Could You Turn Your Drinking Problem Into $500,000?

Today’s topic hurts a little bit. It’s about one of my habits that is more costly than I would like to admit. And if I’m brutally honest with you and with myself, I have a drinking problem — specifically a sparkling water problem.

My consumption has doubled over the last several years, partly because of time at home with COVID and partly because I’m drinking it socially instead of alcohol while I’m doing marathon training. And in the words of Will Ferrell, it’s so good when it hits your lips!


Recently, after reviewing our monthly budget and getting frustrated with the amount of money we spend on sparkling water (or I spend on sparkling water) and with the number of bathroom breaks I need to take throughout the day, I decided to get honest about the cost of my drinking habits.

So, in today’s video, we will cover three things.

1)How much does my habit cost me per year?

2) How much could I save over my lifetime if I kicked that drinking habit?

3) What I’m going to do about it.

But first, why am I going public and making a video about one of my bad habits?

Well, for three reasons.

#1: This is a selfish reason. I likely will only change if I enlist support.

#2: I love my wife. I want to lighten Marsha’s load. She’s amazing. She meal plans every week and makes trips to two or three grocery stores for our family to get the best deal and accommodate the vegetarians, Carb-itarians, carnivores, and me, who’s gluten-free.

The three to four cases of sparkling water definitely add to the weight of pushing that cart out of the store. Sometimes, she’s even pushing one and pulling another for our family of nine, so I would love to lighten her load.

#3: My biggest hope, if I’m getting serious, is that at least one person watching this video might be inspired to enlist support and ask for help if they’re struggling with a habit that’s holding them back in any way. It could be physically, financially, mentally, or relationally holding them back from living their best life.

It’s time to be vulnerable and examine the first item on the agenda.

What does my habit cost per year?

I need to consider a couple of things to calculate the annual cost of my sparkling water drinking habit.

How many cans per day do I consume on average? And what’s the average cost of a can? Once I know these, then we can do the math.

It’s pretty embarrassing. When sparkling water is in the fridge, I can’t help but grab one. In my head, there’s always a good reason:  I’m about to go for a car ride, I need something to drink, or it would be nice to have something different for dinner than water. How about something cold to drink while working outside or hopping on the John Deere? Recently, during marathon training, I would look for a substitute at a social gathering, and I might slam 3 or 4 of those throughout the night.

So it’s a lot. It’s a very high number that I’m consuming. If I’m brutally honest, it’s 2 to 4 per day during the week and upwards of seven per day on the weekend, especially if I’m home all day. But if we’re out, sometimes it’s zero for two, three, maybe five days.

Let’s keep things simple. I’ll assume an average of three cans per day. Now, we need to look at the average cost of a can. I researched online to see the average price at Costco, Target, and Amazon of my two favorite brands, La Croix and Spindrift.

The average cost of Spindrift across those three stores was $1.22, and the average cost of LaCroix was $1.01. That’s an average of just under $1.12 per can between both. So, at 365 days a year, if I’m a 50/50 mix of Spindrift and LaCroix, it would cost our family $1,217.73 per year—and that’s after taxes!

Many of our clients in higher tax brackets need to earn around $1,800 pre-tax just to buy that sparkling water after taxes. Now it gets worse. You might not want to keep reading if you think that’s a lot! If everyone in our family of nine drank like I did, we’d spend nearly $11,000 per year on sparkling water!

How much could our family save over my lifetime if I kicked that drinking habit?

I’ll give you some data here. I’m 43 and recently took a life expectancy test at John Hancock. It says I could live to 94; I don’t know how that’s possible to predict, but they’re pretty smart. They pay out a lot of money in insurance claims.

Let’s also assume the price of sparkling water doesn’t increase; there’s no inflation to simplify the math. Take a guess from these four options. Would it potentially save us:

A). $1,200 over my lifetime?

B). $27,000 over my lifetime.

C). $63,000 over my lifetime?

D). $569,000 over my lifetime?

Okay, what do you think?

Here’s the math. If I lived for 52 more years, and the cost was $1,217 per year, my lifetime savings (with no inflation) would actually be C.

Good job if you picked C! $63,322 is a huge number! But I believe the answer is actually D) if I kicked the habit.

Why D? It’s opportunity cost. And let me explain. The cost of sparkling water (or any drink or anything we buy) isn’t just what we pay for it or what leaves our bank account. It’s what that money could grow to if we consider opportunity cost.

If I invested $1,217.73 per year over 52 years in a hypothetical Roth IRA or a tax-managed account that earns 7% after taxes, that hypothetical investment would grow to over $569,000! Isn’t that wild?*

Not only could it cost me that over my lifetime, but I recently learned that it could cost me a few teeth and be not so great for my health.

Why? Sparkling water contains carbonic acid, which can harm my teeth and cause cavities. Now, I absolutely love our dentist at Silver Lake Dental and the team in New Brighton, but I’d prefer to avoid that cost and that trip if I can help it. So that’s number two.

What am I going to do about this habit?

Since I take a values-centered approach to managing my money, I decided to align my choices with what I value. My values are faith, family, and health. And that health value covers financial health, physical health, and dental health. I printed those values out and placed them on my water bottle that I’m filling every day.

So I’m going to make a change. I need to break a habit, and there are five steps to breaking a habit. I’m going to go through each one and what I’m going to do about it.

#1: Avoid tempting situations

So, how am I going to do that? I took the water out of the fridge and put it in the back corner of the pantry. If I want one, I’ll take one out and put it in the fridge since I don’t like it over ice. I’ll have to be thoughtful about that. So that’s one: avoid tempting situations. There is no sparkling water in the fridge.

#2: Replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones

How am I going to do that? Well, I have my refillable water bottle on my desk. Having that health value printed on the water bottle will help me see it. It will help me replace that unhealthy habit of three sparkling waters a day with water from the tap, and it will be healthier financially.

#3: Prepare mentally

So how do I do that? Well, in my mind, I’m not going to buy it in the store. If I don’t buy it, it won’t be there unless Marsha buys it for me. And if we have a party or a gathering and have some in the fridge, I need to prepare myself mentally.

Maybe I’ll hide it from myself. I don’t know if you ever do that, but sometimes I hide remotes from our kids and can’t find where I hide them! Anyway, I might open the fridge, put something in front of the Lacroix, and pretend it’s not there.

#4: Enlist support

This is important to me and maybe you, too. Now that this video is out there, maybe you’ll support me. And Marsha, if you’re watching, will you be okay with only buying one case of sparkling water per month? Thanks for the support, honey. I know she’ll do that!

#5: Reward yourself for taking small steps

How can I implement that? This took me a while, but here’s what I came up with. I’m going to do it two ways, okay? I’m committing to going down to one can a day, and that should save about $800 per year.

I’m going to take half of those savings and reward myself; that money is going into our tax-managed brokerage account. It’s only $33 bucks, but it’s a small reward. And in my mind, I’ll hopefully remember that, feel that, and see it down the road.

Now, with the other half of the money, I’m going to set up a systematic contribution to Feed My Starving Children as soon as this video is done. Just 30 cents provides a meal to a starving child. So, if the average cost of a can is a buck, every time I refill this water bottle in the kitchen, I remind myself that just by doing one sparkling water replacement, I just fed three kids. It’s definitely a reward knowing that!

So, hopefully, you enjoyed reading about my vulnerability with my sparkling water problem. If you are interested in taking a values-centered approach to maximizing and managing your wealth or creating a plan designed to help you secure your future but are not sure where to start (or need some support), schedule a consultation. Click the button below for a complimentary consultation.


* This is a hypothetical example for informational purposes only. This calculation is based on an annual, continued rate of return of 7% which is not indicative of any index or market trend. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.