Thursday, October 6, 2011

How tap water pays for my vacations. (Seriously.)

I have a severe case of vacation-brain this week, since I’ve spent the past few days planning our upcoming road trip. (By “planning,” I basically mean we've bought several pounds of beef jerky and a portable DVD player in preparation.)

And, as usual, I’ll be paying for the trip with tap water.

In the past few years, we’ve been to Salzberg, Amsterdam, Key West, Hawaii, Munich, Montreal, Chicago, Reykjavik, Hawaii, and Disney World. That sounds braggy, but my point is that we paid cash for all of them, and we’re not exactly bathing in dollar bills over here. Exhibit A: Um, I’m a blogger. Suffice to say we have a budget. 

But my main vacation-saving secret -- which is a fancy way of saying my favorite way to be a cheap-ass—is that I don’t drink anything but tap water. Well, that’s not entirely true -- I drink a cup of chai with milk every morning. And all bets are off if I come across a pumpkin milkshake or fresh-brewed root beer, but that’s a rare event. 99% of the time, I’m drinking from the sink. When we go to restaurants, I order tap water. At the gym, I refill a Sigg with tap water. At bars, I volunteer to be the DD, and I responsibly order my tap water. (The exception is airplanes, where everything is free and I always order ginger ale, the only acceptable choice.)

Six people (including the photographer). Five beers. And yet I'm the one doing lame hand signs...

I’ve become kind of a connoisseur of tap water. I like how the flavor is always a surprise. I like that you can tell when your glass is dirty at a restaurant. More importantly, though, I like that it’s FREE.

And that’s where the vacation money comes in.

We go to the local diner once a week. Instead of ordering a soda ($2), I order tap water.
$2 x 52 = $104 saved

We usually go out for one “big” meal with friends on the weekend. They typically order three beers each ($5-ish). You know what I’m drinking.
$5 x 3 x 52 = $780 saved

Instead of buying a case of bottled water every week ($6), I bought a Sigg a year or two ago and have been refilling it ever since.
$6 x 52 = $312 saved

I don’t buy soda for the house.
$2 x 52 = $104 saved

A few times a year, we might go into the city for a birthday party or concert or night out. I usually volunteer to drive, because I suck at getting drunk. (That may sound boring. But for better or worse, I don’t have any inhibitions that need lowering. Drunken me is just a slightly dizzier, sleepier version of me.) Four or five drinks at a city bar can run around $50 after tips—assuming we don’t go to NYC where we need to refinance our house to afford a Jack and Coke.
$50 x 4 = $200

TOTAL = $1500

So without my beloved tap water, I’d be sucking down $1500 in beverages each year. Combine that savings with a little bit of Priceline know-how, and you can pay for 10 nights in just about any city.

Figure in the savings from my morning tea ($4/week as opposed to $4 at Starbucks every weekday), and that’s another $832 saved—enough for a plane ticket or two.

Doesn’t tap water sound a little tastier now?

P.S. If soda or beer makes your world go round, you don’t have to hitch your wagon to this particular star. But keep in mind that any change that saves $25 or $50 a week can add up quickly. Read Tim Ferriss' post on Dreamlining if you need some inspiration. If you have a sneaky way that you cut corners, share it!

1 comment:

  1. I love this post! I thought we were the only ones who went out and ordered water, and gosh forbid we don't buy pop and have pop in the house! I have never added it up how much we saved, but this is about what we would save.