Finances & Money

Ways to Save Money #13: Use a Hanky

Continuing with the Ways to Save Money Series, I’d like to present a method of saving money through what some people consider a disgusting method: Using a Handkerchief.

Growing up, I had horrible allergies. The pets (dogs, guinea pigs, iguanas, etc.), smoking parents, moldy basement and the general type of natural airborne allergens from trees, grass and dust contributed to a virtual never-ending snotfest. I suffered so much growing up, and it wasn’t until I left for college that the battle began to subside, and especially when I moved to D.C. to a now smoke-free state.

Because I constantly had a runny nose, I quickly went through whole cases of Kleenex and my parents just couldn’t keep up with me. I wiped my nose on anything I could get my hands on, whether it was my shirt sleeve, paper towels, toilet paper, or the hood on the kid who sat in front of me on the bus (sorry dude, I needed something soft for my nosey). I can’t stress enough how horrible my allergies were growing up and how much it clouded my brain during those years. Most of my memories of my adolescent and teen years tend to gravitate to the misery of 1) being fat and 2) never enjoying life because of my allergies. It really did create a fog over my daily life.

But growing up with my Gram’s house, I eventually picked up one of her habits: using a handkerchief. Granted, she only carried one for the 2-3 times per month that she blew her nose, but for me, I had found a way to reduce my tissue usage to a tenth of the former amounts.

My parents bought me a 10-pack of hankies from the dollar store and washed them first so they softened (that’s an important step!). I then kept one with me at all times. And this is where people tend to get turned off by handkerchiefs. I’ll be blunt. By using a hanky, it means you’re blowing your nose into the same place that you have already used. That’s supposedly why they invented disposable tissues. However, by using creative folding methods, you can reduce reused areas, and honestly I’m not afraid of my own germs.

To this day, I still use a handkerchief. I still keep one in all my coats, in each vehicle I drive, and next to the bed. I don’t need to use it nearly as often as I used to, but I continue to keep my disposable tissue use to a minimum mostly to reduce the waste I contribute to the environment. I have enough hankies (about 15-20) that I can rotate while the others are being washed. Sure, washing and eventually disposing of worn-out hankies impacts the environment too, but I don’t wash the hankies alone, and the hankies are made of biodegradable material.

So whether you suffer from horrible allergies or just need to blow your nose here and there, think about investing in a pack of handkerchiefs from the local dollar store. It’s good for your wallet AND the environment!

About the author

Clever Dude


  • While a good money saving tip, I suppose, I still find the practice disgusting. However, I have the strong opinion that all nose blowing and most wiping should take place while alone and not around others. Wiping/blowing alone + using a ‘hanky’ = A little more tolerable

  • I’m with Stephanie on this. People who blow their nose in the company of others are absolutely gross gross gross. And we are all surrounded by these people. I know it may be inconvenient to you, but please go in the bathroom and don’t do it at the business lunch, office or while you are in conversation with someone.

  • Seriously, who ever has a runny nose? If you have one, it’s for a few reasons. One could be that you’re unhealthy and/or sick. If so, get treatment or start eating right. Second, you live in an area where there is pollution. If so, move. A third possibility is you’re lazy. Anyone that can’t clean out their nose before going out in public is dumb. I can’t remember the last time I blew my nose. I only blow my nose when sick (head cold, sinuses etc.). Also, I always blow my nose in the bathroom if I have to blow it. Stops the spread of germs and other crap. It’s also a courtesy to others. I don’t want to hear what sounds like a horn blowing germs.

  • Tyler: “Who ever has a runny nose?” sure is an odd question. I can tell you I did, so there’s at least one person. I had allergy shots that marginally helped, but I had no control over the allergens. I asked my parents to stop smoking and they refused. I couldn’t control the grass in the public playground near our house, and I couldn’t just up and move when I was 12 years old. And I doubt “eating right” had anything to do with my sinus issues.

    And cleaning out my nose before going out in public is fine, but my sinuses seemed to produce fluid at a rate matching the Mississippi River’s flow, so cleaning it out first would not have helped.

    I can accept the wishes to leave the room before blowing your nose, and from a former heavy nose-blower’s perspective, I never looked at it from that point of view. Good info.

  • I’m with you man! I’ve had a runny nose my entire life. I’m 41 now and I’ve been carrying a handkerchief in my back pocket since I was probably probably in about 7th grade or so.

    Tyler, I’m rather confident that my situation doesn’t fit any of your recommendations. I may be wrong, but I really think that I damaged some tissue back around 7th grade when playing with my chemistry set. The condition doesn’t have a great negative effect on my life. I just carry my “hankie” and wipe it when I need to. My apologies if it has a negative effect on yours.

    Stephanie and Terry, I can see your point of view. However, consider this, sometimes I might need to wipe my nose every two minutes. It’s not like this all the time, but sometimes it is. If you were having dinner with me, would you find it more disgusting for me to just wipe my nose periodically, or for me to get up and run to the bathroom every 60 seconds or so? Or would you find it more disgusting for me to just let it run? I tend to think that periodic wipes is the least disgusting and disruptive option here.

    I’m sure that some folks might say that I just shouldn’t go out in public. That’s the same logic that some people use to make parents of special needs children feel guilty about going out in public. I’m a successful public speaker, business man, and teacher. If I need to wipe my nose while in front of a hundred or more people, I wipe it. Likewise during a business lunch. I feel that it’s the least distracting thing I can do. I’m certainly not going to run off stage 2 dozen times during a talk.

    It’s nice to blow or wipe privately when I can, but it’s not always the best option for everyone. Be careful judging others actions without knowing the full story. A little empathy goes a log way.

    Clever Dude – I thought I was about the only person that ever carried a handkerchief when they were young. Apparently I wasn’t. Thanks for sharing!

  • the same can be said for cloth napkins. Since my family made the switch, we’ve saved $3 a week by not buying paper face wipes. We’re already doing laundry.

    we’ll even reuse them for the second meal of the day if they’re not “that” dirty (oh the horror!!)

  • this brought memories of my grandmother. She constantly carried a hankie, but had the problem of where to store it to keep it handy. Of course she didn’t wear slacks, always a house dress, so the hankie was stuffed either up her sleeve, or down the front of her dress. I love those memories of grandma, even the hankie ones.

  • Great post! I have been using handkerchiefs for about 10 years. Oddly enough, when I was in the Army, they issued us 7 or 14 (I forget how many) handkerchiefs in basic training. Because we were in basic training we were not allowed to wear our “civilian” glasses. So, I had to wear these horrible Army issued glasses. They did not fit and were prone to easy smudging. I always carried a handkerchief in my pocket to wipe/clean my glasses throughout the day.
    I also have been a life-long sufferer of allergies. Mine are all to mostly airborne allergens, like pollen/plants and of course pets. Since I always carried a handkerchief, I found my self using it mostly for covering my mouth when I would sneeze and wiping my nose occasionally.
    I find handkerchiefs have many useful purposes other than just blowing your nose. Sometimes, I will get something on my hand and will use one to wipe it off, rather than spread the dirt to something else. I mainly use mine to cover my mouth and nose when sneezing so I do not sneeze directly into my hand. In the summer, I often use mine to clean sunglasses as well. Cellphone screens wipe off pretty easily as well with one.
    To end on a funny note, does anyone remember the Seinfeld episode, where Elaine’s boss went to a meeting with foreign client’s and was sick? He accidentally left his handkerchief in Elaine’s office and sneezed (into his hands) right before meeting the clients. Because he did not have his handkerchief, he could not “wipe” his hands. He did not want to shake hands with a client after just sneezing in them. Of course the client didn’t understand and took offense to not being greeted properly.

  • HA! You could be describing my nine-year old! He’s gotten to where he won’t use a tissue anymore unless he’s in dire straits – we call it the delicate name of “snot rag.” They’re old burp cloths from when the kids were littler.

    But I must know – how did you make the Nile quit flowing so strong? I would love to clear the snot up from the inside, but for now, we’re just trying to keep the snot from running down his face.

    And I do so wish that I could relate to those without snot issues. I’ve never seen a nose run like my nine-year-old’s. I think he’d give the clever dude a run for his money.

  • fiveberries, I hope you boy can get over those allergies because I can totally understand how it overshadows every little thing you do.

    For me, I went off to college, which meant moving out of my parents’ home. That home was and still is a hotbed for allergens. Between the 2 smoking adults, 2 dogs , moldy basement (they’re in denial about it still) and just the basic types of pollens and molds in the air of central PA, I didn’t have one day of clarity growing up. My allergies reduced during college, but I still hung around smokers every so often and that would affect me for days afterwards.

    Now I live near D.C., on the upwind side, and really don’t have allergy problems except when I go to PA. However, my wife’s allergies are worse down here than they were in PA, but still not bad enough to need a hanky. It’s all in what you’re allergic to and when, and then working to remove those allergens from your life (like old carpets, pets, cigarettes, etc.).

    Good luck!

  • I have to say, GOOD FOR YOU to Clever Dude! Duh, use a handkerchief! Our society thinks everything is so darn disposable. I get so frustrated with the constant barrage of “be afraid” and “kill the germs” and “bacteria bad”. I have three small children and I hope to raise them with the understanding that resources are FINITE! I say to Stephanie, Terry, and Tyler, please, please get over your ridiculous fear of peer pressure and buy reusable handkerchiefs!!

  • I took had endless childhood years with a running nose and/or sneezing.

    Things improved tremedously when
    – drastic cut back of oil from my diet. includes oily stuff like cheese.
    – dont eat junk food, dont eat candy cake cookies, things with backing powder or backing soda
    – moved from New York to California. I didnt realize how bad the air is on the east coast until I moved to the west coast.

    I had used handkerchielfs as well for years, but it was a pain to have enough, to keep them washed and clean, etc.
    Finally, I learned my lesson: when I use the restroom at the office, after I wash my hands and they are dry, I put one or two paper towels in my pocket. I unfold them and crumple them up when putting in my pocket.
    They are too stiff to use from the dispenser, but I assure you, once the are in my pocket for an hour or so, they soften and are just fine if I sneeze or need to blow my nose.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  • Tyler man, just… really? “Second, you live in an area where there is pollution. If so, move.” Some of us have location-specific jobs, and it’s really hard to find a job elsewhere. Somehow when totting up the pros and cons of a move, I don’t think “my having to blow my nose grosses out occasional acquaintances” is going to trump “we’ll have to live in the sticks, work at McDonalds and struggle to make ends meet”. There’s a reason why people live in cities, and it’s not an abiding love for concrete and rude people. Sorry, I know I just got trolled, but I just couldn’t help responding.

    To the other posters talking about how to help with allergies: I have an answer! Thanks to my doctor, who told me to stop at the local Whole Foods for a Neti Pot (although the pot itself isn’t necessary, see below).

    Basically, you don’t need to buy a Neti Pot at $20 – just get any sports-top bottle of filtered water from CVS or wherever, then fill it with warm – not hot – filtered water (and later you will add little amounts of non-iodized salt like kosher salt). Look up “Neti Pot” on Amazon and get tips/tricks on how to do it. Since your sinuses are one continuous space, you can actually turn your head to the side, lean over and gently squeeze the warm water into the top nostril, and it will run out the bottom nostril, taking all the allergans, pollution, snot, etc with it. Warning – it is a really unpleasant experience the first few times you do it (like doing a cannonball in the pool and getting water up your nose), but that feeling goes away pretty quickly, and there are even people who really enjoy it. I think they’re enjoying the “clean” feeling more than the irrigation, but that may just be me. That’s why I recommend starting out without the salt, and working your way up.
    Hope this helps you as much as it helped me!

  • You sound like Al Gore on this one.

    This doesn’t save anything because you’ve completely omitted discussing having to wash them.

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