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Friday, June 1, 2007

May I Take Your Drink Order?

When the question is posed, we usually respond as if by reflex. The host/hostess has already given us our menus, and the question we're actually pondering is "Ribs, Steak, or Sandwich?" We haven't given a great deal of thought to what we'll drink, but after all, that's an easy answer. As the waiter/waitress goes around the table and pauses on me, I say, "Dr. Pepper," and my wife quickly responds, "Sweet Tea." Four words without thought . . . and how much have those four quick words cost us?

At fast food restaurants today, soft drinks cost between 99 cents and $1.49 depending on size and location. At sit down restaurants, a soft drink with unlimited refills generally costs at least $1.49, many times today the soft drink costs $2 and up. Usually we don't even think of the cost, because, after all, it's just a buck-fifty. However, that's not the total cost of the drink. Tax comes on top of the drink, just like every other purchase. Here in Arkansas, tax is about 10% as it is in most places. Additionally, at a sit down restaurant, we tip - for the price of the meal after taxes. A moderate tip is 15%. So that $1.50 drink in real cost is $1.50 + .15 tax + .25 tip = $1.90. The $2 drink costs $2 + .20 tax + .33 tip = $2.53. Going with the average, a soft drink at a restaurant costs $2.22. Those sodas suddenly cost a little bit more.

The cost of the drinks doesn't stop there. When Stacey and I eat out, there's two meals, so two drinks. Our cost of drinks is suddenly an average of $4.44 per meal. Eating out twice a week is a pretty conservative average these days. Consider the savings for your situation:
  • Single: $2.22/meal; $4.44/week; $17.76/month; $230.88/year
  • Couple: $4.44/meal; $8.88/week; $35.52/month; $461.76/year
  • Family of 3: $6.66/meal; $13.32/week; $53.28/month; $692.64/year
  • Family of 4: $8.88/meal; $17.76/week; $71.04/month; $923.52/year
  • Family of 5: $11.10/meal; $22.20/week; $88.80/month; $1,154.40/year
  • Family of 6: $13.32/meal; $26.64/week; $106.56/month; $1,385.28/year
Growing up in a family of six, we learned to automatically answer the question of what to drink. We immediately knew what we wanted to drink. We always responded, “Water” before even hearing the selection of soft-drinks, teas, and lemonades. In a family that large, drinking water saved an average of $13.32 per meal at restaurants. That was just money that didn’t have to be spent.

So today’s suggestion of frugality is one most of you already have recognized as a possibility - drink water instead of soft drinks, tea, or lemonade at restaurants. The savings is really quite significant. The significance is visible with every meal for a family, and even as a single individual the difference becomes significant over the course of a week, month, or especially in a year. And since a single person generally eats out more (it's easier than cooking for one), their savings may be closer to the family of 3 or 4! Stacey and I have made this change within the past couple of weeks. In fact, since we're going back to one salary (Stacey's beginning graduate school full time), this was the first change we made to help trim off unnecessary expenses. Last week we were on vacation, and ate out 10 times, but drunk only water, saving $44.40 in that one week! It's been a pretty easy change, and water sure is tasting good these days!