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Money Leaks: Vending Machine Snacks

Does 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. [3]


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 [4])