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!