I stopped drinking alcohol in Sept. 2017 due to an unexpected shift in my desire to drink. The biggest surprise from this is how much that change affected my budget. I looked back at the previous six months and found I've saved $500 simply by not purchasing alcohol.
Prior to cutting it out, consuming alcohol was a weekly (and often spontaneous) occurrence — date nights with my wife, drinks at the bar for a friend’s birthday and wine-fueled dinners with colleagues — and I had begun to feel the effects of it. I would go to bed with a slight headache or feel sluggish the next morning.
Shortly after my realization, I found myself declining drinks at parties and sipping sparkling water at restaurants. When my friends began to ask if I “still wasn't drinking," I became aware I had stopped.
So I decided to break down how much I've saved (and where). The best part? Whether you want to stop drinking altogether or simply want to decrease your monthly budget, this may inspire you.
Bar tabs: $30 saved per month
I knew bar drinks were overpriced, but I was still surprised to discover I was spending nearly $30 per month on drinks during nights out with friends. Of course there are a lot of variants here, like the type of drink you order, how many you have, how often you go out and where you live.
For reference, where I'm at (California), one mixed drink costs $10 to $15, but it might be more or less where you live.
In total, I was consuming two to three drinks per month. It might not sound like a lot, but over the course of six months, I’ve saved nearly $200 just from that. Now, this doesn’t mean I’ve stopped going out altogether. I still go out with friends, but instead of ordering an alcoholic drink, I typically order soda water, which costs anywhere from nothing to $3.
Genius tip: Order what you want; no one is paying attention. The first time I ordered a non-alcoholic drink at a bar, I felt self-conscious. I was with a group of people I didn’t know very well and I didn’t want them to think I was weird. Here’s what I learned that night: No one cares what you order at the bar. I ordered a Sprite and no one noticed or cared. Most people will assume your sipping an alcoholic mixed drink anyways, so don’t sweat it.
Netflix & wine: $20 saved per month
Prior to cutting out alcohol, Friday nights were synonymous with Netflix and wine (or beer). It seemed like the perfect way to end the work week and I always looked forward to a relaxing night at home with my wife. But when I stopped drinking, we stopped buying as much alcohol. Even though my wife still drinks, we found we don't go through a bottle of wine as quickly. Between that and not always picking up a bottle, we're saving an average of $5 per week.
At-home dinner parties: $15 saved per month
My friends and I take turns hosting our monthly book group. Whether it’s my turn or someone else’s, I normally buy a bottle of $15 to $20 wine for the event. Until I stopped drinking, it was my standard hosting gift. But once I stopped, it felt strange to bring a bottle of wine and then refuse a glass when the host opened it. Instead of wine, I started bringing other gifts — a simple bouquet of flowers or homemade cookies. Even though my new gifts are much less expensive and range in price from $1 to $5, they’re huge hits.
Genius tip: Whether or not you drink alcohol, the most important rule for going over to a friend’s house is to bring something you want to drink. If you’re in the mood for wine, bring a bottle to share. If you’re in the mood for soda, bring an ice cold liter. There’s no unwritten rule that you must bring alcohol to a dinner party or hosted event. In fact, my most successful hosting gift was homemade sherbert punch. It’s super simple to assemble and it costs less than $5.
Dinners out: $15 saved per month
The only thing I love more than a date night with my wife is celebrating my friends’ birthdays. I love getting dressed up for special events and spending quality time with my favorite people while eating delicious food. When I stopped drinking, I didn’t stop going out to dinner — but I did stop ordering alcohol. If you’re splitting the bill with friends and everyone drank alcohol but you, you may feel uncomfortable speaking up. My friend group tends to itemize the bill and has each person pay for what they ordered, but if that’s the not the case for your group of friends, there’s a simple solution: Offer to divide the bill yourself. Your friends will be grateful they don’t have to worry about it and you can avoid a potentially awkward money conversation.
A word of caution: If your friend group tends to split the bill evenly, regardless of who ordered what, you may not actually save any money by not drinking during group dinners.