Frugal or Foolish: Paper towels

Frugal or Foolish?  Is it better to get the cheap paper towels or the more expensive ones for everyday use?

Brian and I use paper towels for meals and occasionally cleaning.  We’ve always bought the Shopper’s Durg Mart Life brand paper towels because they’re incredibly cheap.  When on sale, you can get 8 rolls for $2.50 or less.  At 40 sheets per roll, that’s 0.78 cents per sheet.  And, being frugal and environmentally friendly, Brian and I usually tear a sheet in half and only use one half at a time.  That brings the cost down to 0.39 cents per use.

Life Brand Paper Towels

A co-worker of mine found our paper-towel-tearing routine hilarious and insisted that we try the Bounty Select-A-Size rolls.  He even brought over a trial roll.  :/

Though I feel like I am being mocked (at least a little) I was willing to give it a try.  Admittedly, it was nice to tear off a sheet without having to fiddle with making my own tear.  Aaaaand it was nice not having little half pieces of paper towels floating around waiting to be used.

First off, the Bounty rolls can get expensive – more than $3 a roll is common.  However, you can buy a set of 8 rolls for around $15 when they are on sale at places like Costco.  And the rolls are ginormous!  At 210 sheets per roll, it works out to be 0.94 cents per sheet.


So on first glance, it is a bit more expensive.  But I soon discovered that the Bounty sheets were a lot thicker and more durable than the Life brand paper towels we had been using.  As a result, Brian and I end up only needing to use a half of a half sheet for most meals.  And when we are cleaning, the Bounty sheets are actually durable enough to be rinsed and re-used at least twice during a cleaning session.  As a result, that brings the cost down to 0.47 cents per use – and sometimes less, depending on the cleaning job.

Verdict: Yeah, yeah… Here’s a case where buying the cheaper version doesn’t seem to make sense and one of the cheap items you shouldn’t purchase. I think Brian and I will upgrade to the more expensive paper towels, at least when we can get them on sale at Costco (or elsewhere).  It’s much more convenient to have a small size piece to tear off and they are much, much sturdier.

Oh, as a final note, Costco has a killer return policy, so even if you don’t like their paper towels, you can always take them back.

If they are not on sale, then I think we’ll still get the cheap paper towels.

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  1. I like the more durable ones where you can select a size. I found myself going through the cheaper rolls a lot quicker, so they weren’t as cost effective as they could be.

    • CF says:

      I’ve noticed that I’m going through the Bounty stuff a lot more slowly. When I was cleaning the fridge yesterday, I was able to use the same sheet three times!

  2. I liked this post – thought it was going to be about re-usable towels vs disposable ones but like this topic better. I’ve found a lot of the cheaper things (packaging tape, saran wrap) are sooo flimsy that you need a lot more of it or it’s extra frustrating to use.

    Even though you aren’t talking about re-usable cloths, I generally use those over papertowels. I don’t have a lot of storage to store a bulk package of them and buying one at a time is expensive. So I’ve bought some re-usable ones that work pretty well for spills/cleaning.

    • CF says:

      I haven’t really looked into reusable paper towels. I’ve thought about getting napkins for meal times (that’s where we mostly use the paper towels) and we usually use rags for cleaning. Reusable paper towels would be a nice option.

  3. Francieidy says:

    We made the switch a couple of years ago. Like you said, a bit more at first but better in the long run.

    • CF says:

      The upfront cost is annoying because we budget $20 a month for sundries. We’d have to make sure to stock up on everything else before buying a pack of these paper towels.

  4. We pay $1.99 plus tax for 8 rolls at Shoppers drug mart plus we get Optimum points as well. Recently we bought 12 no-name for $3.00. The bounty I’ve seen for $4.99 on sale but there is always coupons available through PandG. I find them pricey so I don’t bother unless I have some great coupons like buy 2 save $2.50 and they are on sale. We have different uses for paper towel and will always have them around but try to limit use even if for the environment sake. Electricity,water, time, soap, fabric softener is not cheap whether home-made or not although I’ve never actually figured it out dollar for dollar.We just got notices prices went up AGAIN and it was a big hike this time. Depends where you live though.

    • CF says:

      I’ve never tried making cleaning products at home… usually, the sale prices are cheap enough that it doesn’t seem worth it for me! Definitely does depend on where you live though. We rely on Shoppers a lot too.

  5. I get the select-a-size ones, but I recently switched from Bounty to Viva, made by Kleenex brand. Since what I use them the most for is running, I like the Viva ones because they are super strong, but also really soft, which is nice since I bring folded up paper towels to use as sweat wipes (gross, I know!) when I’m out running for a couple hours.

    The cheap ones just seem to fall apart and aren’t worth using for most jobs since you have to use twice as many.

    • CF says:

      Haha, being sweaty is grosser, wipes are a great idea. I don’t use paper towels much for that type of thing, but I can imagine cheap ones would just disintegrate. I’m starting to think that I should just pick up some napkins that I can wash in the laundry!

  6. We’re with you, we try not to use too much paper towel for environmental reasons. Typically we use re-usable towels. But we do have a roll of the select-a-size for easy clean up of spills etc, they’re just better quality and easier to use.

    • CF says:

      Yeah, I’m starting to think that I should just suck it up and buy some nice napkins for the dinner table. That’s when we use paper towels the most anyways. :/

  7. Is your co-worker some sort of Bounty salesperson/affiliate/brand ambassador? Haha just kidding, but it is funny that they brought you a trial roll.

  8. Paper towels and toilet tissue are two things we will spend more on in our house. We found we just end up going through more paper towels if we get the cheap brand so in the end we were losing money. Having kids in the house we need to have things that will clean up without pulling ten piece off the roll.

    • CF says:

      Luckily it’s just me and Brian so we are not toooo messy I think. I can see that having durable products would be even more important when you have kids though.

  9. Cat says:

    That’s the rub – is it less expensive to buy cheaper and use more or vice versa!

  10. I hate, hate, hate using paper towels. I feel so frivolous and un-green! But if I’m going to use them, they better be strong enough that I can tear them up.

    • CF says:

      Haha… yes, there is a degree of frivolousness that I feel when I buy something for the purpose of using it and throwing it away. I’m starting to be reminded that I should get napkins!

  11. If buying paper towels is wrong, than I don’t want to be right.

    Our favorite brand is “Viva” because they just seem to hold up much better. We can typically clean up a mess with just one sheet, which isnt often the case with other brands.

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