Bottled Water… Not Just For Doomsday Preppers Anymore?

Dying of Thirst

I went to Target the other day for an anniversary card and some Sesame Street branded breakfast bars.  Yes, Mustachians, I was only there for a few things and I drove my car.  But I bundled that trip with a sweet Julian-Edelman-style haircut at Great Clips and a trip to the liquor store for some anniversary Yellow Tail.  I lead a fancy life.

Anyways, while I was in line waiting at the self-checkout at Target I noticed something about the Coca Cola cooler at the end of the aisle.  Row after row of brightly colored tasty Coke products like the classic stuff, Minute Maid Lemonade, and Orange Fanta, was pretty much fully stocked.

The top row was a wasteland though.  There were only a few bottles of Dasani left, tipped over and strewn about like there had been a frantic run on bottled water just minutes before I got there.

There must have been a five-for-one sale, I thought.  Nope.  $1.75 for one 20 oz bottle.

Surely the water fountains by the bathrooms are broken.  Or, maybe, they’re spitting out free Coke instead.  I ran to the fountains.  Nope.  No Coke.  Damn.  But they did spout out some water.  Cool, clear, refreshing water… for free!

Is there a coming apocalypse that I missed?  [Gasp]  Did Trump press the wrong button?  Why would there be a run on bottled water?

I walked outside.  The airplanes at the nearby international airport were still landing and taking off.  I imagine one sure sign of an apocalypse is grounded air traffic.

What is the deal, then?  Why is everyone buying bottled water?!

[Snap]  Then I remembered.  It’s considered normal now.

The Report

Business Insider report I saw last week said bottled water officially passed soda as the most consumed beverage in the United States in 2016.  My little trip to Target to take inventory of the Coke cooler at the self-checkout line was the final validation we needed.

Bottled water sells, baybee!

Here’s the thing.  That’s weird to me.  Sorry all you bottled water enthusiasts out there, but it’s just baffling to me that people would pay $1.75 for something that is available mere steps away for free.  And it’s apparently flying out of the cooler at that price.

The Math

Since this is a personal finance blog (at least it pretends to be) I won’t get into the debate about the environmental impact of bottled water (Read Stop Drinking Bottled Water, if you want a good shaming on the subject).

No.  I just want to do some math.

What would the average person spend on bottled water per year if they only bought Dasani from Target?…

  • The Business Insider article cited a report from the Beverage Marketing Corporation that said the average American consumed more than 39 gallons of bottled water.
  • That’s about 250 bottles of 20-ounce Dasani per person
  • That’s $437.50 spent per person on bottled water annually (if $1.75 Dasani is the norm).
  • Total = $36.46 per month.

… And what could it cost to filter your own water at home and pour it into your own reusable container?…

  • 39 gallons of water at my city rate of about half a cent per gallon (rounded way up) = $0.20 per year.  $0.02 per month (again rounded up).
  • Since we’re comparing against the premo Dasani bottled water, we’ll buy the high-end Brita filters at Target ($6.59 each) for the Brita pitcher and replace it every 40 gallons as suggested for best taste.  That’s $6.59 per year if we’re drinking 39 gallons to replace our bottled water consumption.  $0.55 per month.
  • Now for the real cost of filtering your own water.  If you’re like me, you lose about one quality aluminum water bottle every year.  Let’s say $15 per year.  $1.25 per month.
  • Total = $1.82 per month.

… What’s the difference and what impact can that make on your future savings?

  • $34.64 extra per month in our fictional Dasani vs. Brita example.
  • That’s $6,337.25 of potential savings in ten years compounded at 8%.

I know what you’re thinking.  $6,337.25 is a small price to pay for not having to lug a water bottle everywhere for 10 years and drink foul-tasting death-water from the city system.

That’s not what you’re thinking?  You think my numbers are off?  No one drinks a bottle of Dasani from Target every business day out of the year?  Maybe you’re right, but my trip to Target to do a random self-checkout Coke-cooler survey seems to suggest it’s more common than one might think.

For some better numbers, though, try the 20 Something Finance blog.  G.E. Miller probably breaks them down a little more realistically in a recent article of his.  He even does some work debunking the foul-tasting death-water myth with some help from Good Morning America.

Bottom Line

I get it.  Bottled water is convenient and many people think it tastes better than tap.  Certainly bottled water has its place when the municipal system has been compromised.  And I know it’s much better for you than the battery acid they put in Coke (I still love that fizzy tonic, though).  It’s great that people are making healthier choices.  It really is.

I just think it’s a little ludicrous that we’re willing to pay as much money as we do for water that, in many cases, is just repackaged tap water from municipal pipes.

Especially, when we can walk into virtually any store with a restroom in the U.S. and sip that same city water from a public fountain.

Especially, when you can still walk into almost any greasy spoon in America and get a free fill-up of cool, clean ice-water from Flo even before your ass hits the seat.

Especially when you can guzzle water from almost any random garden hose in the States and be glad ya did (It means you’re working or playing hard, son).

You may disagree with my math above.  But unless you’re buying water by the case prepping for the next disaster I haven’t heard about, even a few extra dollars a month buying bottled water, in my humble opinion, is a complete waste.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Now, a word from our sponsor…My app! Half Hour Hank. It’s the productivity app you didn’t know you needed, but soon won’t be able to live without. Click the button below to begin the journey…

0. App Icon


  1. We live on a well and thus only pay electricity to pump water out of the ground. As for bottled water, we maybe twice a year do buy a case. Why? Simply put sometimes you camp with non portable water and it’s easier to buy a bottle of water then iodine treat something or remember to fill up empty milk jugs before leaving. Economical, no, but there are some corner cases of value. I somehow doubt though that my corner case is clearing the shelves at your local store.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s certainly a place for bottled water. Camping at a place where the water is questionable is a great example. I’m definitely not against having a case on-hand for such an occasion.

      America’s most bought bottled beverage, though? We’ve gone overboard, right? Especially for us city-dwellers, where there’s potable water available for free in every building we step into.

      I love these discussions! Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!


  2. Hilarious! I really want to start packaging up other free resources and selling them just to see what people are willing to pay.

    One jar of air? That’ll be $3.75.

    I get paying for bottled water in countries where you can’t trust what’s in the tap. In the U.S. though? There’s only a couple places you need to be worried. Craziness!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Crispy,
    I couldn’t agree more. I bring tap water with lemon in a 32 ounce Rubbermaid plastic bottle to work every day. My Grandfather use to call tap water “city beer”. The cost is prohibitive when purchased. Maybe I will grow a third ear by drinking it but I am willing to take my chances.


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s