Last week, we were sitting down to a budget conversation. Mint said, “hey, it’s been awhile since you logged in, might want to update a thing or five,” and Brent wondered aloud about how much money we were spending in restaurants. These conversations are important because while it’s fun and easy to pat ourselves on the back for continuing to save nearly 50% of our combined incomes, it’s easy to get lazy with the rest.
I mentioned in the last “save 50%” post that it looks like we’re about $6,000 shy of reaching our goal for 2014, and since saving is both earning more and spending less, we can try to find room on the spending side that might help us get there.
So, Brent got to work. What started as a, “gee, I wonder…” conversation quickly evolved into a spreadsheet categorization (as it almost always does with Brent — one sure sign of gauging his interest in a project is how quickly the spreadsheet comes out) and breaking our alcohol spending into categories.
In 2014, we spent:
- $677 in bars
- $1846 in the liquor store
for a total of $2523.
That’s a lot, and yet, it doesn’t paint the whole picture.
Trips to the grocery store often include at least a walk through the wine section, though not always a purchase. Mint doesn’t break down our grocery store into line items. What percentage of our grocery spending is wine or beer? Is it 5%? Is it 10%? Let’s call it 5% for the sake of estimating.
That’s another $278 in grocery store purchases, which brings our total to $2800 for the year.
The Hidden Budget Drain: Restaurants
We like restaurants. I love to cook, Brent loves to cook, and we also just plain love going out to eat. We don’t often eat at fine dining establishments, but we almost always order a drink when we go out. Sometimes we order two.
So, even when the entree is $10, we’re very often doubling our bill by adding a cocktail.
Let’s go ahead and say that a full 25% of our restaurant budget goes toward alcohol of some sort.
That’s $1625 in addition to the wine and whiskey we buy to take home.
Bringing our total cost of 2014 alcohol consumption to $4425.
And it’s only August!
What We’re Going to do About it
Having a glass of wine with dinner is all well and good, but it’s easy to quickly drink our money away ordering wine at restaurants, or replenishing Brent’s supply of his favorite scotch. Drinking neither helps with my efforts to slim down for the wedding, nor does it set a good foundation for what our lives will look like from now until forever.
Something must change.
Brent suggested that we limit our consumption, and not just say we’re limiting it, but actually do something.
His idea? Don’t buy any more alcohol this year. We can drink what we have, and we can drink what we’re given. We can bring a bottle of wine to dinner at a friend’s house (we’re doing this experiment for us, not to turn into alcohol moochers).
Note to wedding attendees: we will still buy alcohol for the wedding, don’t worry!
That way, we’re accomplishing several things:
- Replacing destructive habits
- Spending less money in restaurants without even changing the frequency of our visits to the neighborhood spots
- Stopping the hemorrhaging of money from our wallets to our vices
We might even be able to turn some of the money we’re not spending on booze in restaurants into actual money saved toward our 50% goal.
So, that’s my dirty little secret. Even though I’m a minimalist, and consider myself to be frugal, I stopped paying attention and spent $4,500 this year on drinking.
I’ll still meet you for a drink, though, I swear! Make mine a soda water with lime.
I’m excited to see where this experiment leads us, and will more diligently track my alcohol purchases in the future.
What do your vices cost?