Something we all have to buy are things that I've labeled in my budget "household items/necessities". These things include (but are not limited to) toilet paper, toiletries (shampoo, razors etc.), and medicines (i.e. ibuprofen, tylenol). This category also includes any sort of cleaning supply that I don't consider food groceries (laundry detergent, dish soap, miscellaneous cleaning supplies, paper towels, foil etc.)
This category is one in our budget that is extremely difficult to set the proper amount for. Many months we'll spend little to nothing on this category, and the next month we'll run out of everything at once and blow the amount I have budgeted. I am still working out the kinks to this category, but along the way have learned 3 major ways to save in this area of our budget without using coupons.
Disclaimer: I know all you couponers out there are getting this kind of stuff for dirt cheap. I've always been somewhat of a coupon skeptic so these are the ways I've learned to save on these items without couponing. (For the record, I am dabbling in some couponing and will later post my success or failure with the endeavor. In the meantime, use these tricks to save today on items you need now.)
Buy in bulk
I often suggest buying in bulk cautiously because a lot of times I think bulk purchasing is often disguised as a good deal when it's really not. However, we have found that our local Costco often has good deals of bulk purchases of certain personal care items including toilet paper and deodorant.
For the sake of an example, lets examine toilet paper. We pay around $17 for a 30 count toilet paper at Costco. To make the comparison, we will compare sheet per sheet of the toilet paper roll because that is a better indicator of how big the individual rolls are. The Costco brand toilet paper claims to have 425 sheets per roll of toilet paper making the cost per sheet around $0.001 per sheet. A similar "mid-grade" toilet paper will cost you $11.97 at Wal-Mart for 24 rolls. Each of the Wal-Mart rolls claims to have 208 sheets making the cost per sheet around $0.002 per sheet.
Okay, so we are talking about fractions of pennies here but if you notice- the Wal-Mart toilet paper brand is twice as much as the Costco brand of toilet paper when comparing sheet per sheet. This goes to show that in this instance, buying this particular item in bulk is a great deal.
If you live in the middle of the Alaskan tundra 500 miles away from the nearest Costco, or simply don't have a membership, do not purchase a membership for the sake of a few items.
Instead, try to stock up when your favorite toilet paper is on sale, Google search for some basic coupons that will save you a couple dollars, and be willing to try new products that could be a little bit cheaper than the brands you are currently purchasing.
Hit your local dollar store
This is really the main way we save money in the area of household necessities. In my pharmacology class in nursing school we learned that there is very little difference in brand versus generic medicines. Most of the time, brand names are more expensive because they are paying to use the actual brand name. If you compare a brand name with a generic brand of the same medicine, 9 times out of 10, the drug or active ingredient is the exact same.
I have found a couple exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between. The fact that the drug or active ingredient is the same in most medicines, brand name or not, is why I frequent our dollar store for 95% of the medicines we use at home. I buy ibuprofen, acetaminophen (tylenol), and Excedrin all at the dollar store. We save a ton of money and the drugs work just as effectively than if we had bought brand names.
I also frequent our dollar store for some household kitchen items that can be really pricey everywhere else. Things like plastic sandwich baggies and plastic wrap are all a steal at $1 each versus the usual $3-4 that you'll pay at a regular grocery store.
Simplify cleaning routines
I have learned to clean effectively without spending a ton of money on expensive cleaning products. Blue Dawn dish soap, baking soda, vinegar, and this cleaning product from our local dollar store are staples in my cleaning routine. Aside from those four items, I don't use much else to clean. I have found that the above products do a great job, are less toxic than most commercial products, and best of all are nice to my budget.
If you find yourself spending boku bucks on expensive cleaning products that you love, maybe Google a DIY version of the same product. I will admit, some DIY products are just not the same as the real thing (I know from personal experience), but a lot of them do a great job. You won't know until you try it!
This category can be a huge money sucker for most people, and one that I have personally struggled to save money in. By buying generic when you can, purchasing (wisely) in bulk, and simplifying what and how many products you use to begin with, you can cut the spending in this particular category.
**I was not reimbursed for mentioning any particular store, brand, or product in this article. These are the items that have simply worked for me and kept my budget on track**
What other ideas do you have to save in the category of household necessities? Does anyone else struggle to cut this budget?