The Evils of Flavored Water

Ever notice how articles on this blog seem to alternate between topics on investing and topics on saving?  It’s no accident.

I view investing and savings as two heads of the same snake — the yin and the yang of wealth building.  Two complementary forces that build wealth — You can’t invest without savings, and there’s no point in saving unless you plan to invest.

We’ve been talking a lot about investing lately (here, here, and here), but I think it’s time we flip the coin back over to the savings side…

Today, we’re going to talk about the health and wealth sapping industry of flavored water.


Birth Of The Beverage Industry

The human body is roughly 60 percent water.  We need water to survive, and maintain our regular bodily functions.  Most humans usually consume around 1-2 liters of water per day, but it varies considerably (depending upon the person).

Originally, humanity filled this water need by just drinking the stuff straight.  Straight out of the stream, river, or lake.  This state of beverage affairs was simple, cheap, usually healthy, and a human didn’t need to spend his (or her) wealth on water (at least not much of it).

multiple streams
The original beverage. Water straight from the stream.

Unfortunately, much of the world’s water is filled with minerals, bacteria, impurities, and other undesirable stuff.  This often imbues the world’s water with strange and unpalatable flavors.  Rather than put up with this state of affairs, mankind discovered that water could be flavored — and the world was forever changed.  From fermented beverages (like mead, beer, and wine) to tea and coffee, countless forms of flavored water have been invented for human consumption.  But should we be consuming it?

The search for better water flavoring would expand mankind’s reach across the planet.  Global empires would eventually be built around the trading of teas, sugar & spices, and all the necessary ingredients for flavored water (grapes, molasses, and so forth).

Trading companies, like the Dutch and British East India companies traveled the world for tea, spices, and other “water flavorings”. The first global business empires were born to supply these goods .

As businesses go, flavored water was a smashing success.  Pubs, coffee shops, and tea houses went up practically overnight (and this style of business still exists today).  Consumers went nuts over flavored water.

Eventually people realized visiting the pub to get flavored water was just a little inconvenient (and expensive). Bottling was summarily invented as a solution.  This discovery allowed humanity to drink many of our favorite flavored waters wherever and whenever we wanted.

All this just to supply us with the ever-popular flavored water.  

Heck, even the American Revolution was started (at least in-part) over excessive taxation of tea.

Today, the flavored water business is bigger than ever.  According to data I could find, the United States consumes over 41 billion gallons of flavored waters per year.  Alcohol-type liquids alone consumed $197 billion dollars in retail sales.

Holy Tentacles!  Flavored Water is BIG!


Wasting Wealth & Health

Despite the fact that the human body needs water, flavored water was probably the very first accessible luxury.  Flavoring would have been a luxury item — Not necessary for survival, but still affordable for the masses.

Intentional, or not, many flavored waters are filled with stimulants like sugar (that causes the production of dopamine), and other addictive substances (caffeine, alcohol, etc).  Flavored water ended up being addictive for society, and it causes significant problems.

Obesity and alcoholism continually plague our society, and they won’t be going away anytime soon.

For those of us who desire financial independence, we can see the flavored water industry for what it is….yet one more way to waste our wealth and our health on consumerism.

Starbucks cup
Addiction, obesity, and financial dependence are frequently served in a cup (or a bottle).

For some reason Starbucks often gets a lot of the criticism, but any flavored water company is just as guilty.  They’re all selling us addictive flavored liquids at prices higher than liquid gold.  

Yes, I’m referring to crude oil.  Crude is sometimes given the nickname “liquid gold” because it’s one of the most valuable commodities on the planet.  We consume tons of the stuff, and it isn’t cheap!  

Today, a barrel of oil (approximately 42 gallons) sells for about $45.  That’s roughly $1 per gallon.  It’s incredibly cheap if you consider the price of other liquids (with similar global distribution and retail networks) that sell a small 12 ounce container for over $1.

That’s right, flavored water typically sells at 10 times the price of so called “liquid gold”.  Sometimes more than that!  I suspect that the average American family in the United States actually spends more on flavored water annually than they do on vehicle fuel.

Remember that next time you gripe about fuel prices, but casually purchase a soft drink from the convenience store.


Understand, Choose, Control

I’m not suggesting you abstain from all forms of flavored water.  You don’t have to just stick with plain tap water.  Our family certainly doesn’t.  

I’m suggesting you remember it’s all optional and frequently addicting.  You could just drink tap water (most places are safe), but no one should need to abstain from all pleasure in life to attain financial independence.

What I am suggesting is that you gain an understanding of the beverage industry.  If you choose to make changes in your life you can gain back control.  Gain enough control over your life, and you’ll eventually reach financial independence.

You don’t need to completely abstain from all consumerism to make big difference in your financial life, but abstaining from most of it probably wouldn’t hurt.  Flavored water is no exception.  Most forms of it are a waste of your hard earned cash.

But that’s OK.  The beauty of financial independence is you get to choose what’s important to you.

If you’ve read this blog for very long, you’ll know I’m not a drinker of alcohol-based beverages.  It was a choice I made.  Other than milk (for the kids), we don’t buy any soft drinks, or juice products either.  I don’t want the kids forming habits around those products.  Most of that stuff is really unhealthy!

We chose not to buy it, and I think our lives are better because of it.  We drink mostly water, milk, and tea.


Why Tea?

We chose tea as our form of “flavored water”.  I’m talking about dried tea of course, not that bottled sugar water in American supermarkets.

Tea is actually a pretty affordable product, and probably the least financially damaging flavoring.

If you think back to your great-great-grandparent’s age, tea was one of the few flavored beverages that the common people could afford.  It came in a variety of flavors, and required no bottling, refrigeration or special preservation techniques (other than keeping it dry).

Tea is still dirt cheap today.  At a cost of around $0.10 cents per serving, it’s one of the cheapest forms of water flavoring on the planet.  Possibly the cheapest.  Besides the tea, all you really need is water.  Sure, you can get fancy with your own flavorings and sweeteners, but they aren’t necessary.

Tea from the Tako cupboard. We have so much of it! I counted more than 20 kinds!  The beauty is, most of this we never purchased.  Our friends know we like tea, and give it to us as gifts.

Besides being natural, it’s also considered a fairly healthy product.  Lots of research has been done over the years on drinking tea.  While I’m no expert, supposedly the polyphenols contained within tea have beneficial health effects.  

None of the research seems terribly conclusive, but from this I can conclude — Tea probably won’t kill me faster.

So far, it has made me richer, thinner, and less addicted to consumerism…and that brings a mighty big smile to my face.


[Image Credit: Flickr1, Wikimedia, Flickr2]

18 thoughts on “The Evils of Flavored Water

  • July 19, 2016 at 3:47 PM

    Yeah water! I find it convenient to take a water bottle when going out, and easy to find places with free fresh water when traveling.

  • July 19, 2016 at 4:45 PM

    I’m a huge water snob. I always have two bottled waters in my car and carry an emergency bottled water with me wherever I go. I can’t do anything with flavored waters though, sugar is way too sweet.. I’m assuming water is essential though in keeping cephalopods alive!

  • July 20, 2016 at 3:41 AM

    Tea is my favorite flavored water. 🙂
    We think of tap water as free, but I have a water/ sewer bill. It’s a lot less expensive than buying bottled but still costs something.
    I have a variety of water bottles I take with me everywhere. Take it through security empty and fill it at the water fountain before boarding the plane. The yoga studio has tea, and I’ll add some into my water bottle for 2 fold benefit: flavored water, and the tea is really hot, bringing it to drinkable temperature. 🙂

    • July 20, 2016 at 6:48 AM

      Oh, definitely water has a cost! Anyone with a family knows water isn’t free…but at least it’s cheaper than buying bottled water!

  • July 20, 2016 at 5:20 AM

    We used to drink a lot of those powdered drink mixes, because I get bored with water, plain old water. We cut those out for the most part and have stuck to tea. I still drink plain old water and find it more refreshing now, but it still gets old. Oddly, I find it most refreshing just drinking straight from the garden hose, when I’m done with yard work, and rinsing off all the grass and stuff from my legs.

    I’m no coffee snob, but I found that I can get 5 lbs of green coffee beans for about $4/lb and then just roast them fresh every week or so. There are tons of varieties out there and the company I buy from was a little spendy at first, but then they send a coupon code so you get 20% off and free shipping for future orders which cuts $7 shipping out and usually ~$5 off per 5lb bag. So at $20/5 lbs it’s a great way to save money, if you don’t mind roasting your own coffee. I find it fun, so it’s no biggie, and again, I’m no coffee snob, I just happened to stumble on a neat, and practical hobby I guess.

  • July 20, 2016 at 7:16 AM

    I rarely drink bottled water, and almost never purchase it, but I have become a fan of the squeeze bottles that give your tap water a kick. There are Kool-Aid flavors, Crystal Light, Mio, and even Tang.

    On sale, they’re about 10 cents a serving, and 10 seconds to prepare. Worth all ten pennies to me.


    • July 20, 2016 at 4:59 PM

      I haven’t tried those squeeze bottle, but they sound affordable. I haven’t had Tang since I was a kid.

      I seem to remember a post where you mentioned you drank Mountain Dew for breakfast. Still true?

      • July 22, 2016 at 1:23 PM

        Most days, yes. The alarm goes off at 0515. I usually wait til I’m at work to crack one in the summer months since I’m biking to work, and I don’t want to pound a soda before leaving home. Good memory, by the way.

        Mio does make a caffeinated squeeze bottle. More like 15 cents per serving since you only get 18 servings as opposed to 24 in the non-caffeinated variety.

  • July 20, 2016 at 7:24 AM

    And here I’d been congratulating myself for avoiding flavored water traps like alcohol and soda … all the while mentally accounting for my coffee and tea (home-brewed of course) habits as not being flavored water. Oh, and there’s also the weekly six-pack of club soda I count as my “indulgence,” which I now realize I’m paying multiples of Saudi street pricing on.

    Leave it to Mr. Tako to make me reconsider my smug satisfaction with my beverage consumption policies.

    You just keep bringing the heat, Mr. Tako! You’ve moved into the top 5 in my blog rotation. Thank you!

  • July 20, 2016 at 11:00 AM

    I thought this was going to be a rant about the price of bottled water, and those “berry flavored” or “smart water” bottles that are very popular right now.
    Bu you’ve taken it one level further, basically calling out everything that we add to our water.

    OK, then, guilty as charged, we’re big on orange juice for our breakfast, and barley tea the rest of the day. For tap water itself, joke’s on you guys, my landlord pays for it. Ha!

    • July 20, 2016 at 4:57 PM

      You don’t pay for your water? OK, no more excuses now Mr. Stockbeard. You should be FI with those kind of advantages! 😉

    • July 21, 2016 at 6:05 AM

      We also like orange juice, but we squeeze it ourselves. After hours of squeezing we finally purchased a juicer for $15. This is nature’s version of flavored water.

      I’m so guilty of flavored water right now. I’m in Taiwan and buy a drink twice a day, it is so easy when it is $1, but I know when I go back to the US I’ll balk at $4. A Slurpee is delicious flavored water and it doesn’t have as much sugar as you’d think because all the air, we bring our cup for the refill price of $0.99

  • July 21, 2016 at 5:26 AM

    We’ve been lucky in our family… a number of years ago, we just slowly stopped drinking anything but water for the most part. Even if you ask my 6-year daughter if she wants something to drink she’ll say “water.” What kid does that?!

    Other than my wife having a cup of coffee periodically or we’ll have some tasty beers now and again, water’s pretty much our go-to drink… and we’re content with tap water, which is another bonus. 🙂

    — Jim

  • July 21, 2016 at 10:29 AM

    I love coffee 🙂 but stopped the expensive Nespresso Capsule System as it has been far too expensive, otherwise I drink tap water, very rarely a glass of wine. I tried many teas, green tea was best but not all the time. Saving me plenty of money the way I do it now.

    Love your blog,
    greetings from Switzerland!

  • July 27, 2016 at 8:00 AM

    I’m laughing a bit because (1) great article and I fully agree with your points. It’s an expensive habit and definitely further reaching than I think I originally realized. I mean, c’mon, coffee, beer, soda, tea, gatorade, juice, and on and on and on. Ahhhhhh. But also I’m laughing because (2) I’m reading your article while drinking my A&W Ten soda. Sigh. Guilty!


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