something you want to be cheap about.  But you can really reduce your toilet paper usage and increase your sanitation standards by purchasing a bidet.  If you use a bidet, you’ll use significantly less toilet paper.  Instead of using several sheets of toilet paper each bathroom trip, you can use one or two because the bidet does most of the cleaning and the toilet paper is mostly for drying purposes.

Savings Calculation

Toilet Paper Usage Cost
Standard $60
Reduced $35

Savings: $25 per year

  • The average family of four uses 120 rolls of toilet paper per year
    • A roll of toilet paper costs about 50 cents
    • The annual cost of toilet paper for a family is $60 per year
  • Without a bidet, assume consumption of toilet paper would be reduced by 75%
    • The annual cost of toilet paper drops to $15 per year
    • The cost of an attachable bidet on Amazon is around $30
    • Assume the bidet lasts for three years and you purchase two units, then the bidets cost $20 per year
    • Total annual cost with a bidet and reduced toilet paper usage is $35 ($15 + $20)
  • You save $25 per year by purchasing a bidet

 Shaving Cream

Men and women in shaving cream commercials use lots of shaving cream!  That may be why a lot of people cover themselves in thick layers of shaving cream.  But you only need a thin layer to cover your skin.  In addition, many people don’t use shaving cream at all.  You can generally shave in the shower without any shaving cream (though you might be wasting water by doing this). Other people recommend trying to shave with oil for a month.  And then ditch the oil altogether after a month and shave with just water.

Savings Calculation

Shaving Cream Usage Cost
Standard $16
Reduced $8
None $0

Savings: $8 to $16 per year

  • Assuming a can of shaving cream costs $2 and lasts for three months, the cost of shaving for one person is $8 per year.
    • If two people shave in the same household, then the cost of shaving cream is $16 per year.
      • If you reduce the amount of shaving cream that you use by 50%, you can save $8 per year.
      • If you stop using shaving cream altogether, you can save $16 per year.


Most people use too much toothpaste because manufacturers advertise the product by showing a toothbrush full of toothpaste.  Thus, most people assume your must cover your toothbrush head with paste.

However, the recommended amount of toothpaste is actually a pea-sized amount, or a squeeze of toothpaste that covers 1/3 or 1/2 of the toothbrush head.  By using less toothpaste, you could cut your toothpaste consumption by around 50%.

Savings Calculation

Toothpaste Usage Cost
Standard $15
Reduced $7

Savings: $8 per year

  • A standard size tube of toothpaste lasts about half-a-year for one person (assuming you fill the entire brush head with toothpaste and brush twice a day).
  • If a tube costs $2.50, then the annual cost of toothpaste for one person is $5.
    • Assuming three people are in the household, that’s an annual cost of $15.
    • By reducing the amount of toothpaste you use by 50%, you can save about $8 per year

Anything With a Pump

If you look around your house, you may notice a lot of objects that have pumps – from hand soap dispensers to cleaning supplies. Don’t be fooled into thinking you should be using a full pump of everything!  Manufacturers will often make a full pump more than enough.  If you can use a half of a pump to get the job done, you can save some dough (or some soap).

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