Like The Latte Factor. Only Better.

latte factor

I don’t know if you guys have ever heard about this, but there are certain small costs that, over time, tend to add up. I know, this is the first I’m hearing about it too. For instance, if you buy a latte at the local Tim Horton’s of Starbucks, you’re shelling out like 3 bucks a trip. If you do that just 3 days a week, that’s close to $10 a week, which is over $500 per year. Boom, I just figured out why you’re struggling financially. Cut out the lattes, silly.

In case you couldn’t tell, most of that first paragraph was sarcastic. By now, most of us have figured out that recurring small expenses have a way of adding up over time. And yet, every time I go into Starbucks, the place is still relatively busy. Either people just don’t care, or they’ve found other areas to cut out of their budget so they can afford a nice coffee sometimes.

As much as I’ve read about the latte factor, I’ve read next to nothing about cutting out another drink that’s overpriced, habit forming and can affect your behavior as well. Yes guys, I’m talking about that favorite elixir that makes all ladies attractive to us, alcohol.

There are all sorts of reasons why cutting out alcohol is much more effective than coffee. Generally, you don’t tend to consume more than one expensive coffee a day, yet most of us can attest to sitting down at a bar and not getting back up until half a dozen drinks have been polished off.

Each of those drinks isn’t cheap either. I live in a sleepy small town, so we don’t really have any swanky bars in my neck of the woods. Even the reasonably priced drinks locally will set you back a minimum of $6, once you tip the pretty girl who poured it for you. Considering that the ingredients of the drink cost the place about 50 cents, that’s an awful big premium to pay for a little extra self confidence. I guarantee the latte folks aren’t making that much off a coffee, yet they always get the bad rap.

Used in small doses, alcohol can make an awkward guy slightly more charming or can help someone relax after a long day. If you overindulge though, the awkward guy becomes a blubbering moron and the guy who’s trying to relax starts to get excited about the most pointless things, meaning they’ve committed the same faux pas they set out to avoid.

What goes great with alcohol? Deep fried bar food, that’s what! Soon, the chicken wings, nachos and jalapeno poppers are at the table, which simultaneously expand your waistline and shrink your wallet. There goes another $20 down the drain. Oh well, at least you didn’t spend it on lattes.

As a teetotaler myself, I can attest to the pressure you’ll get from your friends to join them in their boozing ways. In a lot of ways, peer pressure becomes even worse when you’re an adult. What do you mean you’re not drinking with us? What are you, some sort of wuss? I’ve heard variations of those lines more times than I care to count. Your peers will be amazed and look at you like there’s an extra foot growing out of your forehead. How can anyone possibly have fun without drinking?

Just once, I want you to go out with your friends and substitute Diet Coke for your favorite alcoholic beverage. As long as there’s a few of you at the table, the wait staff will be happy to keep refilling your soda for free, since they’re getting ample tips from the others at the table. Plus, you’ll often get your drink for free, since they’ll just assume you’re the designated driver. It’s up to you whether you’ll actually drive around your drunk friends. I’d recommend against it, since drunk people are generally kind of annoying when you’re sober.

If you do insist on drinking, might I recommend a slight improvement on your methods? The kids call it pregaming, and while I can’t say I approve of drinking to excess, this is a way to at least get the cost down. Pregaming, for those of you who aren’t cool like me, means you start drinking at home, getting a  little drunk by the time you make it to the bar. It’s a way of stretching your drinking dollar.

From a personal finance standpoint, drinking alcohol has the potential to be far costlier than drinking coffee. And yet, I never see any posts telling people to quit drinking. I’m hoping this post changes your mind, since you’ll probably annoy me if we ever meet up and you’ve been drinking. I do want us to be friends.

This post was written by Nelson Smith, who has his very own blog over at Financial Uproar. Nelson has successfully cooked rice on several occasions. He also once asked a girl to go out with him. That wasn’t so successful. He wrote this in the third person so you’d think he was important enough for someone to write about him.

54 comments to Like The Latte Factor. Only Better.

  • Geek

    “chicken wings, nachos and jalapeno poppers”

    Thanks, now I’m hungry. ~2+ hours to lunch on the left coast.

    You forgot to mention beer bellies – all of that alcohol adds up in calories fast!

  • I just had a salad for lunch and now I’m hungry too. Great point about never hearing about the alcohol factor. Maybe you should write a book.

  • brad

    I rarely have alcohol when I’m out because the markups are so ridiculous, at least in restaurants. The same exact bottle of wine (same year, same vineyard) that I can buy at the liquor store for $18 costs $35 at my local restaurant.

    We don’t drink much (only on weekends), so our policy is that when we do drink we get good stuff. Nice wines ($20 to $40 per bottle; my girlfriend is from France and has very discerning tastes..with few exceptions the wines over $50 aren’t that much better for those under $40), and good beer. I have a bottle of 22-year-old Talisker single malt that is now about 30 years old, not because I’ve been letting it age but because I have a sip once or twice a year.

    So in a nutshell my alcohol strategy is: buy high, consume low.

  • I attribute much of my vast wealth to the fact that I don’t drink – LOL. Seriously though, I can’t even imagine how much I’ve saved over the years by not consuming alcohol. That’s some serious coin for sure!

    The only thing I disapprove about this post is that you actually recommended that someone drink DIET COKE. That stuff is just plain nasty! Diet Pepsi is miles better and I’m a Coke guy myself. If you’re going to cut out the calories – at least drink Coke Zero instead. It tastes halfway decent!

  • Ah, you forgot about pre-gaming, which drastically reduces the amount spent at the bar.

    I don’t drink, but it is surely cheaper that way.

  • I love the writing style. hilarious! Nice work. I agree – alcohol is expensive, especially if you are not going to remember the night anyway.

  • I agree with never hearing about the alcohol factor – it was how I spent a significant amount of money in a very short time.

  • Forest

    People should cut down purely for health, let alone finances! I went overboard last weekend at a party and regretted the next day and a half!

    One thing I do is order a beer followed by a tap water, then a beer…. That way I stay relatively sober and still stay around all night.

  • Hunter @ Financially Consumed

    Hey Nelson, I really like your writing style. So , are we calling this the beer factor, or just the alcohol factor? These days I enjoy a glass of wine occasionally and don’t really drink excess…yes, old and boring and three kids have slowed me down. I could have used this article twenty years ago. Great advice!

  • Haha, I love the writing style, too. Alcohol was a big money sap in the early 20s, but not anymore. I have no tolerance these days anyways, so I save a lot of money. ;)

  • Welcome Nelson. Great article. You are a hit.

    As far as liquor goes my hubby and I hardly drink. We actually have it on our list to do more. lol. Not that we are striving to become alcoholics but it mainly represents the need for us to loosen up and have more fun. We tend to get bogged down with work and the to do’s and don’t have fun like we used to.

    You’re right though. It does add up and it really doesn’t add that much to your life. There are much better things to do with your money.

  • I drink alcohol. Not ashamed of it. Control is key. I do enjoy a few pops and a scotch on the weekend.

    I rarely go out however. Once in a while with pals but we don’t go to pubs or bars more than once a year, and even then, we usually go shoot pool. So my 3 Upper Canada Lagers and 1 Grants Scotch put me back $4.50 or so on a Friday night, compared to paying around $21 at a bar.

    And I bring my own fair trade organic (yummy!) coffee to work daily in a thermos. No booze in it though. ;)

  • And Nelson, next time I need a DD, I will give you a ring. Ontario isn’t that far away. I will ensure I stay drunk until you arrive. You will absolutely love my company after a 3-4 bender!

  • I join SPF in defense of alcohol and all things wonderful. Just a couple things to consider:

    In the golden glow of a couple of bourbon mojitos, your student debt is no longer a spiteful monkey on your back, but a fluffy white poodle in your lap.

    Beer makes you more attractive and vastly improves your dancing (at least in one’s own mind). Purveyors of beer know this fact. That’s why beer is served in large quantities in venues likely to be infested with dancing fools.

    Alcohol-fueled personal interaction is more meaningful and emotive, e.g. “I LOVE you, man!”

    Cigars + whiskey = good.
    Cigars + Shirley Temple = not good.

    I could go on…

    • Nelson Smith

      Alcohol fueled personal interaction isn’t more meaningful. It’s just louder and you say things you wouldn’t sober. I’m not sure that’s a benefit.

      Also, one might argue drinking to forget your problems isn’t the most effective way to deal with your problems. You don’t forget, you just avoid.

      Cigars + anything = bad

  • Good post Nelson!

    I agree with the article for the most part, but not about the costs of coffee over beer. Most of the beer in my fridge costs $1 per bottle! Can you get a coffee for under $1? I actually don’t know because we brew all our coffee and expressos at home. I think the last time I visited Starbucks was years ago.

    Besides, some things in life are just worth the price, like good scotch ;)

    Interesting what the kids call drinking before going out these days “pregaming”. I must be getting old, (in my 30’s), we used to call it “primers”. Good ‘ol days….

  • Good post! I always see people pointing out expenses such as coffee or dining out during lunch, but rarely alcohol.

    Since my wife and I don’t drink, we don’t have to deal with the cost of alcohol…or the hidden costs (bar food). However, we get the short end of the stick on vacations. Whenever a place has a great deal for an “all-inclusive” package, it’s only a great price for people who drink. If we’re only getting water, then we are actually losing money!

  • Simple Rich Living

    Agree completely that the booze factor is pricey! I enjoy the occasional drink when I am out! Moderation is the key for both fitness/health and the wallet.

  • Best writer bio ever! I shiver when I think about how much of my summer job money went into the bar scene. You didn’t even talk about the biggest alcohol-related expense for me – buying drinks for girls in the hopes of getting their attention. If you perfected the art of throwing money down that hole like me, then you also bought their friends drinks just to show what a high roller you were.

  • 99% of the time, my husband and I don’t order alcohol when we’re out. But sometimes, you just want to have a drink and so we (okay, I) do.

    I went to Yard House for the first time this weekend and loved the hard cider selection there!

  • YFS

    You’re absolutely right about alcoholic beverages at dinner. 1. They are very expensive 2. They are watered down. I never drink when at dinner any longer.. We save so much money. Heck we go out to eat 2x more per month by not drinking alcohol

  • Good thing I’m such a lightweight! I only drink maybe twice a month, and by mid-way down the drink I can feel it in my thighs. Hahahahaha!

  • Kellen

    I don’t really drink much, but when I started trying to spend only $200/month on groceries, I dropped even more! It’s tough to convince myself to buy a 6-pack of cider for $12, when my whole grocery budget for the week is under $50!

    I went out to dinner with work folks a couple of weeks ago, and ended up spending $30 for half a turkey burger. I was trying to be frugal, and wasn’t that hungry, so split a meal with one of the girls. Unfortunately, my coworkers started ordering rounds of shooters, and even though I declined to drink all but the first one, the ones ordered for me showed up on my bill (only the first couple of rounds, thank goodness.) My coworker who likes to act “generous” and pick up appetizers, etc, ended up spending almost $70. And believe me – those drinks weren’t worth it!

  • Great post, as always, Nelson!

    You know what takes the latte-factor/booze factor to a whole new level: Bottle Service. Exploiting the morons that think they look cooler because they get to pay $$$ to pour their own drinks is genius.

  • My deink of choice is a blended mocha. Iti s my one indulgence each week. I gave up drinking years ago because I do not care for the feeling I get. I actually have more fun without drinking. Lide is more than saving or not spending for trivial things like a coffee. If you reach all your goals, why not indulge yourself.

  • I love this article!

    I think about this specific example all the time, but failed to put in the effort to convert it into such great words!

    I rarely drink. And even more rarely do I drink when I go out to eat.

    Last night, I actually, unwillingly, had a drink when I went out to the Keg. I had exactly enough cash on me to cover my meal (pre calculated with tip included). The place was packed and I had to go sit in the bar, at the counter at that. I was alone, so it didn’t matter to me. But because I was sitting at the bar, I felt obliged to buy a drink, especially since I was eating there. The drink added 15% to the bottom line of my bill. This meant I had to use my credit card, spend over my budget, and leave with $30 cash more in my pocket than planned.

    • I sometimes think restaurants do this on purpose – sit you at the bar to guilt trip you into buying drinks you never intended to purchase. We never buy a drink @ the bar – if we want a drink we want it with our meal.

  • gmarie

    Never had any trouble with not drinking. When anyone razed me because I wasn’t being socialable and drinking with them, I would remind them that being socialable was a two-way street and they could also be socialable and not drink with me.

    I am nutty enough to not need alcohol to have a good time.

  • I posted 80 ways to lose money, Boozing was quite at the top.

  • Urdu Shayari

    I love the writing style. hilarious! Nice work. I agree – alcohol is expensive, especially if you are not going to remember the night anyway.

  • Exam-Results

    I posted 80 ways to lose money, Boozing was quite at the top.

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