How to kick your Diet Coke addiction.

I can remember my grandfather grousing about the price of cigarettes. He swore he would quit when it went up past 35 cents a pack.

It did, and he did.

Now I know how he felt, although my particular vice is brown and fizzy and gives me reward points. At an Anchorage supermarket I was shocked to find Diet Coke selling for $8.19 per 12-pack. Thank goodness there’s no sales tax here.

That works out to 68 cents a can. It won’t break the bank. But really? More than eight dollars for a 12-pack? For something that I can’t even get drunk off of?

Fortunately – or maybe not so fortunately – I had a frugal hack all scoped out, so I paid nowhere close to that price. Here’s how the deal shook down:

  • If you buy two 12-packs of a Coke product this week you’ll get two more free, plus two free boxes of Nabisco crackers.
  • I had a coupon for a free 12-pack of any Coke beverage, courtesy of those My Coke Reward points.
  • I paid $8.19 for one 12-pack and got the other one with the coupon, and got two more for free (plus the crackers).
  • Thus I paid $8.19 for four 12-packs, or about 17 cents per can. And dang, are those olive-oil-and-cracked-pepper Triscuits tasty. I’ve had crackers and cheese and fruit for lunch twice already.

I know I shouldn’t drink Diet Coke to excess. There are a lot of things I shouldn’t ingest (cupcakes, for example) but which add a little bit of happiness to my life. Or, in the case of soft drinks, alertness: I don’t like coffee, so during long, deadline-saturated days (and nights) it’s a cold Diet Coke that sharpens my focus.

I drink a lot of iced tea, too, but there’s something about the combination of caffeine and fizz that works on my powers of concentration.

It’s the real (expensive) thing

If I were truly frugal I wouldn’t drink it at all. I’d also make bread from scratch and sew my own clothes. But my mantra is “save where I can so I can spend where I want” – for example, in the supermarket’s soft-drink aisle.

Yet I expect I’ll be drinking less of the stuff while I’m here (she wrote hopefully). If I had to pay 68 cents per can on a regular basis – and I don’t, since I get those “free 12-pack” coupons as often as possible and wait for similar sales – I probably would cut back.

(If you want to know how to get those 12-pack coupons yourself, click on the “My Coke Rewards” link above. I’d be happier still if you allowed me to e-mail you a referral link, which gives me an extra 10 points or something.)

In Seattle those sales are usually “buy one 12-pack and get two free,” which means I get three for free. But that’s the Alaska Gouge for you. When you have to barge or fly in all the food, somebody’s got to pay the freight. (Hint: That would be us, the consumers.)

So I’ll drink a lot of water while I’m here, continue to make iced tea and try to keep the soda consumption down to one can or less per day. Some days that will work, and some days I’ll drink two or three. Moderation in all things, including moderation.

My grandfather lived into his mid-80s, and did a good morning’s work before dying one afternoon. Here’s hoping that I live at least that long, and contribute at least that much. And here’s hoping I get an ice-cold Diet Coke after finishing that final morning’s work.


31 Comments

  1. Great post! I did a similar post recently about how it’s scary how high a percentage of my grocery budget was going to soda, vitaminwater, etc – stuff that doesn’t even fill me up! – and how I probably shouldn’t buy it anymore.

    On the other hand – I think everyone gets a vice. In the long run, a diet coke habit is a lot more forgivable that smoking, drugs, etc. So here’s to more bargains on fridge packs and let the MCRs add up!

  2. So how do you kick your Diet Coke addiction?

  3. Donna Freedman

    @Heather: Move to Alaska, where it costs too damn much.

  4. Susan R

    Thanks for this post! I love to see anyone get the MOST for their buck. My husband used to “pooh-pooh” my coupon clipping, until he saw us save 30% on our grocery bill one day. And now he helps out with the coupons to save even more!

  5. Traci

    I had the chance to travel to Europe last year and wow, you really have to want your diet coke as it was often $2 or more dollars each! That’s when I knew I was officially an addict as I paid that price a few times! However I would definitely cut way back if I lived there as it was 1 or less a day unlike the, ahem, 5 or 6 I’ve been known to drink at home. Please email the referral link, I obviously need all the coupons I can get :)

  6. jestjack

    68 cents a can!…..I feel faint! MAN make those “bullets” count. I too did take advantage of the “buy 2 get 2 free offer” along with the free crackers. Mine ran me $11.98 , unfortunately I didn’t have a coupon. My “vice” is the plain red coke….gonna agree there is something special about a drink with “fizz”…caffein and a bit of corn sweetner….

  7. Dang. That’s almost as much as beer! Given a choice, I’d buy a nice case of Corona at Costco.

    Good for you, snagging bargains on the stuff. Life’s short. Might as well enjoy your “vices” (heh!) while you can.

  8. fizz free

    Hahaha, 68 cents a can. I recall back in about 1969 when soda was 10 to 15 cents a bottle and I hitchhiked across the country, and at a desert truck-stop I saw a Coke machine at 25 a bottle and I recoiled: how expensive!

    Yes, any soda in a can is not worth the time, money, or health degradation. So I stopped some years ago. Saved a boatload since. Don’t need diabetes.

  9. Diet Coke is my crack! CVS has it for .99 per 2ltr. this week and I have a BUNCH of $1/2 coupons. I will be stocking up! It’s the only addiction I have left!! So glad I don’t live in Alaska!

  10. So, when I travel to Alaska I should bring along lots of MCR coupons for cartons of Cokes? I gave up the caffeine (kicked the habit in four days), so it is just the caramel fizz that I crave. And, I won’t be denied. Okay, at the price of Coke in Alaska, I would severely cut back.

  11. Harry Martin

    I love your style! I am notorious when we travel of packing lots of food, soda, etc. We go to an annual dinner every October in LA, and I always insist we pick up a Subway footlong for the first night — dinner for two of us for only $5 and then we go meet up with friends in their room and drink the booze I brought. I also booked the dinner this year (I am chairman) at a hotel that offers a free hot and cold breakfast buffet with omelette station. :-)

  12. Reta Davis

    I was wondering where you were off to. Guess I missed the announcement. Anyway, I have a Coke addiction, too, only I love the real stuff–not diet. I never buy it in bulk, just spend a fortune buying those new $1.00 cans that have come out recently. As for the reward bucks, I collect every lid and carton flap that I can get my hands on. One of my client’s has a grandson who is addicted. I get all his carton flaps! Have a lot of moosey fun up there!

  13. ImJuniperNow

    Let the caffeine headaches begin.

    Come back to New Jersey – Diet Coke fridge packs were 4 for $11 last week, and they’ll be getting lower as the summer draws near.

    Kool Aid was 5 packs for $1 and I had coupons. Now if I could only stop that stupid pitcher guy from crashing thru my wall every time I stir up a packet……

  14. Diet Coke? Not on your life. LITERALLY. As a twice cancer survivor, and the last time self-cured, do I need to elaborate on the research learned to accomplish this?? Probably not but know this…. ALL DIET DRINKS AND FOOD MADE WITH ASPARTAME?? ASPARTAME TURNS TO FORMALDEHYDE AT 95 DEGREES AND YOUR BODY TEMP IS WHAT???? Drinks of Diet MTN. DEW for 20+ years poisoned me, and it WILL poison anyone. Do the research.
    I wish you all good health.

  15. Lizzy

    I kicked my addiction a few years back to lose weight(I lost 30 lbs – worth it!) it isn’t easy, but ice water burns calories, and a can of coke has over 100 calories!(I like regular coke)

  16. Suzanne

    I rarely drink soda but my BF likes Diet Coke too- send me the link you refer to and I will sign up and get us some coupons and you some points~ Thankfully I have great well water so I drink for free~

  17. young old man

    (and another thing…)

    I remember when cigarettes went to 35 cents a pack in the vending machine at my junior college. That was in about 1967-9. Does that make me as old as your grandpa. I guess so….

  18. christy

    well using coupons you got a good price. But when you don’t have coupons you have the option of cutting diet coke with store brand soda of the same flavor (and then acquiring a new taste for it?)

    also, you can try getting:

    http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=128034
    (FYI bedbathbeyond also takes thier own expired coupons and they let you stack them, so if you get a coupon for 5 off 15 you can use 4 of them on a 60 buck purchase etc)

    you can also go cold turkey and quit, or limit yourself to two a day etc. and then maybe ween yourself off of it.

  19. Diet Coke is more forgiving than smoking or drugs, but it’s still horrible for your body.

  20. christy

    oh, and wipe the tops of all cans before you open them, I read an article last year that said over 90% of pop cans tested from several different companies/locations/over time showed traces of rat piss on them. Ditto for canned goods, so always wash the tops off before opening.

  21. christy

    maybe it is a legend, but I worked for a food manufacturer (making organic pasta) the summer after highschool. There was mouse poop everywhere! There was poop on the packages of ingrediants, on top of the drying racks, up on the two story machine that would make the pasta. Oh, a Rabbi would come to give the Kosher certification once a year but the mice poop somehow was ok.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Christy: Which is why I said it isn’t the worst idea in the world to wash the tops of cans….Someone should have called the board of health on that company.

  22. zzzzzz

    You could generalize this: coupons for free stuff from national brands are more valuable in places with high prices, e.g., Alaska (or HI). Using such coupons are one way to mitigate against those high prices when you travel there.

  23. I’m glad I’m not the only one who enjoys a soda here and there. Although, my loyalty lies with Pepsi ;-)

    P.S. Love your mantra.

  24. I was starting to get an adiction to Arizona green tea…..99cents or more a day. Make my own tea now…..put it in a glass bottle in the fridge….and have it in the afternoons with fresh lemon juice and honey….way cheaper and way less sugar.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Fetu: I’m with you on that — I drink iced tea with every meal and it costs only a couple of cents per glass. :-)

  25. Your liver will escape and run away and never send you a postcard.

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