Disclaimer: This is not a guide to becoming rich. I have zero intention of making money from being sober (hence why this website is totally ad-free). What I do know, is that addiction goes hand-in-hand with money troubles. Even if you’re not addicted, have you ever wondered how much those bottomless brunches are really costing?
If you’ve experienced any of the following then perhaps we’re not so different:
- A phobia of brown HMRC-branded envelopes
- A reluctance to open your pay slips
- Anxiety when discussing money
- A worry that maybe all those boozy nights out are destroying your bank account
- An innate fear that you’ll never truly be an adult because you won’t ever own your own home.
Number 5 is still a work in progress! I was raised in a council house with my parents receiving income support so unlike some of my peers who have literally had houses bought for them by their parents (Not. Jealous. At. All), I’ll be working years longer to achieve peak “adulting” status.
I say this in jest: renting does not make you a lesser person. However, I am getting closer to home ownership. Thanks to sobriety I have actual savings whereas in 2017 my bank balance was actually decreasing each month. So how did sobriety save me from financial distress? It’s actually quite simple:
BOOZY NIGHTS OUT ARE MORE EXPENSIVE THAN YOU THOUGHT
I know you’re not stupid. I don’t have to tell you that regular nights out drinking cocktails will screw over your bank balance. But have you ever thought about all those other things you barely think about purchasing, that go hand in hand with drinking? Such as:
- Taxis home.
During post-work nights out at the pub, I had every intention of getting the train home. But by last orders, I found myself scrabbling around for a black cab* (Uber never worked for me. My boyfriend still reminds me that I destroyed his Uber rating due to my drunken antics).
*Quite often, it was my friends throwing me in a taxi because I was too drunk to function.My second memory of living in London (back in 2011) was forking out £50 for a taxi home after a boozy Christmas party. That was a decade ago and prices certainly haven’t decreased since then. By 2017 the “drunken taxi ride home” occurred every couple of months.
- Rounds of drinks and overpriced cocktails.
One of my favourite things about being sober is that I haven’t bought a drink for someone I don’t like. Quitting booze tends to sift out the “friends” that aren’t worth your time anymore. Yes, I still go to the pub. I still partake in rounds but from my experience, most people won’t let you buy rounds ‘cause your ginger ale costs nothing compared to their £7* glass of wine. So sometimes you drink for free.
On cocktails: another thing I don’t miss is paying over £14 for a watery mojito. Most bars won’t charge more than £5 for a mocktail. However, there are restaurants that charge ludicrous amounts for non-alcoholic drinks. When I’m faced with these I stick with sparkling water. Water is a better food accompaniment anyway.*Unless you’re in a Wetherspoons, duh.
No one craves granola when hungover. I’m cringing as a type this but at my worst, I was succumbing to a McMuffin and washing it down with two cans of Red Bull to survive the morning. Come lunchtime, I was craving more unhealthy foods and not whatever salad was in my Tupperware. Over time, this adds up both financially and it takes a huge toll on your body. This might explain how I inadvertently dropped a stone within my first six months of sobriety…
Also. During the drinking years, I would accidentally break or lose my phone on an annual basis. So there’s that too. Moving swiftly on…
“When alcohol is no longer your crutch it forces you to deal with your problems head on”.
DO THE MATHS
How much do you budget for on a night out? The BBC reckons it’s around £70 (click here for article, dated July 2019)
I never thought about my spending on alcohol until I quit. Let’s add up the financial damage I inflicted on myself:
2017 (the year before I broke up with booze)
Weeknight drinking: Roughly £8 per evening ( X 5 = £40)
Pub trip: £15 each trip. I went a few times per week ( X 3 = £45)
Weekend socials: this varied but the minimum spend at the weekend was £30. If there were bottomless brunches involved then this figure doubled. I went out every weekend.
Obviously that figure will fluctuate a little, but even then that weekly £115 is erring on the lower end of the scale. I frequently dine out in London and the cheapest wines tend to be staggeringly expensive. Now that I’m sober, even dining out in a Michelin star restaurant rarely exceeds £100.
I’m two years sober now, which means that’s amounted to roughly £11, 960 I’ve saved.
“But what about all those non-alcoholic drinks you keep buying?!” I hear you cry. It’s negligible compared to the booze. At the most this weekly cost doesn’t exceed a few quid: I pair food with sparkling water and don’t really exceed a couple of non-alcoholic beers most weeks. Let’s not forget that these above calculations are excluding the black cabs, Big Macs and energy drinks I’d wasted my money on.
No, I won’t stop banging on about how expensive London is. In 2012, my pitiful museum salary would only cover my rent and transport costs. I couldn’t afford to eat so I decided to do freelance work on top of my existing full time job.
Working seven days and 60+ hours per week physically ruined me but that was nothing compared to the torture I entailed trying to navigate the HMRC paperwork. I was barely twenty years old and all my friends were still at university, so I didn’t have anyone I could actually talk to about this dilemma.
I was in over my head with the paperwork, frequently late at paying fees, which resulted in several whopping great fines. My fines would increase in small increments at first and then out of nowhere would be a latter demanding over £1,000. I would pay the fine and it felt like no time at all before they were hassling me again. Over the years, I’d paid them over £3,000 in fines. That’s £3,000 I could have saved if I’d had the courage to seek help.
I used to fear those brown scary envelopes. Sometimes I would neck a glass of wine just to muster up the strength to open it. Once I’d read that they weren’t planning to put me in prison, I’d then “file” said paperwork away and conveniently forget about it. This went on for years until October-ish 2018, when I was six months sober. Once I’d reached a few months sober, I started tackling all the life admin I’d been procrastinating. It’s quite incredible how much easier it is to get shit done when your mind is crystal clear.
When alcohol is no longer your crutch it forces you to deal with your problems head on. I rang HMRC and had a long conversation about my financial situation, which led to them kindly clearing the debt (there were a few years where I wasn’t self-employed but they had fined me regardless. It was mostly my fault though!)
Not long after the Vikki VS HMRC victory of 2018, I found that I was able to open my work pay slips. Previously I’d filed those away without even sneaking a glance, ignorantly oblivious if my employer had even paid me at all. Despite feeling like a money-managing superhero, I still knew nothing about finance. Quite ironic, given that I’d been dating my boyfriend (a financial advisor) for three years at this point.
I wanted to feel less useless with money. Rather than discuss my accounts with the chartered accountant I was sleeping with, I went down the “self-educate” route. I bought a copy of Laura Whateley’s Money: A User’s Guide. I devoured it, back-to-back and still use it as my financial bible to this day (she’s recently published a US edition)
Whateley breaks down all the financial aspects of adulthood that you probably never got taught at school. Budgeting, debt management and even how to manage your pension/s are just some of its highlights. She delivers it all in a conversational, yet clear tone. Even if you consider yourself in spiralling debt without any hope of freedom, her advice will probably help you out somewhat. Reading that book made me feel smart about money. Which says a lot, considering that I’d had no idea companies put your pension contributions into the stock market. On a superficial level, the book is less than a tenner and will look great on your bookshelf.
Fast forward to the present day: I’m still not rich but I’m at a point where I’m no longer feeling insecure about my money. That’s a huge leap for me. Things might be different for you, maybe you spent far less on alcohol. I didn’t quit alcohol to become wealthier, so saving money was a surprise I hadn’t accounted for.