From their early teens to their mid-40s, women have to budget for an additional expense men don’t have to worry about: stocking up on their preferred combination of pads, panty liners and tampons.
While we might marvel at how easy we have it compared to our predecessors, who in the olden days just used old rags, our dozens of options come at a price.
But what if you could drastically reduce the expense your period adds to your monthly budget?
Switching to reusable products like cloth pads, menstrual cups and sea sponge tampons can help you save more than $100 a year, depending on your current expenses for similar products.
Plus, by choosing reusable products, you’ll reduce the amount of waste you produce — so these options are seriously Earth-friendly as well.
Would you consider making the switch to a reusable menstrual product? Let’s take a look at several common options, as well as their potential effects on your budget.
How Much Does Your Period Cost?
On average, a woman will use more than 11,000 pads or tampons during her lifetime, according to Alive.
Another estimate puts the number at around 9,600 tampons, or 240 each year.
And all those period supplies cost money; Jezebel estimates the average woman spends about $120 on pads and tampons each year.
Of course, serious Penny Hoarders who play the drug store game will point out that, if you’re diligent about watching for sales and coupons, you can get boxes of menstrual products for $1 or even free.
But — and this is a biggie for a lot of women — many of us are loyal to a particular brand, and this makes finding those deals a bit more challenging. In college, I would stretch my my meager paycheck with off-brands for $1 a box, but the quality didn’t compare to my preferred brand.
Reusable menstrual products aren’t cheap; your initial investment will definitely cost you more than than a box of Tampax. But if you compare the cost to that of the gigantic box of tampons from your local warehouse club, you’ll feel less of a financial pinch.
Here are the most common reusable menstrual products, as well as where to find them.
Reusable Cloth Pads
I first heard about these pads years ago from my mother’s eco-friendly co-op.
Cloth pads are similar in style to conventional maxi pads, but they stay attached to your underwear with a snap rather than adhesive. You can use a cloth pad for about five years or 60 uses, whichever comes first.
Look for sellers online, and check Etsy and Amazon. And you’re not doomed to wearing full-coverage underwear, either: Party In My Pants even offers a thong liner ($9.99) for light days!
My introduction to menstrual cups came when I won a Keeper Cup in a blog giveaway six years ago.
It’s a small rubber cup you fold and place in your body to collect fluid. You can wear a menstrual cup all day and it’s easy to clean, especially if you have a sink within reach.
Best of all, you only need one, and since they last up to 10 years, there’s really no need to get another unless you find it uncomfortable. Mine still looks as new as it did the day I got it, and while I’d like one in a cuter color, my frugal nature won’t let me toss out a perfectly good product that retails at $35.
Besides the Keeper Cup and its silicone counterpart, the Moon Cup, you’ll find similarly designed menstrual cups such as the Diva Cup, Lunette or Eva Cup, as well as many other options. Most cups come in two sizes: one for women who’ve had a vaginal delivery and one for those who haven’t been pregnant or have only had C-sections.
If you’re curious about menstrual cups, you can learn more from this active LiveJournal community. Members discuss how to use them, the proper size to choose, the intricacies of how the brands differ from one another, and various folding techniques, and are generally happy to respond to questions.
You’re looking at a $25 to $40 investment every time you buy a menstrual cup.
Although some manufacturers suggest replacing your cup annually for sanitary reasons, others note that with proper care, a cup can last 10 years, and many users agree. I wash mine daily and clean it in boiling water each month.
Sea Sponge Tampons
Say what? That was my first reaction when I read about sea sponge tampons.
These sponges are harvested from the ocean in a sustainable manner and are carefully inspected before being sold for personal care use.
One benefit to using sea sponges over other reusable options is that you can be intimate while wearing them. However, you do need to change the sponges more frequently than you do a menstrual cup, and it’s a tad messier, which might be off-putting to some.
You’ll want to clean your sea sponges in water mixed with a little baking soda, apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil.
How Much Money Can You Save With Reusable Menstrual Products?
Using Jezebel’s estimate of $120 a year, the average woman spends about $10 a month on pads and tampons. Here’s what you’d spend if you switched to one of these reusable products:
- A menstrual cup could cost you between 20 and 33 cents per month, averaged over its 10-year life. Even if you replace your cup every year, the cost would work out to between $2 and $3.30 a month. Total savings: $80 to $116
- A three-pack of sea sponges from Etsy breaks down to between $0.72 and $1.44 a month, depending on how often you replace them. Total savings: $102 to $111
- A set of five cloth pads, at about $10 per pad, will cost you just $0.83 a month if you use them for five years. Total savings: $110
What could you do with an extra $100? It’s not a huge sum, but I’d definitely rather have it in my pocket than in the trash.
Your Turn: Have you tried reusable menstrual products? How much have they helped you save?
Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.
Charlotte Edwards is a freelance personal finance and parenting writer whose work has appeared in Incomes Abroad, We the Savers, and My Kids’ Adventures. She’s the wife of a great penny-pinching guy, and mom of two kiddos who are learning about saving and wise spending by earning commission for housework.