The Secret of the Pump Dispenser

My hair is usually really short. When I wash my hair, I want to use just a little bit of shampoo – makes sense, right? It doesn’t take much to fully lather up my hair.

The problem is that shampoo virtually always comes in a squeeze bottle. When I grab that in the shower and turn it over to get just a little bit of shampoo, it’s incredibly easy to get way too much on my hands. I squeeze a little and nothing comes out, so I squeeze a bit harder and I wind up with four times as much shampoo on my hands as I want.

That’s simply wasteful. It means I’m going to wind up using far more shampoo than I need. If I use four times as much shampoo as I need every time I take a shower, a bottle is only going to last a quarter as long. My shampoo cost quadruples without any real additional benefit.

A while back, I noticed a nearly empty hand lotion container that was in the downstairs bathroom. There was just a tiny bit of it left. I used a small amount of it and realized that it perfectly delivered just a tiny amount of the lotion.

This made my wheels turn.

I stuck a piece of masking tape on the bottle that said “do not throw away when empty – tell me” so that it wouldn’t get chucked when it ran out. About a week later, I snagged the bottle, cleaned it out thoroughly, and took it upstairs.

There, I tried putting the lotion pump onto the shampoo bottle, but it didn’t quite fit. So, I simply dumped some of my shampoo/conditioner mix into that bottle, screwed on the lid, and gave it a couple squirts. On the third squirt, a very small amount of shampoo came out.

A perfect amount, actually.

I simply stuck this new bottle into the shower. Next time I took a shower, instead of turning over the squeeze bottle and getting far too much on my hands, I simply reached up and pressed the pump down once, dispensing a perfect amount right on my hand.

So, let’s run the math on this real quick.

Prior to this, my shampoo routine was to buy a large bottle at the warehouse club for about $3 and then use it to refill a smaller container. I did that because using the large jug in the shower meant a ludicrous amount of shampoo would come out each time I wanted to use it – a bad idea.

So, with my old bottle, I’d dispense enough shampoo/conditioner for four or so washings with a single squirt. Now, with the new dispenser, a single pump gets almost exactly the right amount for my short hair – just a few drops of it.

Using a pump dispenser makes my shampoo last four times longer, in other words.

Prior to this, I’d run through a large bottle of the shampoo in about two months, meaning my annual shampoo cost was about $18. With this pump bottle, the large bottle should take me about eight months, which means I’m using a full bottle and two-thirds of an additional bottle in a year. This reduces my annual shampoo cost to about $5.

This single simple move saves me $13 a year. It doesn’t change anything else about my routine that I was already doing except that it eliminates three out of every four shampoo purchases that I was making.

That’s the secret of the pump dispenser. It was just this one little thing that, once I changed it over, began to save me money without changing my routine at all.

This type of examination of how I use things in my life happens all the time. Almost every time, I figure out a way to spend a little less. That’s frugality at work.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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