The other day I read that Mother Teresa used to have her daughter Missionaries of Charity wash each morning with a sliver of soap from a bar that had been divided six ways and brush their teeth with cold ashes from the stove.

I am SO with her! Think of the yearly toothpaste savings (though realizing them would take awhile as I would first have to buy a stove, I guess wood to burn in it, and a house to put it in).

This in turn put me in mind of dental floss, the cost of which has long been a personal pet peeve. What, is the stuff spun by eunuch silkworms? It’s THREAD, for heaven’s sake! Tell me three hundred yards doesn’t cost about .00008 cents! Tell me the inventor of Glide isn’t sitting in a Frank Lloyd Wright mansion with his or her own personal in-house dentist, laughing his or her way to the bank while we peons down below saw away with our overpriced length of cheap cotton…

But it was while trolling the aisles of Rite-Aid recently that an outrageous markup, an unconscionable profit margin, a staggering cost of daily life to which I had hitherto given scant thought was borne in upon me.

I refer of course to toilet paper. $8.69 plus (almost 10%) tax for 12 rolls of Simplify, the cheapest brand on the shelf. Are they hand-pressing the stuff from Egyptian papyrus now?

There has got to be a cheaper way, I thought, and  came right home and googled “industrial toilet paper.”  Maybe I could go with those gigantic rolls they have in airports and office buildings, I mused. Of course since my TP then wouldn’t fit in a regular holder I’d have to let it sit there on the floor dripping water on it as I emerged from the shower and also, if someone came to visit, reveal that I’m insane. Still, I’ve gone to greater lengths than that to save a buck.

Anyway, who knew there’s a whole world out there of janitorial supplies? On Cleanit, for example, you can buy 60 rolls of Scott Extra Soft for $48.86, 10 4-packs of Charmin Ultra Soft for $36.94, or–this last really caught my eye–24 rolls of Windsoft 2-ply “Recycled” for $11.76.

I must say, though, the description gave me pause: “Premium wrapper adds an upscale touch to any facility. Brighter and whiter…Safe for sewer and septic systems. Individually wrapped…Softer and more absorbent toilet tissue provides ‘at-home quality’. Meets EPA guidelines for post-consumer content. 40% post-consumer waste content”…

Post-consumer waste content“? Is it made from other people’s…? GROSS! Probably all TP is, and probably half our food, but if so I REALLY don’t want to know. More to the point, 60 rolls of Scott weigh 16 pounds and cost $9.90 UPS ground to ship, thereby more or less offsetting any savings.

Again, Mother Teresa was ahead of the curve as apparently people in India often just use their hand.

I’m not quite ready for that. But I did happen upon the wikipedia entry for toilet paper which is highly entertaining and contains some atypical “personal opinion”; to wit: “Toilet paper is a soft paper product (tissue paper) used to maintain personal hygiene after human defecation or urination. However, it can also be used for other purposes such as blowing one’s nose when one has a cold or absorbing common spills around the house, although paper towels are more used for this particular purpose.”

What??! People don’t use paper towels to absorb common spills! They use their shirt sleeve, or the hem of their hoodie!

Anyway, you can also learn on this wiki entry about hygiene during the Tang Dynasty; the use of wool, hemp, lace (!), sand, seaweed, and corncobs as TP substitutes; TP ply, pattern, and dispensers; and the Whole World Toilet Paper Museum.

So there’s my latest budget-tip foray. Writing it up was much more fun than looking for a job.

Have a great weekend!


  1. Forgive a two part comment:

    I suspect The Hidden Cost of Living pales in comparison to The Hidden Cost of Dying.
    Few of us consider the costs.

    She began a blog in December a few years ago, revealing that she had Multiple Sclerosis, and found out the month before. Her work in television locally ended due to budget cuts.

    Soon, she revealed she was a ten year survivor of cancer. MS seemed harder to cope; it does not end.

    Within a year, we exchanged posts and comments of encouragement, for I found recent deafness similar in disability to MS…neither is seen by the public, and thus, ignored.

    The following Christmas, her dog of ten years died.
    She wrote of her new job as Executive Secretary and I knew the spot and stopped in to introduce a virtual friend, as a real friend. She wrote of me teaching her about Sign Language the next day.

    The husband who stood by in all the cancer found a new woman half her age, and about the age of his college daughters. The divorce was swift.
    I wrote her a comment that Annette Funicello had MS and went through a divorce. Most would suspect the MS her worst incident, but Annette could not cope with single parenting and wrote that her divorce was worse than MS.

    The President of the University climbed to a higher job and she was again without work. She had just purchased a home closer to the college, and now had Hidden Costs of Living…..many.

    Her blog disappeared and I emailed her personally to inquire why. Her new employer in NYC would not allow blogging by employees, and a new life was being carved out of the old in this new job….with MS, without a hubby. She told me her biggest surprise as blogger was having total strangers pray for her.
    I smiled at that! The prayers continue.

    I came back to my hometown to take care of my mom. Her request.
    We were in Oregon and she said she could no longer fly to varied siblings of mine. She could not be left alone either as she passed out in diabetic coma; her home was sold.

    I said I would get my car in Florida and leave my household in storage and get us a spot in Pennsylvania and take care of her.
    It was all set and she was to come home on the day before her birthday. Ten siblings would gather for the party of Four Score and Seven Years of Life by mom.
    A stroke that weekend in Oregon was fatal. She held on at my sister's home and died on her own birthday….precisely at the moment of her birth.

  2. part 2 of comment

    I looked for furnishings prior to her death, as my own was in Florida. A household sale was underway and I pulled in. An old, old woman was moving and all contents were being sold. EVERYTHING!
    She watched as total strangers placed little value on her items of great worth to her; it was bargain hunting for all.

    I noticed the catholic icons all over the walls….ignored by all. Her head lifted and her eyes widened each time someone went near her catholic wall items…, rosaries, the Cross and more.

    I asked which was her favorite quilt in a bedroom, and she showed me it. I paid full price and she smiled the first time. In another room, I found a picture of a road lined with yellow-gold leaves and aspen trees brilliant white in sunshine, dropping their leaves in abundance. I took it off the wall and read:
    "Life's Lessons"….the title under the picture.
    Her eyes watched me read:

    After a while you learn the difference
    between holding a hand and chaining
    a soul. You learn that love isn't leaning
    but lending support. You begin to accept
    your defeats with the grace of an adult,
    not the grief of a child. You decide to
    build your roads on today, for tomorrow's
    ground is too uncertain. You help someone
    plant a garden instead of waiting for
    someone to bring you flowers. You learn
    that God has given you the strength to
    endure and that you really do have worth.
    Author Unknown

    I asked the old woman, being marginalized by all bargain hunters in her home, how much the picture was. She asked if I would pay $2.
    The picture on her wall called Life's Lessons now hangs on my wall above my laptop…..a reminder of the eliciting of a smile for so little a price.

    The Hidden Costs of Dying are never totaled as we count the Hidden Cost of Living instead.

    I thought my mom would like the quilt.
    She never saw it.

    Today, I learned you need a job. Me too!
    Folks do not hire deaf people, regardless of skills.
    So I will pray that you get a job …divinely appointed.
    I have found that joys shared are doubled, and sorrows shared are cut in half.
    A Life Lesson.

    My joy will be answered when you write of what God has done for you. Expect a miracle!
    Last I heard, they are STILL His specialty!

  3. That was a JOKE, Danny. I have a job. I write.

  4. Anonymous says: Reply

    What a coincidence! Just this evening, a neighbor read me the Asher Yatzar from her copy of Judaism for Dummies.

  5. Oh YIKES! The JOKE is on me.

    Please remove my first double comment and this one.
    Let your message speak for itself.

    Best regards,

  6. Danny, I know you understand that I can't respond at length to each comment, but of course I wish you the very best in your own job search and I love your writing out this story. Re miracles, I just read last night in Msgr. Luigi Giussani's At the Origin of the Christian Claim: "What suddenly struck Zacchaeus? What made him run joyfully home? Was he making plans for his vast wealth? Did he want to generously return his ill-gotten gains to give half of his goods to the poor? What shook him and changed him? Quite simply, he had been penetrated and captured by a gaze that recognized him and loved him for what he was. The ability to take hold of the heart of a man is the greatest, most persuasive miracle of all"…

    Bill–this is genius, the Asher Yatzar! We MUST reconcile, the Christian and the Jew…

  7. I'd like to add a remark to Danny's post: That (beautiful) poem, "After A While" is not anonymous, but was written by Veronica Shoffstall. Totally off point, but I had researched this long ago and found this intersting link, where Veronica claims the poem and expresses her wonderment at how many people have used and changed this poem:

    Anyway, Heather: At the risk of being an enabler for your extreme budget habits, I think you might find this interesting: Google "Zeer Pot $5 Refrigeration Without Electricity" and you should see an article posted on '' describing how you can make your own non-electric 'refrigerator' using two clay pots and some sand. I am not a survivalist, or 'prepper' as they call themselves, but I stumbled onto this blog while doing research for a piece I'm writing and have since read many fascinating articles.

  8. I have said too much on this blog already, and indeed, even asked my comments be removed.
    I spoke at a joke unawares, uninformed, new here, and learning.

    I followed the link from Theresa on Veronica Shoffstall.
    It is my feeling that anyone who posts they love "The Pearl" by John Steinbeck is a quality person to know.
    That would be Theresa (presumably her name…as fiction was everywhere I read on her blog—briefly).
    I loved The Pearl from long ago.

    The link provided by Theresa shows Veronica staking her claim, but the Author's Note: at the top is alarmingly at variance with the calmness of the poem. I found it hard to believe this person was one and the same……as if a gentle old man in a park, caned pigeons that approached him, when he thought no one was looking.

    But Veronica takes full credit on her LinkedIn page:

    Her noting her poem is all the way at the bottom of the LinkedIn page. Scroll down.

    But there are many versions, even under HER name. That surprised me. Titles vary too.

    My own copy, matted and framed is old, old, old with rusty old time nails holding it all together. I am half tempted to open the frame and matting to see what I can see.

    But a serendipity also occurred with this gal.
    You can read her work in a church organization in NYC by clicking Company Website on her LinkedIn page. She has 3 links to view.

    But something nagged me on this name.
    Then it clicked!!!

    Today, Friday, October 14, 2011, I read the New York Times online early this am.

    Guess whose name is in the NYT today?
    Serendipity occurred here:

    Veronica has spent the last couple of decades publishing her church things (Baha'i faith) at the UN, in NYC.

    Small world.
    Attribution is critical.
    Indeed, this day, a journalist was fired at Politico for plagiarism.

    Thanks for the tip, Theresa.
    If I ever claw all those rusty nails off "Life Lessons" by Author Unknown on my wall, I will pen in Veronica…..especially after her open-oven-door-and-feel major-heat blast that Veronica makes under "Author's Note" in Theresa's link.

    Enjoy your weekend ladies!

  9. (the Daughters of Charity are a different order. M.Teresa's are the "Missionaries of Charity")

    How about a little bucket of water next to the toilet a la Asia-style?

  10. Whoops, thanks, Claire, changed it. A little bucket of water, Asian-style is one idea….with lizards running up and down the walls like when I visited my brother in Thailand…And Theresa–the zeer pot! Two terra cotta pots and some sand for a $5 fridge! I'm thinking what could you fit in it, though?…Also, my budget habits are kept from being too extreme by the fact that they're pretty much based on my desire to spend the maximum time possible per day doing what I love. I am way too impatient (among other things) to stockpile survivor supplies…

  11. Greg C., I accidentally deleted your comment question re the billboard: (smart phone requires toothpick fingers! hit publish and delete occurred…) I don't know who sponsors it but will check the fine print next time I walk by…

  12. Greg, True Panther Sounds. Ironically enough, underneath says Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and then underneath True Panther Sounds. I haven't checked it/them out…maybe they're NOT being ironic…