Kicking the habit of using unnecessary household products

Habit has always been one of my biggest money drains. There are a lot of expensive things that I buy just because I always have, but when I really think about it, I could probably survive without them. I’ve already broken my habit for a few of them, but I’m still working on others. Here are a few of the things I came up with:

Paper towels

I’ve been trying to break my paper towel habit for years. They’re so expensive, and they’re bad for the environment, and yet I can’t seem to kick them. Over the past few months, I’ve tried really hard to decrease my dependence on them. I now use a dish towel to dry my hands, and I use a sponge for most household cleaning. For some messes (like sanitizing the counter after working with raw meat), I still prefer a paper towel that can be thrown away. But I’m saving money by reducing our consumption of this expensive convenience item.

Fabric softener

For years, I spent money on fabric softener sheets without really thinking about it. When we started using cloth diapers, we read that fabric softener residue can coat the washer or dryer and damage diapers, so we kicked the habit cold turkey. I was shocked to discover that I didn’t miss fabric softeners. At all. My towels are just as fluffy without them. My laundry may not have an artificial fragrance now, but I don’t miss that enough to warrant spending the money on them.

Individual cleaning products

There was a time when the cabinet beneath my sink was stocked with 20 different cleaning solutions. Kitchen cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, shower cleaner, mopping solution for the floors, and so on. Then I realized it’s all basically the same thing. I consolidated my cleaning supplies to a bottle of Lysol and a bottle of bleach. I’d like to kick the chemical habit all together and switch to vinegar, baking soda, and good old fashioned soapy water instead, but I’m working through the rest of these two bottles. I may still keep a bottle of bleach in the garage for really messy jobs, though.

Convenience foods

I used to spend a lot of money on snacks and frozen meals and other convenience foods. These items were one of the first things I dropped from our grocery list when we started living frugally, and I never looked back. They’re expensive, unhealthy, and I didn’t miss them one bit. We have fun crafting similar foods from scratch, and our grocery budget is much lower without them.

What household items have you learned to live without to save money?

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9 thoughts on “Kicking the habit of using unnecessary household products

  1. Kasey

    Napkins and paper towels. Cloth napkins reduced our use of these almost 100%. Dishrags and towels for most everything else. I keep a bag of holy socks under the sink that I throw out after really messy cleaning. We keep paper towels on hand for cleaning our rabbit’s cage.
    Oh, how I want to switch to vinegar and water, etc… too, but I’m working on finishing all of the bottles we have.

  2. Rae

    we ditched the paper towels a year or so ago, mostly. and I started hacking up old t-shirts to replace them. They’re awesome! I have gotten them occasionally- for heavier cleaning projects, picnics, or recipes that require them. But it’s really rare since cutting up the t-shirt.

  3. Jaimie

    I am just curious what you eat as far as snack/convenience foods? I was just thinking about cutting them out but as a family with 3 kids I like to have something the kids can pop into the microwave and eat quickly – any ideas?

    1. Karen

      Jaimie – My son is only 10 months old, so he’s still eating chopped soft veggies and Cheerios (which are technically a convenience food, I guess). I snack on fruits and vegetables mostly. Baby carrots, apple slices with peanut butter. I also like fruit with yogurt, cheese slices, or toast with peanut butter. Bulk nuts, dried fruit, or homemade granola are also good options. Those seem like kid-friendly snacks that are easy enough to make quickly. I hope that helps!

      1. Jaimie

        That helps alot – I was drawing a complete blank as to which direction to even look! Those all sound like options that my kids would enjoy.


  4. Jes

    i think the only way to click the paper towel habit is to just stop buying them. I know. it seems impossible. but it works I promise.

  5. L.

    Right on with paper towels. A cloth towel + lysol sanitizes your counter after raw meat just fine. The biggest change is in your head. Pine sol/ lysol and bleach around here. Vinegar (5% acetic acid) is not a strong enough disinfectant for my liking. Plain old soap and water denatures viral capsids, kills bacteria, and washes away anything that might be left. Hydrogen peroxide or alcohol are other common disinfectants in your household- I had a (cheap!) boss who was neurotic about putting rubbing alcohol on the phone, cash register, etc. during cold and flu season.

    We have spent time without even shampoo in my household (used the homemade soap that we get from someone who makes it instead.). Have to admit my hair does better with conditioner; hubby just likes the convenience of something in a bottle.

    Have you read “The courage to be rich” by Suze Orman yet? The chapters on getting rid of this type of stuff would be right up your alley. I snoozed through the investment advice though… necessary, but boring!

  6. Andy @ harp refinance

    Our household has recently started to eliminate cleaners when they run empty. We did it mostly to spare soem space beneath the sink but it is amazing how much you spend on “specialty” cleaners when as you stated, vinegar and bleach with warm water will clean most anything. Nice money saving and space saving tip!

  7. Erin

    I read on a blog or site somewhere to throw 2 tennis balls in your dryer with your clothes. It cuts the drying time down – about half. It also helps to make towels fluffy. I throw the balls in the wash if they start looking funky.

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