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Hangxiety and money dread: What one woman learnt by quitting alcohol

Cutting back on alcohol has been touted to improve your skin, sleep, and even your savings success. But just how true is it?

Compilation image of group of people drinking alcohol in Sydney and a hand fanning out Australian dollars money
Your money is just one thing which will benefit from you ditching the booze. (Source: Getty) (Samantha Menzies)

Less than two years ago, the alcohol free section at your local supermarket was a barren wasteland of fizzy apple juice and a scattering of zero per cent wines. But now, aisles are adorned with a huge variety of alcohol free alternatives for those looking to save money by cutting out, or cut back on, their boozy favourites.

If you’ve been thinking about cutting back on booze, you’re not alone. In fact, 400,000 Aussies said they planned to ditch alcohol in 2023.

Also by Emma Edwards:

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Reducing or cutting back on your drinking has been touted to improve just about every area of your life. Converts boast clearer skin, better sleep, and even juicier savings success. But just how true is it?

Does cutting back on alcohol really save you money?

A recent Finder survey showed that the average Aussie could save more than $1,971 a year by abstaining from alcohol – that’s roughly $38 a week. That’s equivalent to $790 million that could be saved this year alone.

Lizzie, 28, from New South Wales decided to cut back her drinking last year, and was pleasantly surprised by the financial benefits, noting that they were a “welcome bonus” on top of what was initially a health and lifestyle decision.

“It was definitely for health and social reasons at first. I had never had an off switch when drinking,” she said. “I didn’t like the way I felt the next morning, which included the hangover, ‘hangxiety’ from what I might have said/did [sic] the night before, plus looking at my bank [account] and realising how much I’d spent!”

For Lizzie, looking back at her financial behaviour when it came to alcohol was demonstrative of the savings she could be making. “[The amount I spent] varied depending on what I was drinking, but it was always more than I wanted to spend. Something I found that comes with not having an ‘off switch’ is not being able to say no – I would often say I would ‘only’ buy three drinks, but later find myself buying four or five because I was swept up in the moment and having fun.”

Prior to cutting back on alcohol, an average night out would see Lizzie shelling out upwards of $150. “If I was out for cocktails with girlfriends, [I’d buy] at least three-four cocktails for $65-80, and then overpriced entrees and bar snacks. It would get to at least $100+ per outing. Plus an Uber home [at] $30-$40.”

“I can’t count how many times I’d be out on a weekend, miss my last train or bus and then have to catch an Uber back,” she said.

In this Feb. 12, 2021 photo, a customer drinks an alcohol-free cocktail at San Francisco's zero-proof bar Ocean Beach Cafe. According to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, global consumption of zero-proof beer, wine and spirits is growing two to three times faster than overall alcohol consumption. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)
The average Aussie could save nearly $2,000 per year by switching their drinks to alcohol-free versions. (Source: AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Consider the fringe costs of your drinking habits

I speak from experience when I say it’s really easy to dismiss the potential savings when you think about swapping a $19 cocktail with a $15 mocktail. Why bother, I’d think to myself. In reality, drinking alcohol carries a raft of fringe costs. Aside from the cost of getting home in a taxi or rideshare and the greasy burger you’re inevitably craving the next day, you may even run the risk of missing work due to a bad hangover or even losing valuables like your phone or wallet.

Plus, when it comes to alcohol, you’re generally buying more drinks than you would be otherwise. There’s far less of a need for excess consumption when you’re not getting ‘drunk’.

Lizzie faced the harsh reality of drunken clumsiness, when she lost a sentimental piece of jewellery that ended up costing her financially and emotionally. “I remember waking up after a bottomless drinks event and realising I’d lost two special rings. I did manage to replace them both but had to spend around $200 to buy them again.”

Lizzie is now happily “drinking in moderation”, noting that she’s changing her mindset around what drinking represents in her life. “I used to really associate drinking with fun.” Instead of pricey Sydney cocktails, Lizzie is now trying non-alcoholic options when available, and sticking to a maximum of three drinks at one social outing each fortnight.

“I’ll often now head home from a night out and realise I’ve spent less than the price of one cocktail!”

What else could you be spending your booze money on?

Cutting back has seen her money go further – no more $150+ nights out – freeing up more spare cash for brunches and meaningful outings with friends.

“​​I get paid monthly and give myself a monthly bucket for discretionary/fun/social spending. One big night of buying drinks out would often eat into the rest of my fun budget for that month and mean I was always overspending and ‘borrowing’ from my other buckets,” she said.

“I don’t have to worry and look at my credit card the next morning after a night out, wondering what I spent!”

Lizzie also adds that changing her drinking habits has left her feeling healthier and enjoying a better relationship with her partner. Her confidence has also benefited, after realising that she “relied' on alcohol to kill the awkwardness at events, to make me more 'fun' or to be able to “talk to people I don't know well”.

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