How Water Can Save You $977 a Year


Most of us eat out at least once a week. In fact, renowned culinary experts Zagat recently announced that although we are dining out less as a nation (due to the poor economy) we are still eating out an average of 3.1 times per week. That's the average of course, some of us are eating out daily. (See also: A Cheapskate's Guide to Eating Out)

And when we eat out, be it at a fast food restaurant or something more refined, we drink soda. Oh, how we drink soda. As a nation, we can't get enough of it. According to Dr. Oz:

53 million Americans drink at least one soda a day, and we spent $70 billion last year on soda.

That got me thinking. How much would we save, on average, if we substituted tap water (not bottled, please) for soda every time we ate out. Every restaurant, fast food or otherwise, has given me free water with my meal when I ask for it. And remember, I'm not talking about substituting every single soda we drink — just the ones that accompany the meals we eat away from home.

First, let's review the numbers we're dealing with.

We already know that we eat out 3.1 times per week. Now take the average family size, which according to 2009 US Census data is 3.19 people. And, as we're playing with averages, what's the median cost of a soda?

Well, the cost of soda is obviously going to change depending on where you live and where you eat. A glass of soda at a high end restaurant in New York is not going to be the meager $1 McDonald's charges (although that's still a huge mark-up). I've paid almost $5 for a glass of Coke in a trendy gastro-pub. But I did some digging and found out that there is generally a recommended price for a 20oz soda with free refills. That price is $1.75 plus tax. So, let's round that up to $1.90.

Here's the math:

  • We eat out 3.1 times per week.
  • 3.19 people make up the average family.
  • With 52 weeks in a year, that makes roughly 514 glasses of soda every year for an average family.
  • 514 x $1.90 = $977!

What could you do with an extra $977 a year?

Right now, you could buy a really nice laptop, a whole new wardrobe, or it could go towards a vacation for your family. And all for substituting water for soda only when you eat out. It's not like you're giving it up entirely. Think it over.

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Guest's picture

We rarely get soda when we go out and we don't drink that much around the house either. I used to take a can of it every day in my lunch, but cut that out a couple of years ago in favor of tap water, so I'm already good.

No way do we eat out three times a week, either. For us, it's typically once a week, so right there alone is a bigger savings than the soda portion, and probably a good one to concentrate on first!

Guest's picture
Mavis D.

Unfortunately, you're probably spending more by eating out than you are saving by getting water. If you MUST eat out, then it makes a difference...otherwise, stay home, drink tap water and save both ways.

Not only would drinking tap water save money on's better for you which would contribute to lower health costs.

Guest's picture

Try eating out 3 times a year and you'll save even more!!

Guest's picture

I really like these comparisons that clearly show how much the annual savings are by giving up little or nothing.

It's simple math, but consumer finance is not rocket science.

Thank you.

Guest's picture


Guest's picture

It's a fact that many establishments make big profits on their beverages more than almost everything else. I usually get a good old tap water with ice and a lemon. Save's at least a $6.00 tab on any meals i eat out on. I occasionally have a red wine though as at least it has some health benefits vs. soda.

Dwight Anthony
Financially Elite Blog dot Com

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