How a Commitment to Drinking Just Water Saves More Money Than You Think

Several weeks ago, I made a new commitment. I decided I would no longer purchase any beverages for myself besides water.

Now, note that my pledge is a little different than saying “I’m going to drink only water.” The big difference is that I won’t turn down a non-water beverage that someone else purchases for me. If a friend buys some interesting craft beer with the intent to share it, I won’t turn it down. If someone offers me a soda at their house, I’ll drink it.

The only change is that I won’t spend my own money on beverages (besides water when there is no other option).

I expected this simple move would save me some significant money and I hoped that it would have some positive health impacts as well. I have lost a little weight while doing this which I mostly attribute to the beverage changes; but, for me, the interesting changes happened with regards to the financial savings.

To put it simply, this simple change saved money in ways I didn’t expect.

Let’s start off by looking at the savings that I did expect. My biggest beverage purchases for myself included a container of orange juice at the store each week as well as a beverage purchase at restaurants, though I would also occasionally purchase interesting craft beers. Since I was cutting out all of those purchases, it was pretty easy to figure out what my approximate monthly savings would be from those changes. I estimate the direct savings to be somewhere around $60 per month, give or take a little bit.

Over the course of the first month, I tried to keep track of every situation where I would have bought a beverage and did not, and my count came out to just shy of $67, which is pretty close to my estimate. Remember, this includes all sorts of beverage spending, from buying an orange juice at the store to buying a craft beer with dinner at a restaurant and from buying a soda to go with a meal to buying a six-pack of craft beer for the fridge, and everything in between.

However, in practice, I found that those changes led to other changes in my spending, most of which saved me even more money. Note that these changes came naturally as a result of drinking water instead of other beverages.

I stopped buying combo meals. For example, about once a week I would stop at the local Subway for a six-inch sandwich. I’d usually spend around $6 because I purchased the “meal deal” there. However, since I committed to no longer buying beverages for myself, the “meal deal” became a lot less interesting. Instead, I simply buy a six-inch sandwich and a cup of water, which is less than $4 for lunch. That’s a somewhat bigger savings than simply cutting out the beverage – it just naturally led to cutting out the cost of buying an overpriced side item, too.

I drink more water while I’m eating, which means I eat a little less. This seems unusual, but it’s true. If my beverage at the table isn’t water, I typically don’t drink very much of it while I’m eating. Instead, I’ll save it until after the meal. I think this is because I don’t like to alternate the flavors of the beverage with the flavors of the food. However, if it’s water, which is essentially flavorless, I’ll drink a lot of it during the meal, which means that I don’t eat as much.

The reduced consumption of food caught me by surprise a little bit, but I did notice during my last meal at a restaurant that I ordered a smaller dish than I usually did at a lower price and that the water I also ordered provided all of the sense of being full that I desired.

It also translates at home. If I eat a little less during meals, that translates into more leftovers, which at least once has translated into an extra meal we’ve been able to package up for the next day after dinner. Water consumption literally gave us an extra “leftover” lunch, which is definitely useful in stretching a food bill.

I haven’t had a headache in more than a month. I used to get a horrible headache about once a week, for which I would take four ibuprofen (the over-the-counter medicine that seemed to help the most). Since I stopped drinking other beverages and instead drink water much more often, those headaches have stopped. That jar of ibuprofen remains untouched for several weeks now, which means I’m not throwing more ibuprofen in the cart when I’m shopping.

I don’t know that this is specifically related to drinking more water, but I know that my headaches have basically disappeared at the same time that my water intake has increased, so it certainly feels like there’s a connection.

I stop at convenience stores less often. I didn’t really stop at convenience stores all that often to begin with, but such stops are basically nonexistent in the last month.

The truth is that since I started drinking more water, I feel less thirsty at other times during the day. Let’s say I’m leaving the library – a situation I find myself in a couple times per week – and in order to get home I’m either going to walk, ride my bike, or drive right by a convenience store.

If I’m thirsty, I’m tempted to stop in there and probably one out of every three or four times, I do. I’ll spend a couple of dollars on a beverage of some kind to quench my thirst, and occasionally buy something else.

However, since adopting this water routine, I simply don’t feel thirsty any more. Part of it is that I simply drink more water with meals than I used to, as noted above. I also usually bring a water bottle with me to boot, so even if I do happen to feel thirsty – which happens a lot less often – I have a water bottle already in my bag so I don’t have a need to stop.

I don’t use vending machines. I didn’t realize it, but when I would go to community game nights, I’d usually buy a beverage or sometimes two out of the vending machine there. This vending machine dispenses both soda and snacks, so often while I was standing there looking at the beverages, I’d buy a snack, too.

It was often thirst – or a sense of thirst – that would convince me to go over and look at the machine at all, so since I made the switch, I stopped really looking at the machine at all. I knew there’d be nothing in there I could drink. Instead, I just carry a water bottle with me all the time and refill it when needed.

Because of that beverage avoidance, I don’t buy the snacks, either. I keep a few bucks in my pocket during those community game nights. That’s a win, in my opinion.

I feel more energetic and less likely to put stuff off. This is perhaps the biggest change I’ve noticed since changing my fluid intake. It’s also one that’s hard to specifically quantify.

First, why did this happen? I don’t think it’s because water is some “miracle” or because I’ve “cleansed” myself or anything. I think that when I would drink sodas or sugary beverages, they’d cause my energy (and my blood sugar level) to spike for a little while, and then after that spike it’d fall into a valley for a long while unless I drank another sugary beverage.

Since I didn’t just sit there and drink sodas or sweetened coffees or other such things nonstop, I went through a lot of energy peaks and valleys during a typical day. I’d find myself organizing my days around energy peaks and valleys, which meant that I really wasn’t getting nearly as much done as I should have been.

Simply dropping everything but water changed that. For the first few days, my energy was in a complete valley. It wasn’t good. However, after that my baseline energy slowly started inching upward. Day after day, I felt better and better about tackling anything at any point throughout the day.

And, unsurprisingly, my overall productivity went up. I started getting more tasks done around the house. I started getting more articles written.

Eventually, I channeled some of that energy into little money-saving projects. I sold a bunch of items on Craigslist, items that were just sitting around waiting to be sold but I kept putting it off. I put some weather stripping on a door, which cuts down on air leaked to the outside and will save on our energy bills.

Those are things I would have kept putting off without the additional energy that I attribute to switching to a water-based beverage routine.

Is drinking water some kind of magical solution that will fix all of the problems of your life? Of course not, let’s not be silly here. However, will switching to drinking water instead of drinking other beverages save you a little bit of money and perhaps trigger some surprising savings in other areas? Absolutely.

Good luck.

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Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.