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  • Writer's pictureChristine Coulson

Alcohol and Cost 1: Financial

Updated: Jan 22

Pile of coins

When you’re looking at around £7[i] in supermarkets for a bottle of wine and a pint of ordinary strength lager costing £4.85[ii] in a city centre pub, (and that’s £5.80[iii] in Central London); the financial cost of drinking alcohol soon adds up.

If you’re a regular drinker having a few pints in the pub two evenings a week, with more on weekends, it’s easy to imagine that you could be spending upwards of £60 a week on alcohol alone. And that’s not taking into account events such as weddings, or birthday parties where you’re likely to start earlier and finish later…

Let’s say £60 a week; that’s £3,120 a year in booze on normal drinking. A heavy ‘session’ every two months and you can probably add £500 to that over the year. £3,600 in booze. Almost three and a half thousand pounds of your net salary going straight into the till of your friendly publican.

Assuming you pay basic rate tax, National Insurance and contribute 5% of your gross salary into a pension; to pay that you have to earn £5,400 gross. You might want to read that again. Of course, financially - that’s not all. There’s the taxis. There’s the new outfits. There’s the kebab on the way home, there’s the hungover takeaways the day after.

Of course, even if you cut alcohol out of your life, you’re not hiding yourself away and drinking tap water. Alcohol free drinks can cost as much as the boozy equivalents in a pub – they may not have duty added, but without wanting to be cynical about profit margins, it’s undeniable that even the larger chains don’t bulk buy AF drinks – especially AF sprits – like they do with alcohol; plus rents are high, staff wages are expensive etc… So I’m personally happy to cut them some slack.

The main difference, of course, is if you’re drinking alcohol free beer you’re just not drinking the numbers that you are likely to when consuming the boozy alternative. You’re just not going to drink with the same pace; and you definitely won’t hit the point where ordering a round of shots seems like a good idea. Chances are you’ll eat sensibly, drive home and the next day you’ll not be craving that greasy takeaway to revive you the next day.

You will, of course, still buy new clothes. And you are more than likely to be spending money on new hobbies; but they’re likely to be healthier than a substance that’s proven to give you cancer. You’ll still buy food in restaurants, but without the alcohol the bill is significantly lower (and the conversation is better).

Since I have quit alcohol, a sobriety counting app has been clocking up my cumulative saving based on my average spend. 18 months on, it tells me I have saved an eye watering amount of money – over £8,000. I never thought I’d share that figure with anyone; but actually, I’m not ashamed of it. Yes, it’s a lot of money; but then I drank a lot of wine. I am where I am today because I have quit alcohol; I’m proud that I no longer spend that money on something that is doing harm to my health. I’m proud that I now have that money to spend on things that enrich me and bring joy to my life – floatation tank sessions; trips with my sober friends; and best of all – city centre car parks that are the most convenient for where I need to be.

I call these purchases my “NowIdon’t” purchases. The things I am willing to invest in now I don’t drink. I invest in makeup and skincare products that contain more natural ingredients. I park in car parks that have better lighting even if they cost more. I don’t mind if something costs a little more but enables me to support an independent retailer or cafe. I’m not made of money, of course not; but the occasional purchase that costs a little more; or makes my life a little easier is always welcome.

So dare you think about your financial cost of alcohol? And what would your NowIdon’t purchases be?

[i] (Accessed 17/6/2023) [ii] Greene King app – Price of 4.1% Amstel Draught in Museum, Sheffield on 17/6/2023 [iii] Greene King app – Price of 4.1% Amstel Draught in Railway, Liverpool Street on 17/6/2023

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