I love garage sales that nickel and dime me, but even a dime is paying too much for paper napkins because it was a dime you could have spent on something more durable–like cloth napkins.
I learned about cloth napkins from a friend of mine who grew up in a country where there were no paper napkins. This friend was very frugal and brought up to eat neatly and make that napkin last for one week! She encouraged me to try using cloth napkins and would point them out at garage sales. I had always thought of them as special occasion items that had to be ironed and fussed over, but she used them every day and it didn’t seem to be wearing her out.
I switched to cloth when we had three kids at home and were using so many paper napkins a week that we might as well have been wiping our mouths with dollar bills! Good cotton or linen napkins can be bought at garage sales and thrift stores for anywhere from 10 cents to 50 cents each. (I don’t like to pay more.) If you are handy with a sewing machine, you can make your own from scrap fabric or old tablecloths for even less!
I figure that I wash the equivalent of one queen size sheet in napkins each week. (I don’t demand that one napkin be used for a week!) This requires a little water, a tad bit of soap, and my time to move them from washer to dryer (or out on the line) and fold them.
Do I sometimes use paper napkins? Sure—when I can get them for free! Begonia