Booze Budget

Are You Drinking Your Savings Away?

by Andrea Moya – January 7, 2010

Friends at a bar

Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you to stop drinking. We’ve published enough wine and beer articles to make it clear we’re all up for a glass or two after work or at a party. What we’re wondering is… have you given much thought to how much you’re spending on social lubricant? Probably not. After all, who keeps a booze budget?

Alcohol is usually tucked into the “food” section of your budget (if budgeted for at all), but buying drinks is often the most expensive aspect of going out or just hanging out at home with friends.  So why not budget those drinks you have with friends at a bar or the six-pack you buy to watch the game into your daily spending plan?  Maybe it’s because as a culture we have a hard time really admitting how much we drink…

I think there’s still a bit of the Puritan guilt in the American perspective on alcohol. We still drink like Prohibition just got revoked! Drinking is a keystone of our social fabric, but we don’t like to admit it’s part of our day to day spending, like buying coffee in the morning or new clothes each season. As history has proven, though, the road to excess is denial. So take a long, hard (non-judgmental) look at your drinking habits and figure out what they mean to you in dollars and cents.

What It Means to Not Budget Your Drinking

Bar Open SignMy close friend Andy and I decided we wanted to make an effort to spend more time together, so we began meeting up for drinks once a week. Every Thursday we’d go to a bar or pick up a bottle of wine and catch up on the week, vent, laugh and have a great time. While I wouldn’t change these weekly meetings for anything, I recently realized I haven’t been completely honest with myself about how much I drink when I get together with my friend. This became glaringly obvious when I went to a bar, spent my last ten dollars, then withdrew another forty from my “emergencies-only” savings account! When I sobered up enough to realize what I’d done it raised a big red flag. Being short on cash for another beer doesn’t exactly qualify as an emergency (unless you’ve had a really, REALLY bad day).

Breaking Down Weekly Drinking Habits

Every Thursday I would promise myself I would only buy two drinks, but usually ended up buying four.  With each drink costing around $6, this meant I was putting down around $24 each outing, each week, without even counting all the other times I had a social cocktail during the week:

  • $10 bottle of wine to have with dinner.
  • $12 six pack of beer (I like nice beer) over the weekend when came friends over.
  • $8 glass of wine when my boyfriend and I went out for dinner.

By the end of the week I’d spent $50 on booze. That meant I was spending in the neighborhood of $200 a month on alcohol, $2,400 a year, NOT counting parties, holidays, or going out to eat more than once a week. (And I don’t even drink hard liquor.) And no, I’m not an alcoholic!

Even buying cheap, I was still spending more than I could afford on drinks. I went over the transactions in my savings account last month and realized I’d spent nearly half of what I’d saved just by taking out twenties here and there.  In the moment it seemed like small change, especially when your math skills have been watered down by a few shots. But the main reason I was digging into my savings was because I hadn’t come to terms with what my booze budget actually was versus what I would like it to be.

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2 Responses to “Booze Budget”

  1. Ian says:

    My Fab&Fru tip for saving on drinking without eliminating going to bars, one word– Flask! Bring a flask with your liquor of choice order a coke (or just water and leave the ice) and see the savings pour in. Spalding Grey once said he bought his apt in Soho from all the money he saved by using a flask.

  2. Maggie says:

    Arg! I’ve included my booze budget with my food for a while. After reading the article, I can see how creating a separate budget will be a good plan.

    To save money on drinks I have been buying $3 wine at Walmart (Trader Joe’s has $3 Chuck or Charles Shaw to the refined) that really isn’t bad at all. Also, I ask for vodka and rum for my birthday and Christmas to put in the freezer.

    A flask is a good (and sneaky) idea. I will probably be (covertly) trying this!

Any Thoughts?