Avoid Overspending By Following The Rule Of Half

Now that the holidays are behind us, I’ve been working like crazy around the house to get all of our glorious decorations tucked away for next year. That sounded really good, but in reality I moved our decorated Christmas trees into our storage room, minus the balls 🙂 I like to work smarter, not harder. Ha! That being said, I’ve also been getting every corner of our house back to tip-top shape. Being a minimalists, it’s very difficult for me to see stuff all over the place. Mission has finally been accomplished! The house is clean and in order and as I put the last load of laundry into the washer today, I realized how little laundry detergent I use compared to the manufacturer’s recommendation. At that moment I coined a new phrase: The Rule of Half. 

The Rule of Half, Defined.

The Rule of Half is something we strictly adhere to in our Mad Money house. Manufacturer’s inevitably want you to use more of their product than is absolutely necessary. If you use their product based on their instruction, you will need to purchase more of said product which increases their bottom line. Since we’re in the business of increasing our own bottom line around here, we use only what we deem necessary for each product. Laundry detergent being an excellent example.

It Can Be Used For Anything

Hump Day 3

Mr. MMM and sharing a Burlington, VT brew.

We use The Rule of Half in nearly every aspect of our lives. If Mr. MMM and I go out on a date, sometimes we will order one beer and split it. FYI – we’re not big beer drinkers, so obviously this won’t work if you really enjoy a nice cold one. We only occasionally enjoy beer, so this is perfect for us. We will also split a soda at the movies – when we go as a planned date or family outing. This is never a spur-of-the-moment decision. We plan out all of our expenses – especially the fun stuff!

Case in point, last week we had planned to have a nice celebratory dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants for New Year’s Eve. This had been planned for months and I had an envelope with a set amount of cash, not to be used without care. Once there, we carefully made our selections, enjoyed our meal and time together, gave our server a hefty tip, and still left the (very nice) joint with a 20 spot in our pocket. #win This was accomplished by splitting an appetizer and dessert, sharing meals – that meant one person ordered the surf and turf while the other ordered a more reasonably priced dish, and skipping drinks altogether. Our bill was still $100, but it easily could’ve hit the $200 mark had we not controlled ourselves and shared the appetizer and dessert. We always employ this rule when we’re consciously spending money on entertainment – and everything else.

Try it for things like:

-Toiletries – excluding toilet paper, of course – we’re not sickos 🙂

-Cleaning Products – this one is really a no-brainer

-Internet Speed –  you might be surprised that the next level down isn’t noticeable at all

-Cable TV – keep reading

-Wine – try drinking water in a wine glass for your second round – this really only works at home 🙂

Use A Substitute Or Nothing At All


Our rag bin that sits above our washer and dryer

You can easily take this rule to the next level and substitute a different product or use no product whatsoever. Think: paper towels. We rarely use paper towels. Instead, we use old worn-out clothes that we cut up for rags. Did you know some people actually buy rags? Blasphemy! 


Other examples include using half the amount of milk you think you need in your cereal. C’mon, how many of you have milk leftover after you finish that delicious bowl of Fruity Pebbles? It’s okay if you’re drinking it at the end, but if you have kids and you have watched them toss it down the drain, try The Rule of Half.

The point is that you can likely use less of the products you frequently use, substitute something not as expensive, or cut it out altogether. How many of you still have cable TV? This is the perfect substitute item. We substituted Netflix, YouTube, and other free streaming services for cable and barely noticed. Read all about it here.

If you do this for items here and there throughout the year, you’ll notice a difference. Plug in some numbers and see how much you’ll save over 12 months just by using half the laundry detergent you currently consume. Unfortunately, overconsumpsion has a tendency to destroy our world and our wallets. So next time you throw a load of laundry in, try The Rule of Half.

We would love to hear from you in the comments! Let us know what you cut back on to save a buck.

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  • ChooseBetterLife Jan 30, 2017, 10:17 am

    I love sharing food with my husband. It helps keep us from overeating, and if we’re still hungry we can always order more. Plus, we each get to try more things and enjoy more new experiences when we share.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 30, 2017, 12:29 pm

      Exactly! I always say that we can always order more, but we can’t send anything back. Usually, we’re fine with splitting stuff and ‘more’ is not necessary 🙂

  • Jacq Jan 28, 2017, 9:45 am

    I tear my dryer sheets in 1/3 or 1/2, after using a reduced amount of detergent. 🙂
    I am a fan of sharing at restaurants or having the leftovers the next day. I have not yet gotten rid of paper towels but I go through < 1 roll a month.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 28, 2017, 1:21 pm

      Yes! You got it goin’ on! I forgot about the dryer sheet trick! Thanks for mentioning it 🙂

      • lindy Jan 30, 2017, 2:17 pm

        Are you even sure you need to use dryer sheets? I stopped using them over 15 years ago when I read what was in them. Don’t miss them at all! (I wonder how much I’ve saved not even buying them?)

        • Mad Money Monster Jan 30, 2017, 2:28 pm

          I used to only use them during the winter. So far this winter, I haven’t used any. Things can get a little static-y from time to time, but I’m okay with that 🙂

  • Get Rich Quick'ish Jan 27, 2017, 6:33 pm

    This is a GREAT idea! I am simultaneously disgusted and upset with the amount of food that gets wasted in my home. If we just halved all of our recipes or cut our portions in half then we’d be making some serious progress on the food front, which a top 3 line item in our budget. Thanks for the idea!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 28, 2017, 7:22 am

      Absolutely! I’m sure you’ll be amazed at how quickly the savings add up. Please stop back and tell us about your progress!

  • Cindy in the South Jan 27, 2017, 4:01 pm

    I am reading this on my break at the neighborhood library. I do not have internet, nor cable, nor a tv, at my house. I do not eat out. There is not a restaurant in my very tiny town…lol. I do have a very cheap ($38) smart phone, where I can access the internet if I have to when I am home. I have a radio for local stations in my home. I do not have a washer, nor a dryer. I do not have a dishwasher in my very small kitchen. My house, that I purchased for $25,000 in 2014, and no, that is not a misprint, is in a very rural town, in a decidedly lower middle class part of the country. It was built in 1950 and is only 912 sq ft. After work, I read books, play on facebook, listen to the radio, play with my dog and my cat. I go to visit my grown children an hour and a half away on weekends. That is my main entertainment. I am boring….lol.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 28, 2017, 7:16 am

      You are NOT boring. You are AWESOME! You need to start a blog of your own. I’m willing to bet you don’t feel deprived at all! Living on less is so much easier than anyone thinks. Kudos to you!

  • Kraken Fireball Jan 27, 2017, 3:22 pm

    I had a similar experience with the internet. I cut it out completely in my new apartment for a month or so. I forced myself to read more and connect with my guests rather than sit in front of a tv. After awhile I realized I do need it (or want it), and got the lowest possible speed. I figured it would always be easier to upgrade rather than to downgrade. The lowest speed ahs been working fine for me and all my devices.
    I like the less milk in the cereal idea, and I think I will apply it to creamer in my coffee. Thanks for coining this term/rule, I’ll be using it on the daily.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 28, 2017, 7:14 am

      Awesome! I’m sure it’ll work out for the milk and creamer 😉 The Internet story is an interesting one. I do think we’re “sold” on “needing” the highest speed without even attempting to live on less. Good point!

  • Matt Spillar Jan 27, 2017, 11:55 am

    Great rule to live by! My favorite way of implementing this is with ice cream. My wife and I will always share a large cup of ice cream instead of each of us getting our own small cup. Almost half the price and you get so much more!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 27, 2017, 1:12 pm

      Absolutely! …especially when you’re talking Ben & Jerry’s. Those little cups are NOT one serving 🙂

  • Joe Jan 27, 2017, 9:54 am

    There’s only one Mr. MMM. We all know who he is!

  • Nicole Jan 27, 2017, 8:21 am

    Great read! I have been trying to cut things in half for years, especially laundry detergent. I am surprised at how half as much still gets the job done.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 27, 2017, 9:48 am

      Exactly! It’s such a great money saver if you apply it across the board. 🙂

  • Go Finance Yourself Jan 27, 2017, 7:29 am

    When you mentioned toilet paper, I pictured Dwight on The Office with his machine to turn the double ply paper into single ply. HA!

    Great advice on using half. I immediately thought of shampoo – rinse and repeat. Does anyone actually wash their hair after they’ve just wash it?

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 27, 2017, 9:48 am

      I LOVED The Office! One ply TP – now that’s funny! Yeah, who are these people washing their hair twice. Wait! I know one – my 7-year old did it the other week. But she’s just fascinated with the fact that she can give herself her own shower these days. Oh, childhood 🙂

  • aabaus1234 Jan 26, 2017, 5:59 pm

    Love it! I do some of these things too but hadn’t thought of it in a formal rule sort of way, just small habits built over time.
    Restaurant meals are always too big! And I’d prefer to try a small bit of multiple things than eat a big bowl of one thing. Sharing is definitely the way to go.
    I use less where possible, and sometimes dilute things in pump packs such as handwash etc so one pump is the perfect amount (usually by 1/4 or 1/3 as half is too funny).
    Always love hearing what others are doing and making me feel slightly more ‘normal’ 😉

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 26, 2017, 6:14 pm

      You are definitely normal! At least you’re considered normal in the personal finance community 🙂 I’m also glad to hear I’m not the only one doing tricks like these to save cash!

  • Ning Jan 11, 2017, 9:30 am

    Great article!! I’m definitely going to try to use rags now, versus paper towels. Those things are costly!! I think we have some old shirts waiting to be donated, that I may just cut up and reuse as rags!! What a great idea!!
    I need to do more investigating into the unplugging thing. Does that actually save electricity?
    Ha, cable!! I’m so surprised when people still have that, and I see how much that is when I get those ads from Comcast or Verizon on those phone/internet bundles!! We definitely make full use of our Netflix account!!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 11, 2017, 9:45 am

      I love using old clothes for rags! You definitely need to try it.
      As far as unplugging to save on electric, this is one I haven’t personally done but I’ve heard from many people that it is a major cost-cutter.
      Cable is so ridiculous. But again, we aren’t big sports people, so we don’t miss it and we can get what we like to watch through other avenues. Three cheers for Netflix and YouTube!

  • Just Us Jan 9, 2017, 7:53 pm

    We are a “Rag Household”, too! We use rags in varying stages of use, too… They start out in the kitchen, and end up in the garage in the Car Rag bucket! A whole life, planned out and executed…

    I haven’t bought paper towels in a decade or more because I enjoy my rags to much!

    For the power saver folks – plug your nightly Unplug items into one power strip for easy disconenction in one fell swoop! I have the TV, DVD player, and Game Console all plugged into one power strip that efficiently turns them all off when we are done watching the movie… Same thing in the bedroom, above the headboard is a strip that has our phone chargers and nighttable lamps plugged into it. Upon rising, we flick that switch while we are making the bed! Quick and simple.

    I have always loved the Rule of Half for meals – as then you get a more broad variety of dinner when you and your honey order different things and then share! More fun and less cost!

    Great article! Thanks for sharing!! Happy 2017!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 9, 2017, 9:46 pm

      Thanks for the compliment! And thanks for sharing your unplugging story. This is something we have talked about but not implemented. You’re the second person to bring it up today in the comments. I think we’ll need to revisit it 🙂

  • Miss Mazuma Jan 9, 2017, 3:24 pm

    Great ideas here… I thought I was the only one who did water in a wine glass! It’s such a good trick – I find that the joy of drinking out of nice bar ware helps to curb the apetite for more wine! Haha – not always but sometimes. 😉

    We also do splities when we go out. My BF and I almost always split a meal. When he goes out to fast food with his sons he always gets a kids meal – the purpose is two fold to save money and calories. Of course, it doesn’t help that the boys get adult meals now!

    Last year I cut back on my electric usage by unplugging the tv/cable/wifi router each night before bed and when I leave the house. It helped me to stop using screen time in bed (I didn’t want to blow through my data) and save electricity for the 8+ hours we are sleeping plus when we are away at work. It totally made a difference!!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 9, 2017, 4:46 pm

      I have always heard that unplugging results in significant savings, but I never actually tried it. You gave me something to consider for 2017! As far as fast food – oh, how I love it! – when I do occasionally allow myself to indulge, it’s usually using the dollar menu or kids meal option. It’s an awesome trick. Like you said, it saves cash and calories. Win and win. You guys rock!

  • youmeanme Jan 9, 2017, 2:13 pm

    I love this! I also love your rag photos. I grew up in a home that turned leftover towels and tshirts into dust clothes and cleaning clothes. We skipped a lot of the rule of half and went straight for removal. With the leftovers we definitely try half.

    I rarely eat my full meal so we we’ll split things and then I’ll still end up with a lunch or dinner 🙂

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 9, 2017, 3:22 pm

      Yep! I love splitting stuff and reusing it. Anytime I can avoid spending money on things like cleaning products, I’m all about it! I love that you split meals and still have leftovers. That’s a true testament to how much waste is all around us.

  • ninjapiggy1 Jan 9, 2017, 11:52 am

    Thanks for all the ideas! I’m a big fan of splitting meals. Most restaurant meals are big enough to fill up two people.

  • MrFireStation Jan 9, 2017, 10:21 am

    Ordering him as much in restaurants probably in the checkbook and the waistband. One time I had a bottle of hair shampoo that stretched out over the course of a whole year. Instead of using a quarter size dab of shampoo, I used a pea sized dab. It probably would not work for a woman with long hair, but it worked out just fine for me.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 9, 2017, 11:43 am

      Take it from a woman with long hair, it works! It might take a little longer to lather up, but it works! 🙂

  • Smart Provisions Jan 9, 2017, 10:07 am

    Good work!

    I find that buying the really concentrated dish-washing soap and then diluting it myself also comes out to be cheaper as well.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 9, 2017, 11:40 am

      Awesome tip! Thanks! I hadn’t thought of diluting laundry detergent…hmmmm. It’s fun to be part of such a financially savvy community.

  • Kate Jan 9, 2017, 9:01 am

    I love this! Not only does it save money but it’s better for the environment and our health 🙂

    My mom has long preached that you only need half the laundry detergent recommended on the bottle. Her argument was that, if you’re putting that much in, the washer has to get that much more out of your clothes.

    Definitely helpful to look at other things we use to see if they can be cut in half as well.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 9, 2017, 11:37 am

      Your mom is a wise woman! It’s so true. Start looking at everything as something you might be able to use less of. It’s amazing how much time, energy, and money you can save.

  • Ditch The Stuff Jan 9, 2017, 8:18 am

    Cutting out paper towels has really helped us. Other than toilet paper, it was probably the most regular household cleaning product expense.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 9, 2017, 8:33 am

      Yep! It’s funny how we think we “need” these things just because “everyone” uses them and it’s standard practice. They’re not cheap, either. Kudos for cutting them out.

  • Ernie Jan 9, 2017, 7:15 am

    I’ve realized I only actually need about a 1/4 of the toothpaste I usually use…and my boys could get away with about 1/16 of what they use! 🙂 Yeah, I think you’re spot on with this rule of half.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 9, 2017, 7:41 am

      Definitely! Toiletries are a perfect example of how much we tend to overuse items. It really can be applied to almost anything. 🙂

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