Paper Products

52 Weeks: Frugal Invitations and Thank You Notes

With better quality home printers and software available now, more couples are designing and printing their own wedding invitations. If you buy enough of the same kind of paper, you can make matching thank you notes as well. One enterprising poster on even made her own paper by re-pulping junk mail. Instructions for this are common on the Internet, including on To find it, type “make paper from junk mail” into the search box. Some are attractive and original.



Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.


Challenge Me!

My book is all about finding useful, affordable alternatives to the things modern life has conditioned us to believe we “have to” buy.

Think of something that costs money that you don’t know of an alternative for. Challenge me to offer an alternative by leaving a comment on this or any other post. Please include the word “challenge” in your response.

Shredder Alternative

Clearing out papers for the new year? It’s important to destroy any data that could let identity thieves do you harm. Account numbers, date of birth, place of birth (those security questions websites ask you), and most importantly social security number.

The most common suggestion is a shredder. The best shredder is a cross-cut style that makes confetti instead of strips. Theoretically, a patient person could reassemble strips. Personally, I think that as long as businesses and my neighbors are carelessly discarding whole sheets of paper, no one has the motivation to try to piece together shredded strips. If my data is harder to get to than the next person’s it’s relatively safe.

When my shredder quite working a few years ago. I looked around for alternatives. My favorite is tearing off the important parts, tearing them up, and getting them very wet. Once they are soaked and soft, I squeeze the into a very tight ball and throw it out. You can’t tell by looking at it that it’s anything important, and there’s no way to undo it and still be able to read anything.

I read about the idea of disposing of large amounts of paper by soaking them in water in a large bucket or pan until they disintegrate into pulp. I tested this. On day one I tore a bunch of unneeded checks in half and immersed them in water in a soup bowl. Twenty-four hours later they were soft enough to easily pull into small pieces. Three days later they were still soft but showed no sign of turning back into pulp. Maybe I should have used a container large enough that I could stir and mash them. As it was, I just squished the softened checks into a tight ball and threw it out.

Disposables – Trash Bags

From the book, Frugal Living for the 21st Century:

“When I was a child, my mother never bought trash bags. Somehow as an adult, I came to assume that I had to. I still remember the moment my ideas about trash bags changed. It was sometime in the early ‘80s. I was trying to feed a family of four on one income. I was standing in the grocery store aisle with my hand on a box of trash bags. Suddenly I thought, “I’m about to pay money I can’t really spare for something I’m literally going to put straight into the trash!”

For a kitchen trash can I used a paper grocery bag, like my mother before me. She turned the top down like a cuff to keep it from collapsing shut, and put a newspaper section in the bottom to catch any moisture. I don’t get the paper, but there’s always junk mail. Living alone, I use a small wastebasket that fits a plastic grocery bag perfectly. Green enthusiasts may prefer the paper bag choice.”

Disposables – Coffee Filters

Though I don’t drink coffee, I know many people who do. For decades, I just assumed that of course one had to use paper coffee filters in the coffee maker. When I bought coffee makers for my rental rooms, I became aware of the existence of permanent, metal, coffee filters. Some coffee makers on come with the permanent filter in them. You can also buy them separately.

No more having to buy filters over and over and throw them away. The metal filters are easy to wash and very effective, and they last for years.

52 Weeks: Week One: Disposables – Picnicy Stuff

Plastic utensils, moist towelettes, paper plates and bowls, paper or plastic cups, how did people eat quickly on their way somewhere, or go on a picnic, for all the years, centuries, before these conveniences were invented?

They took the real stuff with them, is how, and brought it back home and washed it as usual.

Convenience is great, and the older and more tired I get the more I understand why people go for it. On the other hand, I have more time than money, so it does me no real harm to use real utensils and dishes and eventually* wash them up.

When life calls for me to take a meal with me I use an insulated bag, possibly with a small blue ice in it. The beverage goes in a stainless steel water bottle. I wrap flatware in a cloth napkin and put the food in whatever reusable containers are suitable. A scrap of cloth, dampened, in another small container, works as a moist towelette. After all, moist towelettes are just a disposable substitute for the good old damp cloth people had always used.

My intention here is not to campaign for never using disposables. My hope is to let people who are trying to spend less and save more implement one more way to do that.



*I’m not among those noble people who wash dishes after every meal. That might be an argument for using paper dishes, but no. Because there are other people in my household to be considered, I daren’t fill up the sink with my dishes. I rinse them and put them in a dishpan off to the side on the counter. Because they aren’t sitting in water, they don’t develop a stink. When I’m ready to wash them I fill the dishpan with hot soapy water and leave it to soak until the water has cooled off enough to be comfortable for my hands.

52 Weeks to Effective Use of Money

This year, I’m going to take a new topic each week to blog about. Ways to spend less while still living a normal life. Ways to earn some extra money without undermining the quality of your life. Efficient strategies to use the money you have to its best effect. Money I don’t have to spend is money I don’t have to earn. Money I don’t use on boring “everybody does it” stuff is money I can spend on things that really matter to me.

This week is paper products and disposables, because so many Americans use so many paper and disposable products, it’s likely to be useful to many. I recently saw an article that re-defined paper products as not just paper towels, etc., but also paper checks, wrapping paper, anything made of paper.

With the natural progression of technology, I rarely use paper checks anymore. When one more provider starts accepting online payments, I won’t need checks at all. Ordering checks through the bank usually costs more than ordering them online. If you search on “order checks online,” you’ll find many companies. Most of them offer a discount for your first order. If you order from a new company every time, you get the new customer discount each time.

Wrapping paper alternatives can be fun. A receiving blanket makes a suitable wrap for a baby gift. Perhaps a kitchen towel for a housewarming gift. Dollar stores carry themed or colorful plastic tablecloths that can be great for wrapping large or awkward gifts. How about a red-checked tablecloth wrapping picnic supplies or the ingredients for a great Italian dinner. Reusable gift bags and gift boxes save resources and don’t have to be paid for over and over. One year I made Christmas bags from cloth, with drawstrings. If the whole family is on board with this, they can be used year after year and become part of the tradition. Just about any box can be painted, decorated, or covered with cloth to make an original and reusable gift container.