I made a one-time purchase from Walmart of $2.50 for a pack of white washcloths. I think there were 10 in the pack. I bought two packs of white. ($5.00) We told the kids that they are not to use paper towels but white washcloths for any spills or for cleaning. If they thought they absolutely needed a paper towel for something they could ask and we would let them know if they could get one. This system worked beautifully! We had the same roll of paper towels on the holder for two weeks! We couldn't believe it. The kids got used to grabbing a cloth instead of a paper towel. We had a rule that they could keep the cloth on the sink after they wiped up a spill throughout the day and that way if someone else needed one they would see it and use it for their spill rather than getting a fresh one. At the end of the day when someone was going to bed they would just throw it into the washer to be washed the next day since I start a load every morning of laundry.
The reason that we only use white washcloths for spills or wiping counters or the dining room table is that it is easily distinguishable from the dish cloths. I use one green washcloth per day to wash our dishes. I do not want you to wipe down the counter with the washcloth I use to clean dishes that we eat off of - just doesn't work for me. So in the drawer there is a stack of white washcloths and a stack of green washcloths. If a spill is wiped up off the floor then they can go ahead and take it to the laundry room right after they are done. Again this is to prevent them from using a washcloth on the floor and then someone else coming along and wiping my counter or table. I've got issues I know! Also using white deters any color running from the cloth onto say a chair or the carpet.
We are now down to 1 paper towel roll for three 1/2 weeks!
In a related topic we used to cut a paper towels into fourths for napkins for dinner. There is no reason a five year old child should have a whole paper towel to wipe her sweet little mouth on one corner. As the children set the table one would just cut the paper towel with scissors into four pieces and put that next to the plates - the child sized salad plates and not regular adult plates as I spoke of in my post here.
We personally use napkins that I sewed from regular fabric. It cuts down on paper towel use and they are so much more charming. Here are my chicken napkins cut from a yard of fabric ($2.00/yard) :
After dinner whomever is doing the clean up can toss these along with the used "spill" washcloths into the washer.
Challenge your family to see how long they can make a paper towel roll last. If your family needs some incentive perhaps offer to rent a movie if they can make 1 paper towel roll last for four weeks. This is just to get them into the habit of grabbing a washcloth instead of a paper towel. After the four weeks it should be second nature and you will not need to provide incentives.