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“Everyday Cheapskate”

Posted on Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 11:52 am

Calculate and compare toilet paper

everyday cheapskate - mary huntSYNDICATED COLUMNIST

mary hunt

Over the years I’ve received thousands of money-saving tips from readers — many of which I’ve shared in books, newsletters and this column. I haven’t shared plenty of other tips for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I’ve found they don’t work. Some don’t work so much that they actually end up costing time and money, not saving!

One of those useless tips still makes me laugh. It goes like this:

Start with two empty toilet paper tubes and one new roll of two-ply toilet paper. Carefully separate the two layers of toilet paper, re-rolling each of the layers onto an empty tube to create — ta-da! — two rolls of toilet paper for the price of one.

Not only does this take an unbelievable amount time (unless you own a toilet tissue rolling machine of some kind); but doing so results in a ginormous mess of toilet paper that is so thin it takes at least twice as many squares to get the job done.

Don’t do that, OK? Instead, learn how to price compare for toilet paper. And stock up when you find it on sale.

NO STANDARDIZATION. Comparing the prices of toilet paper can be confusing because no two rolls or packages are alike — there are no set standards for toilet paper (and I’m not suggesting there should be). We can’t compare roll-for-roll because roll sizes vary from one manufacturer to another. Companies offer double rolls, jumbo rolls or even 1000-sheet rolls. What’s more, there is no standardized size for a sheet. And to make things even more confusing, rolls vary in layers between single-ply and 2-ply.

UNIT PRICING. The price per square foot for thick (two-ply) or thin (one-ply) toilet paper is the most reliable method for comparing prices. Most manufacturers list both of these measurements on the product label. You may have to search for it, but you should be able to find this information.

DO THE MATH. So you thought all those math classes you took in school were for naught? They’re finally about to pay off. The goal is to discover the price, per square foot, of the products you’re comparing.

Do this by dividing the price of the product by the number of square feet in each roll.

If the product label shows the number of square feet contained therein, you’re in luck. Do the math. If the label shows how many square inches of product are contained in the package, convert that number to square feet by multiplying by 144; then divide that number into the price. If the store’s shelf label reveals the price per 100 square feet, divide that price by 100 to get the price of one square foot.

EXAMPLE. As I write, a 30-roll pack of Costco’s Kirkland brand two-ply toilet paper contains a total of 1,594 square feet of paper for $15.99, or one cent per square foot. Right next to that is the 30-roll package of Charmin two-ply, containing 865 square feet of paper for $21.99, or 2.5 cents per square foot. It’s no-brainer which is cheaper: At 1 penny per square foot versus 2.5 pennies per square foot, the Kirkland brand wins big.

Now that you know how to compare prices of toilet paper, it’s easy to know which toilet paper is the best deal on any given day. The ply and number of rolls don’t matter — the price per square foot is the only number you need.

IT’S NOT ALL MATH. Author Linda Wright has found a way to turn one of life’s necessities to an art form. Her book “Toilet Paper Origami on a Roll” is one of my favorites. It’s a step-by-step guide to folding toilet paper into beautiful flourishes, such as a bow, an elegant swan and so much more. I haven’t mastered this delightful art form yet, but I’m working on it.