10 Household Products We Overuse: How to Use Less and Save

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Generally, we Americans have a problem getting on board with the “less is more” attitude. It’s not entirely our faults. While constantly bombarded with “bigger is better” marketing (just look at car ads, “supersizing deals,” etc.), it’s easy to jump on board with a more-is-more attitude. We frugalistas know, of course, that living off of less can help us save more and therefore have more of what’s actually important. However, even we can be guilty of using too much of certain products without truly being aware.

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Let’s take a look at some of the common products that get overused in millions of homes. In most cases, use can be cut down drastically and you can still achieve similar, sometimes better, results. And in turn, you’ll end up squeezing some savings out of (basically) thin air:

  1. Toothpaste:

    When it comes to toothpaste, we may be swayed to use the amount we are used to seeing on toothbrushes on commercials. But you don’t need to completely cover the bristles on your brush to get the maximum benefit out of toothpaste. According to Dentistry.com, all adults really need to adequately brush their teeth each time is one small pea-sized dab of toothpaste. That’s about a fourth of the amount that would cover the entire brush. Think of the savings!

  2. Soap:

    Whether it be body wash or hand soap, it’s almost too easy to use too much. And while you may be tempted to think that more soap means a more thorough cleaning, that’s not necessarily the case.

    There are a few techniques you can try out to use less soap. Firstly, if you swear by body wash or shower gel, make sure that you have a loofa. One small squeeze of product should be enough to lather the whole loofa and clean your entire body. You could also try switching to bar soap, which can easily cost you less per use. There are debates for both sides, so you’ll just have to figure out what’s best for both your specific body and budget:

  3. Toilet Paper:

    Alright, so this might be a touchy subject. But the fact is that more people than not use way too much toilet paper. As easy as it is to just pull off a bunch from the roll and use, you could potentially net some savings just by using a little bit less. Here are a few techniques that could work for you:

    • To stop kids from pulling too many sheets off of the roll, try squeezing the roll in half so that the cardboard bends before you pull it on the dispenser. This makes the roll more difficult to roll and will hopefully help encourage your kids to use less.
    • Fold over a few sheets of toilet paper instead of scrunching a bunch together.
    • Either buy 1 ply toilet paper (which is generally cheaper) or make a conscious effort to use less if you’re more comfortable with 2 ply.
  4. Shampoo:

    Though TV ads may lead you to believe that washing your hair everyday is necessary, it’s actually bad for your scalp and hair to lather up daily. According to experts, when you wash your hair every day, you actually remove the sebum (oil created by your sebaceous glands). Then those glands start to overcompensate by producing more oil. So not only do you risk drying out your hair – you could actually make it more oily by shampooing too much.

    While dermatologists’ opinions differ on the topic, it seems that the general consensus is that shampooing every day is excessive. Anywhere from 1-3 times a week will get the job done and done well.

    And when it comes to how much shampoo you should actually use when you do lather up? A tablespoon or 2 is really all it takes – even less if you have shorter hair.

  5. Conditioner:

    Having curly and often unmanageable hair, I am a huge offender when it comes to using a whole lot of conditioner. It helps me get the tangles out on a day to day basis. However, I know I’m guilty of using too much. According to The Queen of Curls, you should use a dime-sized amount if you have short, thick hair, a pea-sized amount if you have short, thin hair, and a quarter-sized amount for thick, long hair (like mine)!

  6. Laundry Detergent:

    In general, Americans are definitely prone to overdo it in the laundry room. We use much more detergent than we actually need to and end up throwing a lot of money down the drain. In fact, too much detergent is actually bad for your washing machines, which could cost you money in repairs or replacement costs later.

    So how much detergent do you actually need to use to get your clothes clean without wasting unnecessary amounts of soap? Opinions vary, of course. But here’s some advice for getting it right from Good Housekeeping:

  7. Dish Detergent:

    According to The New York Times, dishwashers (and washing machines, for that matter) are now built to use far less water than older models. This means that they require less soap to do their job – not to mention that with soaps being increasingly more concentrated, a little really does go a long way. As far as Vernon Schmidt, a repairman of 35 years, is concerned, you really only need 1/8 to 1/2 of what is recommended on the box or bottle to suffice.

    Also – another fun fact – according to Consumer Reports, soap is soap. A high end detergent is not going to make much of a difference in cleaning your dishes. So spring for the cheap stuff and get the same results for less.

  8. Face Wash:

    Face wash, like body wash, is easy to overuse. However, a little goes a long way. I can usually get my bottles of face wash to last a few months at the very least. All I do is either purchase a face wash that comes in a bottle with a pump top or transfer whatever face wash I get or make into a container with a pump top. This allows you to better control how much you use. One pump always does the trick for me!

  9. Shaving Cream:

    After you’ve shaved your face or legs, how much cream typically runs down the drain afterward? The answer is probably, “too much.”

    For men, when shaving your face, you can actually save a bit on shaving cream by gearing toward a more traditional shave. Instead of lathering on the cream with your hands, AskMen recommends applying a quality shaving cream to your face with a brush. You’ll end up using less shaving cream and also better prepare your beard for the blades.

    When it comes to shaving for ladies, you just have to practice portion control when shaving your legs. Try drawing a thin, lengthwise line on each leg with your shaving cream, rubbing it in, and seeing if that’s enough. If not, you can always add more.

  10. Paper Towels:

    The solution to this, of course, is to negate the need for paper towels altogether and create your own reusable cloths. But there are other methods to try for those of you who just can’t completely do without paper towels. Here are some ideas from eHow:

    • Use old newspaper to clean your windows and mirrors. You can recycle the newspaper once you’ve finished.
    • Use sponges to wipe down your counters when they need cleaning.
    • Keep paper towels in an inconvenient place and reusable cloths in a very convenient place. Nothing like tricking yourself (and/or your family) into saving money!

What are some common household products that you think we overuse? Can the same results be achieved by using less? What are some of your best tricks for avoiding overuse? We look forward to hearing you weigh in on the subject. Thanks for reading, and as always, thanks for being a Tip Hero!

Photo credit: boysgerms

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