The One Hour Project: Create A Water-Drinking Routine

This post is part of The One Hour Project, in which you can spend just one hour to put your finances in a better place without a big lifestyle change, through frugality or other financial choices.

One of the biggest expenditures in many people’s lives is that of bottled and canned beverages, whether it be soda, sports drinks, or even bottled water. Considering that you can get four gallons of tap water from your tap for a single cent, it’s easy to see that substituting other beverages for this highly inexpensive resource can save you a lot of money rather quickly. If you drink a case of soda a week (costing $6), that’s an annual savings of $312 – well worth it.

Not only that, most people don’t drink a healthy amount of water in a day. The National Institute of Medicine advises that “men consume roughly 3.0 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day and women consume 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day.” Since only 20% of that comes from food, men should be drinking a little over 10 cups a day and women should drink a little over 7 cups a day – and the average American drinks far less than that.

Plus, it’s always a healthy choice to replace beverages that you’re drinking with water. Every time you make that choice, you’re choosing to eliminate all sorts of things from your diet – everything from caffeine to high fructose corn syrup and excess salts.

The problem for most people is upsetting their routine, so spend some time making it easy for yourself to change the routine. Here’s the game plan.

Every time you have a tendency to grab a beverage, get water instead. Make it your mission to do this for one week, and if you don’t like it, then don’t continue with it.

Fill some water bottles and put them in place of where you normally store beverages. I have a shelf in my refrigerator for beverages. As I went through my last go-round of Gatorade, I refilled the bottles with water and put them back in the fridge. This way, my normal routine of reaching in and grabbing a bottle wasn’t interrupted.

Don’t buy replacements for the beverages you already have. If you buy Gatorade or soda – or even ordinary bottled water – by the case, stop buying it. Instead, just keep water around and available in the refrigerator.

The real key to changing your beverage drinking habits, as with changing any habit, is to focus on changing the routine of it. Converting to drinking mostly water for your liquid intake is financially worthwhile (and healthy, too), but taking the time to modify any expensive habit is worth your time.

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  1. Veronica says:

    I stopped buying all bottled beverages last month. With the amount of pop, bottled water and sports drinks we were consuming regularly, our annual bill would have equaled $1,000, or more!

    I have given up bottled beverages completely, and my husband will now run up to the corner store for a bottle if he HAS to have a Coke. This costs more per bottle than buying in bulk, but like many people we were drinking what was on hand. Now, what is on hand it tap water, which we keep in a large pitcher in the fridge.

  2. Andy says:

    I find that if I leave a tall glass of cool water by my desk I sip on it without thinking. It keeps me working hard all day long.

    But I’ll never give up my premium coffee!!

  3. Susy says:

    I agree. I’ve been drinking water only since college. I always have a glass on my desk and I have 5 or six water bottles in the kitchen and I always fill on to carry with me when I head out the door. I also always carry a small bag with almonds & dried fruit with me. If I’m out & about shopping and get hungry – no need to swing through Panera or somewhere to get a snack, I’ve got one in my bag!

  4. Steph says:

    If you’re craving flavor tea is a good option too. You can get 40 or 50 bags of green tea at Trader Joes for $2.00 and I always use the bag 2 or three times. That’s less than 5 cents per cup and it’s good for you. In warm weather making iced tea is a cheap option too.

  5. Or do what I do, and trick yourself into drinking the water by putting it into a coffee travel mug…. :P

    I just drink and sip it automatically, and since it’s filled with water and not vodka, coffee, or sugary anything, it’s great!

  6. Dave says:

    I find the $1 or so a week I spend on a 2 liter of soda to be well worth it… although that doesn’t count the money I spend on soda with meals.

  7. jake says:

    I use to buy on average 3 sodas a day with the cost of $1 per soda. I have recently gone completely to water for everything.

    When i order say at a fast food restaurant i do not get a combo meal with a drink, and ask for a cup for water. Most places will give you a cup for water free.

    I have saved a ton of money and not to mention I seem to be more awake and feel much better.

    I am trying to see how long i can pull this off, that is drinking only water no matter what the situation, be it a party or going out to eat.

  8. Mike says:

    I agree that both the financial and health benefits of drinking water are worth it. However, I still find myself craving a soda every now and then. So instead of buying them at the grocery, which often leaves several bottles or cans in my fridge, I force myself to go to the vending machine at work (which is when I typically crave soda).

    This may seem paradoxical, as vending machines charge much more per bottle – but this method forces me to choose between getting my fix and being financially responsible – 95% of the time I stare at the machine and then go back and grab a cup of water instead.

  9. Mrs. Micah says:

    I had to laugh when I scrolled down to this in my reader, since I’d just handed Mr. Micah my water bottle for a refill. We each keep a couple in the apartment for easy access.

    Well, I have more than a couple. Mr. Micah calls them my “paraphernalia.” It’s just that whenever I absolutely need to buy one because I don’t have one with me, I’ll bring it home and put it somewhere to be used. So there’s little lost bottles all over the place.

    I used to be addicted to Coke, but that was expensive and gave me withdrawal headaches, so I switched to water after a few agonizing days. But now I love the stuff!

  10. I’m all for drinking lots of water instead of any other type of drink, but I’m mainly concerned with the need to reduce the amount of plastic bottles we use on a daily basis.

  11. Mariette says:

    Like any habit, once you break the old one and start anew, it becomes second nature. I don’t drink soda really, I haven’t for years, partly because I started on this drinking lots of water instead of other things a number of years ago. I just carry my nalgene bottle filled with water from my tap with me wherever I go and I stay hydrated.

    Of course now there’s been quite a bit in the media about BPA being an endocrine disrupter so those pretty Lexan Nalgene bottles (the different colored ones) are not such a good idea after all. So I’m doing glass at home and at work now and I have my classic blue Nalgene for travel (which is a #1 plastic and doesn’t contain BPA.)

  12. Jodi says:

    I have to brag about my husband. He has been a pop drinker for the majority of his life. But we have gotten on the dave ramsey plan and he realized how much he was spending on pop. He then decided to start drinking water. What he does to make it more “palatable” for him, is he puts a couple drops of lemon juice in his water. It keeps him happy and it’s still water. No corn syrup added.

    I’m mostly happy that he is now being healthier. ;)

  13. Lazy Man says:

    Case of generic Sam’s Choice soda at WalMart – around $4. With 2 liters, you can likely get the habit under $3. That’s a good savings without giving up anything.

  14. Jon says:

    Soda or pop, the age old question! Well since moving away from Minnesota I’ve found that most people say soda. Maybe we need a pop movement.

    At work I’ve got two glasses of water on my desk (to save trips). The only problem is the massive amount of condensation, since I fill the second glass more than halfway with ice.

  15. kc says:

    I have a water filter that I fill every day at home and then I keep about 3 nalgene-type water bottles filled with water in the fridge. I take one to work and sip all day long and then when I get home I have cold water as well. I also have straws in my bottles – you drink more from a straw and I don’t risk spilling water all over my work outfit. I drink hot tea every morning and a coke once or twice a week – but everything else is water.

  16. Laura says:

    I drink water with my meals at work. I save money by not going to the vending machines. When I’m on campus, I fill my bottle with water from the fountain and save even more because the vending machines are more expensive here.

    I’d say I get 4 cups of water a day and the rest is juice or tea.

  17. dawn f says:

    We do this in our family but we use bottled water that we refill for 50 c a gallon. We have hard water & even letting it sit in the fridge overnight it doesn’t taste right. I am wary to do the brita filters since who knows what other chemicals they have in there & if it is really better. We rent so putting in a big filter system isn’t going to happen. Any suggestions for a sink filter that would work but not add in tons of chemicals?
    thanks I love your site. Very inspiring.
    Aloha

  18. Dawnry says:

    When I am out at a restraunt I order one glass of water with lemon. Then I may order another beverage later when I am ordering my meal. But I usually find that the water is just fine and I stick with that.

    I have a water store near me where i can fill a plastic container for 25 cents a gallon. I keep all my travel bottles and travel mugs close to my door so that I remember to take it with me when I go out.

  19. Marsha says:

    I agree that beverages can be the source of a significant expense. I love drinking good water, but even bottled water can become expensive. Sadly, the tap water where I live does not taste very good. It’s not too bad when used to make iced tea, though.

    I will pick up an individual soda when I’m out doing errands. As Mike posted, the per item cost is high this way, but it’s a more mindful choice.

    Thanks to Mariette for the info about Nalgene – good to know!

  20. Cheryl says:

    This is so true with me also. But lately I have been thinking of the chlorine and other chemicals that they add to my tap water. I think that can be just as bad. So I’ve installed a water filter on the tap. Another on on the icemaker. It makes a big difference in the taste.

  21. Andrea says:

    Aside from the cost debate, the problem for me was motivating myself to drink period — I just didn’t think about it and am not often thirsty. I would realize in the evening that the only liquid I had consumed all day was a cup of coffee in the A.M. I became a born-again water drinker by making a deal with myself that during any time I allowed myself the luxury of playing a computer game, I only had permission if I took a giant gulp between rounds. So my downtime breaks now include a huge glass of water or two, which gets polished off in about 20 minutes. I highly recommend it as a way to trick yourself into drinking more water!

  22. Mike says:

    @ dawn f:

    The consumer water filters you see in stores, like Brita or PUR, don’t add chemicals to your water. They are mostly just activated carbon filters to eliminate smaller dissolved solids, with another filter that chemically attracts things like lead without actually adding harmful chemicals in exchange. Overall, they are quite safe to use.

  23. pam munro says:

    An old NYC trick is to keep a pitcher of water in the frig – that way the chlorine seems to dissipate and the water just tastes better…I also have a container of weak suntea which I keep in the frig and sip on it thru the day. I have had a diet coke (generic) habit -but it riled my stomach – so I am on mostly black tea now. Did you guys really spend that much on bottled water? I fill up old bottles to drag along and have lots of “to go” cups for all of our beverages! You can even get them at thrift/bargain outlets – that’s where we score the insulated coffee cups for my husband’s coffee…You really should check out the thriftyfun website for downhome tips on thrift…

  24. Recently re-invested in a Brita filter system and it’s already paid for itself =)

  25. Steve says:

    I bought a bottle of fancy lux water voss (because I liked the bottle, I know its shallow), and I just refill it at the office water cooler everyday… lux water everyday!

  26. Rob in Madrid says:

    A little trick for you parents trying to get your kids off coke. Club soda (gassy water) I got in the habit of drinking it when we lived in Europe and when ever we go home I stock up on it. Kids go crazy for it, has all the fizz of coke and none of the calories. Best part is the no name brand tastes the same as the brand name.

    Another trick I use to drink more water is one to buy on one 2l of diet pepsi a week and secondly to keep a glass full on the counter. When ever I’m in the kitchen I take a drink.

  27. Patrick says:

    I drink more water than anything else, and I know I save a lot of money from it. I drink almost a gallon of water every day. I do allow for the occasional glass of juice, or a soda in the afternoon if I am feeling tired, but mostly I drink water.

  28. I drink more water than anything else, and i save a lot of money from it. I drink almost a gallon of water every day. I do allow for the occasional glass of juice, or a soda in the afternoon if i am feeling tired,but mostely i drink water.
    P.S
    if it is a very special occasion i drink pop

  29. Mary says:

    I use a metal BPA-free bottle. It’s great, clips onto my backpack when I go to class, not a huge bottle but nothing too small either…the only problem I have is on hot days, it won’t keep cold water well and will condensate on the bottle. So yeah, gotta find something that will keep cold water well. Drinking warm water sucks.

    So glad I switched to water. I don’t drink pop, but I do drink fruit juices and milk. And coffee of course. I drink it from the tap too, then again I live in a town known for its good water – Eau Claire WI (means clear water in French). :) I’ll get a filter eventually, but for now I’m confident about how clear the water is here.

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