The 9 Hidden Costs of Drinking


Drinking isn't cheap. We all know that whether it's a quiet glass of wine at home in the evening or a full-fledged night out on the town, alcohol can cost you. But do you know the true costs? Those that go beyond just the actual price you're paying for that can of Coors or bottle of chianti? (See also: How to Make Moonshine)

Check out some of the common pitfalls associated with your drinking expenditures, as well as frugal ways to still have your wine and drink it too.

1. Transportation Costs

Taxis, limos, and other chauffeured vehicles are necessary for a responsible night of drinking. However, they don't usually come cheap. Even new ride services like Uber can run up the tab. So, what to do when you've had a few, but want to save on your transit costs?

If you're lucky enough to live in a city with reliable and safe late night public transportation, by all means take advantage of this cheap alternative to a cab. Another option is to pick nearby restaurants and bars where you can easily walk home. Or, take turns being a designated driver within your entourage each weekend, so that everyone can save and be safe.

2. Restaurant Dining

Having a nice drink with your meal at a restaurant makes for a great night. But, that markup on your drink is hefty. Take wine for example. Some restaurants can mark up bottles as high as 400%! And, if you and your other guests start ordering wine by the glass, your bill can skyrocket.

First off, if you even think there's a chance that you and another guest will have more than one glass of wine each, then buy the bottle. It's almost always cheaper. Or, find restaurants where you can bring your own drinks (BYOB), and avoid the restaurant markup. Lastly, you can always stick to ordering the restaurant's cheaper drink options, such as domestic beers or house liquors and wines, instead of perusing the more expensive drink menus.

3. The Gracious Host

If you have thrown anything from a dinner party to a wedding, you know that a big chunk of the budget can go to alcohol. Events can get expensive quickly when drinks cost more than your food. Still, the best hosts usually find ways to provide the booze.

Short of cutting out the alcohol or forcing a cash bar on guests, try cheaper options, like bulk wine (yes, you could even do wine-in-a-box for the less discerning crowd) or kegs of beer, which all give you a quantity discount. Another option is to make up large batches of your own punch, sangria, or other affordable mixed drinks. This can help save as people can't take the liberty to pour more of the expensive stuff in their concoctions. You can also try for cheaper substitutes. One of my favorites is using Cava instead of Champagne. (See also: Discount Luxury: Save 50% or More on 5 Fabulous Substitutions)

4. Late Night Food Run

A late night food run may seem like a fun way to top off your night. However, don't forget that even fast food can cost you, especially if you indulge and aren't thinking as clearly as you might otherwise after having a few drinks.

To alleviate the extra spend on calories you probably don't need, try to wait until you get home and eat there where it's cheaper. Fast food restaurants, diners, and food trucks may seem cheap at the time, but they add up. Or, if you are lucky enough to know where to find $1 pizza slices, make sure to only hit up these types of super cheap places if you just can't resist.

5. Running a Tab

Tabs can get out of hand when you slap down a credit card and don't realize how much you are truly spending. And, they can be especially dangerous when you buy drinks for others and are feeling festive (a round of shots anyone?).

Next time, try paying cash for your drinks, so you'll be more aware of your spend. If you need to use your credit card, set a limit and ask the bartender to automatically close out your tab once reached. Or, if you are looking to treat others, hit the bar when you can save, such as during happy hour or when regular specials and promotions take place.

6. Shopping and Impulse Buys

Any time you've had a drink during the day, whether it be a lunch date or happy hour splurge, beware of your lowered inhibitions and the expenditures that can follow. It's certainly fun to have lunch and go shopping, but you may overpay or buy stuff on impulse.

In order to suppress your urge to splurge, try making sure you have a budget or list in mind before you hit the stores. You can also ask friends to keep you in check or use cash to make sure you don't overspend. And lastly, don't fall into the trap of buying just because whomever you're with starts doing so.

7. Your Crowd

If you run with some high rollers, you may find yourself draining your wallet at fancy clubs and restaurants. The ordinary draft beer at such places can cost you four times more than the pub down the street. And, other beverages are sure to run you a small fortune in such places.

To avoid the spend of the rich and famous, perhaps it's time to pick your crowd wisely. You can always go out with more like-minded friends to lower-key establishments. Or, make sure you are the one to pick the venues, so you can choose places with reasonable prices or no cover charges. If you still find yourself confronted with absorbent pricing, limit your intake and stay clear of champagnes and signature mixed drinks, which always run higher than most other items.

8. Health Care Costs

We all know that there's a flip side to most guilty pleasures. Consuming alcohol can affect both your health and your wallet. Continual use or over-consumption can cause a number of alcohol related health problems, from liver disorders to heart problems to violence and depression. A CDC study has estimated that excessive drinking has cost the country at least $224 billion per year in the past, the majority of which is health care costs. As an individual, this means money lost on doctor's visits, costly procedures, missed pay, decreased quality of life, and higher health insurance premiums.

It's obvious that the way to combat such problems is to aim to drink less or not at all. Preventive programs and seeking help for excessive alcohol consumption are measures that can be taken. Be sure to limit binge drinking and search for other ways, besides alcohol, to relax and unwind.

9. Long Term Consequences

Excessive or irresponsible drinking can certainly lead to some grave consequences, especially if you drink and drive. Besides the physical dangers, the financial fallout from a DUI is a lot more than you may realize. It has been estimated that by the time you pay bail, legal fees, and insurance, a DUI can cost you $10,000 or more. From the insurance perspective, a DUI will increase your premium by several hundred dollars, which can last for up to five years. You may also be required to carry more than the state-mandated amount of coverage, further driving up your costs.

The obvious way to avoid such expenses is to not drink and drive. A DUI can do all kinds of harm, much of which can last well beyond the initial offense.

What are some other extra costs you have come across when it comes to spending on drinks? Please share in comments!

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