I tried dry January. Here's how much money I saved

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Hanna Horvath, CFP®

Hanna Horvath, CFP®

Managing Editor & Certified Financial Planner™

Hanna Horvath, CFP®, is a certified financial planner and former managing editor at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in NBC News, Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, CNBC, Best Company, and HerMoney.

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Updated Jan. 7, 2020: Dry January - abstaining from alcohol for the first month of the year - is an annual tradition for many people. Not me. I typically start each year the same way I end it: with a glass of pinot noir.

This year, I made a change. Among my other health-related New Year’s resolutions, I wanted to drink less and enjoy a detox after overindulging during the holidays. So I tried dry January for 2020.

Most people who go dry for a month do so to improve their health. After a month, I definitely feel healthier. But I was surprised by the additional benefits to my finances.

New year, new me

First, a note about health: Having the occasional drink won’t severely impact your health, but excessive drinking can lead to negative health effects, including high blood pressure and liver problems.

While I had never experienced those issues, I noticed a clear improvement in my general well-being after giving up drinking, especially my sleeping patterns. Studies show that alcohol use can disrupt your circadian rhythms, leading to poorer sleep.

In the past, having more than two drinks often impacted my sleep schedule. I would typically have trouble falling asleep and waking up. During dry January, I woke up refreshed almost every day. I also felt more energetic and happier (alcohol is a depressant, after all.)

The price of sobriety

Another drawback to drinking? The cost.

Prior to cutting it out, consuming alcohol was a weekly occurrence for me: date nights with my boyfriend, drinks at brunch for a friend’s birthday and happy hours with my team.

And thanks to New York City’s prices, I was shelling out a good chunk of change each month for cocktails and vino. A glass of wine typically goes for around $10 and a cocktail goes for $14 (not including tip). I would also occasionally pick up a bottle of red wine (for “Bachelor” Mondays, of course) which would run around $15.

A quick calculation revealed I was spending close to $200 per month just on alcohol. With that extra money each month, I could afford to buy lunch every day at work.

During the month, I had no problems eating or going out with friends sans alcohol. The only real challenge came when the bill came around, but I had no problem speaking up against splitting (I often brought cash, which made the job of splitting easier).

Not only was I saving hundreds of dollars by skipping the drinks, I was getting better sleep, feeling more energized and awake throughout the day (and being more productive at work!).

What I learned

Avoiding alcohol for a month was a positive experience for my health and wallet. I began to notice all the times I normally would have ordered alcohol when I didn’t really need a drink. I could have just as easily declined the offer and saved $15 on my bill.

While I don’t plan to give up alcohol completely, I plan to adopt an annual dry January tradition. Going dry is a chance to rethink your relationship with alcohol — and a great way to reach your money goals quicker.

Want to learn more? Read how much this writer saved by quitting alcohol for six months.

Image: Vinicius Amano

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