Have you ever wondered how much alcohol costs over the course of a lifetime? According to a recent Gallup poll, 13 percent of people reported having over eight drinks in the last week, while 52 percent said they had one to seven. This might not sound like much alcohol at first, but it can add up to hundreds—even thousands—of dollars over time.
If you think you might be spending a lot at the bar, here’s how you can calculate your drinking budget, and some tips for saving money on alcohol. And, if you’re struggling with your drinking, we’ll also compare the real financial cost of drinking versus treatment.
The Cost of Drinking
Your drinking costs will depend on how often (and how much) you drink, whether you stay home or go out, and the quality of your alcohol.
Let’s say you regularly drink with your friends at a bar, restaurant, or club, and each drink costs you five dollars. Here’s how much you could be spending yearly:
- 1 to 3 drinks per week: Light drinking like this could cost you five to 15 dollars per week, or $260 to $780 per year.
- 1 to 2 drinks per day: This could cost you $35 to $70 per week, or as much as $1,820 to $3,650 per year.
- Three or more drinks per day: Heavy drinking like this could total up to $5,475 or more each year.
These costs also don’t factor in tips to your bartenders, taxes, food you order while drunk, Uber rides, property damage, DUIs, or the many other expenses that can come with a heavy drinking habit.
Calculating Your Spending
To determine your alcohol spending, you can use a drink cost calculator or manually work out your weekly average. You can then use this number to calculate your monthly or yearly cost of drinking.
To get started:
- Think about the number of days per week that you usually drink.
- Take that number and multiply it by the number of beverages you typically have each time you drink.
- Multiply that number by the average cost of each drink.
You can then multiply this total by the number of weeks in a given timeframe (such as six months or one year) to see how much you’re spending in the long term.
How To Save Money on Alcohol
Here are some ways you can save money on alcohol:
- Consider staying home to drink. If possible, try to limit your bar or club nights to special occasions.
- Only order drinks during happy hour. Happy hour prices can help you take a significant chunk off your bill.
- Stick to a budget. When you don’t actively think about your alcohol spending, it can be easy to go overboard. Making a weekly budget can give you structure and help you save.
- Cut back on drinking. Cutting back or quitting means taking the cost of each drink to zero. If alcohol is seriously hurting your pockets—or your quality of life—this option may be your best bet.
Is Rehab Really More Expensive Than Continuing to Drink?
You might be wondering: How much do alcoholics spend on alcohol, and is rehab really a cheaper option?
Up-front, the costs of some rehab facilities can be intimidating. Residential programs can cost tens of thousands of dollars for 30 to 90 day stays. And while outpatient programs are lower-priced by comparison, they can still end up costing thousands. In any case, treatment is typically not cheap.
But here’s the thing: Even the most expensive treatment options can be well worth it when compared with a lifetime of heavy drinking.
Consider that many cities’ average lifetime spending on alcohol is over $100,000 per person—meaning those with alcohol problems likely spend much more than that. And even if you never go out to bars or clubs, two decades of drinking a six-pack per day at home could add up to over $40,000. No matter which way you look at it, heavy drinking is expensive.
But even if rehab is cheaper than drinking in the long run, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy or affordable option. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, one in five people who wanted help for substance use problems didn’t get it for financial or health insurance-related reasons. The unfortunate reality is that the high up-front cost of treatment is a huge obstacle for people who need support.
More Affordable Treatment Options
The good news is that cheaper options are now emerging, due to the development of telemedicine. Online programs are generally just as effective as traditional treatment, if not more, and tend to cost much less.
Ria Health, for example, accepts many forms of insurance, and costs only $350 a month without it. Of course, $350 can seem like a lot when you pay it all at once. But, depending on how much you drink per month, you might actually be saving money in the big picture—and making better choices for your long-term health.
Best of all, Ria is convenient and comprehensive. We connect you with medical support, weekly coaching meetings, peer support groups, and more—all from a smartphone app. Learn more about how it works, or get started today.