In praise of bottled water

A big part of personal finance advice revolves around finding ways to spend less.  Less money going out the door means more money staying in your bank account.

By and by, some purchases draw an above-average amount of fire.  Bottled water is one of them.

I’ve seen at least three posts over the past few weeks that include bottled water as one of those things you shouldn’t buy.  Though I do agree that it can get expensive if you drink it all the time, bottled water does have redeeming value.

There’s always context to be considered

I’ve been writing things online for nearly a decade now on personal finance and money issues, and it’s easy to get an echo chamber effect in this area.  It’s fairly easy to boil down the basics of personal finance to a few core ideas.  The ways to save money found in The Tightwad Gazette are still valid.  And many of those ways to save money weren’t new when she published them in the 1990′s.

Tap water, passed through a faucet-mount filter works out to be about a dime a gallon.  A gallon of drinking water from Walmart is about a buck.  The math is pretty easy there.

But sometimes, there’s more than just math to consider.

I had a meeting in a neighboring town with some colleagues.  We went up in two vehicles because we were coming from different places.  On the way back, it worked out that I rode back in the other vehicle.  One of my colleagues — also a mentor of mine — had a nice, roomy vehicle.

In a compartment in the inside of the back door, he had some bottled water, and told me to help myself.

I remember that because of how hospitable it was.  Looking back, it was a pretty inexpensive way to earn points with me.  If it was an “ethical bribe” then he slipped me a nickel as he shook my hand.  In the grand scheme of things, bottled water is cheaper than soda, and it’s almost certainly healthier.

I’ve also experienced the flip side of this.  Our Toastmasters Club had an open house.  I had bought a reusable seven-gallon water container with a plastic faucet, and filled it with water to bring for refreshments.  I was looking to kill two birds with one stone:  bring refreshments to the open house, and get a water container for our personal use so we could prepare a bit for storms and the like.

That container, filled up, weighed almost sixty pounds.  After the party, I think it weighed about fifty-nine pounds as I lugged it back to my car.  Filtered tap water just wasn’t the first choice of anyone.  With all of the other beverages there, I can’t blame them.

To summarize …

Is bottled water expensive compared to tap water?  Absolutely.  Are there times when bottled water is inexpensive compared to the value it delivers?  Yes.  Are there times when the cheaper alternative is a waste of effort?  Yes.

It’s all about context!


Build profts or relationships with fresh eggs?

There are lots of advantages that come out of being in a healthy marriage.  A healthy marriage takes work, and lots of communication, especially about financial matters.

Over time, I’ve come to view differences of opinion on money matters with my wife less as argument, but more as different perspective.  Partners have different ways of looking at money, and taking both into consideration is better than either perspective alone.

“Oh we’ve got eggs now …”

We’ve talked for around a year about getting some chickens.  We eat a fair number of eggs — as do our dogs, from the dog food we make.  Raising chickens is one way to work towards our own egg source.  It’s also an exercise in hedging against dependence on external grocery supply chains.  (Prepping on a small scale, if you will.)

My wife did a lot of the legwork for deciding which breeds to get.  We tended toward breeds that were more or less egg-laying machines.  She and her parents also did a great deal of design and construction work on the garden and coop area in our backyard.  Though we bought a few female chicks, we also had the opportunity to take over care of three hens.

The hens (at least one, maybe two) started laying eggs again after they had overcome the shock of the new surroundings.  When the chicks we have grow up, we probably will be getting a few dozen eggs a week.  That’s more than we would want to eat.

Naming the chickens:  Two philosophies

The majority of the chickens we got were either Sussex or Red Star hens.  The Sussex, being an English breed, got names of queens:  Elizabeth, Mary, etc.  The Red Stars, though neither Russian nor Soviet, got names of Russian and Soviet first ladies:  Yekaterina, Raisa, etc.

I was a bit more pragmatic with my naming (which didn’t fly):  Egg Laying Profit Machine 1, Egg Laying Profit Machine 2, etc.

This also feeds into how I saw us distributing the fresh eggs that we weren’t going to eat.  We have about three months before the chicks will be old enough to start producing.

Selling the extra eggs:  Two perspectives

I wanted to start up the bidding war.  The eggs will likely be brown (which commands a premium in the right circles) and will be free-range and organic, which also command premiums.  Therefore, sell the limited supply of extra eggs to the highest bidders — the people within our circles that were willing to pay the most for them.

Well :) this was flatly rejected.  Her plan was to sell them at a more nominal price to friends if they wanted them, or give them as gifts.  Initially I was thinking Why why WHY are you underselling them like that?! but I suppressed being too heavy-handed and heard that her take was to build relationships.

That simmered me down a bit, because there’s a lot of merit to that.  Taking care of friends is indeed extremely important — not because there’s the expectation of getting something in return, but because good friends are a lot more valuable than the few extra bucks per dozen that some people might shell out for the eggs.


Rebate site review: Ebates

Ebates was the first rebate site I used.  I’ve been a member since 2002.  The site has been around since 1998.  That’s last century, if you’re keeping track.

I use rebate sites all the time.  Every chance I get, as a matter of fact!  For a miniscule amount of extra work, I can save a few dollars or even more than a few on a lot of online purchases.

Using Ebates is simple:

  • Sign up for an Ebates account, which is free.
  • Log into Ebates before you shop.
  • If Ebates offers a rebate on purchases from your favorite stores, go through EBates to get to the store instead of going to the store directly.

And that’s about all there is to start accumulating your rebates!

Briefly behind the scenes

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

You may be wondering where Ebates gets the money to send to you in the form of a rebate.  (No free lunches, right?)

The short answer is that the store you bought from sends the money to Ebates in the form of a commission.  Ebates referred you to the store, so they get the commission, but then they turn right around and share part of it with you.  The part they retain is their profit for making it all happen.

Features of Ebates

Ebates has been around longer than most rebate sites, but there are a number of other competing sites now.  Still, Ebates has unique features, even though the look and feel of the site seems just like I remembered it in 2002!  Here are the special features that make Ebates different:

  • Low minimum payout.  The minimum amount required to receive a quarterly payment from Ebates is $5.01.  That’s low for the range of rebates sites.
  • Daily Double.  One store a day is the Daily Double.  For one day only, the rebate for that site is … wait for it … double what it normally is.  Truth in advertising at its finest!
  • Seasonal extra rebates.  Depending on the time of year, a whole bunch of stores will qualify for extra rebates.  This time of year is approaching back to school time, so a number of clothing stores have higher-than-normal rebates going on.
  • Browser add-in and apps.  The browser add-in and apps will detect whether or not your store qualifies for a rebate, and makes the sign-in process even easier to get to saving money.
  • Product search.  If you’re looking for a particular product, you can try the keyword-based product search feature.  It draws from the inventory of rebate-eligible sites and shows which sites have the item, and how much rebate you’ll get when you purchase it there.
  • Periodic sign-up bonuses.  Occasionally Ebates offers a sign-up bonus for new accounts.

But, as I mentioned, this site has been around a long time.  It was around when the Internet’s inventor was Vice President!  (Well, not quite, but it has been around for 16 years!)  You don’t stay around that long time by not paying your rebates, and I don’t see Ebates going away any time soon!