9 Everyday Items You’ll Pay for Once and Reuse Forever

We stitched thousands of product photos together to make this video comparing the prices of reusable and disposable products. The costs reflect 2019 prices. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Saving the planet doesn’t always come cheap.

Many of the disposable products we use and love are easier to buy at lower prices than their reusable counterparts.

But the convenience of disposable products often comes at a steep cost to the environment. Plastic bags and straws pollute the ocean and end up being ingested by sea animals. Disposable diapers take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills.

Reusable products often cost more up front, but you may be surprised to find out how soon they end up paying for themselves since you can use them again and again instead of buying more of the disposable versions.

9 Reusable Products That Will Save You Money Over Time

We took nine household products, searched for both reusable and disposable versions on Amazon and compared the costs. Here’s how they stacked up.

Editor’s note: The prices in this post are valid as of April 8, 2021.

1. Straws

A stainless steel straw costing $0.50 (or $7.99 for a set of 16), is equal to the cost of about eight disposable straws at 6 cents each. That means that after eight uses, the reusable straw has essentially paid for itself — plus you’ve got 15 more left over.

2. Water Bottles

One reusable water bottle costing $16.30 is nearly equal to the cost of 20 single-use water bottles at 83 cents each.

Translation: Refill your bottle 20 times and then you’re done paying for water entirely.

Reusable sandwich bags and disposable sandwich bags are pictured side-by-side.
Reusable sandwich bags (left) and disposable sandwich bags. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

3. Sandwich Bags

This set of 10 reusable, resealable bags costs $13.98, while a box of 150 Ziploc bags runs about $12.99.

Think about it this way: You’ll only spend about a dollar more for the reusable set, but you’ll continue to get use out of them while their throwaway counterparts would just become trash. One reusable bag can be used more than 300 times.

4. Diapers

Diaper prices can vary widely. For example, cheap (read: leaky) store-brand diapers cost just a few cents each, while a box of Pampers can set you back nearly $25. The same is true of cloth diapers.

For this comparison, take a cloth diaper costing about $4.66 and a disposable diaper at 30 cents each. The cloth diaper has paid for itself after 16 diaper changes.

Multiply that over two years of a child’s life before potty training, and there are major savings to be had by reusing cloth diapers — many of which are adjustable to keep up with your baby’s growth.

5. Paper Towels

One cloth kitchen towel at $1.50 is less than the cost of one family-sized roll of paper towels at a cost of $2.17 per roll. Enough said.

6. K-Cups

Did you even know there was a reusable alternative to those little pods of delectable, life-giving coffee? There totally is!

While a box of 40 Starbucks K-Cups will set you back $33.49 (OUCH), a set of four reusable pods that you just refill with your favorite ground coffee runs $9.95.

Dryer balls and dryer sheets are pictured.
Reusable dryer balls, left, and disposable dryer sheets. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

7. Dryer Balls

If you’ve never heard of dryer balls, they’re little wool balls about the size of a tennis ball that you throw in your dryer with your wet laundry in place of fabric-softening dryer sheets. Because the wool can absorb some moisture from your clothes, manufacturers claim they cut down on energy use and drying time.

They can also save you some pennies. A set of six reusable wool dryer balls costs $9.97, while a box of 240 disposable dryer sheets costs just about a dollar less — but you’ll have to restock once you use them all.

8. Razors

Razors are synonymous with disposable. A package of 24 of the plastic ones: $18.99. A single chrome reusable safety razor (that will make you feel like Don Draper): $14.66.

You do have to replace the blade on the reusable one. Don’t worry, they’re cheap. A box of 100 is $6.99 — about 7 cents each.

9. Feminine Products

Listen up, gal pals. We’re here to tell you that you are not — we repeat, NOT — doomed to pay an exorbitant monthly fee for tampons and liners and pads (not to mention Midol).

With a box of 40 tampons costing $12.25 and 66 pads ringing in at $6.38 times every month of your adult life, it’s … a lot. So consider this: One pair of Thinx period underwear is $23, and a Diva cup is $32.99.

That’s a considerable up-front cost, but these products — and really all reusable replacements — are all about long-term savings.

Not to mention tossing a little less waste in the landfill.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Senior editor Molly Moorhead contributed to this report.