Giving Up Drinking Can Make You Thinner – and Your Wallet Fatter

It seems that we’re constantly hearing bad news about millennials and their supposedly bleak prospects for good jobs, homeownership and general prosperity. As well, some members of the “older generation” love to grouse about millennials’ real and imagined shortcomings, although in that regard nothing has changed for (if you’ll pardon the expression) millennia, as the older generations have always griped about the youngsters, and vice-versa. But there is also some pretty good news about millennials, not the least of which is an encouraging trend, worldwide, towards moderation in alcohol consumption. In a survey by Heineken released in early 2016, three out of four millennial drinkers polled across the UK, US, Netherlands, Brazil and Mexico said they make it a point to limit how much they drink every time they go out.

Is this new moderation the harbinger of a long-term change in habits, a temporary artifact borne of the financial crisis that has dominated the bigger part of millenials’ lives, or just a passing fad, driven in part by online entertainment activities taking much of the energy previously spent on partying? And what can the rest of us, millennials or not, learn from this?

The “young fogies” versus the “middle aged hedonists”

It is very possible that millennials are exhibiting a level of financial conservatism well beyond that adopted by generations immediately preceding them. If so, that conservatism does not seem to extend to their political and sociological imperatives, but seems to be closely attuned to their financial goals. They are the first generation in decades to have been raised in an environment defined by financial crisis, and while their awareness of that crisis hasn’t shifted their preferences to a cheaper buzz, it has apparently affected their willingness to spend a lot in order to drink to excess, or to spend their money on drugs for that matter. Add to that the fact that millennials are keenly aware of how highly competitive the job market has become, especially during the last decade, and their focus has fallen more upon “making it” than upon getting smashed.

Their parents and grandparents, on the other hand, seem to have embraced their party selves more closely. As much as this older generation might resist the idea, they could probably learn a valuable lesson or two from the example set by the younger folk.

All of the above does not necessarily mean that we’ve seen an end to the days of beer-ponging or drunken revelry immortalised on Facebook, but it could indicate a solid trend that is not only healthier physically but financially as well. And with luck it’ll be a wakeup call not only for millennials but also for some of those middle-aged hedonists and overindulgent pensioners.

The health benefits of moderation (or temperance) are undeniable

Especially as people age, many tend to put on extra weight, and often struggle just to maintain a figure or physique that is consistent with the older generation’s perpetually youthful self-image. As it stands, Britons in their 60s and above are facing an increase in hospitalisations due to drinking-related problems, ranging from obesity to liver disease to dementia. On the positive side, it has been suggested that avoiding alcohol for only a month can facilitate the average British woman’s loss of up to a stone (that is 14 pounds to you Yanks). Merely limiting one’s self to a moderate intake of alcohol – say one large glass of wine per day – without any other lifestyle or dietary changes can result in that same woman’s losing a full two stone per year.

Maintaining such a moderate intake of alcohol or even better, eliminating alcohol consumption entirely, could also reverse the increased trend of other diseases mentioned above. And as the more penny-wise young people have discovered, getting on the sobriety wagon can also save a lot of money.

The savings can be astounding

Since we’re all about moneysaving on this blog, we would be remiss if we were not to emphasise that significantly cutting down on the sauce – or even cutting it out altogether – can result in an astonishing sum of savings. And this is true no matter how old or how young you are.

It is particularly true for the younger generation that the majority of drinking is done outside the home, either at parties or pubs. While the cost of attending what was once referred to as a cocktail party is generally limited to the price of booze most attendees are expected to bring, social convention generally dictates choosing a premium brand of liquor or a popular vintage of wine, either of which can cost well upward of £50. And as those who do their drinking in a pub or nightclub are generally aware, the success of the venue relies heavily upon profits from drinks, which can drive the cost to the consumer considerably higher. Even the cheaper beers and ales can run up an expensive tab in the pub, since beer and ale drinkers tend to imbibe a larger number of drinks than do the fans of hard liquor and wine. Even a cursory review of one’s level of drinking in the pub can surprise the patron who might not pay much attention to the tab on any given evening.

Don’t wait for next January to go “dry”

Perhaps you’re aware of a popular UK program called “Dry January”, sponsored by the charity Alcohol Concern. Thousands of people sign up to participate every year and stop drinking for the month of January. For many folks, participating in such an effort can be a good start to a healthier year. But if you want or need to stop drinking, or at least seriously cut down for a while, ignore the calendar. Any month of your choosing can be “dry”. And if you truly have a drinking problem, the sooner you get help, the better. The main website for Alcohol Concern has resources that you may find useful.

Millennials may be leading the way to a trend towards moderate drinking, but you’re never too old to make changes that will improve your physical as well as your financial health. Your body and your bank account will be the better for your efforts.

Paul graduated in 2001 with a degree in Finance. Since then he has gone on to work for several of the UK's most well-known financial institutions.

An avid blogger and a huge football fan, Paul is here to guide you through the ins and outs of personal finance and perhaps save you some money in the process!

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