This article first appeared at US News and World Report Money.
Drinking soda (or pop or coke, depending on the region of the United States you reside in) can add up surprisingly quickly, particularly if you have several children. Even worse than that, soda is a way to add a bunch of extra calories to your diet, making it easy to gain weight if you’re not careful and contribute to a number of medical conditions from dental damage to diabetes.
It makes sense to break a soda habit. Breaking that habit can be quite tricky, however, and not every solution works for everyone. Different people drink soda for different reasons, from the fizziness on the tongue to the sweetness to the caffeine to the pure routine of it.
Here are five low-cost options for breaking the soda habit that address the different reasons that people drink soda.
5 Cheap Strategies to Break the Soda Habit
If you love the fizziness, look for a secondhand carbonation system
I’ve seen several SodaStream dispensers on Craigslist and at yard sales this spring for very low prices. Pick one up for a few bucks and you’re off to a great start as a system like this can provide a lot of carbonated water at a cheap price.
Carbonated water is the source of the fizz in your soda, so if it’s the fizz that you’re after, this is a great place to start. A full priced carbonated water dispenser isn’t a good deal, but one at yard sale prices certainly can be.
If you must have a mix of fizziness and sweetness, use the carbonation system with a smart sweetener
Actually using SodaStream brand syrup to sweeten your carbonated water can really add up over time, too. The syrup isn’t free, after all.
One option is to buy syrups from another source. An alternative with a great reputation is to use Torani syrups, which are typically used for mixed drinks. If you put a plunger in the top and use 4 to 6 squirts per liter of soda, you drop the cost per liter down to a few cents.
Another option is to mix orange juice with the carbonated water to your desired level, making a punch-like mix. If you don’t use too much orange juice (I find a three parts carbonated water to one part orange juice mix to be good), it can be pretty inexpensive, too. Other juices can be used as well, though you’ll need to check the prices to be sure that it stays cheap.
If you’re mostly looking for caffeine, try caffeinated teas
One good solution is to put two or three tea bags in a quart of water and allow it to steep overnight in the fridge, creating a liter of caffeinated tea for about fifteen cents.
Tea bags are usually quite inexpensive and come in a wide variety of flavors, some of which have caffeine and some of which do not. Inspect the packaging when choosing a tea to determine the caffeine content.
Some people really want a bit of sweetness with their tea. Depending on the type of tea you use, it may already have a hint of natural sweetness, but you can a bit of sugar or whatever you prefer to make it a bit sweeter. A small amount of sugar or honey isn’t that expensive when you’re adding just a spoonful to a liter.
Another option for caffeine is to switch to coffee
A close friend of mine once said that when she turned twenty five, she switched from soda to coffee for her caffeine fix. Most of the cost of coffee comes from the sweeteners and additives, but if you’re mostly just looking for a healthier way to get some caffeine to get you going during your down times, a cup of coffee with a bit of sugar can be perfect.
If you’re looking for a good low-priced coffee option, most sources point to Eight o’Clock Coffee as the best “bang for the buck” coffee option. There are other options that are less expensive and many that are more expensive, but EoCC provides a great balance of quality and cost.
If you simply want to break the unhealthy cycle, drink water
You don’t need bottled water, either; bottled water is less regulated than tap water, meaning your tap water is actually safer and healthier.
If you’re stuck on the routine of grabbing a bottle of water or soda out of the refrigerator, just pick up a few water bottles and start filling them with water. Keep some filled and in the fridge at all times so that when you’re tempted to just grab a beverage, water is sitting there waiting for you.
Finding low-cost alternatives that can bring you the things you enjoy from soda without breaking the bank with constant soda purchases is a sure way to save you quite a bit of cash over the long run.