I was a fool.
Like many others, after just about surviving Christmas I fell for the Dry January hype. Yes, I had missed Go Sober For October, and Avoid Beer for One Year. So it seemed obvious to give up the booze for January.
This was part for health, of course. Everyone likes to give their liver a chance to recover.
But also, it was also for money. We Brits spend a lot on booze. And I am no exception.
And this is when I realised I was a fool. Forget dry January and crunch some numbers.
Forget Dry January?
Brits spend on average £9.10 a week on Alcoholic Drinks, which works out at £473.20 per year. That’s according to the glamorous 2019 UK Household Spending analysis by the Office of National Statistics. And that’s money spent on the alcohol itself. Drinking makes you spend more on other categories – from late =-night kebabs to headache tablets and drunken Amazon purchases.
We all know the alleged health benefits: Improve your sleeping, lose weight, and avoid having fun – but what about what really matters – the cold, hard cash?
Cutting out alcohol will save you money
Cutting out alcohol saves money. If you drink a couple of beers a day at home, you’re likely to be spending £40 to £60 a month. Switch that to a pub or a bottle of wine and you may be getting closer to £300 a month (that’s £10 a day folks).
So Dry January should have saved me a packet. I guess I’m in the middle, at around £150. Lockdown is helping keep me away from marked up pub and restaurant drinks, but also means I’m drinking more at home.
So, after I failed to forget dry January, I should be cash rich. Right?
Wrong? Cutting out drink to save money only works if you aren’t compensating. And of course you do compensate. I’m not drinking so I’ll buy some better food / order more takeaways / reward myself with luxury coffee.
This isn’t by accident. Your body is demanding you replace the calories lost by not drinking, and your resolve is already weakened from the alcohol withdrawal and lack of “fun and relief” that drinking brings.
At the end of the month, I had spent more than the alcohol saving.
And then I had a mathematical epiphany. And if you think that sounds painful, it was.
Dry January lasts for one twelfth of the year. Even if you avoid all compensatory spending, you are only saving a month of your twelve month spending. It’s 8.5% to the percentage fans.
That’s a blip.
But how about doing No Drink Tuesday? Here, you save one day in seven. That’s over 14% of your spending. Now we’re talking.
Even better, because you are only missing a day, the urge to compensate drops materially. It’s okay. You can have a drink tomorrow, so a little suffering is easier to bare.
Using my numbers from earlier, if I saved £150 from Dry January, I should be saving around £250 with No Drink Tuesday. Now that sounds like real money.
No Drink Tuesday saves 67% more than Dry January – so forget Dry January
Fewer days drinking also means less alcohol eating my liver and fewer calories setting up home around my waist. What’s not to like?
In fact, maybe I should add no drink Thursday in too. That would double my saving – up to £500 a year.
One step at a time… Isn’t that what Alcoholics Anonymous would say?
For now, I’m content to forget dry January, ignore StopTober, and deny Abstinence April.