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Home » Food & Drink, Frugality

Drink This, Save Money

Last updated by on February 14, 2015

Sometimes the biggest and easiest savings are right in front of our noses (or mouths).

If you’re really in a financial pinch or simply want to push your personal savings rate in to the next gear, why not simply drink only tap water?

A few years back, I crunched the numbers on the cost difference between bottled water and tap water and discovered that:

“4,787 bottled waters could be filled with tap water for $2.10! So every time you buy a bottle of water for $1, you are paying 2,279 times what you would if you filled that same bottle with tap water.

If most of what you drink is bottled water, assuming you drink 64 oz. of water per day, you’d consume a little under 3 – 20 oz. bottles of water per day. Those 3 bottles per day would cost you $3/day or $1,095 per year. That same 1,095 bottles filled with tap water would cost you $0.48 PER YEAR.

Another way to look at it is that as soon as you buy your first bottle of water, you’ve already spent double what you would for an ENTIRE YEAR of tap water.”

Pretty shocking.

By the way, you can’t tell the difference (and many bottled water distributors simply use tap water).

Sadly, despite bottled water being an absolute ripoff, it is usually still the cheapest form of bottled beverage that can be bought. We often buy other beverages that are much more expensive than that – namely soda (pop for you midwesterners), processed tea, milk, juice, coffee, beer, and wine – typically in that order from lowest to highest priced.

But what if we didn’t?

drink-only-water-savingsJust one alcoholic drink per adult per day would range from $2 for cheap beer to $6 for a modest half-bottle of wine in a 2-person household. That’s a savings of $730 – $2,190 per year from simply going alcohol-free.

I homebrew the majority of my beer for significant savings versus store bought. Wine? I’m not giving up, however, I’m not exactly in a pinch for savings.

Soda, processed tea, or juice (I’ve cut the latter to about one jug per month, which I use in smoothies)? You’re basically flushing your money down the toilet (literally and figuratively).

The benefits of juice can be replicated in a multi-vitamin or a healthy diet – without all the sugar. Milk benefits can also be replicated in a multi-vitamin and/or a healthy diet. Without all the sugar, stomach ache, and doubt about whether it’s gone rancid (fear of that last one is why I haven’t touched a glass of milk for about a decade).

With coffee, I stopped drinking almost entirely, save for special occasions, once I realized going without my morning fix resulted in the worst headaches imaginable. Whatever health benefits were not outweighing the cost. Your results may vary.

If you’re looking for some diversity, here are two great additions to your wonderful tap water:

  • a squirt of lemon juice and ice
  • tea bags: can be purchased for less than $0.09 per bag, in bulk – and in my opinion taste even better with cold water than hot

Human beings went without anything but nasty, mucky-ass, parasite-laden water for millennia (and many still do). Tap water is an incredibly cheap luxury that every one of us can fall back on, especially in tough times.

Drinking Only Tap Water Discussion:

  • Have you gone for periods with only drinking tap water?
  • How much do you estimate you could save by making this move?
  • What cheap additions do you add to your water to add some taste diversity?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 10,000+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Andro Selvin says:

    I agree with most of what you’ve said. Though I think a multivitamin can still cause stomach ache, depending on the contents of the vitamin and whether it should be consumed with food, without food, with a full glass of water, etc. My experience in home brewing hasn’t saved me much money, but I guess it depends on where you get your ingredients, and how you amortize the cost of the equipment.

  • I drink tap water back in my childhood and it was safe and good. One of the things that we can do, to add a twist to it. Try making tamarind juice and iced coffee, these are great and very refreshing drinks especially during summer. 🙂

  • Mike F says:

    Remembering to bring a water container when out and about is a good way to save money. The few times I buy a bottle of water is when I am thirsty and walking around town and don’t have anything to carry water with. Bottle from home + sink and I am good to go.

  • Alex says:

    In principle I agree, and I feel silly when I occasionally buy a sugary drink whilst out. But tap water for some reason gives me a dry mouth so although it hydrates me it doesn’t quite quench the thirst sometimes. Making your own fruit drinks seems the way to go.

  • Dennis O'Udunno says:

    I’ve had the good luck to work at employers that have filtered water on tap. Not the upside down jug thing, but it’s hooked to a water line and comes out hot or ice cold. So I drink that all the time. I also bring a huge jug to fill up and take home. I’ve got a few days worth of drinking water at home by now at any given moment. It’s kind of crazy people keep buying bottled water in the break room, when there’s unlimited filtered ice cold water available for free.

  • Dear Debt says:

    I only drink tap water. I’ve cut most of the coffee and only have free stuff at work, or make it home if I really need it. I do spend money on nice tea and wine though. Always looking for a deal! Luckily, I don’t drink soda or juice though. That stuff is full of sugar and so expensive!

  • Bill says:

    Great article. It seems that nowadays there are a lot of people with an irrational fear of tap water. In undergrad, I worked as an operator at a relatively small drinking water treatment plant. Even though I have seen behind the curtain, I would not hesitate to drink tap water. The thought of drinking water that has been sitting in a plastic bottle that leaches chemicals for an unknown period of time is far more concerning and of much greater danger to the consumer. The idea that bottled water is more regulated or cleaner is simply wrong.

    Except in very extreme circumstances, tap water is going to be just as clean, if not more so, and certainly always cheaper.

  • Steve says:

    I know this isn’t a fitness blog, but another point is the fact that these drinks are very energy-dense. A standard can of soda has somewhere from 120-150 calories. While this may not seem like much, it really adds up; if you drink even one each day, that’s almost 50,000 additional calories per day! Many regular soda drinkers average 2, 3, 4+ cans a day, and this is the equivalent of several weeks of additional calories added to their diets. There’s also evidence that diet soda increases hunger due to its sugary content and lack of calories, so the body seeks out calories elsewhere and actually mitigates the “diet” aspect of this drink.

    Juice is also pretty high in calories – a glass of orange juice has ~115 calories. Due to its high sugar and the fact it’s been removed from the flesh of the fruit, it isn’t nearly as healthy as most think. Of the drinks you listed, the only ones that aren’t high in calories are bottled water (obviously), black coffee (no sugar, cream, chocolate, etc.) and unsweetened tea that’s just hot water and tea bag.

  • Marie Zalbe says:

    A few years ago we tried to drink mineral water, but I noticed that it’s not ideal to buy a bottled water. That’s why we drink tap water instead to continue buying bottled water and sometimes we make juices or just adding some lemons on the water to add some flavor.

  • Ron Ablang says:

    I was thinking the same thing before I clicked on the link in my email. Tap water is a good way to go. It tastes even better w/ ice.

  • Gabe says:

    Great topic. I have always felt that buying bottled water is the most idiotic waste of money ever.

    And I know people are superstitious and they wonder how safe tap waters are in different states or countries. But I have never had any problem drinking tap water anywhere.

    I remember back in 2004 I went on a backpacking trip to Scandinavia, and my first money saving strategy that I made for myself was to not spend a single cent for beverages. Which I accomplished by only drinking tap waters everywhere and saved hundreds of dollars off my trip.

  • Thanks for this post and great ideas. One thing with the bottled versus tap water is that depending on the state that you are in the tap water may not be that good. I did hear on NPR that there are actually some states where the tap water has been tested and found to be of a higher quality than bottled water. So if you are in one of those states this is a great idea!


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