Time is Money

by Kelly · 9 comments

in A Frugal Home


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 €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?


1 Kimber August 24, 2009

I switched about a year ago to cloth napkins and I no longer use paper towels I have use cloth towels. Yes this means a little more time at the cloths line and the washer but not much. I have saved some money doing this and also a tree or two. I do not use store bought laundry detergent for my towels I make my own and add a 1/4 cup of vinegar to the wash load and a 1/4 cup to the rinse cycle. I have found this works great for the stiffness of the towels. I made my napkins out of some old sheets that have not been used in years. They work & look so much better as napkins then they ever did as sheets LOL!

2 Coffeemomma August 24, 2009

I use cloth napkins also, but only switched recently…I’ll never go back! It’s nothing extra in terms of laundry, since (as you said) I just throw it in with the towels I’m already washing. We also use cloths to wipe up spills, clean counters and floors, etc. I go through MAYBE roll of paper towel every two months or so.
When my son was born, I attached a container to the back of his highchair for bib storage, and another for washcloths. We bought a cheap ($2) stack of washcloths at the store, and there were always handy to use. At the end of the day we tossed them in the laundry basket.
I find that making the decision to use cloth over paper is so easy….there are so many places where it’s easy to make the change if you make it convenient for yourself. As long as it’s easy, you’ll follow through.
And you’re right, it’s definately cheaper!

3 Amy Reads Good Books August 24, 2009

I grew up with cloth napkins, so it didn’t seem weird to use them. I love ’em too. Easy to wash and so pretty at the table!
.-= Amy Reads Good Books´s last blog ..In the Heart of the Canyon =-.

4 Rebecca August 25, 2009

I use cloth napkins for eating and paper towels for clean-up. I don’t do it for the money factor, although that’s a nice benefit, but rather because I simply like the feel of cloth napkins better. Great post!
.-= Rebecca´s last blog ..New Week, New Product =-.

5 Teresa August 25, 2009

I guess I split on the paper/cloth decision. I don’t use paper towels. I do use disposable diapers – I know several cloth diaper evangelists, but I’m not giving up the convenience of toss and forget about it. And we split on napkins – sometimes we use paper, sometimes we use cloth.

6 apieceofwood August 25, 2009

We have just stopped buying paper napkins and are on the hunt for some decent napkins. We really don’t miss them at all. Funny you should do a post about this exact thing though as I was thinking about napkins during the night ( I know I need to get a life!)
.-= apieceofwood´s last blog ..Monthly tracking =-.

7 Monroe on a Budget August 25, 2009

I use cloth rags and towels for most kitchen cleaning needs.

The main purpose I have for paper towels is to clean out the tabletop grills, which means one roll of paper will last me a long time.
.-= Monroe on a Budget´s last blog ..How did the federal school lunch program get started? =-.

8 Kasey at Thrifty Lit August 25, 2009

I like cloth, but more for the look/ feel… does that count :). I think it's fun to hunt them down at garage sales.
.-= Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog´s last blog ..A Thrifty Little Tip to Use Now =-.

9 Nancy August 26, 2009

We're split on the cloth vs. paper. I do keep paper on hand to send in lunch boxes to school and sporting events as I'm not sure the cloth would find its way home. I've got quite a few cloth napkins, all of which have been given to me by my mother and many of them she received from her mother. I think of Grandma everytime I use them. I tend to reach for the dish towel rather than the paper towel to clean up spills/messes on the counter/table. It's not a problem to throw a few more items into the load of towels for washing.
.-= Nancy´s last blog ..Make Your Own | Cream Soup Mix =-.

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