Last Updated on January 23, 2024
I wonder… how much money have I really saved since going zero waste?
I don’t buy a lot of stuff anymore. I don’t buy anything that eventually winds up in the garbage; essentially I’ve stopped paying for trash. (I found this article from the onion to be hilarious!)
But, how much money does the average American spend on trash every year? I did some digging to find out. The average American spends almost $5,000 on products that are thrown away! That’s A LOT of money. Hell, that’s a vacation.
In my 2.5 years of zero waste living, I’ve saved $12,000. Twelve. Thousand. Dollars. Wowza.
All of my estimates below are based on 2.5 years worth of savings because that’s how long I’ve been living a zero waste life!
Table of Contents
1. paper towels and napkins:
The average American family would have spent $684.50 on paper products such as paper towels and paper napkins. We used to buy a giant selection every other month at Costco.
2. tampons and pads
This number was actually a lot lower than I expected. Feminine care products are always so expensive in my mind, but it was only a $165.00 expense. However, I am so stoked that I don’t have to buy these products ever again!
Reusables save you money, but most importantly they come without all of the not-so-good-for-you-additives like bleach!
3. toilet paper
I have told you time and time again, how much I loooooovvvvveeeee my bidet attachment. Full post on it here. We’ve managed to cut out $262.15! We still use toilet paper, but we use so much less. We spend less than $24 a year on TP.
4. aluminum foil
I used to love aluminum foil. I’d wrap pretty much anything and everything in it. I used to cook with it a lot too. Over the years I’ve saved $60 by ditching it. That’s not too shabby.
On Saturday morning, I love watching Martha Bakes. Really interesting, Martha always advocates being wary of the aluminum foil touching your food and that it should be avoided.
That always gave me pause. I’m glad I’ve ditched it.
5. plastic baggies
I’ve never been a huge plastic baggie fan. As I mentioned in my story, I tried to reduce my exposure to plastic around my food well before I went zero waste. I was pretty shocked at how low this number was.
I thought plastic baggies were pretty expensive, but the average cost over 2.5 years is only $150.
6. trash bags
Trash bags is an expense I never have to worry about! More info on what I still throw away here. The average American family would have spent $210.
If you’re still creating some trash, switch to a paper liner made from newsprint. Most of the wet garbage you have can be composted. I have a backyard compost, but if you live in an apartment you can get my guide here.
Switching to handkerchiefs is one of my favorite swaps. I never have to worry about my nose chafing. We store our handkerchiefs in a porcelain tissue cover. Similar to this.
Whenever they’re dirty, we just throw them in the hamper and wash them with the rest of our clothes. Switching to handkerchiefs will save you $75.
As allergy season approaches this would be a great investment!
8. disposable water bottles
As Americans, we spend WAYYY too much on bottled water. It boggles my mind. If you don’t like the way your tap tastes, get a filter.
Flint, MI is the exception, not the rule. Bottled water is appropriate in times of crisis, but it should not supplement our laziness. Bring a reusable bottle with your when you’re out. Filter your water without plastic, and you could save $865!
9. conventional cleaners
This BLEW my mind. I was reading this article, and it’s INSANE how much the average American family spends on cleaning supplies. Anywhere from $300-800 a year! I went with a conservative estimate and saved about $1260 over the past 2.5 years.
10. plastic wrap
I have never bought plastic wrap. I was always more of an aluminum foil girl. But, the savings on this item is $54.
11. beauty products
There are SO many beauty products I’ve stopped buying. I’ve realized that I don’t really don’t need a lot of them. I don’t buy makeup “just because” anymore. Most of the products I bought were used only once or twice and never used again.
Now, I just stick to things I know I like and use. I’ve calculated over the past 2.5 years I’ve saved $600. If you’re interested in more of the beauty products I make, check out this post for 15 simple zero waste bathroom swaps.
12. convenience food
This one blew my mind. The average American spends 30-40% of their entire grocery budget on overly processed convenience food. A conservative estimate is $7,215 worth of savings.
I no longer buy pre-made foods. I buy real food with whole ingredients. Not only is it great from a health perspective, it’s also great from a savings perspective.
If anyone asked me for diet advice, I’d tell them to go zero waste. When you can’t buy food in a package, you’re buying whole fresh ingredients. You control the amount of sugar you put in your meals. No more hidden sugars and fats hiding in boxes and bags.
It’s just real, whole, good food.
For more information on zero waste grocery shopping, read my ultimate guide.
Is there something you don’t buy anymore? How much do you think you’ve saved?
Looking for more inspiration? Check out the ultimate list of zero waste swaps from A-Z.
This post may contain affiliate linking you can read more on my disclosure page.