The Easiest, Most Painless Way Imaginable to Save Money

Yeah, but look how much fun he's having!

Yeah, but look how much fun he’s having!

 

Late in the previous decade, when we started this experiment in frank advice and intolerance of fiscal stupidity, we figured that the best way for us to get noted was to offer guest posts to any established personal finance blog that wanted one. Most didn’t, some did, and that endomorphic blob at The Simple Dollar eventually found a couple of minutes between bites of deep-fried Double Stuf Oreo™ à la mode at the Story County (IA) Fair in which to tell us that he didn’t take guest posts.

A gal who ran a site called Money Funk did, however. She doesn’t appear to have updated the site in a couple of years, though, and since we never signed over the copyright to the piece, we figured we can dust it off and run it. Here it is again, contemporized for a radically different 2014 audience. One major difference is that this time, you won’t see any indignant comments from misguided readers who thought we were being judgmental. You won’t see any comments at all, because we don’t run comments. Anyhow, here goes:

Yes, [The Easiest, Most Painless Way Imaginable to Save Money] is easy, but adopting it means being an iconoclast by default.

We’re talking about The Activity (actually, The Lack Of An Activity) That Dare Not Speak Its Name. One so extraordinary, so unusual, that everyone under its spell is treated as some sort of human aberration in need of reassurance and approval. And even then, people will still be certain that you must be either a medical curiosity, a desperately penitent deviant with an unfathomable past, a sheltered religious zealot, or at any rate, a less-than-full member of society. Because no one with this horrible affliction could possibly be enjoying all life has to offer.

Teetotalism.

Never even crossed your mind before, did it?

Look, this is not a moral issue. We’re not your finger-wagging aunt and uncle. It doesn’t matter to us if you shoot black tar heroin into both eyeballs simultaneously. We don’t care if Ron Wood throws his hands up in defeat after a night on the town with you because he can’t keep up. Or if Lindsay Lohan says, “I’m, like, having fun with you and all, but I’m going to give you the name of my addiction counselor. You should call him. He’s really good.”

If you are going to inject that smack, at least don’t throw away money on it.

A rum & Coke at the Foundation Room in Las Vegas costs $14, but the view of the Strip is complimentary. The same drink is essentially the same price 40 floors downstairs at the (indoor) House of Blues.

That’s one ounce of rum, maybe an ounce-and-a-half if you and the bartender share sufficient sexual chemistry. Premium rum costs a bar around $16 for a 59-ounce bottle, so you’re buying 24¢ worth of rum, a penny or two of cola syrup, and ice and water, whose prices are measured in trillionths of cents.

Which means you’re paying about 4500% markup for the drink itself. And of course, you’d better be leaving a tip, you cheap bastard.

It doesn’t matter what your preferred intoxicating beverage is. The margin between what the distributor pays for beer and what you pay is in the same neighborhood. And let’s not forget the wonderful 21st century indulgence of bottle service, in which an upscale venue charges you even more for the privilege of not having to go to the bar or flag down a waitress to order drinks. (Which reduces the workload on their bartenders and waitresses, freeing up time for them to serve other patrons absurdly marked-up drinks.)

Nothing comes with a higher markup than alcohol does, except maybe divorces. And why not? The people who sell alcohol have the perfect clientele – motivated, repeat buyers who don’t accept substitutes.

Look at it this way. Among doing other things, we sell books (available now at Amazon and BN.com!). But imagine if every person who bought our book either:

  • just wanted to be left alone with it, gazing into the book while contemplating their sins;
  • bought one every week as far back as he could remember, and would continue to because that’s just the way he’s always done it and always will do it;
  • read it, wanted another one, wanted another one after that, and was going to BUY EVERTHING ON THISH WHOLE DAMN SHELF IF I WANTS, BOOKTENDER;
  • was legally too young to buy it, and risked expulsion or a citation or parental punishment because the book was either such a great read or a necessary stepping stone en route to full adulthood, or;
  • was commemorating something, and wanted to prove to the guest of honor that money was no object.

If you’re drinking, you’re either depressed, a creature of habit, addicted, trying to be cool, or celebratory. Okay, fine, you aren’t. Whatever you feel comfortable believing.

Now let’s assume that we sold our book at the same markup that bars sell alcohol at. That means you’d be paying $268 for a regular glossy trade publication. Yet we sell the Kindle version for 7 stinking bucks, trusting the electrons will arrange themselves in a way you find engaging.

Just try it, once. Purely as an economic exercise, go out with your regular co-conspirators and substitute club soda for beer. You’ll be embarrassed to do this, peer pressure being far stronger among adults than it is among kids. So tell everyone you’re having surgery the next morning if that’ll make you feel better. Surgery on your instep. (Pick an innocuous and hard-to-reach body part. No one will ask you to take off your shoes.)

If you usually kick back 5 drinks a night, every couple of weeks, you’ll save well over $1000 over the course of a year. How many days’ worth of take-home pay is that for you?

The uncompromised brain cells will just be a bonus, as will the feeling of nonchalance at the police roadblock.

The funny thing is, no one will do this. Alcohol is so ingrained as a part of society, pretty much everywhere in the world that isn’t part of a caliphate, that the idea of perfect sobriety makes about as much sense to people as getting a facial tattoo does.

Drinking is indicative of maturity, adulthood. You can see it, right there in the age restrictions placed on its purchase. By the way, that’s unshakeable refutation of the commonly held belief that if you restrict people’s access to something, they’ll just want it more. If that were true, no one over 21 would drink.

People will merely modulate their drinking, rather than stop it, as if doing a little of a destructive and expensive behavior isn’t destructive nor expensive.

Again, writing these words right now and assembling them for universal delivery on Friday, January 17, 2014, it’s impossible to look at them and sound them out internally without sounding preachy. That’s what society’s obsession with alcohol has done: made schoolmarms out of the few of us who’ve figured out that alcohol’s positives, if any, are vastly outweighed by its negatives. No, drinking the occasional beer isn’t a sufficient condition for becoming a homeless, cirrhotic bum or even just a defendant awaiting trial on DUI charges.

But it’s a necessary one.

It costs far too much, both at the time of consumption and beyond. It serves no legitimate purpose.

Screw you, I like taking the edge off. And it makes me feel more sociable. 

If it takes alcohol to turn you from a bore or an introvert into someone capable of conversing in public, why don’t you do us both a favor and exit the party, but leave the case of Bud Light here, because you seem to be saying that the beer is a lot more interesting than you are.

So you don’t socialize? 

Hey, narrow-minded fools: You know that the alcohol is just an adjunct to whatever venue you’re in, right? There isn’t a bar, club, or gathering place in the world that requires your drink to have ethanol in it. Maybe on the Anheuser-Busch facility tour, but nowhere else that we can think of.

So yeah: for the benefits of

  • zero hangovers
  • no fear of ever incurring the police’s interest
  • thousands of dollars in savings
  • control of one’s mind and body
  • decades of rejuvenation

You’ll miss out on the occasional jackassery, which can either remain minor or metastasize into something larger. You know what? You’re right, that’s an awful tradeoff. You should drink, and drink more. Forget we said anything.

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