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6 Smart Strategies for Cutting the Cost of Paper Products

Use old maps and other distinctive paper items instead of wrapping paper. (iStockPhoto)

When you use paper products around the house, you often thoughtlessly toss them when you’re finished with the task at hand, only to find yourself performing the same task again with more paper. Each time you use paper, however, there’s a cost – not just to the environment, but also to your wallet.

Paper products aren’t free. They make up a healthy portion of a household’s budget. With just a few little changes, however, you can cut down on your paper product use, stop filling landfills and cutting down trees and save a little money. Here’s how.

[See: 10 Money Leaks to Shut Down Now.]

1. Keep a stack of inexpensive plastic plates in the cupboard for paper plate situations. Sometimes when you have an abundance of guests or are serving food outside, paper plates seem like a fine solution to the problem, but paper plates introduce their own problems. They’re one-use items, so you have to immediately replace them, plus they fill up trash bins and can sometimes add to your trash bill.

The solution is simple: Get a stack of inexpensive plastic plates for such occasions. Keep them in the back of the cupboard and pull them out for busy occasions. Put the dirty ones aside in a bin, rinse them quickly, then wash them after the party (they’re usually perfectly safe in the dishwasher) and store them for next time. No more paper plate cost.

2. Use junk mail, printing mistakes and whiteboards for scratch paper. Many households use notepads, shopping list pads and other paper items specifically for scratch paper use, including making lists, jotting down notes, recording phone numbers and so on. There’s no reason to use special-use items when life hands us so much extra paper and other tools.

Use junk mail envelopes for shopping lists. Use folded-up pages of printing mistakes for sheets of paper to diagram things or to make a paper airplane with a child. Use a whiteboard to leave a note for your spouse. All of these things keep you from using extra paper that you’ll eventually have to pay to replace.

[See: How to Live on $13,000 a Year.]

3. Keep a stack of dark-colored cloth napkins around for napkin use. Messy meals mean messy hands and faces, and that often means napkins. Paper napkins are often used in restaurants because of large-scale laundry costs. But at home, napkins can be tossed into almost any load of laundry without a thought, so they make much more sense.

Buy a large quantity of dark-colored napkins that match your kitchen colors and use them whenever napkins make sense. Then simply toss them in with your dark bedsheets, towels or other dark clothing. They’ll wash perfectly for another use without the need to buy any more napkins.

4. Use old maps and other distinctive paper items for wrapping paper. Wrapping paper is an overpriced paper product that you simply tear up and throw away. It serves one purpose: providing a seasonally appropriate cover over a gift.

If you come across any distinctive paper, such as old road maps, comic pages or covers of The New Yorker, save them and use them for wrapping gifts. Not only do they look beautiful and distinctive at festive moments, they’re also far less expensive than wrapping paper.

5. Purchase reusable coffee filters. Coffee lovers who use a drip coffee pot typically use paper filters for the purpose of straining water through coffee grounds to make their delicious morning cup. Of course, that filter is just tossed into the trash once it’s used, and a new package is inevitably bought in a month or two.

Solve that problem with a reusable filter, which can very quickly be rinsed and reused the next day. Once you have a few reusable coffee filters, there’s no more need to purchase paper filters.

[See: 8 Hacks to Ease Your Financial Life.]

6. Keep a healthy stack of rags around to use instead of paper towels – and wash them with the bath towels. Paper towels are convenient for kitchen use, as you can use them to mop up all kinds of different messes very quickly. However, once a paper towel is used, it’s gone – and decent paper towel rolls aren’t cheap by any measure.

Instead, try using a rag drawer. Fill it up with spare washcloths, bulk rags, cut t-shirts or whatever else you can find to take care of those little messes. Just toss them straight into the washer instead of into the trash. When washed, toss them right back in the drawer. You’ll never have a need for a paper towel again.

These types of simple replacements for common household paper products keeps paper out of the landfills and recycle bins while saving you money. That’s a real frugal victory.

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