These Period Products Will Save You Money And Make Your Flow More Eco-Friendly 

From menstrual cups to reusable pads, here are ways to save money on your period.
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Whether you learned about the facts of life from a corny health class video or from that American Girl book all about puberty, you likely weren't let in on one fact: for people with periods, there's a cycle beyond just the one your uterus goes through. Once you start bleeding, you're also introduced to a new cycle: replenishing, then using up, then replenishing a supply of pads and tampons. While reusable options have been around for years, they've recently made the leap from health food stores into the mainstream. These products, like period panties and menstrual cups, are often focused on a more eco-friendly flow. But there's another benefit as well: The up-front investment can also save you money in the long run.

Here are some ways to make your period a little less expensive while we wait for free period products for all

1. Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cup users tend to feel pretty evangelical about their period product of choice. Most cups are made from soft, flexible silicone that sits below your cervix and catches, rather than absorbs, blood. Once full, it can be dumped, rinsed, and reinserted. While it can take a little getting used to, there are a number of reasons this beats tampons for your period: Once your flow starts, it's always with you, so you'll never have the realization that you forgot to stock your bag or bathroom with sanitary products.

Plus, just one menstrual cup can get you through your period—and the one after that, and the one after that. Most last several years with proper care, and usually pay for themselves in the first year. While everyone's periods and preferences vary, it's pretty easy to price out: A Diva Cup, one of the O.G. menstrual cups, costs $33. If you use it for 3 years, that will work out to less than a dollar per cycle. Not bad, right?

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2. Period Panties

Period panties once brought to mind the ratty, stained underwear that got sacrificed to heavy flow days. But then Thinx burst onto the scene, redefining the term. While the product itself wasn't quite new, the look of the underwear was: Today's period panties are the kind you don't mind wearing. They just happen to absorb blood while you do it.

Like disposable products, period underwear can also be designed to fit your flow. While it's not as cost-effective as a cup (one pair of panties won't see you through your whole flow unless you're really determined to do laundry every day), the investment can still save you some cash. Most period underwear costs around $36. For a five-day flow, without laundry, you'll spend $175.  If you take good care of your new underwear, over three years, you'll have spent less than $5 per period. Given that a box of name-brand tampons runs around $10, that's not a bad deal. 

Of course, not everyone who loves their period underwear wears it as their exclusive period protection: You can also pair it as a replacement to panty liners to pair with tampons or menstrual cups. Not sure where you fall? Trying out a pair from a brand like Thinx or Kinx, both of which offer generous return policies, is a great place to start. You can build your collection from there or have a standby set for your heaviest day. 

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3. Reusable Menstrual Disc

Menstrual discs collect blood, like a cup does, rather than absorb it. While cups suction to the cervix (don't worry, this is painless for most people!) and extend down in the vaginal canal, discs sit back in the vaginal fornix, aka space behind / at the base of your cervix—and don't require suction. You can see a diagram of disc vs. cup usage here. Some people just plain prefer the feeling of the disc, and especially like that you can have penetrative sex with a disc in.

But, most discs are disposable and pricy. Thankfully, in recent years, more silicone discs have come on the market, offering the same benefits without as much waste. The Ziggy Cup, which is shaped like a disc, doesn't mince words with the tagline, "The One You Can Have Sex With." At $38, over three years, you'll pay less than a dollar a period to use it.

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4. Reusable Pads

Reusable pads are at a bit of a disadvantage to menstrual cups: Like with period panties, you'll need more of them, and like more traditional disposable sanitary products, you may need to carry a replacement with you on the go. But, unlike menstrual cups, there's almost no learning curve: Reusable pads work nearly the same as disposable ones, you just don't toss them at the end. They go in with the rest of your wash and can be cleaned and reused.

They're also less expensive than period panties. A pad from GladRags, which comes with 2 inserts that you can change out or use together, costs $15. A set of five would cost $75, and GladRags states that its pads are designed to last three years, working out to $2 a cycle. GladRags even offers an option to have a new pad sent to you every month to allow you to grow your collection without the initial up-front investment. GladRags even sells handy dual-pocket bags for hauling pads (both clean and used, in separate pockets) on the go.

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5. Applicator-Free Tampons

Not ready to make the jump to reusable products? You can still shave major dollars off your spending by switching to an applicator-free tampon brand, like OB. A 40 pack of OB tampons costs around $7. That's about as good a price as you'll get on name-brand tampons. Plus, the tiny little tampon can actually absorb a surprising amount of liquid. For those who find tampon insertion uncomfortable but are sick of pads, OB tampons can be a lifesaver.

And, for the uninitiated, inserting a tampon without an applicator isn't as intimidating as it may seem: Using the tampon string, you flare out the end of the tampon and create a kind of pocket. Your index finger goes in the pocket and helps guide the tampon in in lieu of an applicator. It's that easy—and gives you a little bit more control than with an applicator, too. For many fans, it's a win/win: a product that works better and costs less.

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6. Reusable Applicator

Another eco-friendly option that can actually save you money is the relatively new reusable applicator from Dame. At $26, it may seem like a splurge, but it will pay for itself in about 13 tampon boxes as you save on the applicator-free boxes. You will need to remember to pack it with you, but, then again, you need to do the same with your tampons as well. And since it's designed to be used again and again, it's also designed to feel a lot more comfortable than a plastic applicator that goes straight into the trash. 

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