Bang for your buck: small purchases that have a big impact

tiny present

The crux of the Money chapter in Minimalist Parenting is how to assign value to the costs in your life so you know where to focus your spending.

Trent at The Simple Dollar gives a good example of this thinking as it applies to his grocery shopping.

Sounds great in theory, but day-to-day spending choices get complicated.

You're busy, time is at a premium, someone's tugging at the hem of your shirt…and sometimes throwing money at a nagging problem is the best way to solve it.

The time-trumps-money choice shouldn't be a knee-jerk reaction because it can be expensive, and because you and your kids will miss out on the motivation to creatively solve problems together. But in some cases, a strategic purchase will simplify your life, reduce daily stress, and let you move on to more important things.

As an example, here are few small purchases (in the scheme of things) that have paid surprisingly big dividends for me.

Label maker

At Amazon: DYMO Letratag  Plus Personal Label Maker, LT-100T (affiliate link)This will come as no surprise to my regular readers. I LOVE MY LABEL MAKER, and I'm not a particularly organized, systems-oriented person. (But I wish I were, which may be part of the appeal.)

My usual internal dialogue would go something like, why buy a label maker when I could just write on those old mailing labels shoved in the back of my filing cabinet? Why, indeed? Because the results look messy, and because I never followed through!

With my labeler in hand, not only is it FUN to organize things, my kids are dying to help. Worth its weight in gold.

Pictured here: Dymo Letratag Personal Labeler. I chose it because my grocery store sells refills that regularly go on sale.

Toilet roll stand

At Amazon: Umbra Teardrop Die-Cast Metal Toilet Paper Reserve (affiliate link)Certain people in my household "don't notice" when they use the last of the toilet paper, or else "forget" to replace it. This used to happen with enough regularity (pun absolutely intended) that steam would come out of my ears.

This less-than-$20 purchase solved the problem. Toilet paper is now neatly stacked next to the toilet making it a) blindingly easy to replace and b) obvious when running low.

Pictured hereUmbra Die Cast Metal Toilet Roll Stand. I bought a similar item at IKEA, but I can't find a picture online.

Extra flatware

At Amazon: IKEA Bonus flatware (16 piece set) (affiliate link)We recently had a bunch of guests in town. I have a dwindling flatware collection, most likely because I throw forks and spoons into my kids' lunchboxes and they sometimes go missing.

Rather than get a bunch of disposable stuff (the waste makes me sad, and I don't like eating off of plastic), I bought a super-cheap set of stainless steel flatware. It's not beautiful, but it saved me from having to constantly raid the dishwasher and hand wash forks while the crowds ate meals.

I also now have cheap silverware I can throw into lunchboxes that I won't miss when it goes missing.

Pictured here: IKEA Bonus flatware

There are many more items I could list, but you get the idea. Your list will certainly look different, but hopefully this will inspire you to think about those niggly problems that keep snagging your week.

Is there an inexpensive fix that will solve the problem?


  • This works better with money on hand (debit) than money you borrow (credit). Growing debt often creates more stress than the problem you're trying to solve.
  • The problem you're solving needs to be disruptive enough that it's worth paying a premium to solve quickly.
  • Ideally, the solution you're paying for should be long-term, not just a one-time fix.
  • ALL caveats should be taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes you just do what you gotta do.
  • Keep your receipts; most purchases can be returned if you find a better solution.

Tiny Present photo credit: Fazen via flickr

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  1. says

    For me it was having an extra breast pump plus extra bottles that I kept at work. Totally worth the hassle of not lugging everything back and forth each day/remembering to bring all the little parts. Once a week I’d take all the washable parts home and throw them in the dishwasher, but otherwise I kept them in my office mini-fridge with the milk and use the microwave sterilizing bags.

    I was able to get it secondhand from a trusted friend, so it wasn’t too expensive, either.

  2. says

    One thing I recently bought that fits into this (inexpensive and long-term fix) category: an inverted bottle holder. While totally unnecessary, it enables me to get that last bit of lotion out of the bottle. Here’s an example of the gadget, which I bought on impulse at Walgreens because I had been dealing with the very problem it solved:

  3. says

    Here’s a time-saver that doesn’t actually cost anything! There is a new app available for iPhones called Ringya. It transforms contact lists into mobile lists and saves time, effort, and sanity (and even trees!). So, if you are stuck in traffic and need to contact the parent of your child’s classmates/teammates/friends, or even your own work colleagues, you can have the information at your fingertips, stored in your phone, without cluttering up your contact list. Plus, it gives you the context of the contact in case they call you and you don’t recognize the name or number right away.

    All you do is take a picture of, say, a class list (with names, and phone numbers) or email it to Ringya, and the app creates a mobile contact list with the context included. Easy! And, its free. It’s a great app for busy moms!

    You can check out for more information.