I keep saying that I hate math, but about twice a month I’m writing about a calculation that shows some sort of annual savings or squandering. Methinks it’s time I clarify assertions that math and I are not friends and perhaps explain that we’re more like “frenemies.” I like crunching numbers only to the extent that I can see how much money can be made or saved. So technically, I’m relying on math, but I don’t like to call it that. Maybe “money analysis” is more fitting.

Diet Coke PlusI’ll tell you what I do like without exception, and it’s Diet Coke. Yes, I’m one of those Diet Coke fiends. It’s an inexpensive pleasure that I underappreciate until the day a particular flavor I like is no longer available. I’ve had to say goodbye to Vanilla Diet, Lemon Diet, and now even Black Cherry Vanilla Diet isn’t as ubiquitous as it once was. Diet Coke Plus has been available in stores for a couple months now, and there’s still, surprisingly, a lot of love or hate (mostly hate) press coverage about this drink. Sure, there are plenty of causes to fight for in these uncertain times (and I do my part for some), but I am determined to not to let this drink disappear from the market.

The reason I see Diet Coke Plus coming under fire is because critics, who are probably not even diet soda fans, don’t understand the purpose of putting vitamins in an artificially sweetened product. Their whole deal is: what’s the point of trying to make a soft drink healthy? I can illustrate, in detail, the exact point of why Diet Coke Plus exists with a little money analysis.

I found that my company saves me $416 after-tax dollars per year by providing us with an unlimited supply of free Diet Coke in the office. (I’d prefer better health insurance over free soda, but that’s another issue.) I got to this number by tabulating how much I would spend per year if I had to go to a store and pay for soda. In past employment where free diet soda wasn’t available, I’d usually buy just one 20oz. bottle during work hours. So, $1.60 (avg. price of 20oz. bottle in downtown SF) times 260 work days in a year (including vacation) gives me $416 in annual savings.

Because I’m dealing with free diet soda at work, I usually consume, at the very least, 3 cans of guilt-free, carbonated goodness each work day. (My total daily consumption is actually higher when including cans I drink outside work.) Really, I’m just drinking it because I enjoy the taste, though some would argue I’m probably addicted to the caffeine. For the sake of this argument, it doesn’t matter whether I or anyone drinks Diet Coke for the taste or caffeine content. It’s safe to assume a person buys a soft drink for the sake of enjoyment, whether it’s caffeinated or not. The critical point is that almost all soft drinks are essentially a frivolous expense.

Now let’s look at the money involved with this frivolous expense. Given that I drink far more than $416 worth of diet soda just for pleasure, wouldn’t it be nice if it had just a little bit of nutritional value that I wasn’t even expecting in the first place? I think so, and that’s probably why Coca Cola Co. came out with Diet Coke Plus.

According to Coca Cola North America, “Each eight-ounce serving of Diet Coke Plus provides a good source of Niacin (vitamin B3), vitamins B6 and B12, zinc and magnesium (15% Daily Value [DV] for Niacin, B6 and B12, 10% DV for zinc and magnesium).” I’m no nutritionist, but I am a bit of a health nut. Just about everything that goes into my body must be wholesome or have nutritious value. The only exceptions to my healthy lifestyle are two vices I’m not willing to part with, ever: diet soda and booze.

Diet Coke Plus doesn’t aim to provide a complete set of vitamins, nor give an intended immunity boost, nor replace fruit drinks that are a direct source of vitamins. It’s a drink that provides great taste and some bonus vitamins. An ordinary soft drink simply provides immediate gratification and no health benefits, and that’s exactly why an ordinary soft drink falls short in comparison (including original Diet Coke).

Simply put, if I were to look back at year of expenses and see that I spent over $400 on soft drinks completely devoid of any nutritional value, I’d feel pretty silly. Although, if those same soft drinks gave me a few gimmicky vitamins in a beverage I was going to consume anyway, well I wouldn’t feel too bad then. All that soda I bought and drank was nutritionally worth something rather than nothing. Considering that Diet Coke Plus costs the same as original Diet Coke, well, it sounds like money well spent to me.

Viva Diet Coke Plus!