There are a few simple things we all do, every day, that can be very expensive over time.
1. Stop Drinking Bottled Water
Tap water costs about 7 cents per gallon.
Most bottled water is sourced from municipal sources, meaning that it’s just filtered tap water.
So, for the privilege of drinking your own tap water, bottled water companies charge you about $1.50 for 16 ounces, which represents a 1,714% markup.
Instead, get a couple of refillable water bottles and either use your refrigerator’s filtered water dispenser, or get a filtering pitcher. Avoid metal water bottles, as they don’t stay cold very well, since metal conducts heat.
At work, keep a filtering pitcher or water bottle on your desk, that you can refill in the break room.
If you buy 3 bottles of water per day, you’re spending about $1,600 per year. For about $200 per year, you can buy plenty of filter cartridges, refillable bottles, filtering pitchers, etc…
Savings: $1,400 / yr.
2. Stop Buying Expensive Cups of Coffee
If you stop by the coffee shop every day (maybe the one from Seattle), you’re probably spending $6 or $7 every day for that iced mocha non-fact venti half-whip.
Assuming you buy a fancy coffee every weekday at $6, that adds up to about $1,500 per year.
2.1. Option: Switch to Coffee
Maybe you’re there for the social experience…
One option is to switch to just plain coffee, which you can get iced or hot, for about $2 for a large cup. Most coffee shops have a few different coffee varieties on tap, and the fancy sugar and the non-fat cream are free.
By switching to just plain coffee, you’ll save about $1,000 per year.
2.2. Option: Get a Cappuccino / Espresso Machine
For less than $150, you can get a decent cappuccino machine.
A decent bag of coffee or espresso runs about $20, or about 60 cents per cup.
For about $160 in coffee plus $150 cappuccino / espresso machine, you’re saving about $1,200 in the first year.
After that, you’re only paying for the coffee itself, which means you’re saving up to $1,400 year 2.
2.3. Option: Get a K-Cup
At first, I really disliked the idea, but I’ve grown quite attached to it.
There are all sorts of coffee options in K-Cup, including espresso and cappuccino.
The machine itself ranges from just under $100 to just under $200 – the higher-end one even has a milk frother.
Coffee pods are anywhere from 30 cents to 80 cents each, depending on the type and brand.
So if you like fancy coffee, even at 80 cents per cup, and you go with a high-end K-Cup machine at $200, that’s still only $410 for the first year, or a savings of about $1,100. Year 2, you’re saving about $1,300.
3. Stop Drinking at the Bar
A domestic beer costs about $5 at the bar, or only about $1 at home.
If you have a couple of beers at the bar once a week, you could be saving $400 throughout the year.
Imported beer might be anywhere from $7 to $10 per bottle at the bar, but less than $2 per bottle at home, and you could save $500 per year or more.
House wine costs anywhere from $4.50 for 4 ounces to $6.50. A decent wine costs double that.
If you buy the bottle and drink at home, a “house” quality wine is about $12 per bottle, or $2 per glass. A decent wine is around $20 per bottle or $3.50 per glass.
You’ll save anywhere from $250 per year and up, depending on what you drink, and how much.
The cheap stuff is $4.50 per shot, and the price goes up for top-shelf.
A shot is one ounce.
Even if you have it over ice, it’s still one ounce.
A bottle of name-brand whiskey or rum costs about $60 for 1.5L, or about $1.20 per ounce, and any name-brand alcohol is going to be much better than the “house” alcohol.
A couple of GOOD drinks a week will only cost you $150 per year, as opposed to “cheap” drinks that will cost you $470, for a savings of at least $320.
3.4. Mixed Drinks
Mixed drinks are becoming increasingly popular, and bars make a ton of money off of them.
A “signature” mixed drink at the bar could cost you more than $15!
However, you can probably make the same thing at home for less than $3.
If a typical mixed drink costs you $9, if you have a couple of mixed drinks per week, you’ll save more than $600 over the year!
3.5. Social Aspect
For some people, going to the bar is a way to get away from home, and / or a way to socialize.
Instead, invite your friends over for a drink!
The atmosphere is whatever you want it to be, and the service is much better.
Serve bar snacks.
4. Stop Eating Out
Most fast food is junk food – it has insufficient nutritive value, and too much salt and cholesterol.
At a restaurant, a decent lunch is going to cost you $10, and a decent dinner is going to cost you $15 or more.
The benefit of “food culture” is that there is an abundance of recipes online, and good ingredients at the store.
Even if you can’t cook very well, it’s relatively easy to cook a decent meal, and it gets easier with practice.
Pasta dishes are extremely easy to make, fast, and inexpensive.
Likewise, grilled meat and steamed veggies are inexpensive and simple to make.
If you happen to be good at cooking, the sky is the limit, and even if you lead a busy lifestyle, I guarantee that you can cook a home-made meal in about the same time it takes to go through the drive-through.
Another option is to use the crock pot. There are about a million really good crock pot recipes that you can prepare the night before, set a timer on your crock pot, and have an excellent meal ready, right on time.
Anecdote: When the kids were little, Shannon worked nights, and I worked days. I would pick up the kids after work, and throw some chicken, steak, or pork on the grill, and maybe cook some pasta with veggies. There was enough variety that the kids didn’t get burned out on chicken (or anything else), but they got a good, home-cooked meal every night. Even with soccer and tai kwon do and 80 working hours per week, and whatever else, we almost never did drive-through. It’s not that difficult to eat a good meal every night, and not spend a fortune doing it.
I can count on one hand, the number of times the kids had Hamburger Helper or some other pre-processed crap for dinner.
For less than $5 per meal, you can make a gourmet-quality sandwich, and bring that and some chips for lunch.
For less than $5 per meal, you can make a really decent dinner.
If you do both, you’ll save $15 per weekday or more, or about $800 per year.
4.1. Lunch Culture
Sometimes, your group at work has a “lunch culture”, and if you bring your lunch every day, it’s easy to get excluded.
We used to have working lunches, offsite, for the purpose of getting away from the immediate stress of the production environment. We could talk about ideas, and step back from some of the problems in order to get a better perspective.
Order an appetizer. Eat cheap. Then, go back to the office and eat the sandwich you brought to work.
4.2. Foodie Culture
You like to try new foods and eat at new restaurants.
Try to limit your excursions to once or twice a week – you’ll still save money.
You can save $5,000 per year or more, by NOT paying for over-priced products and services that, unfortunately, have become integrated with our daily culture.
- Stop drinking bottled water
- Stop buying expensive coffee drinks
- Drink at home instead of the bar / restaurant
- Eat decent home-cooked meals instead of eating at restaurants
Once you break these habits, you’ll be happier, healthier, and wealthier.