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27 May 2022

Can switching to period pants save you money?

Reusable period products cost more to buy, but can save you money in the long run

Stocking up on tampons, liners and pads each month is a fact of life for many of us – but with the cost of daily essentials going up, could reusables be the way forward?

Reusable products, such as period pants and menstrual cups, have risen in popularity in recent years, in part due to concerns around the environmental impact of disposable pads and tampons. 

But can opting for reusable products save you money too?

In theory, yes, but how much and how quickly depends on a few factors - including the type and brand of product you use and how often you use it (as well as its expected lifetime). 

Switching to reusable period products costs more upfront than your average pack of pads or tampons. You may also have a few failed attempts before you find the product or brand that suits you, but over time, switching can save you money - potentially hundreds of pounds - so it's worth taking stock of what you use.

We run through the options and potential savings below, plus where to buy the cheapest disposable period products, to help you choose what's best for you.

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Period pants vs pads and tampons vs menstrual cup costs

Based on a medium flow, and over two years (the average projected lifetime of period pants), we've run the numbers to compare across the key types:

  • £192 - Disposable pads and tampons (based on £8 per period average calculated by charity Bloody Good Period)
  • £96 - period pants (based on eight pairs of cheaper pants at £12 per pair)
  • £20 - menstrual cup (based on average cost of one cup)

While numbers will obviously differ by individual, it's clear there are savings to be made.

Cost of period pants

Period pants vary widely in cost between brands and styles – from £6 for the cheapest options to around £35 for a premium pair designed for overnight use or very heavy flow.

Whether you save money in the long term (and how much you save) depends on how you use them. 

If you’re switching to period pants exclusively, you might need five to eight pairs depending on your flow and how often you can wash them, but you should still break even after around six months.

If you’re using period pants in addition to disposable products, for example as a backup or overnight option, it might take longer to break even. You'll still chip away at extra costs like panty liners or overnight pads though, and you'll need fewer pairs on the go.

  • If you normally spend about £8 per period on pads and tampons = £192
  • Eight period pants for £12 (the cheaper end of the spectrum), assuming you change pairs from day to night, and wash a few half way through your period = £96 
  • Given period pants have an estimated life of around two years, that's around £96 saved over the same time period, once you've offset the initial cost.

This is based on a medium flow /cycle length, costs over two years and 12 periods per year.

There are of course myriad ways that this could be calculated depending on your flow, how much you pay for period pants, what combination of products you use and what disposable products you currently buy.

How to see if you can save on period products

Try coming up with a rough average of what you spend on disposable period products each month - figure out the price per tampon or pad and multiply that by how many you’d normally go through in a cycle, then work out how much that equates to over two years of periods.

You can then compare the cost of the period undies you want to buy against this and see where you could save on or just replace the cost of disposables.

Cheapest period pants

It's worth thinking about longevity as well as price, as simply choosing the cheapest can be a false economy.

When we surveyed users, people who’d tried the cheapest period pants (Primark, from £6) were generally unimpressed with the quality and were less likely than users of other brands to say they were durable or good for leak protection.

People who’d tried M&S period undies were more positive, and M&S overall placed around the middle of the pack for the seven brands we looked at – so they could be a good budget-friendly option (£12 per pair, or £9 in a multi-buy offer - available from M&S).

It’s worth checking out introductory offers and bundle prices: a lot of the time there’ll be some money off if you’re a first time customer.

See how period pant brands were rated by users, pros and cons, and how costs compare, in our full period pants buying guide

Menstrual cups: the cheapest option

Switching to a menstrual cup is likely to be your cheapest option, because one should last around 10 years.

They typically cost £15 to £30 up front, which again is a much larger outlay than a pack of tampons or pads, but if you never, or rarely ever, buy disposables again the money-saving case is clearer.

Menstrual cups can take some getting used to, so it’s possible you’d have to buy more than one to find the right option - but you’d still end up saving money over time.

Cheapest menstrual cups:

  • HeyGirls menstrual cup, £10.40, available at HeyGirls UK
  • Selenacare menstrual cup, currently £11 (offer price down from £17), available at Ocado
  • Superdrug menstrual cup, currently £7.49 (down from £14.99), available at Superdrug

Find out how menstrual cup users rated brands including Mooncup and Divacup in our menstrual cup buying guide, as well as insights on their pros and cons as rated by users.

Reusable period products compared: get the full lowdown on pants vs cups vs reusable applicators - and more

Disposable tampons and pads: where's cheapest?

We looked at the prices of disposable period products over a three-year period to find out where it’s cheapest to buy, and found that buying own-brand disposable pads and tampons from big supermarkets - and keeping an eye out for multibuy offers - is the way to go for getting the best deals.

Buying from the cheapest places can save you more than 10p per pad, meaning savings can really stack up over time.

Cheapest tampons to buy

  • Asda 32 regular non-applicator tampons: 70p per pack (2p per tampon), available from Asda
  • Morrisons 16 regular non-applicator tampons: 55p (3p per tampon), available from Morrisons
  • Lidl 20 regular applicator tampons: 70p (4p per tampon), available from Lidl (in-store only)
  • Aldi 20 regular applicator tampons: 70p (4p per tampon), available from Aldi

Typical branded price:

Tampax 20 regular applicator tampons: £1.90/10p per tampon, Lil-Lets 16 non-applicator regular tampons: £2/13p per tampon

Cheapest sanitary pads to buy

  • Aldi 14 regular towels with wings: 49p (3p per pad), available from Aldi
  • Lidl 14 regular towels with wings: 49p (3p per pad), available from Lidl (in-store only)
  • Morrisons 16 normal ultra towels without wings: 50p (3p per pad), available from Morrisons
  • Asda 14 regular towels with wings: 56p (4p per pad), available from Asda

Typical branded price:

Always 15 Ultra Normal Sanitary Towels without wings: £1.90 (13p per pad), Bodyform Ultra Normal Wing Sanitary Towels 14 Pack: £1.30 (9p per pad)

How to get free period products

The cost of living crisis is exacerbating period poverty in the UK, as many people are less able to pay for essential grocery items including pads and tampons.

Bloody Good Period – an organisation that supplies sanitary products to those unable to pay for them – recently reported a 78% increase in demand compared to two years ago.

Depending on where you live and your age or circumstances, there are a number of ways to get hold of free period products:

  • Across the UK, young people can usually get free period products at school or college, via a government scheme, as well as university.
  • In 2020, Scotland became the first country in the world to provide free period products for all, and people can find out where to get them with the PickupMyPeriod app.
  • Local councils elsewhere in the UK may also provide sanitary products for those who are unable to afford them (check your local council website for information) as do food banks.
  • You might be able to get free period products from a supermarket: Morrisons operates its ‘Package for Sandy’ scheme at nearly 500 stores: you can ask for a package from Sandy, or just a period products pack, at the customer service desk and receive an envelope of sanitary products with no questions asked.
  • In Northern Ireland, you can get coupons for free periods products each month through the Lidl Plus app.

Supermarket branches may implement schemes like this on an ad hoc basis, so it’s worth checking noticeboards at your local store to see if there is help available.

How to help

If you are able to, there are some ways that you can help organisations tackle period poverty:

  • Donate period products to your local food bank
  • You can donate hygiene products including pads and tampons via drop off points in some Boots and Superdrug stores
  • Seek out brands that give back: HeyGirls is one example of a social enterprise and reusable period product manufacturer that operates a ‘buy one, donate one’ model to help organisations like schools and councils provide free products to those in need