Up until a year or so ago I had a pretty bad soda habit. I guess there were others who have a bigger problem than I did, but mine was bad enough. I would routinely drink soda with lunch and dinner, and maybe one in between if the urge hit. I always drank diet so it wasn’t like I was gaining weight, but the soda habit became a problem nonetheless.
I started to have problems with the caffeine. I’d never noticed before, but it started making me jittery and giving me gastric problems. I guess my body couldn’t handle it anymore. I could have switched to caffeine free soda, but I started to have concerns about the sweeteners and chemicals used in soda, as well. (True story: I was a figure skater growing up and we used to soak our skate blades in Diet Pepsi to remove rust. When you’re young you don’t think about things like that, but looking back it really makes me wonder what I was thinking drinking a proven rust remover.)
I decided the soda had to go. I cut down gradually to spare myself the caffeine withdrawal headaches that I would have gotten had I gone cold turkey. I went from two or three sodas a day down to one. Then I got it down to one every other day, then every two days, and so on until soda was no longer part of my life. It took about a month and a half. I replaced soda with more water, pure juices (but not too many because of the sugar content in some) and decaffeinated iced tea. I started feeling better almost immediately.
I didn’t start out eliminating soda to save money, but in addition to improved health, I was shocked to learn how much money my soda habit was costing me. I generally bought cases on sales like 4/$11 or similar. Each case was roughly $2.75 for twelve cans. In my worst weeks, a case would last four days. Sometimes six. For the sake of argument, let’s say a case lasted five days. In a month that meant six cases. That was $16.50 per month and a whopping $198 per year.
But that’s not the worst of it. That number doesn’t count the sodas I bought at really expensive places like restaurants, theaters, ball games and amusement parks. The average cost of a drink in such a place is around $3.00 and I was buying an average of three per week in places such as these, spending at least $9 per week more on soda. Over the fifty-two weeks in a year, I spent an additional $468 on soda. My total soda expenditure in a year: $666.00, not including tax and not counting any other random soda purchases at vending machines and gas stations. If I had to guess those probably totaled another $50/year, bringing me just over $700 per year in soda.
When I laid it all out like that, I thought, “Holy cow. That’s a small vacation, two years of routine vet care for my dog, or a decent piece of furniture. Over ten years, that’s $7,000, which is a decent used car or a nice chunk of change in an IRA. Good grief!”
Now I mostly drink water. If I need something with flavor, I drink decaf iced tea I make myself. Tea is cheap. I drink OJ at breakfast and that’s pretty much it. When we go out for dinner, I choose water, not only for the health benefits, but because I’ve realized just how overpriced drinks are in restaurants. I carry my own water to places like theme parks and ball games in a stainless steel water bottle (I haven’t transferred to my soda spending to bottled water). Not only am I healthier, I’m wealthier, too. If you’re looking for a way to trim your budget, I encourage you to look at your soda habits.