Sobriety savings

The financial case for sobriety? Calculate your savings.

Analyzing the habits of the US adult population, a recent Finder survey found that more than half of us — 69.73% in fact — drink at least one alcoholic beverage a week. More surprisingly, about 177.6 million Americans admit to drinking 1.4 billion brews and booze weekly. Gulp!

Other eye-opening findings on our overall imbibing:

  • Those of us who drink beer, cocktails or other libations sip an average eight drinks a week.
  • Men and women aren’t too far off from each other when it comes to a weekly swig, actually increasing their alcohol intake equally over the year by 13%: 77% of adult men drink at least one beer, cocktail or spirit a week, compared to 2018 survey’s report of 64%. 65% of adult women admit to throwing a few more back in 2020 so far, compared to the 52% of people who reported the same in 2018.
  • But while more adult men take a weekly swig, adult women are paying more. In fact, women spend an average on $73 weekly on alcoholic drinks while men only spend an average of $68.
  • On the generational spectrum, far more than half (82%) of all millennials have at least one drink weekly, compared with a smaller percentage (71%) of boomers.
  • Millennials and Gen X are consuming the largest amount of alcoholic drinks weekly at 8.85 drinks per week.

Calculate your liquidity

How much could you save by avoiding alcohol?

At home
Drinks this weekAverage cost per drink*
Drinks this weekAverage cost per drink*
Hard liquor
Drinks this weekAverage cost per drink*
Drinks this weekAverage cost per drink
Drinks this weekAverage cost per drink
Hard liquor
Drinks this weekAverage cost per drink

Use the calculator above to see how much you’ll save by abstaining from alcohol .

If you quit drinking, you’ll save …

{{monthly | currency}} per month
{{yearly | currency}} per year
{{decade | currency}} per decade

If you invested a year of savings into a high-interest savings account at 1% interest compounded monthly…

At the end of 10 years, you’ll have saved: {{yearly * Math.pow(1 + .01/12, 120) | currency}}

If you invested a year of savings into a 20-year target fund at 5% interest…

At the end of 20 years, you’ll have saved: {{ yearly * Math.pow(1.05, 20) | currency}}

*Average nationwide prices are based on data published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Resesarch.

Adrienne Fuller’s personal Sobriety Savings Experience

Prior to November 30, 2016, I was just one of the 137 million Americans — specifically, among the 56% of millennials — who relax with a beer, cocktail or spirit at least weekly. But that Wednesday morning was different: The second I opened my eyes and looked up at the ceiling, I knew I wanted to stop drinking.

I chose to give up alcohol for many reasons, and it’s probably those reasons coming together at once that made it an easy decision. All I’d hoped for came true: I had more energy, more mental clarity. I started losing weight and waking up earlier. I felt more optimistic and ambitious about my goals.

I also knew it was going to save me money. I just didn’t realize quite how much.

Alcohol statistics infographic

When you don’t budget, you don’t know

It’s easy to sink a lot of money into anything when you don’t limit yourself as to how much you spend on it. In general, my husband and I follow a reactionary type of budgeting that I’m sure plenty of people do — after a big month, we’ll just say, “We need to spend less on X next month.”

For the most part, it works. And for the most part, we stay on track, diverting money where it needs to go: savings, bills, mortgage, retirement, etc. And the rest, we spend on ourselves.

The realization

After two full months of sobriety, I noticed a huge difference in the “rest we spend on ourselves” part of my budget. Instead of breaking even with our usual spending habits before moving on to the next month, I found a couple hundred dollars left in my account with nowhere to be, just twiddling its thumbs. The next month, the same thing. My curiosity effectively piqued, I decided to run a few numbers.

Doing the math

I use the Mint app to track my spending, mainly so I can take note of trends and pinpoint the “we need to spend less on X” stuff. It’s also convenient for searching by transaction type across multiple accounts. And despite a few improvements I could suggest (hit me up, Mint customer experience department), it’s become an essential tool for my personal financial management.

Sorting by Bars and Alcohol, I found that I’d spent $1,757 on alcohol in the past year. We aren’t big bar people and live at the end of a dirt road, so this doesn’t sound like that much to me. But it also wasn’t a full picture of how much we were spending on suds and spirits.

The hidden math

My husband, because he is the best, chose to join me on my sobriety journey. Note that these figures are for a two-person household. Also, I live in California, where there’s at least one full aisle in the grocery store dedicated to liquor, and eating out at restaurants is a two- or three-night-weekly affair. Because line items are not recorded in credit card purchases (yet), I fooled myself into thinking we just ate a lot.

Tracking the patterns, however, I learned that we were now spending roughly $90 a week on food versus $130 before — a savings of 30%. Swapping four Manhattans for seltzer, we were now spending roughly $80 out to eat versus $140 before — a savings of 42%.

I spent $8,885 on groceries and $3,964 on restaurants in the prior year. So using those same percentages, I found that $2,666 of my grocery budget and $1,665 of my restaurant expenditures were going to alcohol.

That’s slightly less than the 6.8% of other millennials who admit to spending more than $100 a week — or at least $5,200 a year — on drinks. And it’s far less than the 4.5 million Americans who say they spend more than 200 bones a week on alcohol. Still, I took it a step further and went back to 2015.

2016 totals

Money spent on alcohol at restaurants: $3,964 * 42% = $1,665
Money spent on alcohol at the grocery store: $8,885 * 30% = $2,666
Bars and liquor stores: $1,757
Total: $6,088

2015 totals

Money spent on alcohol at restaurants: $4,105 * 42% = $1,724
Money spent on alcohol at the grocery store: $6,839 * 30% = $2,051
Bars and liquor stores: $1,705
Total: $5,480

Two-year Total: $11,568


I spent almost 12 grand on alcohol in two years. That isn’t even counting cash I spent on beers at sports games or stuffed into my friends’ hands to grab me a drink from the bar at a show. So we’re looking at a very conservative estimate here.

As I mentioned, sobriety has brought me mental clarity — so I won’t even patronize you with I was shocked! or I can’t believe it! I may not have been expecting it to be that much, but I can totally believe it.

glass of whisky sitting on stack of dollar bills

The financial case for sobriety

I occasionally scroll through my Facebook feed and come across budgeting articles. Usually listicles with titles like “Twelve ways married couples can save $5,000 in one year” or “40 ways to make money you have never heard about.” And you bet your ass I click! And then I read things like “take the bus,” “take surveys in your spare time,” “ditch your morning latte.”

I like my commute just fine, I don’t have spare time, and my morning latte is a small comfort that brings me great joy. My listicle is just one item long: Ditch booze.

Spending the savings

You could easily take the money you save each month and put it toward old debt, your car loan, or savings. But remember to spend a portion on yourself as a reward for the improvement you’ve made to your health and your wallet. A standing massage appointment, new appliances, or a wardrobe upgrade could do a lot for your overall happiness.

Chelsea Wells-Barrett headshot

For all media inquiries, please contact:

Chelsea Wells-Barrett, PR, Media Relations and Communications


/in/chelsea-wells-barrett-46b036101/ /CWellsbarrett/

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