Drinking Yourself into Debt

Drinking Yourself into Debt

We all know that feeling of money being burned, whether it is extra charges on your monthly cellphone plan, that unexpected car repair bill, or a new pair of jeans getting torn – you’re likely feeling a bewilderingly subtle sense of loss. That extra $20 to $200 could’ve made the month a little easier for you, but it’s gone. Then Thursday night comes, beckoning the early weekend hustle. As you stumble drunkenly from bar to club, with thirty or so dollars worth of booze in your system, the extra $25 worth of cover, tip, and coat check seem like a bargain.

Welcome to the average Canadian nightlife: the black hole of all things budget-friendly and financially responsible. Between cover, tip, drinks, pre-drinking, meals, and taxi, individual Canadians are spending hundreds every week on unbridled drinking and partying.

In 2011, the average Canadian household spent roughly $860 on alcohol, and the same data has been showing habit drinking growing ever steadily amongst young men and women alike. According to Statistics Canada, heavy drinkers are categorized as having more than five drinks on one occasion every month. From 1993 to 2011, the proportion of young adults who are heavy drinkers has risen by 14%.

While the recessive economy of 2008 still lingers, Saturday nights still see steady numbers of gallivanting partygoers, although Thursday and Friday nights seem to have taken a hit.

Drinking habits aside, Canadians are going to party and party hard regardless. Even with a thirst to party, saving a bit of money is not impossible if you plan ahead.

Spending $5 to $10 on mixed drinks with little to no alcohol in them can be quite disheartening for those with a tight grip on their wallet. Bottle service has emerged recently as an alternative to dishing out tons of money on watered down drinks. A group of friends can split one or two bottles and secure a section of club-territory to themselves.

Pre-drinking can minimize the amount you spend outside on drinks. Splitting a bottle of liquor or two-four between friends will drastically minimize costs.

Plan your route back home accordingly. See who you can split a cab with, or check to see if any night busses are available to bring you back home to the glory and comfort of a warm bed. If you’re really tight on cash, call up that downtown friend and see if they are willing to let you crash at their place.

Also, for the business-types, it may be of great interest to note that the 2006 study “No Booze? You May Lose” demonstrated that drinkers on average earned more than abstainers. Indeed, the study found social drinking coincides with increased earnings: “Men who frequent bars at least once per month obtain a 7 percent earnings premium in addition to the 10 percent premium that drinkers have over abstainers. Although a positive drinking status increases women’s earnings by 11 percent, frequenting a bar at least once per month appears to have no effect.”

Finally, drinking and going on a night out should be treated as part of an entertainment budget. The costs do add up. Even a measly $100 per week for even just 1/3 of the year adds up to about $1700 in partying expenses per year, so it’s important to keep such an expense in check. To summarize, you begin by deducting your fixed costs: rent, phone bill, car payments, etc. Whatever is left should go into paying off debt or into savings, and should reflect 20% to 50% of your earnings. Whatever is left is then up for grabs, and if drinking up a storm and partying well into the after hours is your thing, then drink up and let the good times roll.

Check out this video from the Financial Post if you want to know more.

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