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The Financial Implications Of Bottled Water

This week I finally made a long overdue purchase.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while and been meaning to grab, but kept putting it off and forgetting about it.

While it was a small purchase and could easily be overlooked in the grand scheme of things, it can come with some big ramifications both financially and environmentally. So just what was this purchase?

A water bottle.

Wow, that was a whole lot of hype just mention that I bought a water bottle, huh?

Not so fast!

You may think this is a small purchase, but in reality, depending on your consumer water drinking habits, it could be much more, saving you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year.

By using a reusable water bottle and filling it with tap water, the impacts can be far greater than you’d imagine.

Have you ever stopped to consider just how much you are spending on drinking water? Better yet, have you thought about what your water drinking habits are doing to the environment?

Financial Implications of Bottled Water

Forget the bottled water talk for a moment. What if I told you, for anything, that you were paying 2,000 times more for the exact same product as someone else. What would you do?

Most logical people would switch to the much cheaper product if it was exactly the same. For those in disbelief, that kind of overpay would at the very minimum warrant looking into it further.

Well, look no further. Back in 2012, Americans spent nearly $2,000 times the the cost of tap water on bottled water.

Here’s the math: $11.8 billion total was spent on 9.7 billion gallons of bottled water, which translates to nearly $1.22/gallon. As tap water costs approximately $0.004/gallon, that’s a 300 times differential.

When you factor in that nearly 2/3 of all bottled water were bought as single bottles (like from a vending machine) it’s much more expensive.

This raises the cost per gallon to $7.50, which is where the 2,000 x premium comes from.

Wow, that’s a large number. I never would have thought that bottled water could be considered that expensive compared to the alternative (tap water).

Bottled water can be bought in several different ways, with the individual bottles ranging anywhere from a few cents (when bought in the bulk packs), to $5-$7 for premium single bottles.

At a more personal level, lets say you just purchased one regular bottle of water from a vending machine and paid $1.50 (pretty standard in my area from what I’ve seen).

If you drink the recommended 8 glasses a day (64 fluid ounces), this equates to a half gallon of water. As noted above, a gallon of tap water costs $0.004, meaning a half gallon would be $0.002.

Multiply that out by 365 days and your drinking water for an entire year only costs $0.73 cents!!

Think about that for a second.

That one bottle of water just cost you double what tap water would for an entire year.

Sounds like a pretty poor financial choice, huh?

Environmental Implications of Bottled Water

I feel like most people these days already know that bottled water and plastic in general is bad for the environment.

Instead of rehashing all the facts here, take a look at the following info graphic from Printwand and see if that impacts your opinion:

The pretty startling fact for me was realizing it takes 1/4th of a bottle of oil to create a single plastic water bottle. If you imagine and picture that before you drink bottled water that’d be pretty gross!

Sure, if you actually recycle the plastic bottle after you use it, that will lessen the environmental impact, but the sad fact is that only about 23% of water bottles are actually being recycled.

And that doesn’t include the resources it took to already make the bottle!

As I mentioned, I think most people already know to an extent that bottled water is bad for the environment.

At this point, it’s really about convincing people to make the switch to reusable water bottles and tap water.

Making The Switch

While my earlier section commented how absurdly overpriced bottled water is, for a lot of people (myself included), this change won’t really make a difference to their financial bottom line.

I really don’t use bottled water often at all, only on road trips and other times when I’m without access to water.

When I would buy bottled water it would be in a 24-30 pack at the grocery store where it ran me $3-$4. I’d typically buy 1-2, max 3 of these per year (only bought one so far this year).

Saving $12 a year isn’t going to make or break my financial position.

If you currently use bottled water extensively, or especially buy single bottles where they are more expensive, then making the switch may have a much bigger financial impact for you.

This switch is all about doing my part to help out the environment and take the steps to reduce my environmental impact. (with getting a closer job to my apartment, I’ve already been driving a lot less!)

Angela over at Tread Lightly, Retire Early, has written many posts about the environment and sustainability and they’ve definitely helped make me realize I could be doing a lot better.

I can’t even look at the bottled water I have remaining without thinking how I’m letting her and the rest of the planet down! (kidding, but I have thought of that ha!)

Obviously, there are some situations where bottled water may be necessary (think emergencies or natural disasters), but most people could easily go without by making the simple switch.

As a community that prides itself on mindful and frugal consumption, bottled water seems like it should be the poster child for awful purchases from both a financial and environmental point of view.


Do you purchase or use bottled water? How much do you think you spend on it? Are there any other reasons why you’d continue to use them even with the financial and environmental impacts?

15 thoughts to “The Financial Implications Of Bottled Water”

  1. Sadly there are plenty of places (in this country, even, which *shouldn’t* be the case) where drinking tap water isn’t an option. But if that’s not the case, then yes, I judge people for automatically going to bottled water in situations that don’t call for it. Congrats on making the purchase and no longer being a horrible person 😉

    1. Yep this is very true.. I was preaching towards a vast majority of the people out there who do have access, but still choose water bottles haha. My terribleness is slowly subsiding the more I read all you cool people! 😂😉

  2. At home we don’t like the taste of the tap water and so we have a Brita filter and we drink a LOT of filtered tap water. I try to refill/reuse old empty bottles when going out so that I don’t need to buy water when out. I also keep a case of water bottles in the trunk of my car (purchased cheaply at a big bulk store) to save money on buying water when on the road. The latest trick I used on my last road trip (1000 miles from Jacksonville to New York) was to buy 2 gallons of water at the grocery, keep it in my car during the trip, and use that to refill my water bottle every time it was empty. So I didn’t have to buy water in the store (waste of money), and I didn’t have to dip into my stash of sealed bottles in my trunk (waste of plastic/environment).

    When reading your post, the other thought I had, which I know is in a bit of a different direction than your post, is how much people spend and how much plastic gets wasted and how many empty calories get consumed, by people drinking things other than water! It’s a huge business…

    Hopefully more countries take the position set by Costa Rica, to ban all single use plastics!

    1. Yea long car trips are tougher, as there’s no easy access to refill the water bottle so I think you have a good system.

      But that is so true with the whole bottled drinks industry! It’s an incredible waste. I think Costa Rica has it right! The US and others should follow suit

    1. Right?? It blows my mind when I see that too! It is great to see other offices and public areas installing those fountains to encourage and make it easier to fill up water bottles with tap water. Hopefully it drives a culture shift!

  3. Tap water tastes different to me and not in a good way. I don’t buy individually bottled water though. I have one of those insulated metal bottles and it’s great! Always stays cold on hot days. I drink water from the cooler at work and the tap at the gym. At home, I purchase it at the supermarket by the gallon (usually about a dollar per gallon depending on the brand).

    The bottled drink business is definitely something I try to avoid. Overpriced, unnecessary and hurts the environment as you mentioned.

    1. Have you tried using a brita filter at all? I’ve noticed that’s helped sometimes with the taste of tap water at home. But it sounds like you’re doing everything the way I do.

      Seriously though.. it’s totally crazy how much of those are sold, especially the single use. There’s gotta be something better out there!

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