The date was May 1, 2011. I was 40 weeks pregnant – any of you who have ever been pregnant or lived with a pregnant woman know that they use a lot of toilet paper. We were down to the very last roll in my house, not a good thing when you have one heavily pregnant woman and one potty-training toddler. So, I decided to go shopping.

(A note to all men out there: do not let your pregnant wives or girlfriends go shopping on their due date – they’re too hormonal and it will cause nothing but trouble.)

I scanned the Sunday circulars to see which grocery stores and pharmacies had toilet paper on sale. Walgreens? Check! CVS? Check! Target? Check! Harris Teeter? Check! Three stops later, I’d hit the toilet paper trifecta:

  • Walgreens: The 24-roll pack of Scott was on sale for $4.99, plus $4 in Register Rewards from a previous purchase. Factoring in the two $1 off coupons I’d clipped from the Sunday paper, I spent a total of $3.98 for two 24-packs, or a mere eight cents a roll.
  • Target: The house brand Up&Up 4-roll packs of toilet paper were on sale for $0.89 each. I had two online coupons from the Target website that gave me $3 off any Up&Up purchase. I bought a total of eight four-packs (divided between two sales, so I could use both coupons) for just $1.12, or an impressive three cents a roll.
  • Harris Teeter: The sale was buy one, get one on the 12-roll packs of Charmin Basic. I had a rain check from a previous sale that let me buy up to four rolls for just $3.99 each. On face value, it wasn’t a great deal – until I remembered that it was triple coupon week at the store, meaning my four $0.75 off one coupons were actually worth $2.25 each. Score! I ended up buying all four packs for -$1.02 (unfortunately, Harris Teeter doesn’t give overages, so they were simply free).

Yes, it was the motherload of all toilet paper shopping sprees. In all, I’d purchased a whopping 128 rolls of toilet paper for just $5.10 out of pocket. I happily brought my purchases home, stacked them into neat piles in my garage, and all but forgot about them the next afternoon when my water broke.

It wasn’t until I returned from the hospital with my baby boy that I realized the error of my ways: in my effort to buy as much toilet paper for as little money as possible, I’d overlooked what kind of toilet paper I was buying. Blame it on my hormones, my anxiety over my impending delivery, or just pregnancy brain, but instead of buying our normal 2-ply toilet paper, I’d purchased 128 rolls of 1-ply bath tissue. Or, as my husband started to refer to my cache, gas station toilet paper.

It chafed his bottom, he’d complain.

It didn’t really hold up to wiping, he’d whine.

He felt like he was using the bathroom at the Speedway down the street, he’d lament.

Ten months later, our son is now crawling, eating solid foods, and sleeping through the night. His three-year-old sister is now completely potty trained. And we are still using the 1-ply toilet paper I bought back on the first day of May – in fact, we’re down to our last Up&Up four-roll pack from Target. (You may be thinking, they’ve gone through 124 rolls of toilet paper in ten months? Yes, I’m aware that’s roughly a fresh roll every 2-3 days – you try living with an independent-minded three-year-old who thinks playing with the toilet paper roll is the most fun part of using the bathroom!)

Was it worth it? If you were simply looking at how to be frugal, the answer would be yes. Factor in the roughly 300 days since my toilet paper shopping spree and the $5.10 I spent on it, and you’re looking at one to two cents a day – that’s hard to beat. But there’s a difference between being frugal and being insane – and, as my husband would argue, using abrasive, flimsy, gas station-grade toilet paper to wipe his nether regions goes beyond frugal and into the realm of cheap.

Suffice it to say, the next time I want to learn how to be frugal, I’ll be buying 2-ply instead.

What are some of your most extreme purchases in the pursuit of being frugal?

Libby Balke

Libby Balke