I don’t think anyone’s under the illusion that alcohol is cheap here in the UK. It’s heavily taxed and a night out can cost anything from a fiver if you stick to one, to hundreds if things start escalating.
And haven’t we all gone out for just one only to wake up the next day and blearily recall that we were exceeding generous with our money? Wait…did I really spend £30 on shots? I don’t even like shots! And what was that 2am fast food I ate? There’s a wrapper here somewhere…oh god, there’s another £10.
And that’s just the night out. What about the morning after?When you spend the weekend hiding from the world, ordering Deliveroo, missing commitments and buying things to make you feel better – well, the cost just adds up and up.
Drinking alcohol has a financial cost that extends far beyond the alcohol itself. It’s costs us money for the taxi ride because we’re drunk enough to forget we’re trying to save and should’ve taken the bus or walked. It costs us money the next day when we have no energy to cook from scratch. It’s costs us money in extra coffee and painkillers.
And it goes even farther than that. Because many people say that drinking alcohol contributes to their anxiety and stops them from doing what they want to. So how much cost to us exists in our lack of confidence? The more alcohol reduces our ability to be productive, the less likely we are to take opportunities, ask for promotions and give our best to our work.
The seductive power of alcohol and marketing
How many times have you heard a colleague say they can’t wait to get home and have a drink because of a tough day at work? How many times have you heard them talk about celebrating something with alcohol? Even a small pay rise can illicit that feeling of celebration.
A pay rise of £1000 a year might send you to the champagne. Maybe on a great night out that ends up totalling £80. Suddenly your pay rise isn’t £1000, it’s £920 plus a hangover.
Alcohol is our national crutch for when we’re commiserating, when we’re panicking about our financial situation. Get fired? Get drunk. Miss out on a promotion? Hit the wine, big time. When the average household debt in the UK is over £15,000, is hitting the booze to dampen that feeling of shame really the answer?
And yet so many of us turn to the drink when we’re faced with negative feelings. It’s seductive, the knowledge that you can delay that financial dread just one more night. Just one more week. Drink through it.
This is what our society has told us is acceptable. The endless birthday cards that cite gin as the answer to your ageing problems. Just like beauty companies cite their ‘amazing’ new serum to answer your ageing problems.
The alcohol industry has absolutely nailed their marketing strategy. They encourage us to drink when we’re feeling down, they offer summer discounts on alcohol and tell us that a picnic isn’t a picnic without booze. And they encourage us to drink when we’re happy, they say we can’t celebrate unless we have Champagne or Prosecco. They sponsor sporting events and music festivals. Absolutely every emotion is targeted.
The message is always the same: drink alcohol, it will make you feel good.
The cold financial truth
Drinking is expensive at a time when the vast majority of us cannot afford it. And, funnily enough, it doesn’t make us more productive. It doesn’t make us better workers, business owners, parents or friends. It doesn’t make us wealthier in any way.
The expense of drinking wasn’t a factor when we at The Soberists decided to give it up. But now that we see all that advertising without the temptation, we can see the cold truth of it. When we total up what we used to spend on alcohol per week, we can see in numbers just how much money we’ve saved.
And we still enjoy alcohol-free beer. But the wonderful thing about it is that there’s no need to drink it every day. Without alcohol wrapping its claws around our wrists, we are free to choose when we fancy it. It doesn’t lower our financial inhibitions. It doesn’t make us crave a kebab at 2 in the morning. It doesn’t stop us from functioning the next day and it doesn’t make us want to buy a round of tequila slammers for any stranger in our vicinity.
The financial cost of alcohol is enormous but it’s hard to see. If you’re looking to cut down or give up but need an extra incentive, then money isn’t a bad way to go.
How to calculate your alcohol expenditure
You can try this for a week if you tend to drink the same amount or even better, do it for a month.
Write down the cost of every single drink you have. You can do it on your phone or from receipts. Include alcohol bought for BBQs even if you don’t drink all or any of it – you still bought it! Include supermarket alcohol and anything you buy at the pub for you or anyone else.
Also write down everything you’ve spent on transport that you wouldn’t have done if you weren’t drinking. If you know you would’ve walked home instead of taking an Uber if you’d have been sober, right down the Uber cost. If you break something or ruin clothing due to alcohol, write it down.
Include food you know you wouldn’t have bought if you hadn’t been drinking. Late night food? Write it down. You ordinarily live without a burger at midnight, so if you were drinking, it’s an alcohol cost.
At the end of your chosen time period, gather all those costs and take a look at them.
Can you think of things you want to buy or holidays that you want to go on that you think you can’t afford? When you look at those numbers, could that expenditure have contributed to all those things you actually want?
It’s so common for us to dismiss money we spend on alcohol and alcohol-related purchases. But if you add them all up, you might identify just where all your money goes each month. And it might be frightening. But actually it’s freeing.
Giving up alcohol or seriously cutting down can free up so much money that you can use for things that will enrich your life, not detract from it.
Debt is a monumental problem in the UK but we also have some of the world’s best debt help in this country. If you’re struggling with debt, check out MoneySavingExpert’s debt advice here or visit your local branch of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
No part of The Soberists website constitutes medical advice. If you’re struggling with alcohol, there is a huge amount of help out there and if you’re considering giving up but are worried about medical implications, always visit your GP first. There are also many resources on the web including the charity Alcohol Change UK.