Did you know that if you were to stop drinking alcohol you could save £1,000s a year? Even ordinary levels of alcohol consumption can cost the average person huge amounts of money.
Really? Just a few drinks a week?
Yes, alcohol costs us a lot more than the price of a pint or two. Read on to learn the hidden costs of a drink – and how much you’re really spending.
- The cost to the nation of alcohol consumption
- How much alcohol really costs you
- How to cut down alcohol and increase your wealth
- Sober October – how to get involved
Apart from the obvious (and not so obvious) costs to your health which would set you back tens of thousands of pounds if the poor old NHS didn’t foot the bill, there’s the actual cost of the booze, the price of taxis when you go out, the silly stuff you buy online when drunk, the broken relationships and offence caused when drunk (that have to be compensated with flowers etc), the lost opportunities due to hangovers and much more.
It depends who you talk to, and what you read, about the affect of alcohol on the national economy, but official estimates put it that alcohol abuse is costing the UK (or in other words, us the taxpayers) over £21 billion a year.
- NHS costs of £3.5 billion a year are directly attributable to alcohol-related accidents and diseases.
- Alcohol related crime is thought to cost the UK £11 billion a year.
- The cost of lost productivity is estimated at around £7.3 billion.
- £6 billion in ‘social costs’ (the really hard-to-pin-down element of alcohol which damages families and children, causing trauma that can last their lifetimes).
the cost to the NHS
- It has been estimated that drink-related health problems could account for around £3.5 billion of total NHS spending on hospitals – up from £2.7 billion in 2006/7.
- In 2018 there were 338,000 admissions directly attributable to alcohol, 23% of which were for unintentional injuries.
- In 2018 there were 1.2 million admissions linked to alcohol consumption.
- This broad measure represents about 7.2% of all hospital admissions, of which one quarter were due to alcohol-related cancers.
the cost to the economy
- 17 million working days are lost to hangovers, costing employers £6.4 billion a year.
- Students spend more than £200 on alcohol and getting in to bars/clubs in their first week of university…eating into their student loans
- Household spending on alcoholic drinks in the UK has almost doubled over the last fifty years, from £9.7 billion in 1987 to £19.3 billion in 2017.
and the cost to individuals
- 14% of women and 28% of men are drinking over the recommended weekly allowance (NHS figures from 2019).
- Among adults who had drunk in the last week, 55% of men and 53% of women drink more than the recommended daily allowance.
- In 2017, there were 5,843 alcohol-related deaths. This is an increase of 16% on 2007.
According to a survey that the discount website Vouchercodespro.co.uk has done, we’re spending, on average, around £1,000 a year on alcohol. They also found:
- Over 54% of us spend more than £50 a month on alcohol.
- On average we spend £82.50 a month which comes to £990 a year.
- 64% said that they bought it with money not technically their own (i.e. credit cards or overdraft).
- Three quarters of us borrow money from a friend or family member to buy it.
Nick Swan, CEO of VoucherCodesPro, said: “The fact that Britons seem to be spending an average of £82.50 a month on alcohol is ridiculous! That’s £990 a year on alcohol alone, an extortionate amount! I would really urge Britons to take better care of their finances and reconsider their spend on alcohol.”
What else are we spending on?
It’s not just the price of a bottle of plonk, or a round at the pub that costs you.
The hidden costs pile up quickly, little extras that people forget about or just put down to day-to-day stresses. Here are just a few of them:
Buying things online when drunk
According to a survey by the insurance comparison site Confused, Brits spend an average of £142 shopping online while drunk.
- Nearly 1 in 5 admitted they have bought items via the internet while drunk, with a quarter spending between £100 and £200.
- Almost 1 in 20 splash out more than £500 online using their credit or debit cards while drunk.
- Over half of the drunken sprees take place on Amazon, with clothes being the most popular purchase.
- However, 18% have booked a holiday after a drinking session and 6% have bought a new television or phone.
The price of a night out
Unless you have a spouse or friend who is willing to forego alcohol and be the designated driver for the night, you will have to fork out for a taxi home, probably in the small hours when it’s expensive. Depending on where you live this could be anything from £10 to £50 on average.
Not only that, but apart from the extra cost of buying drinks in overpriced restaurants and clubs, once you’ve had a few it’s far harder to stop drinking and call an end to the night. You can easily find yourself moving to more bars and clubs, spending money you didn’t intend to on drinks you could do without.
You might even get conned into spending on other things in the street or in bars because your wits and common sense aren’t what they were a few hours ago. It all adds up, particularly if you’re doing this every weekend.
There are daily costs that are either ignored or simply brushed away by most of us. Although we focus on the lost monetary value, the emotional side to these scenarios will have an even greater impact on your personal wellbeing.
Consider these social costs, which may occur to you if you don’t stop drinking:
- Ineffectiveness at work due to hangovers which can stop us getting promoted or even lose us our jobs
- Being offensive to friends and having to make it up to them (cost of flowers, taking them out to dinner etc)
- In extreme cases, relationship breakdowns potentially leading to the cost of living in separate places
We’re not even going to touch on the unexpected pregnancies that result from intoxication. That’s way too big a subject for an article like this but as you read this, you can probably think of a few children/adults who are here today largely because of alcohol. It costs around £200,000 to bring up a child from 0-17…that’s a lot of cash to shell out.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a non-drinking family so I never got into the habit. I can’t calculate how many tens of thousands of pounds it must have saved me over the years, quite apart from the other benefits.
There are various things you can do to help stop drinking:
- Give yourself ‘dry’ days in the week where you don’t allow yourself any alcohol at all. Some people pick Monday-Thursday and only allow themselves to drink on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
- Stop drinking at home. Cut it out totally in the house so it becomes a special treat for evenings out.
- Try going alcohol-free for a month (see the Sober October information below)
- Give up totally. Never go back to it. Seriously, a lot of people do and, as with dieting, cutting things out totally and never going back is generally the best way of keeping yourself on an even keel going forward.
- If things are really serious – i.e. you genuinely can’t get through a couple of days without having at least one drink – then it’s time to get professional help. There’s some good advice and a number of useful links on this NHS page.
Also, to give yourself a leg-up and keep the habit going:
- Every day that you don’t buy alcohol, put the money you would have spent into a savings jar. At the end of the month, put the cash into a special savings account that is for holidays or a car or something you really want. Seeing the money mount up will help keep you off the booze.
- Join evening classes, go to concerts, find local cafes that stay open late and generally give yourself other things to do in the evenings and weekends other than going to a pub.
- Hang out with friends that drink little or no alcohol and move away (at least a bit) from friends who are heavy drinkers. It’s very hard to give something up, whether it’s drink, fags, shopping, gambling or any other habit, if you’re surrounded by people constantly doing the thing you’re trying to stop doing!
- Tell friends and family what you’re doing and that you need support in giving up the demon drink. You might be surprised at how many are relieved at having the excuse themselves not to drink.
The charity Macmillan runs a Sober October campaign every year, getting people to stop drinking for the whole month of October and, ideally, be sponsored to do it.
This way, not only do they help a lot of people improve their health dramatically by not touching alcohol for a month, but they also raise money for the charity.
As the Macmillan campaigners explain, to stop drinking for a full month can be a really useful exercise for you all round. This is what they say:
“Taking a month off the booze can have many potential benefits. Just imagine what you could achieve without a hangover! By having 31 gloriously hangover-free days you’ll not only be raising lots of money to help people with cancer, you’ll also be doing oodles of good for your own health.”
Together with a few small improvements to your diet and exercise routine you could expect to experience a range of the following:
- Increased energy levels, higher productivity
- Clearer head
- No more hangovers
- Sleeping better / snoring less
- Weight loss
- Clearer skin
- Healthier bank balance / Save money
- Sense of achievement
- Fresh approach to alcohol consumption
- Generally feel healthier
- Doing something positive for a good cause
So, if you would really like to cut down (or cut out) alcohol in your life, October is a great way to do it, and you could use the Macmillan campaign as your kick-start to a healthier, wealthier life!