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. And there are plenty that I’ve not shared for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they don’t work.
Some don’t work so poorly, they actually end up costing time and money, not saving anything. One of those tips still makes me laugh. It goes like this:
“Start with two empty toilet paper tubes and a new roll of 2-ply toilet tissue. Carefully separate the two layers of toilet tissue, re-rolling each of the layers onto an empty tube to create—ta-da!—two rolls of 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, the result is a ginormous, ridiculous mess of toilet tissue that is so thin, it takes at least twice as much to get the job done.
Don’t do that, OK? Instead, learn how to comparison shop for toilet tissue. And when you find it on sale at a great price, which means much lower than its regular price—not simply a SALE sign, stock up.
Comparing prices on toilet paper is 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.
Some companies offer double-rolls, jumbo rolls or even 1000-sheet rolls—all of which are pretty meaningless when trying to make a reasonable price comparison. Same with comparing the number of sheets per roll.
There is no set size for a sheet of toilet paper! To make things even more confusing, some rolls are 2-ply (layers), super ultra-plush with 3-ply while others a skimpy 1- or sometimes referred to as single-ply.
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Price-per-square-foot for thick (3-ply), regular (2-ply) or thin (1-ply) is the most reliable method for comparing toilet paper prices. Most manufacturers these days reveal both of these measurements on the product label. You may have to search for it, but somewhere you should be able to find this.
Do the math
So you thought all those math classes you took in school were for naught? Finally, they’re about to pay off. The goal is to discover the price per square foot (denoted as “sq ft” or “ft2”) of the products you are comparing. Do this by dividing the price of the product by the total number of square feet.
If the product label reveals the number of square feet contained therein, you’re in luck. Do the math.
If the label shows how many square inches of the product are contained in the package, divide that number by 144 to get to the number of square feet. Now divide that number of square feet into the price.
If the store’s shelf label reveals the price per 100 sq. ft., divide that price by 100 to get the price of one square foot.
As I write, Costco’s Kirkland brand two-ply toilet tissue in the 30-roll package contains a total of 1,594 sq. feet of product for $15.99, or $0.01 per sq. ft. ($16 ÷ 1,594 = 0.01).
Right next to that brand is the Charmin 30-roll package of 2-ply containing 865 sq. ft. of paper, for $21.99, or $0.025 per sq. ft. ($21.99 ÷ 865 = $0.0254).
Given those two choices, it’s a no-brainer which is cheaper: one penny versus two-and-a-half pennies per sq. ft.? Easy! Kirkland brand toilet tissue wins big in this comparison. The store’s labels make it easy to compare because both of these products are two-ply. (Wish getting a good photo were as easy.)
Once you know to compare the price of toilet paper by the square foot, it will be simple to know with certainty which toilet paper is the best deal on any given day. It doesn’t matter if you’re comparing a 30-roll package of ultra-soft jumbo two-ply product with one that’s 4-rolls of single-ply. The price per square foot will give you the answer you’re looking for.
It’s not all about math
While toilet tissue is one of life’s necessities, author Linda Wright has found a way to elevate it to an art form. Toilet Paper Origami on a Roll is one of my favorite books. It’s a step-by-step guide to folding toilet tissue into flourishes and shapes to create a beautiful bow, elegant swan and so much more.