Sometimes frugality is about giving stuff up. Other times, it’s about being clever.
Mr. Frugalwoods and I are known seltzer addicts. Indeed, we can scarcely make it through a day without our bubbly water fix. And we have zero intention of ever giving it up. Pure, unadulterated seltzer (just water and gas, no sugars or flavors) is a luxury we’ve decided to incorporate into our extremely frugal lives.
Would it be cheaper for us to just drink tap water? Quite obviously yes. But we choose to treat ourselves with this fizzy little drink. Why? Because seltzer is a key component of our luxuriously frugal lifestyle. Oh yes, you read that right, we consider our lives to be frugally luxurious.
The Great Frugalwoods Sodastream Hack of 2014
As long-time readers will recall, Mr. FW devised a system to hack our Sodastream machine last August to replace the pricey little Sodastream brand C02 canisters with a gigantico 20lb C02 tank. No, this isn’t a standard thing and yes, it’s a system he cobbled together himself. But guess what? It totally works. Thanks to his DIY hacking prowess, we saved $433.44 in the last year alone on our seltzer costs. And our franken-seltz of a machine is still going strong.
P.S. If you’re hankering for a step-by-step description (with photos!) of how Mr. FW hacked our Sodastream, check out our post: How To: Cheap Homemade Seltzer with a Modified Sodastream.
…And The Great Sodastream Discovery of 2015
Our most recent 20lb C02 tank ran dry last week and we contacted the homebrew store where we’ve been swapping out our tanks. They didn’t have any 20-pounders in stock, so we sat tight for an agonizing week and a half sans seltzer. The shop finally got one in stock the other night and we gamely set off to execute our swap.
As we were walking out the door, tank in hand, my crafty frugal weirdo husband stopped short and uttered his trademark “huh.” Anytime I hear this “huh,” I know there’s an idea brewing–usually a frugal/bizarre one.
My ears perked up and I requested he elaborate. He pointed out that the tank has a sticker on its side, along with a phone number for a welding supply shop. We’d never noticed this before, but quickly deduced that our little hipster homebrew shop sources their C02 tanks from one Igo’s Welding Supply.
Ever the frugal schemers, we scuttled back into the house and called Igo’s to see if they’d do a tank swap for lowly individuals who aren’t businesses. Sure enough, they’ll swap out anyone’s tank and… wait for it… they charge half of what the homebrew store does! Let me tell you what, there was some frugal rejoicing going on after this miraculous discovery.
Here we thought we’d frugalized our seltzer consumption to the bare bones when in reality, we were paying the middleman a handsome and hefty mark-up–for the exact same product. We felt kinda dumb for not realizing this initially, but hey, it’s all part of the evolving frugal life we lead. If we got everything right the first time, life would be pretty boring and, I’d have nothing to write about here on Frugalwoods ;).
Plus, incidents like this one keep us on our frugal toes. It’s easy to get comfortable in our rote, repeated spending habits and I’m a big fan of frequent re-evaluation of our presumed savings. Never hurts to continually challenge everything we’re buying (hat tip to Budgets Are Sexy’s “Challenge Everything” endeavor). Frugal complacency is no one’s friend!
Our Sweet Seltzer Stats
Since I know you’re all dying to see the price breakdown, feast your eyes on these sweet seltzer stats:
Raw CO2 costs:
- Traditional Sodastream canister: $1.07/oz ($15 for a 14oz canister)
- 20lb tank from homebrew store: $0.22/oz ($69 for 320oz, or 20lbs)
- 20lb tank from welding supply store: $0.11/oz ($35 for 320oz, or 20lbs)
Whoa, baby! Can you say retail markup? Here we thought we were killing it with our homebrew-sourced C02 but now, with our welding store-sourced C02 (which, by the way, is the exact same product), we’re seriously rocking out!
Based on our consumption rate of 42oz of CO2 a month (3 traditional Sodastream canisters worth), our monthly CO2 cost is now dramatically lower:
- Old system with traditional Sodastream canister: $44.94/month
- 2014 frugal newbie system with homebrew store-sourced tank: $9.24/month
- 2015 frugal boss system with welding store-sourced tank: $4.62/month
With our original tank hack, we were saving $35.70 a month. But with our new tank hack, we’re saving a whopping $40.32 per month… also known as $483.84 per year!!!
Why Do We Do This Stuff?
That’s no chump change right there. And when we couple that dollar amount with the savings we realize across the board by insourcing (things like haircuts, cooking, home improvement, and dog grooming), eliminating (for example eating out), buying used or not at all (as we do with clothes, furniture, and baby things), creating efficiencies (eating $0.10 oats for breakfast), or finding cheaper alternatives (as we recently did with our coffee), it all adds up to a staggering amount of money.
These seemingly inconsequential tweaks in every aspect of our lives are what facilitate our 71%+ annual savings rate. I know it’s popular to only focus on saving money in the largest budget categories–typically housing, transportation, and food–but I firmly believe joyful extreme frugality is all about relishing the process of unearthing savings in all areas of one’s spending.
Plus, Mr. FW and I had an awesome time driving out to Igo’s Welding for this little C02 tank adventure. We consider our frugal hacking mode of life to be a form of entertainment as well as a fun challenge. It’s far too boring and conventional to just walk into a store and pay for a typical Sodastream canister–it’s vastly more colorful (not to mention hilarious) to sniff out a random welding supply store with your own personal 20lb C02 tank in tow.