Personal Finance 

Money Leaks: Vending Machine Snacks

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Vending MachinesDoes your workplace have a vending machine? Perhaps it’s one that sells soda or chips? Maybe there’s a canteen area where a fellow employee or the administrative staff has kindly kept well-stocked with lots of goodies? When I worked in an office, we typically had a canteen area that one of our co-workers kept stocked with goodies. There was a price list and you paid into a little jar. It was done completely on the honors system and, since it existed for years, I assume it worked out (I once talked to the person running it and he said that sometimes it would be short, sometimes it would be over – sometimes people didn’t have the right change but the key was that it all worked out). The profits were used to pay for some gas and the rest went to charity.

If you don’t have an awesome canteen and instead rely on vending machines run by an outside company, you are definitely leaking some money on snacks each and every time you buy one. The markup on vending machine products is enormous and you’re paying for convenience. If you’re visiting one every single day, or even once every couple of days, consider plugging this leak.

This is the latest edition of our new series called Money Leaks.


When 12-packs of soda are on sale, you can usually get one for around $4. At it’s cheapest, usually in the peak of summer, you can get four for $10 – or $2.50 per 12 pack. That works out to be under twenty-one cents a can of coke. Even at $5 a 12-pack, we’re talking only forty-two cents a can. Most vending machines will sell you a 12-oz can of Coke for at least fifty cents. Usually somewhere closer to 75 cents or a dollar. That’s a tremendous markup. The solution is to buy a case of it and bring in a few to leave at your office. If you prefer it cold, you probably have a fridge you can use.

Or drink water. 🙂


Snacks are a little harder but the same logic applies – buy in bulk and separate it into little baggies at home. You can buy one of the large party-size bags and split it up yourself or buy small snack-packs or 100 calorie packs, which are slightly more expensive but also more convenient. I won’t go into the price comparisons because it doesn’t take a genius to realize that bulk buying wins here.

If you want to be healthier, consider bringing fruit instead. It probably costs the same and it’s healthier.

Remember, finding these money leaks is about finding ways to enjoy the things you like without overpaying for them unnecessarily. A bag of chips you buy from Costco tastes the same as the one in the vending machine, it just costs a lot less.

(Photo: misterwindupbird)

{ 10 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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10 Responses to “Money Leaks: Vending Machine Snacks”

  1. zapeta says:

    Soda machines were a big money leak for me…I used to buy a ton of soda at school. I started taking a water bottle and not carrying cash and that pretty much eliminated the money leak.

  2. STRONGside says:

    Snacks and soda have never been a big one for me, but I am a sucker for gumballs and gum in general. I’ve started buying in bulk, but still routinely drop a dollar or two for a big pack of gum at the grocery store checkout against my better judgement.

  3. Shirley says:

    The ice cream truck can be compared to a vending machine and when you hear his ringing bell or familiar music, you can count on excited children showing up with dollar bills in hand.

    When my own children were young and money was sooo tight, I made popcicles from fruit juice and always kept them on hand. I convinced them that these were so much better for them and even tasted better! When they heard the ice cream man coming, they headed for the freezer.

  4. Wilma says:

    We have a hot cafeteria just like in high school where I work. I really try to keep my lunch at $5 or less. I stay away from the vending machines and I bring snacks and water from home. Very tough to do when some body walks by your work station with a peanut butter snickers bar and says they’re in the machine.

  5. Bryan says:

    This is one that I can only agree with if you’re buying from the machines regularly. Personally I drink almost exclusively water at work and keep some snacks in a drawer, bag of pretzels, trail mix, granola bars. I do still use the soda machine and don’t feel bad at all about it.

    I only drink soda once in a while, so the whole buy a case of soda and leave it in the fridge doesn’t work for my habit of 2 dr peppers, a coke and a cherry coke over the next 3 months. If I were to buy a case of soda and keep it at work, I would end up drinking a can every day rather than sporadically. So not a very healthy habit, and in the long run I’d be spending more based on consuming more.

    • Des says:

      This is my thought as well. I may be paying an outrageous amount per ounce for a tiny bag of chips from the vending machine, but I only do that once a week tops. If I had snack sized bags available to me at my desk I would surely eat one every day, maybe more. The outrageous cost is just the mental barrier I need to keep me from overeating most of the time.

      An easier/cheaper way I keep myself from the vending machines is to not carry small bills or change with me to work.

  6. skylog says:

    i can not remember the last time i used a vending machine. that said, my leak would be the local market next door to my place of work. i do allow weakness to take me every so often, but i have gotten much better about buying anything i would buy there in bulk from another source.

    • Shirley says:

      Like you, I have no problem walking right by a vending machine, but my leak was the grocery store I worked in. The delicious smells from the deli and the bakery were far stronger than my will power on many an occasion.

      • saladdin says:

        Turning 37 and seeing all your same aged friends on blood pressure and cholesterol pills make it much easier to walk by them. But damn I love apple pie with ice cream on top.

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