How To Save Money On Toilet Paper

We've all seen those television shows portraying the cheapest of the cheap in our society. You know the ones I am talking about. The ones who cut up old clothes, or use old dish towels or rags, and then use those to wipe their dirty posterior parts—only to toss them into the wash and reuse them again. This is not what this article aims to show you. Somehow the prospect of actually doing this gives me a bit of a queasy feeling to say the least in any event.

What I'm talking about is breaking down the cost to the square feet. That's right. The sqaure feet is what makes all the difference in what you actually pay for your toilet paper. And the companies who manufacture the stuff know this all too well. What they also know is that nobody ever bothers to look at the square feet, even though it's always printed right on the package for everyone to see.

What do people look at? The number of rolls. Or the number of total sheets. In fact, you'll typically find that these two numbers are usually the largest in print on the package, and the sqaure footage is printed much smaller. People also look directly at the price, and the lower the price, in the eyes of most consumers, the better the deal.

I say, not so. Hiding the real cost of the things we buy is the art of the deal. It's all about simple bait and hook. And while most marketers will tell you that consumers are smart, this too is not always necessarily the truth. Consumers are smart. But they are also easily duped. And this generates tons of revenue for nearly every supplier of any product we buy.

I tend to buy most of my toilet paper at Sam's Club. That's mainly because so far I've found they tend to have a pretty good price on the stuff. But, it's not the Member's Mark store brand that's the best deal, even though on the surface it looks that way. For example, The Member's Mark toilet paper with the exact same number of rolls as the Quilted Northern brand is around $17. The Quilted Northern is priced at around $19. Right away one would generally look at these two options and immediately assume that the Member's Mark is the better deal.

Again, not really.

The fact is that the Member's Mark, priced just about $2 less, is actually more expensive then the Quilted Northerm which is priced at about $2 more. The difference is of course the square feet. The Member's Mark toilet paper package only has about 976 square feet of paper, while the Quilted Northern has about 1,100 square feet of paper. Doing the math, the Member's Mark toilet paper costs around 1.74 cents per square foot, while the Quilted Northern actually costs 1.72 cents per square foot.

Granted, we're talking about hundredths of a cent here. Two hundredths of a cent to be exact. But consider we're also talking about hundreds of square feet of paper, and so the costs have a little more impact. Assume that the price of the Member's Mark is actually $17—I've rounded up the price. That would mean that the Quilted Northern would be $16.78 if it were only 976 square feet, meaning that even though you're actually paying $2 more, in reality, you'd be spending $2 more on the Member's Mark to get the same amount of paper as the Quilted Northern. The Member's Mark, at 1,100 square feet, would actually cost you $19.14. What's more, you're actually buying a brand name for less than you'd be buying a non-name brand.

That's their trick.

Now for the math, for the non-math folks out there. Determining the price is as simple as dividing the price by the number of sqaure feet. $17 divided by 976 sqaure feet is .0174. $19 divided by 1,100 sqaure feet is .0172.

Granted, shopping in this way does take a few extra minutes, and I always hear from people, "I don't have the time." What I always say to that is, "If you think it is a waste of time to spend the extra time, keep in mind the extra time you'll spend at work making the money you could have saved by taking the time."

In the end it's the pennies that count. Those are easy to lose. They're easy to forget about. They're easy to take for granted. And all one need to do to understand the value of pennies is to toss them into a jar and see how fast they add up. The money we waste is money we have to work harder and longer for, and unless you want to spend more time at work, you'd be better off taking a closer look at how you buy things. Including things like toilet paper.

Of course, you could just do your business at the office.

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Comments 32 comments

Moms-Secret profile image

Moms-Secret 5 years ago from Central Florida

Wow, you really are a thinker. I found a lot of humor in your analytical ways, but I agree. For the reasons that you mention and for reasons of quality, I have never chosen the store brand either. What you always say about time reminded me somewhat of the mad hatter.

I hope that it does not offend you that I found humor. I am not sure that was the angle you were looking for. I have many analytical types in my life and at times can be one myself and I am always laughing at our ways.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I6t is a bit of hidden inflation that packaging is deceptive. I agree on your analysis of toilet paper.Coffee is another one. We used to have 3lb cans of coffee. Now what looks like a 3lb can is a little over 2lb.So the price is higher and the content less.

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Jim - Your negativity toward toilet tissue pricing may have set you up as a TARGET in the NORTHERN area of the U.S. Your hubs may no longer be considered CHARMIN nor your words SOFT N GENTLE. To stay safe, stay out of the SOUTH PARK and the GREEN FOREST.

Signed - a safe substitute, Sears Roebuck (catalog)

The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

Now I've heard and I have to believe it that you shouldn't skimp and buy cheap TP. The cheap stuff takes a lot more to wipe that behind of yours than the better brand.

Of course, you could take the alternative and use your hand and buy a hell of a lot of soap. LMAO.

The Frog

Springboard profile image

Springboard 5 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Moms-Secret, no offense taken at all. OF COURSE I was looking for at least a smidgen of humor. After all, it is a piece about toilet paper. :) When it comes to making and saving money, and especially stretching money, though, I do think more people don't take that serious enough, and I do think very few people really look at the forest for the trees when they spend their money, and it's part of the reason so few people actually have any of it. It's part of the reason people have to work so hard, and work for so many years more, and have to whip out credit cards instead of cold, hard cash. Anything I can do to help people to think a little bit more about their spending habits, and to think more about how what they spend and how they spend it affects their work life is my aim. All of a sudden I'm at a loss for who made the quote, but it went something like, "The best way to save your money is to fold it up and put it back in your pocket." Analyzing the things we buy very closely like this is exactly like doing just that.

Thanks very much for stopping by. :)

The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

SB - I am a master at stretching a dollar. In this economy you almost have to be. Humor is also needed along the way to survive the nonsense we are having to endure.

The Frog

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

It's all in the math, not Obama's skewered math, but real math!

Springboard profile image

Springboard 5 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Dahoglund, I try to analyze the cost of all things, and sometimes when I do that it just amazes me what we spend needlessly. I always point to my boxed mashed potato example whereas the average box of mashed potatoes is about 6 ounces, and costs around $2. Doing the math that means those potatoes are actually costing me $5.33 per pound. That's staggering when you consider a 10 pound bag of potatoes typically will run you around $3. Even at $5 the cost savings is significant.

USING the potatoes in a box example I always also point out how many people look at the beef in the meat section and say "It costs too much!" Yet in their shopping cart lie a box of mashed potatoes which per pound costs MORE THAN the beef. :)

Maybe I'm just crazy, but I like to see things for what they are, and lucky for me I do that because it saves me a ton of money.

Thanks for stopping in for a read.

Springboard profile image

Springboard 5 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Drbj, do they even make those behemoth things anymore? Your safe substitute? And KNOWING what they are, does that date us? ;)

Pithy and witty as always if I can steal that first word from Bill O'Reilly.

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Wow, you got through the great examination. My hubs are turned down one after the other, marked 'substandard'. I emailed them but no answer just these automatic notices. I think I have to leave.

Springboard profile image

Springboard 5 years ago from Wisconsin Author

The Frog Prince, yes I suppose that would be the cheapest way to go. Soap, presumably, per ounce, is probably still way cheaper than a square foot of toilet paper of ANY brand. As this hub is a bit silly, my underlying point remains that if one truly wants to get ahead, one must be very understanding of how that's really done. It's the littlest, simplest things we overlook all the time which cost us the most, give us great difficulty in saving, and make our lives harder by adding time to our work day and work LIVES in order to make up the pennies we think aren't so important. :) As I've said before, every time I hear someone say to me, "I don't have time for all that," pertaining to getting down to real cost, I always want to say back, and often times do, "Well, you have time to WORK, right? Because at the end of the day the only reason we work is because we need money. Isn't it a sensible thought that if we need less money we also need less work to earn it? In life, it's all about how you choose to spend your time, and likewise, your money." I'm anal retentive like that...which is fitting considering the err, um, topic. lol

Always a pleasure Frog Prince.

ruthclark3 profile image

ruthclark3 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

...err, um, GREAT hub! You are so right about the pennies adding up. This rates a thumbs up from me. Keep 'em coming.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Having spent multiple months at a time in multiple jails, and detention centers - I can't stress enough just how much better toilet paper can be than what is given to inmates.

In fact, the whole act that requires the use of such products becomes far more..."enjoyable" in the confines of one's private home and using tp that wasn't the least expensive available.

Truly, I doubt the jailhouse tp is even available in the "free world." I just don't see it being purchased often.

I gotta tell ya though, those stainless steel toilets are AWESOME! If they'd only put a seat on those things...stainless steal too, of course - that would be the ultimate commode!

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

lol Fun blog ... I think saving money on toilet paper depends how much your time is worth. If you can make more money in the time that you sit around to calculate how much toilet paper costs and go to find the cheapest spot to buy it to save a little, then you are more likely to just ignore the pennies saved.

On the other hand if every penny counts then, one should pay attention to prices and number of squares of toilet paper.

@ Mr. Wesman - I've never tried the toilet paper in jail. Not interested in it either but good to know (rofl). I grew-up in the dictatorial regime of Romania in the late seventies-eighties and no word of a lie, it was greish-brown and you could see little chips of wood here and there ... not fun lol ...

Interesting piece of writing. Cheers!

Springboard profile image

Springboard 5 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Pop, somehow the words "Obama" and "skewer" feel real good together. :)

Hello, sorry to hear you've been having difficulties. So what are you saying exactly? That my hub about toilet paper is substandard and should have been flagged? I'll admit it was a rush piece (just wanted to get something out), but...

Springboard profile image

Springboard 4 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Ruthclark, glad you enjoyed it. I always try to think outside the box a little bit when it comes to money. Not always the most orthodox thinking, but it has served me well. Thanks for stopping by.

VeronicaFarkas profile image

VeronicaFarkas 4 years ago from Ohio, USA

Haha This is a good one! I tend to just use coupons, but the math works, too! Or, (drum roll, please) both! =]

nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA

Wow. Doesn't the store have a little card attached to the shelf that breaks down the cost 'per square?' It's creepy, but it works. I wouldn't want to be the associate charged with calculating those numbers.

Do you wander the aisles with a little solar-powered calculator? I hope so.

Rusticliving profile image

Rusticliving 4 years ago from California

I am always looking for the next bargain, even on TP, however, I have to admit I have never mathed the problem down to the penny, but there is one thing I have said and will always live by.. No job is complete until the "paperwork" is done! Great Hub Springboard! Voted up!


Meli 4 years ago

Northern is manufactured by Georgia Pacific- one of the biggest polluters around. They seem to always bring lawsuits against the EPA as well. I won't buy any of their products. I am trying to find who manufactures Member Mark bathroom tissue.

Deborah G. 4 years ago

The math involved may seem like a good deciding factor. It actually is only one factor. When using this method by itself, you may not really be getting a good deal. For example, when selecting toilet paper, you should know if it is one ply or two, how thick is a ply and how well the paper does the job. There are some you can rule out immediately, but others you should try before you decide to exclude it or buy it in bulk.

Springboard profile image

Springboard 3 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Mr. Wesman a former jail bird? I'd have never thunk it. :) As for those stainless steel commodes. My God, the one I sit on at home is cold enough in the dead of winter in Wisconsin, here. I'd be afraid my cheeks would adhere to the damned thing like a tongue on a metal pole in February!

Springboard profile image

Springboard 3 years ago from Wisconsin Author

This is something I so often say to those who try to make the comparison between time and money. IF you don't have the time to count your pennies, it may be because you don't have enough of them, and you need to work longer for more of them. When pennies need to be counted, and time is of the essense, I say take the time, count the pennies, and cumulatively if you do this, you may actually find you have more time because you have more pennies, and less need to go out and get more of them by punching a clock. :)

Just my two cents, which may be worth only 1/10th of a penny.

Springboard profile image

Springboard 3 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Coupons are great. And I use them often. But I think the math is still the key. If the coupon does not shave off more than the cost of the ACTUAL cheaper product, you've still spent more money and gotten less value. And again, the focus of this article was to show that sometimes we can get BETTER products for less. In the example I gave, the Quilted Northern brand name product was cheaper than the generic product. And if it came down to simply looking at the price, the average person would simply opt for the Members Mark, and THINK they were paying less, even though the reality is they were paying more.

I guess there are worse dilemmas. :)

Springboard profile image

Springboard 3 years ago from Wisconsin Author

They do not. And that's the point. They don't want you to know. Paper products simply state how many sheets, or how many rolls. They don't focus on the square feet. But a smart consumer does. And that is what makes all the difference. Believe it or not, but counting pennies very closely has worked very well for me, and I work less these days, and I will retire at around 55—of course I invest too. It's not just a matter of my toilet paper that will put me in the best financial position. It just helps. lol

Springboard profile image

Springboard 3 years ago from Wisconsin Author

lol. I like that Rustic.

Springboard profile image

Springboard 3 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Ugh. I have been away from this site awhile and still trying to get used to the "reply" button. I keep forgetting to state who the comment I am replying to is for.

The comment reply, "This is something I so often say to those who try to make the comparison between time and money," was intended for Mr. Happy. The comment reply, "Coupons are great," was intended for VeronikaFarkas. I promise I will get my act together here.

Springboard profile image

Springboard 3 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Meli, I am not sure who makes the Members Mark bathroom tissue. Regarding the matter of pollution, though, I would only comment that if I worried about that I probably would have an empty house. In fact, I may not even have one since 99% of all of the materials used in the construction of it causes pollution during the manufacturing process. Paper, in general, pollutes. So while one company may be more of a producer of polluting factors than others. Ultimately they all pollute since that is the nature of the process. So, I'm not sure what the solution may be other than to rip leaves off the trees outside.

Springboard profile image

Springboard 3 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Deborah G, absolutely. When making price comparisons, I think it is important to also make those comparisons on like products. So long as the two products are ESSENTIALLY the same, not necesarrily EXACTLY the same, that should be the ultimate basis for making the price comparison.

Availiasvision profile image

Availiasvision 2 years ago from California

You have a very humorous writing style. Here's an idea, take extra paper napkins next time you eat a burger at a fast food joint. Maybe even sneak a few extra sheets from a public restroom.

liesl5858 profile image

liesl5858 2 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi! Springboard, I enjoyed your hub about toilet paper. It makes sense what you wrote. You are really a clever man when it comes to money, good for you.

Fredrico 2 years ago

This would have made "cents" if not for the fact that the Memebers Mark tp is much stronger and more absorbant than the Northern. Memebers Mark will last so much longer since you do not have to use as much. Bought 12 cases before letting my membership expire!!!

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