Time is money, and money is time.
I always think about this when I’m hanging out the laundry, a chore that I do almost daily, and when I wash the sheets, several times a day (in the summer and if I’m lucky to get a good, hot wind).
About twenty years ago, I bought a dozen cloth napkins from a thrift store in Santa Barbara; I paid, I think, about $2. I bought them because they were blue and had pretty red roses embroidered on them. Then about 15 years ago, I bought some blue and yellow napkins from Mervyn’s and placemats to match. I don’t remember how much those cost, but surely more than $2… not much more however, seeing as how they were from Mervyn’s. Since moving to France, I’ve replenished the napkin stock twice, with cloth placemats and napkins on sale, but paying no more than â‚¬1 each time. I now have a total of 46 cloth napkins and 27 placemats- I know, I’ve counted. This includes some of the original ones I bought about twenty years ago.
I do believe that it has cost me considerably less in terms of money to use cloth over paper for the last two decades- how much, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know how much time I’ve spent washing, hanging out to dry and then folding said placemats and napkins over the years, but it can’t be that much in the gand scheme of things, especially now that folding them and putting them away is now one of the kids’ chores.
Nor do I know how much it has cost me in water, electricity and laundry soap costs to keep washing and drying them, but I bet it’s not that much, as I just wash them with the regular laundry.
And this is where the time versus money equation doesn’t always comes into play. Sometimes it’s really worth it to me to have a bit more time, but spend a bit more money; buying preroasted frozen vegetables, for example, instead of making my own. Othertimes, I’m willing to put in the time because we haven’t got the money; as much as I would love the luxury of a housecleaner, we can in no way afford it.
Cloth napkins? No more time spent managing them, no more money spent cleaning them, than buying paper from the store. It’s a win, win situation all around, I think.
There are lots of things on which you can choose either cloth or paper: napkins, bibs, tablecloths, diapers… some people even have reusable toilet cloths. On which side do you stand of the cloth vs paper divide?