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Save Money on Energy Drinks (and Caffeine)

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Remember those dreaded "clip shows" from 80's sitcoms where they just recycled the same content and called it a new show. Now I know a little how the show's producer feels. Here me out for a minute though. I'm recycling this article from a few months ago, because I've got a few more things to add to it. It also gives me a chance to proofread the article.

Here's an article that I never thought I'd write. I'll be the first to admit that I don't like the idea of energy drinks. As my wife is quick to remind me, people die drinking them. Many have a warning not to consume 3 within the same day. Not only that, but that tiny can of Red Bull is outrageously expensive. A $1.50 for that? The only thing that may be worse is 5 Hour Energy. And don't get me started on the MLM versions of energy drinks such as MonaVie EMV priced at an outrageous $2.80 a serving. Hell no!

Several months ago, a drive across the country changed my mind about energy drinks. To paraphrase the immortal Jayne Cobb: I got to the edge of corn and it just looked like more corn. Mile after mile of driving made me tired and that's a dangerous situation. So I resorted to buying energy drinks... specifically RockStar sugar-free ones. They were priced 2 for $4 for a big 16 ounce can. Now I could have gone and compared the caffeine content amongst all of them and came up with a value for the dollar, but the truth is, cheapest price for big quantity wins - especially when you are tired.

Since then, I've found that a little energy drink every now and again isn't necessarily a terrible thing. I'm certainly much more productive awake than asleep. With that in mind, I thought I'd write a post about getting the best value for your dollar when it comes to energy drinks.

I'll start with the RockStar specials that I saw everywhere across the country. For a cold drink at a gas station you are going to be paying for $1.25 or more for typically less than a liter soda. In grocery stores, you can typically get a big two liter for around $1, or $1.25 if you want a brand name. So it's about the same price, but you get much more. In comparison, the mark-up for an energy drink at the gas station isn't that crazy... it's almost on par with what I'd find for the same size in a grocery store and it's refrigerated. Maybe I'm over justifying things, but it seems like a smaller gap of price for the energy drink at the gas station vs. the grocery store.

However, if you want to save more money on energy drinks, I can help you with that. My first big find was hitting the local "dollar store." They'll often have another brand (Rip It is a common one) for a dollar. That 16 ounce can is about 50 cents a serving, much better than $1.50-ish for Red Bull.

This next suggestion will only help those in the military, but I found at my commissary they tend to have a couple of options at around that 50-cent per 8-ounce serving price range... and if you buy a pack of 4, even cheaper. (Note: I can't give you exact prices as it's part of the weird agreement you make when you shop at a military commissary.)

The next trick I have involves a SodaStream. You all have a SodaStream, right? It's one of my favorite products and I rarely ever use it for soda (mostly carbonated water and a little 100% fruit juice for flavor). With a SodaStream, I can cheaply dilute the energy drink with carbonated water and make 16 ounces last me a couple of days. I get a lower dose of caffeine (which the wife likes) and I spread it more evenly across my day. You can do the same with soda water, but SodaStream is a more cost effective way to make soda water. And you can modify your SodaStream to save a lot more money making soda water. SodaStream themselves sells a generic version of their syrup that "compares to Red Bull" which I believe could be economical, but given my other options, I haven't pursued this... yet.

On the same thought with the SodaStream, I found this Wired Energy drink for a buck at my local Shaw's grocery store. At 344mg of caffeine, I'm pretty sure it will kill most people. I'm honestly surprised it is legal to sell. They might as well spike it with a proprietary blend of PCP, ecstasy, and crystal meth for good measure. That said, if you thought I was going to let this gem go un-purchased, you don't know me very well. I love you guys, but not enough to drink it one sitting. Nope, I diluted it with my SodaStream (which is just carbonated water) and made myself multiple energy drinks with it. That's putting Spandex in your dollar (stretching it, get it?)

However, perhaps the cheapest energy drink I've actually seen is one that is hiding from you... Pepsi Max. A two-liter will set you back the same price as Pepsi and it does pack a kick. Diet Mountain Dew was a previous winner in the soda-caffeine category, but Pepsi Max is the new champion. It's just a little more difficult to find than energy drinks at gas stations.

Lately I've come up with another solution to my caffeine cravings - Mio Water Enhancer. I can keep one of these in the car and any water becomes an instant energy drink. If need to pull through a McDonalds, no need to order a soda for $1.25+, just get a tap water and add this. The small bottle contains 1080mg of caffeine, and it designed to last 18 servings (60mg each), but you can squirt as much as you like in... just promise to be careful. When I went to a conference recently, they only had coffee and tea (I'm not a fan of hot beverages), so I brought one of these in my carry-on and had a morning kick with a little flavoring. I don't think it will win any awards for taste and it certainly won't for health, but it is functional, portable, and at around $0.30 per 100mg of caffeine, it is one of the cheaper solutions.

Lastly, I can't end an article about energy drinks without mentioning the cheapest form of "energy" that I've found... caffeine pills. The problem with them is that it's almost too easy to get too much caffeine. Then you end up like Jessie Spano...

Last updated on November 26, 2014.

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8 Responses to “Save Money on Energy Drinks (and Caffeine)”

  1. hinsel says:

    Good article!
    Energy drinks…meh. Can take em or leave em. I don’t think anybody drinks them because they “taste good”. Most of them taste like chewable vitamins or perfume – you don’t need to know how I know what those taste like en masse. ;)

    For me…I’ll pay the couple extra bucks for a 20oz 6 shot mocha or latte. I like my caffeine hot and coffee flavored I guess – I also have myself convinced it’s a “healthier” alternative.

    Anyhow. As a caffeinated coder, just thought I’d chime in. Been enjoying your site!

  2. Tommy Z says:

    I have the soda stream and the generic red bull syrup they sell is a bargain compared to the actual Red Bull. It tastes so incredibly similar and has the same oomph. I’m impressed.

    Dollar for dollar, your best bet is going to be generic caffeine pills, though. They come in around 200-300 mg worth. If that’s too much, you can take an Excedrin which has around 65 mg of caffeine combined with aspirin and acetaminophen. The aspirin helps thin your blood and makes the caffeine more effective.

    • Lazy Man says:

      Here’s another idea that I found recently… MIO Energy Black Cherry. I bought it just by happenstance as I had a coupon. It’s got 18 servings of caffeine and can be added to soda stream relatively cheaply. It also works on the go, provided you can get a glass of water somewhere (such as for free at a fast-food drive-thru, provided you are ordering food).

  3. Kosmo says:

    I just have a Pepsi IV jacked into the system.

  4. @ Tommy, great tip on the soda stream Red Bull. If Red Bull works that’s a great alternative. Personally, I like the notion of using the MIO, it’s more up my ally. I’d rather drink flavored waters what are good for me then spend a fortune on energy drinks that are, unfortunately, really bad for our health.

  5. Dear Debt says:

    I love that Saved by the Bell episode! I like to stick with my coffee, and usually get it free at work. Sometimes I’ll splurge on a mocha or latte, but rarely. I do want to cut back….I’ve done it for as long as 10 days, but no more than that!

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