When I got sober, the last thing I was thinking about was the financial impact it would have on my life. While people quit drinking for a variety of reasons, I quit because I knew it was going to kill me. I had grappled with alcohol abuse for years and, by the end, it was a full-blown addiction. Sobriety seemed like my only option if I wanted to keep the things I loved: My marriage, my job, my friends, and most importantly, my relationship with my daughter.
But giving up booze did have a financial impact. What I saw was that alcohol was costing me more than just my health and relationships; it was costing me financially, and significantly. What’s more, with the money I’ve saved in sobriety, I’ve been able to invest in myself and my family. While my husband and I hadn’t traveled in nearly three years when I got sober, we will have visited both coasts before the end of 2019. Keep reading for a list of ways that alcohol was costing me financially and how I’ve been able to save a significant amount of money in sobriety.
1. Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.
I live in a mid-sized city in the Midwest that lacks good public transit so, when I was drinking, I was using ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber a lot to go out for happy hours or boozy dinners with friends. These trips didn’t seem that expensive, $15 here, $20 there, but it all adds up when you start paying attention.
I probably spent an average of $50 for rides a few weekends a month. This doesn’t seem like much but it adds up to over $1,300 a year! As someone who works in the nonprofit sector with a young child, I certainly don’t have an extra $1,300 to be spending on a designated driver. In fact, this is about the cost of one month’s childcare for our family. While avoiding ridesharing altogether may not be a possibility for everyone, I’m thankful that now, when I do take the occasional Uber or Lyft ride, I am fully aware of my surroundings and as cautious as possible.
2. Expensive dinners out.
My favorite disguise for my alcohol addiction was that of an “oenophile,” or wine-lover. When you know a lot about wine, people don’t tend to pester you about why you drink so much of it. So I learned a lot about wine and drank a lot too for good measure. I got pretty into the local wine scene in my city and felt like I had to explore the most expensive restaurants with the best wine lists in town.
These meals and drinks out added up quickly. Even when I wasn’t at an uber-fancy restaurant, drinking at a bar or restaurant significantly increases the price of alcohol compared to purchasing in a liquor store and drinking at home. I would regularly drop $30-40 just for my three or four glasses of wine and a tip. Estimating that I went out and spent at least $40 once a week, which is being incredibly conservative, adds up to over $2,000 in one year — and that’s just for the alcohol, it doesn’t even take into account the food.
3. Alcohol subscription clubs.
This might be a bit more niche but, as a wine-lover, I had a monthly wine club subscription that cost $35 a month. I see more and more alcohol subscription services popping up, promising to save you money on quality alcohol. I’m not sure if belonging to a wine or beer club can save you money in the long term but mine cost me over $400 a year.
It didn’t even seem to bring the cost I spent on alcohol down each month because I often wasn’t very interested in the bottles I received and would save them for company or to give as gifts to other people, so this was just money down the drain for me.
4. Expensive skin treatments and products.
My skin has always given me trouble. It is both sensitive and prone to breakouts. When I was drinking a lot, especially toward the end of my alcohol addiction, my skin was particularly bad. Despite being 30, my hormonal acne was worse than it was when I was going through puberty. Also, my skin was dull and dry, no matter how much I exfoliated. So, rather than question what drinking might be doing to my skin, I decided that I needed to get regular facials.
For about a year, I got one $80 facial per month and, while my skin improved, it was nowhere near the level of improvement I experienced in sobriety. Once I got sober, I realized that the secret to great skin, other than youth, is not drinking. I’m sure it’s because alcohol dehydrates the body and thus the skin but, after I quit drinking, my skin improved almost immediately. Between the facials and the products I was using at home, I was spending over $1,200 on my skin per year and was still getting lackluster results. Now my skincare regimen looks like a gentle salicylic acid cleanser and an oil-free moisturizer and it’s better than ever, despite the occasional breakout.
5. Shopping under the influence.
It’s pretty much a given that alcohol lowers our inhibitions but I’ve discovered that this manifests differently depending on the person. For me, it meant that I would find myself drunk and anxious (because alcohol fueled my anxiety) at 9 pm on a Friday and convinced that $80 worth of Anthropologie candles was surely the best way I could improve my life. While shopping in sobriety has been a challenge for me as well, because it’s a quick mood booster like alcohol used to be, it was far worse when I was drinking.
In college, I used to order obscure used books for $.01 on Amazon (+$2.99 shipping) that I would completely forget about until they arrived. To this day, I have tattered copies of The Jungle by Upton Sinclaire and The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx that I doubt I will ever actually read. As my finances continued to improve as I grew in my career, my tastes got more expensive. $3 books turned into hundreds of dollars regularly spent on the J. Crew website, always convinced that a better life was waiting for me on the other side of that dress or pair of boots. While I am still working to get my shopping under control, I’m thankful for no longer coming home to packages on my doorstep and no clue what I ordered.
One thing people often realize when they quit drinking is that they didn’t really have the money in their budget that they used to spend on alcohol. I was amazed by how, after I got sober, the hundreds of dollars I was saving each month were mostly channeled into necessary things that had simply been neglected before. It just goes to show you how addiction clouds our judgment and often keeps us from making decisions that serve our best interests. However, I have been able to put a little bit of the money that I’m saving in sobriety aside for things that are important to me, such as travel with my family.
I can count on one hand the number of trips my husband and I had taken in the few years before I got sober yet, by the time I hit one year of sobriety in December 2019, we will have traveled to both coasts as a family and I will have taken a solo trip to Seattle. Recovery has forced me to figure out what is important to me, and time with my family is at the top of that list. I am so thankful that not only am I now fully present when I’m with my family but I am able to make memories with them through travel which I can afford because of sobriety. Sobriety has given me many of the things that alcohol promised but could never actually provide such as the ability to relax and be present in the moment. For me, this is priceless.