Every personal or family budget distinguishes essential expenses from discretionary expenses. Toilet paper, a basic household product most of us use every day, definitely falls into the first category.
Unlike other paper products, such as paper towels (for which washable cloth napkins serve as reliable, eco-friendly stand-ins), toilet paper doesn’t have a convenient reusable replacement.
Yet it’s still possible to save money on toilet paper with or without taking the drastic and — for many Americans — unfamiliar leap into the wide world of bidet toilet attachments.
But you don’t have to go all the way to the bidet-and-washcloth method to reduce toilet paper usage and costs significantly. Once you get into a newly frugal toilet paper routine, you might not even notice the difference.
How to Save Money on Toilet Paper
These simple tips for saving money on toilet paper include economical alternatives, smarter buying strategies, and ideas to stretch your TP farther without sacrificing cleanliness.
1. Make Every Square Count
How much toilet paper do you really need to use each time you go? Less than you’ve been using, probably.
The trick is finding the optimal balance of surface area (the more, the better) and wipe integrity (essentially, a stronger wipe).
According to a physicist retained by Dollar Shave Club to settle the question once and for all, the ideal toilet paper configuration is a hybrid “folded wad” that’s stronger than your standard neat fold but has more surface area than a messy wad.
It’s the most efficient option on a wipe effectiveness basis — that is, if you’re trying to minimize your toilet paper usage while achieving an acceptable threshold of cleanliness.
2. Pay Attention to Total Sheet Count and Square Feet Per Pack
Every pack of toilet paper should include this information somewhere on the outer wrapping. But you might need to do some simple math to calculate total “ply square footage,” or the total volume of single-ply toilet paper in the pack.
If you’re using double-ply toilet paper, your total ply square footage is the square footage used times two. For triple-ply toilet paper, it’s the square footage times three.
That’s the best measure of how much toilet paper you’re really getting and what you’re paying for it in per-unit terms.
3. Avoid Ultra-Soft (Deluxe) Toilet Paper and Flushable Wipes
It seems logical: If you buy a higher-ply TP with a softer finish, you use less toilet paper overall, right?
That might be true in the sense that you use fewer squares of softer, higher-ply paper.
But premium toilet paper from brands like Charmin and Cottonelle carries a premium price tag, so chances are you’ll end up paying more in the final accounting, even if the product is a bit easier on your behind.
From a cost-effectiveness perspective, you’re better off with a thin two-ply double roll or triple roll from a less expensive brand like Angel Soft or the store brand.
These options have trade-offs of their own, namely that they’re not as soft, but they’re more reasonably priced than premium two-ply players like Charmin.
Even if you’re willing to pay a bit more upfront for premium toilet paper, it’s likely that you haven’t factored in a potential hidden cost: the risk of clogs.
Drainage systems in older homes and apartment buildings simply aren’t built for today’s super-soft, super-fluffy toilet paper. DIY de-clogging with a plunger or auger is messy and time-consuming, and serious or chronic clogs may require a pricey professional consultation.
Likewise, flushable wipes aren’t really flushable. In an emergency, sure — flush what you need to. But making a habit of flushing baby wipes pretty much guarantees a plumber’s visit in your future. Instead, dispose of wipes in a mini trash can next to the toilet.
But whatever you do, don’t give in to the temptation to get the one-ply stuff, store-brand or otherwise. It doesn’t go as far, is less absorbent, and is way more irritating over time, especially with frequent use.
And definitely don’t buy the bulk commercial toilet papers you tend to see in public bathrooms.
4. Don’t Buy Toilet Paper at the Grocery Store
Whatever type of toilet paper you prefer, only buy it at the grocery store as an absolute last resort.
You’ll pay more per roll and per square foot, even for store-brand paper, and you’ll run out sooner because you’ll likely have to buy in smaller quantities.
If you can afford to wait a day or two, it’s much better to purchase a generic bulk pack on Amazon. You can buy in higher quantities and likely at a lower cost per roll or sheet.
5. Sign Up for a Toilet Paper Subscription
A toilet paper subscription is one recurring subscription you know you’re going to get your money’s worth out of. And it could save you big time compared to one-off toilet paper purchases.
Most toilet paper vendors offer subscription discounts, regardless of delivery frequency — 5% for No. 2 and Target, $10 off your first subscription order with Who Gives a Crap, and up to 15% when you use Amazon Subscribe & Save (depending on the number of products you subscribe to).
6. Buy in Bulk at a Warehouse Store or Walmart
If you choose not to go with a toilet paper subscription or need to supplement your supply in between recurring deliveries, buy in bulk.
Your first choice should be a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club, where you’ll find the lowest cost per square foot with the store brands (Kirkland Signature at Costco, Member’s Mark at Sam’s Club).
Your second choice should be a big-box superstore like Walmart or Target.
7. Look for and Use Toilet Paper Coupons
Toilet paper coupons abound. You can get them directly from manufacturers like Charmin or Scott, find them in supermarket and big-box circulars, or access them through coupon apps like Ibotta and Rakuten.
No matter how you find them, get in the habit of using them. Even 5% or 10% off something you buy as often as toilet paper adds up over a year, to say nothing of a lifetime.
8. Skip the Dispenser
Most people’s homes already have toilet paper dispensers.
But if you’re moving into an unfurnished house or apartment without a wall-mounted or freestanding place for TP, don’t bother. Put the savings toward another roll or two of toilet paper instead.
These money-saving tips could reduce the number of rolls of toilet paper your family members use in any given month without sacrificing hygiene or comfort. That alone should be encouragement enough to try them.
But reducing your toilet paper spending could have environmental benefits as well, particularly if you switch to an eco-friendly alternative like bamboo.
And its impact is easier to see in your everyday life than other sustainable shifts, like reallocating your retirement savings or taxable investments into socially responsible instruments.