The Easiest, Most Painless Way Imaginable To Save Money

This is a guest post by Greg McFarlane.

Yes, it’s easy, but adopting it means being an iconoclast by default.

I’m 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.


Never even crossed your mind before, did it?

Look, this is not a moral issue. I am not your finger-wagging aunt. It doesn’t matter to me if you shoot black tar heroin into both eyeballs simultaneously. I 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 still, here’s the name of my addiction counselor. Call him. He’s really good.”

But 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 $12, but the view of the Strip is complimentary. However, 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 maybe $14 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 Cuban exit visas. 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, I sell books (available now at Amazon and!). But imagine if every person who bought my 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 my 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 probably 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 I sold my book at the same markup bars do. That means you’d be paying $268 for a regular glossy trade publication. Yet I sell the Kindle version for 10 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.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas and Lahaina – testament to the power of entrepreneurship. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. Buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

20 thoughts on “The Easiest, Most Painless Way Imaginable To Save Money

  1. Single Mom Rich Mom

    My precious wobbly pops?!? No!!!!…. Yeah, it’s an unnecessary expense and a good one to track to make sure you stay on the slightly straight and narrow.

    I guess I’m fortunate that I don’t drink when I go out or only have one and make sure I wait a few hours to get it out of my system since I live out of the city and always have to drive. My sister was killed by a drunk driver almost 10 years ago. A very high price to pay for someone else’s drinking.

    1. Money Funk

      I’ve seen this reference in your blog, ‘wobbly pops’. Googled it. First time I have heard of that phrase. LOL.
      I am very sorry to hear about your sister.
      You are right to say that it is a good one to track. Alcohol, especially consumed in a bar, can be tres expensive!

  2. Anne

    For someone who “doesn’t care”, that was a fairly judgemental post.
    Yes, alcohol is a unnecessary expense. But I think you went way beyond the message “hey, cut back on drinking or cut it out completely and see how much you can save!” to an unnecessarily self righteous tone.

    I’m just saying,that the money saving message may have gotten lost…..

    1. Money Funk

      Perhaps it did.
      But is it unnecessary expense? It can create full and lasting experiences with friends {whether good or bad experiences, memories is up to the drinker}
      Social bonding and alcohol… 😉

  3. Katie

    I think that this needs to be shown to college students! I recently graduated from college and I cannot tell you enough how many people spend their part time job money on alcohol and then when they are out end up spending way more than expected, which then causes them to be bankrupt!

    This may be a college thing to do but…pre-gamming with cheap alochol may be the best thing to do. Buying drinks at a bar will not be the same as drinks you can make at home.

    People, espeically college kids who have no money, need to realize that pregamming saves them money and then going to the bar and asking for the special can help save money in the long run!

    At least thats what I do!!! 🙂

    1. Money Funk

      I was only joking on my comment above questioning if alcohol is really an ‘unnecessary expense’. This post should be shown to raucous college students. Students…at least cut it down and put that money in a high interest financial product. When you graduate or even 10 years out of graduation… you’ll be financially ahead of your peers. And you can look back and smile. 😀

    2. Money Funk

      I meant to say… as a woman, you could just continue to play the field at the bar and have the drinks bought for you. Then its free. 😉

  4. Everyday Tips

    I know many people that are short on cash, but never think to cut back their alcohol. For many, I think it is easier said than done. It is almost like a lifestyle for some. It isn’t like cutting back on your printer ink unfortunately.

    I rarely drink because I feel so awful the next day. (Must be an allergy or something.) I am so glad I don’t because it is a very expensive hobby.

    I think many families would be much better off if they kicked both alcohol and cigarettes. They are both huge wastes of money and not so good for your body either. But, again, it must not be easy or you wouldn’t see people standing out in 5 degree weather having that last cigarette.

    1. Money Funk

      Ah, the alcohol-soothes-the-soul syndrome or hiding-from-reality syndrome. I know many people who will spend their last bucks on a drink but avoid the actually responsibility of living.

      And you bring up a good point with the cigarettes. So many people could be rich by now if they cut that habit or even matched the expenses paid for a pack.

  5. Money Funk

    Greg, you bring up a great point. I’ve never though of teetotalism as a money saving conquest. I know it can be a costly expense {it was a big factor in our expenses in the beginning of our marriage – partying with friends. We had to cut that down a bunch}.

    But I can’t help to think that drinks do play a part in my social life. A social drinker. So for me, I think it would be to cut down and enjoy a drink of the veranda with a group of friends attending dinner at my house. 🙂

  6. PB

    This is a great post. I quit drinking and smoking 5 years ago and I know I have saved on the low end $13,000 and the high end around $18,500 over 5 years. That’s around $50 to $80 a week. I will be honest and say that there were other compelling reasons for me to quit drinking, but $$$ was certainly one of them. Another wonderful result of my new lifestyle choice was shedding around 80 pounds! I didn’t feel like this was a preachy post, just a very simple way to save some real cash and feel better as a result. Well done.

  7. Jenna

    While I agree with the money numbers behind this, I think the real reason people spend $12 on drinks is for the social nature of alcohol. Now this doesn’t count for those who drink 4 drinks a night, 4 nights a week. But those who go out with a group of friends, once a week and have a drink or two, it’s about the same as going to the movies or dinner or a museum.

    If anything, go to Happy Hour. That is where you can find the frugal alcohol.

  8. Greg McFarlane

    Thanks to Christine for the opportunity, and thanks to everyone else for your comments. But only one person called me self-righteous? I’m disappointed.
    (Maybe you missed the part where I said I didn’t care if you put morphine derivatives directly into your central nervous system. Or perhaps I should have added “in denial” to the list of reasons why people drink.)

    Not that I wanted this post to be about me, but just for the record, I am no one’s definition of a homebody. But if I’m out with friends at a bar or a nightclub, I’ll let them be the ones to spend money unnecessarily.
    Of course, being a guy it never occurred to me that this is less of an economic issue if you’re a woman who’s hot enough to have dumb guys buy you drinks.

  9. Money Smarts

    I can’t tell you how much money I saved once I graduated college, and stoppped drinking on a regular basis on the weekends. I’m sure it’s in the hundreds of dollars. No to mention the fact that it reduced my “stupid things I’ve done this month” list substantially.

    this tip can be equally applied to any number of other vices as well – smoking, gambling, serial dating – the list is endless! 🙂

  10. James

    complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages, is that possible?

    we joke in LA about $10 beer night.

    you are right though, given the opportunity to cut out booze one could definitely same some good money.

  11. Judy-Lynne

    Hi, I do agree that going out more than once a week can be expensive. Restaurants make massive mark ups on the bars, that’s no secret.
    I think one has to be aware of his monthly budget and just allow for entertainment, whatever that might be. To have a drink or 2 won’t bankrupt you, will it now?

    Generally, you need to aware of your spending patterns and lifestyle. That’s were usually the problem lies.

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  13. Moneyedup

    Going out can cost a bundle. Besides the drinks, transportation can cost a lot too if you are going out the bars in the city and traveling from the suburbs. Cab rides can be very expensive. Some ways to save can be to share a cab, have a designated driver, take the bus (at least one way) or if you are close enough, walk.

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