Are You Using Too Much? Cut Back on These Products To Cut Costs

Using too much of anything is a waste of money. See if you’re using too much of these everyday household products then cut back to cut costs and find savings.

by Andrea Norris-McKnight
Are You Using Too Much photo

If you’re looking for ways to trim expenses, the age-old saying “a little goes a long way” couldn’t be more helpful. A surprisingly simple yet often overlooked way to save is to cut back on the amount of everyday products you use. You might not realize it, but there’s a good chance you’re using more of some products than you actually need.

Let’s consider some common household products and discover how to cut costs by cutting back. Keep in mind that cutting back on just one or two of these areas won’t save you much, but combined, the savings will add up over time. You’ll also find tips from other Dollar Stretchers who have successfully cut usage and costs.

Laundry Detergent: The Suds Misconception

More suds don’t clean clothes more effectively. Overusing detergent can actually leave residue on your clothes and harm your washing machine over time. Pay attention to usage instructions on product packaging to ensure you aren’t using too much or use these recommended amounts from The Spruce.

Stick to the recommended amount for overly soiled clothing, towels or bedding. For normal loads, experiment using a fourth to a third less, or consider this tip from one of our readers:

“You can save detergent simply by using much less, but I have been using an old “grandma’s tip” for years. I put a cup of white vinegar into my wash, along with a small amount of detergent. The vinegar cleans whites, darks and colors so much better and deodorizes them, too. Needless to say, vinegar is dirt cheap. Pardon the pun!”

If you use detergent pods, you might consider switching to powdered or liquid detergent so you have control over how much you use.

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Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets: Just a Soft Touch

Like laundry detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets are often used more generously than necessary.

A small capful of fabric softener is usually sufficient to soften and freshen clothes. However, depending on the hardness of your water and the type of clothing you’re washing, you may find you get the same results using less softener.

When it comes to dryer sheets, one sheet is typically enough for a standard load of laundry. Using more can leave a residue on your clothes and inside your dryer, which might reduce its efficiency over time. Many Dollar Stretchers have found that half a dryer sheet works just as well as a full sheet, especially when drying smaller loads. Here’s another reader testimony:

“Some people cut their dryer sheets into two or four parts to save money. I cut my dryer sheets into 1/2-inch strips along the longer edge. The dryer sheets that I use are 9″ x 6,” so I get eighteen 6″ strips out of each sheet. I learned this when listening to a radio program from a manufacturer’s rep who was on the program. The best part is I bought the 240-count box of dryer sheets with a $1 off coupon that was doubled!”

Dish Detergent: No Bubble Overload

Dish detergent is another overuse culprit. Whether it’s liquid soap for handwashing or pods for the dishwasher, using too much doesn’t equate to cleaner dishes. It just leads to more rinse cycles and wasted product. Measure according to the load size and soil level — your dishes will be spotless, and your detergent will last longer.

“I used to go through a bottle or two of dish detergent a month washing just pots, pans, knives and items too large to fit in my dishwasher. I bought a decorative hand soap dispenser that matched the decor of my kitchen and poured my dish detergent in it. Now, when I am handwashing an item, I get one squirt (or two for a large item.) The bottle now lasts me six months or more, and my sink area is not littered with a detergent bottle.”

“I thought I was using too much detergent in my dishwasher. Even when I was careful, pouring dry powder was hard to control. I called my water company and found the number of grains of “hardness,” and I found I only needed to use 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of detergent. Using a small clear plastic cup, I measured the two tablespoons and marked the cup. Now, I pour the detergent into the cup and from the cup into the dispenser. That way, I have much better control over the amount, and it is surprising how much longer a box of detergent lasts!”

Paper Goods: Roll With Moderation

Toilet paper is a delicate topic, but it’s worth mentioning. Being mindful of how much you use per visit can lead to significant savings over time. Consider folding instead of wadding to get the most out of each roll. Make sure you teach kids how much is enough, as they are a likely source of paper waste.

Perhaps you buy paper towels with half-size perforations, but even half a towel is too much for many jobs. Try cutting some of those half-sheets in half or cut full sheets into fourths. To cut back considerably on paper towel usage, keep reusable cloths handy for family members to use for spills and cleaning.

Toothpaste: Pea-sized Precision

Toothpaste commercials often depict a brush full of paste, but in reality, a pea-sized amount is just right for effective cleaning (source: Using more doesn’t enhance the cleaning power and only wastes your toothpaste. Plus, it’s better for young kids who are still mastering the art of spitting it out.

Mouthwash: Measure to Freshen

Mouthwash is another dental product where using too much can be unnecessarily expensive. Perhaps you just pour whatever amount into your mouth straight from the bottle.

Stick to the amount recommended on the packaging and measure out each usage. Or experiment with using just a little less. You might find you get the same fresh breath and dental benefits.

If you’re unsure about using less mouthwash or a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, check with your dentist at your next visit.

Shampoo and Conditioner: Scalp and Strand Economy

Shampoo and conditioner are easy to overdo, especially with the luxurious lather and creamy textures. However, excessive amounts can weigh down your hair and lead to buildup.

Unless you have very long hair, a dollop about the size of a quarter is usually enough to cleanse and condition most hair types efficiently. Experiment with the amounts you use to determine how little is required for your head and hair.

Some of our readers have recommended diluting shampoos, conditioners, soaps and similar products with water — by as much as 50%. Once again, experiment to determine what works best for you.

Salad Dressing: Dress, Don’t Drown

Salads are a healthy choice, but overdoing the dressing can add unnecessary calories and costs. Do you often finish a salad and find the bottom of the bowl still filled with dressing?

Instead of pouring directly from the bottle, try measuring out your dressing or using a side dish for dipping. You’ll likely use less and enjoy the taste more.

Using Less Means Saving More

Cutting back on these everyday products saves money and aligns with a more sustainable and mindful lifestyle. The mentioned products are just to get you started. Evaluate your usage of cleaning products, soaps, lotions, shaving creams, skincare products, hair styling products and any other products that may allow you to use less and still get the job done.

Start noticing how much you’re using, compare it with the recommended amounts, and adjust accordingly. You might be surprised at how these small changes can add up to big savings over time.

Reviewed April 2024

About the Author

Andrea Norris-McKnight took over as the editor of The Dollar Stretcher and After 50 Finances after working under the site founder and previous editor for almost 15 years. She has also written for,, and The Sacramento Bee.

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