Joe Levi:
a cross-discipline, multi-dimensional problem solver who thinks outside the box – but within reality™

Frugal Tip: Ditch the Bottled Water

Bottled water is one of the most convenient inventions of the modern era. It’s also one of the most wasteful. People hardly recycle aluminum cans anymore, let alone plastic bottles. There’s just no incentive to do so. My wife recently recycled the wall-o-cans that some of the guys in the office and I put together: $33 bucks for an entire mini-van full of crushed cans. (But that’s the topic for another post.)

We just talked about ditching caffeine in our last Frugal Tip, today we’re going to take it a step further: ditch the bottled water.

Believe them or not, bottled water is said to be no “cleaner” than ordinary tap water by most cities and water districts. If you want to make your water even “cleaner” than how it comes out of the tap there are a few things you can do.

What might be in tap water that you might not want to be in there?

Most tap water has to travel through pipes to get to your house. Those pipes may be decades old and may have rust, sediment, or “infiltrates” in it.

To fight anything organic in the water most culinary water is chlorinated. Chlorine is a very useful, but potentially very dangerous chemical. It’s something that you don’t need once the water gets to your house, it’s just to protect the water in transit, so it’s safe to remove.

Some municipalities also add fluoride to their water to “help prevent dental carries”. I won’t go into what kind of fluoride is added to the water, or the fact that it’s an industrial by-product that can’t legally be dumped down the drain. (I’ll let you do you own research about that.)

All told, these are things that you might not want in your water and might use as justification for buying bottled water (even though a lot of bottled water comes out of a tap, just like your tap). So, how can you clean it out?


Evaporative distillation is by far the best way to clean your water. It’s energy intensive (unless you have a solar still), and takes quite a long time to make (relatively speaking). Additionally, you may want to run the distilled water through a charcoal filter to filter out any petroleum products that might have been evaporated and condensed in the process (note that distillation does not add petroleum products in the water, it simply does not remove them if they are there already).

A somewhat common misconception about drinking distilled water is that it “strips the body of minerals”. Both my Mom and Mother-in-Law had a hard time when faced with the distilled water “problem”. It’s important to know that distilled water isn’t loaded up with “stuff” like “normal” water is. This means distilled water has a much higher capacity for carrying “stuff” than “normal” water. In other words, distilled water is better at carrying away “stuff” from the insides of your body than “normal” water is. That’s a good thing, because your body regulates itself, but is limited by the carrying capacity of what you put in it.


The best kind of filtration is known as “reverse osmosis” which it a multi-stages filtration system that “pushes” the water through progressively smaller filter screens or membranes. Filtration is typically faster and cheaper than distillation, but does not necessarily remove chlorine or fluoride.

Chlorine is easy enough to “remove” by leaving a jug of filtered water out for 24-48 hours to allow the chlorine to off-gas or evaporate from the water. Fluoride you’ve got to either live with or distill out.

Distillation and Filtration aren’t (Necessarily) Needed

If you’re happy drinking bottled water, additional treatment is not needed.

The health conscious among you may disagree, but to keep things equal, bottled water and tap water are almost identical by all the studies that I’ve read. If you want cleaner water distillation is best, filtration is the runner up.

Because of that we’re not going to include the costs associated with distillation or filtration in our math, but for this topic I felt it important to talk about the additional benefits of Distillation and/or Filtration.

Reusable Containers

Whether or not you’ve chosen to filter or distill your water, you’re going to need to put it in something convenient. You can re-use bottles from bottled water that you’re already consumed or you can use another cup, glass, canteen, etc.

Some people advocate aluminum bottles. I like stainless steel (if you can find it). Some others prefer plastic, such as biking bottles. Metals don’t crack as readily as plastic, don’t weight that much more, and are not made of petroleum products. You can probably guess which type I recommend.

I’d recommend getting a nice glass, are reusable bottle, and a two or three liter bottle. The reusable bottle can be used during meetings, walks, transit, etc. This can then be refilled from the larger bottle as needed. If you’re at a desk for a good deal of your day drink from your glass, again refilling it from the larger bottle as needed. Try to drink at least a liter or two a day.


I’m going to assume that you are going to reuse a glass from your kitchen and a two or three liter soda bottle. You can pick up a stainless steel drinking bottle from $8 to $30 (we’ll call it $15 on average).

To keep our math simple, we’ll assume that you can buy bottled water for 25 cents per bottle, and that you go through 4 bottles a day. Multiply that by every day of the year (you’re not just drinking water at work, right?) and it’s $365.25/year.

Realistically, you could easily double that, but we’ll keep it conservative and say that by drinking tap water in reusable bottles you could easily save over $350 per year (after buying a cool, reusable water bottle). Add that to the list!

Frugal Tip Annual Savings
How can you Shave and Save? $27.88
Alternate to Shaving Gels and Creams $47.28
TV on YOUR Schedule $99.00
Ditch Paid TV $359.88
Switch to Netflix instead of Redbox to Rent Videos $150.06
Downgrade at-home Netflix, upgrade Streaming Netflix $96.00
Ditch your Land-Line $552.12
Open the Windows $20.09
Make an extra house payment $2,302.27
Snowball your debt $375.00
Pay your Bills Online $79.20
Drink Water instead of Caffeine $782.67
Ditch the Bottled Water $350.25

Tune in for our next Frugal Tip! You can thank me later™.


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