Saving Money and the Environment By Washing Dishes

Washing dishes is a chore, sometimes they pile up.  But eventually they get done. As with any modern family, washing the dishes at our house means getting the scraps into the compost bowl and placing them into the dishwasher. Not that hard.  I tell myself that for every load of dishes we wash we’re saving about $20. It’s not a precise calculation, but here’s the rationale:

I typically think in terms of opportunity code.  We spend around $40 every time we go out to eat as a family. I guesstimate that we spend about $10 to $15 on groceries when we cook a meal at home. Add to that another $3 to $5 for water, electricity and dishwasher detergent. If you’re an accountant, you can factor in depreciation of the plates, silverware and dishwasher itself, but I prefer to keep things simple. So basically, we spend $20 for a meal at home instead of $40 at a restaurant. Voila – $20 savings.

Consider how this example can play out over a year’s time. We run the dishwasher four to five times per week.  Extrapolating out, that means we’re saving $80 a week by washing dishes at home. Multiply that by 52 weeks in a year. That’s a savings of $4,160 over the course of year.

Economics of running the dishwasher:

$20 savings per load versus not dining out
$80 saved per week at 4 loads per week
x 52 weeks
$4,160 potential savings per year

The takeaway: If your family hates doing dishes as much as ours, calculate the opportunity cost of the alternative – dining out. Once you have convinced yourself that washing dishes at home more often is better than dining out, it will give you the will to step up and wash dishes a little more frequently. That goes a long way in boosting your credibility when you assign the task to others in the household.

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