MONEY everyday money

Here’s How Rich You’d Be if You Stopped Drinking

trashcan filled with bottles
Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

You can save hundreds each month even if you don't go cold turkey

If you’re like most working adults in America, you like to let off steam at the bar. And, the economy is certainly showing that trend. In 2012, the U.S. bar, tavern, and nightclub industry took in over $23.4 billion in revenue. It’s projected to reach $24.35 billion this year, and that doesn’t include the alcohol we buy from liquor stores.

And while that’s good for those businesses, it means that we the consumers are literally drinking away our savings. Depending on what kind of drinker you are, you could be spending way more than you think on your little stress reliever. But, knowledge is power, so here we examine the costs involved, and just how easy it is to cut back.

How Much Do You Drink?

If you enjoy just one beer or glass of wine every night with dinner, then guess what — you are in the top 30% of alcohol drinkers in the U.S. If that shocks you, you’re probably not alone. Two drinks? Then you’re in the top 20%.

However, to get into the top 10%, you’d have to up your drinking considerably. How much? Over 10 alcohol drinks each and every day. That’s right, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the top 10% of drinkers in the U.S. consume an average of 74 alcoholic beverages per week. That equates to 18 bottles of wine, or over six 12-packs of beer.

But even if you’re just having a few drinks a week in the local bar or pub, the costs can really add up.

What is it Costing You?

If you’re a heavy drinker, you probably aren’t getting your alcohol from a bar; that would be crippling to your monthly budget. With most people spending $10 on a bottle of wine, it would come to over $200 per week including taxes, or over $800 per month. That’s two or three car payments right there. Annually, that’s almost $10,000.

Let’s look at the budget of someone who goes out twice per week. Once during the work week, and once on a Friday or Saturday night.

When you go out to a bar during the week, you will usually order food with your drink. And with most people ordering two drinks, plus tip, you are looking at around $40-$50 for the evening. This, of course, doesn’t include the costs for cab fare, babysitting, and other expenses.

On the weekend, a typical night out at a bar is a little different. You will most likely take advantage of the fact that there’s no work the next day, and order several drinks over the course of the evening, along with food and snacks. You may also order cocktails, shots, or other specialty items to make it a good night. You will be looking at around $100 for the evening, depending on where you live. And keep in mind, that’s per person. As a couple, you will spend at least half that again.

Do the math. $160 per week, or roughly $650 per month, can easily be spent by someone who enjoys six or seven drinks a week when they go out to bars or restaurants. It is, in fact, very similar to the amount of money that would be spent on alcohol by a hardcore drinker. By going out just a couple of nights a week, and drinking moderately, you’re spending over $7000 a year.

The Big Question: How Can You Cut Back?

It’s actually quite easy to make a few small adjustments to your weekly bar tab. In fact, you may not even notice the difference, depending on how strictly you follow the guidelines.

1. Only Bring Cash Out

By far the easiest way to stick to your booze budget is to hit the town with your plastic left at home. It’s easy to rack up money on a credit or debit card, but cash is finite and you can see it going down throughout the evening. You can also preload a debit card and use that. Either way, once the cash is gone, it’s time to go home.

2. Take Advantage of Happy Hours

Do you have to go out when everyone else is hitting the town? If you have your friends with you, why not do something a little earlier than usual? You’ll get great specials, including two-for-one drinks, free appetizers, and even free shots. You can always head back to a friend’s house later and finish the evening there.

3. Eat (and Drink) at Home Before Hitting the Bars

Food costs can really add up quickly in the bars, and the food may not even be that good. If you go out with a full stomach, you will not only save money on overpriced food and snacks, but avoid getting tipsy too quickly. As a student, my friends and I would usually have a few cheap beers at home with our food, too. Then we took the bus down to the bar, and were already quite happy before we’d ordered one drink.

4. Order Water Between Drinks

This is great for several reasons. First, a glass of tap water with ice and lemon is free at every bar. You can drink this and stretch your money over time. Second, and perhaps more important, it stops you getting drunk, and makes hangovers much less severe.

5. Pitch in for Pitchers

Bars and restaurants often offer pitchers of beer at a discount. Combine that with happy hour, and you can get enough beer for four or five people for just $5-$7. Also, consider domestic beers instead of imports and craft beers. They may not be as tasty, but they are usually much less expensive.

6. Look for Freebies

Bars know the importance of deals and coupons. They will often have specials on their websites, and in local papers and flyers. Save them, and bring them out the next time you visit. They can take a nice little sum off the final total.

7. Ladies… You Can Get a Lot of Free Drinks

Sad, but true. Many bars and clubs make special offers to women in the hopes of attracting a larger crowd. Some will let women drink free, or for $1 per cocktail, all night. And of course, many men will offer to buy you a drink. Just be careful who you accept these from, and if in doubt, say no.

How much do you spend on drinks per week?

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MONEY everyday money

9 Things You Should Never Skimp on When Traveling

couple pulling suitcases
Walter Zerla—Getty Images

A few smart splurges can make your trip a lot more fun

Travel should be pleasurable — not stressful. While it’s almost inevitable for something to go awry from time to time, you can avoid most issues with a little foresight and planning. Sometimes all it takes is investing a bit more upfront in order to ensure a better travel experience.

Take a look at these nine things you should never skimp on when traveling.

1. Luggage

I’m not including accommodations or method of travel on this list because I think those two items are relative. Some people like five-star hotels and first-class seating, while others are perfectly fine in hostels and economy class. To each their own.

What we can all agree on, though, is that decent luggage is an important trip component for several reasons, namely because it needs to hold up against all the wear and tear you’ll put it through in your travels. I’m not saying that cheap luggage will fall apart and expensive luggage is bar none, but there is something to be said about brands with a reputation for quality — and that usually comes at a cost.

Personally, I prefer Herschel Supply Co. for my luggage, while my husband likes Tumi. Those aren’t endorsements (I don’t have any affiliation with either of those companies), but rather suggestions to help inform your future purchase if you’re in the market for sturdier luggage.

2. Comfortable Shoes

A lot of people vacation in warmer climates. And why not — there’s an abundance of things to see and do when the weather outside is perfect. But before you head out to explore, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes and socks that can handle a day of walking without killing your feet. These should be the real deal — and definitely not right out of the box. You also want to avoid going sockless. I’ve worn both canvas slip-ons without socks and flip-flops on heavy walking days, and both footwear choices resulted in bloody, painful feet.

3. Personal Safety

Because I live in New York City, I’m generally not afraid of new surroundings, seemingly seedy neighborhoods, or people who look like they might be up to no good. I stay vigilant, of course, but I don’t want to let a black cloud of fear follow me wherever I go just because the area doesn’t look like it’s maintained by Ritz-Carlton. There was a time in the Bahamas, however, that this joie de vivre could’ve gotten my friends and me into a sticky situation while traveling down a lonely road from one club to another — a mistake I’ll never make again. Now I loosen the purse strings and spring for a cab to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Safety first, people.

4. An Unforgettable Experience

Finally, we’ve gotten to the fun part — activities! I’m an activities-oriented guy, and I like to be out and about experiencing everything I can in the short time I have in a location. The problem, however, is that an unforgettable experience can be costly. Still, it’s not something on which you should skimp — your fond memories of your trip will last much longer than any tchotchke — and there are ways to make it affordable.

Remember when I mentioned earlier that the preference for high-end flight and hotel accommodations are relative? They still are, and personally this is how I justify splurging a bit on a great experience — I choose to stay in modest digs and fly the cheapest way I can, so when I get to my destination I can have all the fun I want without feeling guilty for spending too much money.

5. Travel Insurance

I once went on what was meant to be an unforgettable European vacation that included London, Dublin, and finally, Paris for New Year’s Eve. But thanks to Mother Nature and an incompetent, famously low-priced Irish airline that shall remain nameless, my hopes of ushering in a new year in the City of Lights were dashed. The worst part? I was young and dumb and I didn’t have travel insurance. Hotel, train fares, and airfare all went out the window — along with my usually jovial attitude. Don’t let this happen to you, especially if you’re planning a special-occasion trip. Spend the extra money to protect your investment.

6. Vaccinations

I suspect that pre-travel vaccinations are not only overlooked a lot of the times, but probably actively avoided sometimes due to cost and inconvenience. In that case, let’s play a game of “Would You Rather?”

I’ll go first.

Would you rather pay for pricey vaccinations that will help you avoid common illnesses, or would you rather spend your trip becoming besties with a toilet and visiting the very questionable local hospital?

I win.

Get the proper vaccinations before you depart. If you can’t afford it, don’t go. In some cases, it really could be the difference between life and death.

7. Health Care

Speaking of questionable local hospitals, they’re the very last place you ever want to visit while you’re traveling — even worse than jail. If you’re ill, spring for quality medical care.

Blogger behind Broke Girl Gets Rich, Chelsea Baldwin, just wrapped up a few years in Asia, and soon she’ll embark on an extended stay in South America. As someone who has caught her fair share of stomach bugs while traveling and was subsequently treated at public health facilities, she advises better-quality healthcare as well.

“If the public health care in the country you’re visiting is known for its quality, that’s fine, but otherwise it’s always worth the extra cost to get more attention and better care from a private doctor,” she says. “Most American health insurance companies will cover you for emergency situations overseas, but if you think the cost of visiting a private doctor at your destination could get expensive, there are numerous travel insurance companies you can get plans from to help cover you.”

8. Cell Phone Data

When I travel to destinations outside my wireless provider’s coverage area, I try to stick with the hotel’s free Wi-Fi. If you want to be fully connected — it’s not a bad idea despite the faction of people begging us to unplug every once in a while — there’s a solution that will cost you a few bucks. Still, it’s much cheaper than the fees you may incur from your provider.

“Buying a SIM card upon arrival in a country will cost you little more than $10 to $15 and it’s invaluable for all the times you get lost or you’re unable to communicate with your cab driver,” says Matthew Newton, CEO of Tourism Tiger. “Many small emergencies are solved through the simple asset of a SIM card charged with one gigabyte of data.”

9. Bottled Water

My Wise Bread colleagues and I generally try to steer you clear of buying bottled water, but Dr. Irene S. Levine (who moonlights as a freelance travel writer) makes a good case for bottled water when you’re traveling.

“There is no reason to take a chance,” she says. “Even if tap water is safe to drink, it may have a different mineral composition that is upsetting to your stomach and can potentially ruin your trip. Additionally, don’t try to save money by not drinking enough water. When you’re traveling, it’s easy to get dehydrated either on planes or in hot climates when you’re more active than usual.”

As someone who prefers tap water, I agree that this is a good practice to adopt, especially when traveling outside the United States. To save money and waste, consider buying a few large jugs of distilled water with which you can fill your permanent water bottle, instead of buying many single bottles the whole trip.

More from Wise Bread:

MONEY deals

5 Hot Cinco de Mayo Food & Drink Deals

The taco sauce bar at Tijuana Flats restaurant, Palm Beach Gardens
Gary Coronado—The Palm Beach Post/Zuma Press, The taco sauce bar at Tijuana Flats restaurant, Palm Beach Gardens

To help us all enjoy Cinco de Mayo with gusto, bars and restaurants around the country are offering free food and cheap deals on tacos, burritos, beer, sangria, and more on Tuesday.

Independent Mexican restaurants and cantinas all over the country will be hosting parties, drink specials, and food deals for Cinco de Mayo on Tuesday—here are some roundups of the options in Washington, D.C., Miami, Denver,Houston, Las Vegas, and Boston, to name just a few cities. National chains are celebrating Cinco de Mayo with discounts and freebies as well. Here are five that jumped out to us as worthwhile:

Taco Bell: The day starts off with free breakfast—specifically, one free biscuit taco per customer—at Taco Bell from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Moe’s Southwest Grill: All day on May 5, locations participating in “Cinco de Moe’s” have a deal that includes a burrito, chips, and salsa for $5. Depending on the location, the first 50 to 200 customers get free T-shirts too.

TacoTime: Crisp Tacos are on the menu for just 69¢ apiece on Cinco de Mayo at this chain with nearly 400 locations in North America.

Tijuana Flats: This Tex-Mex chain with 100+ locations (mainly in the Southeast) wraps up five days of Cinco de Mayo deals with $5.49 combo covering two tacos, chips, and a drink, plus draft beer costs only $1, sangria is $2, and a glass of wine is $3.

Baja Fresh: If you’re ordering for a party—or perhaps, lunch for the office—Baja Fresh has a special catering deal for Cinco de Mayo week. Any order of $100 or more comes with free guacamole and free churros. The offer is valid through May 11.

TIME Food & Drink

Here’s How You Should Really Be Cutting Your Vegetables

All about efficiency

Next time you need to chop up a bunch of vegetables, we recommend trying this handy tip from Household Hacker. The trick is using a pizza cutter to slice up vegetables like carrots and celery. After a little practice, you’ll cut your prep time in half.

We’re not saying you should always use a pizza cutter instead of a good old-fashioned knife. But as the video shows, a pizza cutter can be your best bet for quickly prepping a veggie platter.

The video also comes with a bonus tip for cutting cherry tomatoes. Enjoy.

 

MONEY Fast Food

Why McDonald’s Big Turnaround Plans Mean Nothing to Consumers

McDonald’s, San Francisco, California
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images McDonald’s, San Francisco, California

Don't get your hopes up that McDonald's just-announced plans to reboot the business will translate to bold and progressive changes to the menu.

On Monday, McDonald’s announced it was launching the first steps of a worldwide “Turnaround Plan” aimed at restoring growth for the struggling fast food giant.

“Today we are announcing the initial steps to reset and turn around our business,” Steve Easterbrook, the new president and CEO of McDonald’s, said in a press release and video posted online. “The reality is our recent performance has been poor. The numbers don’t lie.”

For now at least, however, the planned transformation does not include any major changes to what many view as McDonald’s biggest problem: the food.

In the late ’00s, Domino’s took the bold step of airing “brutally honest” commercials in which it admitted some people thought its “pizza sucks.” Domino’s was lauded by branding experts for owning up to the shortcomings of its food, as well as well what seemed to be a commitment to do better by its customers. The transparency and accompanying menu makeover have come to be viewed as great triumphs for Domino’s, which boasted a 14% increase in same-store sales in the first quarter of 2010.

For McDonald’s, though, there hasn’t been any straightforward “Domino’s moment” mea culpa about the food, and it’s unclear if the just-announced turnaround will include any big changes to the menu.

Easterbrook admitted things like “We haven’t been on our game,” and “for the last five years, the world has moved faster outside the business than inside.” Yet the only concrete strategies introduced on Monday focus on restructuring its operations into four market segments around the globe and increasing restaurant ownership by franchisees (rather than the company itself). The changes are meant to bring about “less layers of bureaucracy,” according to Easterbrook, and the overarching purpose is to help restaurants “provide greater focus on the customer” and “deliver a stronger menu, service, and overall experience for our customers.”

The particulars of how any of the above plays out in terms of if and how the menu, food sourcing, or ingredients might actually be tweaked, let along transformed, remains a mystery. All that we learned Monday is that McDonald’s will somehow plod on with goals like making “continuous improvement in food quality and perceptions,” and, vaguest of all, “bringing simple easy enjoyment to life.”

Monday’s announcement did little to address the gripes of consumers summed up in a BBC story published the same day, in which American diners reveal that they aren’t fans of McDonald’s because, among other reasons, it’s not healthy, too expensive, and low-quality compared to brands like Starbucks, Chipotle, and Shake Shack.

McDonald’s has been conducting small tests for concepts like all-day breakfast, table service, and customizable burgers. It has also been seeking out input from millennials and startups concerning how it should innovate and become more appealing to the masses. For the time being, however, McDonald’s seems stuck in a no man’s land in which it’s intrigued with bold innovations yet stuck in its old ways and frightened about changing too quickly and possibly alienating core customers. Besides, even when McDonald’s embraces a seemingly progressive policy, like removing chicken with human antibiotics from the menu, it tends to be received cynically—”a halfhearted way to catch up with changing market norms and to anticipate inevitable regulation,” as a New York Times op-ed put it.

The McDonald’s dining experience may very well transform at some point down the line. But despite the CEO calling the new plans a “reboot” and a “turnaround,” we learned little about how the food, pricing, and customer service—the stuff that paying customers care about—will actually change. Or if they’ll change.

TIME Food & Drink

This Is Chipotle’s Actual Guacamole Recipe. Enjoy!

But be warned: there are 230 calories in each 4 oz. serving

Not near a Chipotle? No matter. The Mexican fast-food chain posted its guacamole recipe on the web on Sunday, so now you can get that guac fix anytime.

INGREDIENTS
2 ripe Hass avocados
2 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp cilantro (chopped)
1/4 cup red onion (finely chopped)
1/2 jalapeño, including seeds (finely chopped)
1/4 tsp kosher salt

HOW TO DO IT:

1. Choose the right avocado. It should feel squishy yet firm (like the palm of your hand), and be a nice dark green color on the inside.
2. Cut the avocado in half and the remove the pit (carefully!)
3. Scoop the avocados and place in a medium bowl.
4. Toss and coat with lime juice.
5. Add the salt and using a fork or potato masher, mash until a smooth consistency is achieved.
6. Fold in the remaining ingredients and mix well.
7. Taste the guacamole (over and over) and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Source: Chipotle

MONEY Food & Drink

Starbucks’ Bottled Water Comes From Thirsty California

A report from Mother Jones found that Starbucks' Ethos water comes from some of the areas hit hardest by California's drought.

TIME Food & Drink

7 Race Day Cocktails for the Kentucky Derby

Try these signature Southern drinks for the race

The Derby isn’t the only leg of the Triple Crown with a signature drink. Watch the horses run with a cocktail tailored for each event. You’ll have an instant party as synonymous with Derby Day as distinctive hats.

  • Classic Mint Julep

    mint-julep-m
    Southern Living

    Mint juleps are the quintessential Southern cocktail. All you need for this classic version is fresh mint, mint simple syrup, and bourbon. Leftover simple syrup keeps refrigerated about one week and perfectly sweetens iced tea. See our tips and techniques for stirring up a mint julep.

    Recipe: Classic Mint Julep

    Step-by-Step Video: Make a Classic Mint Julep

  • Bourbon Smash

    bourbon-smash-m
    Laurey W. Glenn

    Add flair to your cocktail party with the Bourbon Smash: crushed ice and bourbon combined with the sweetness of raspberries and the fresh flavor of mint.

    Recipe: Bourbon Smash

  • Black-eyed Susan

    black-eyed-susan-m
    Laurey W. Glenn

    This cocktail’s name is taken from the flowers used to make the blanket that drapes the winning horse at the Preakness in Baltimore, Maryland. Made with orange and pineapple juice, vodka, light rum, and orange liqueur, it’s a Plimlico winner in our book too.

    Recipe: Black-eyed Susan Cocktail

  • Bourbon Cider Sour

    bourbon-cider-sour-m
    Laurey W. Glenn

    Looking for something impressive yet easy to mix up for your party? Simply stir together four ingredients: bourbon, apple cider, orange juice and sugar, then serve over ice. Garnish with thin apple slices for an elegant finish.

    Recipe: Bourbon Cider Sour

  • Long Island Iced Tea

    long-island-tea-m
    Laurey W. Glenn

    At the Belmont Stakes it’s Long Island Iced Tea. Serve this stiff drink in a martini glass to encourage sipping and get in the New York racing mood.

    Recipe: Long Island Iced Tea

  • Slushy Whiskey Sours

    slushy-whiskey-sours-m
    Laurey W. Glenn

    Try a refreshing spin on a classic mixed drink featuring frozen orange juice, limeade and lemonade.

    Recipe: Slushy Whiskey Sours

  • Moonshine-Cherry Blush

    moonshine-cherry-blush-m
    Brown Cannon III

    Basil-Lemon Moonshine is great by itself on the rocks, but our Moonshine-Cherry Blush recipe will certainly be difficult to pass up.

    Recipe: Moonshine-Cherry Blush

    Base Recipe: Basil-Lemon Moonshine

    This article originally appeared on Southern Living.

TIME Food & Drink

How to Make a Classic Mint Julep

Just in time for the Kentucky Derby

 

Mint juleps are the quintessential Southern cocktail. All you need for this classic version is fresh mint, mint simple syrup, and bourbon.

This article originally appeared on Southern Living.

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TIME Food & Drink

7 Minty Non-Julep Cocktails for the Kentucky Derby

2012-cocktails-HD-flight-of-fancy-2012-cocktails-c-flight-of-fancy
Lucas Allen Flight of Fancy

Mint goes well with a number of spring drinks

Place your bets—Derby weekend is upon us! During the two-day event at Churchill Downs, fans drink more than 120,000 mint juleps. It’s a great cocktail, but there are so many other ways to incorporate mint into bracing spring drinks. Here, 7 minty non-juleps to drink at your Kentucky Derby celebration.

1. Rosemary-Mint Highball
Tequila is the base for this fragrant drink.

2. Pomelo-Mint Mojito
This refreshing take on the classic mojito is made with pomelo, an Asian citrus fruit that resembles a thick-skinned grapefruit.

3. Cucumber Mint Creole
The classic Creole cocktail—gin, lemon juice and sherry—is the basis for this drink.

4. Flight of Fancy
This cocktail calls for homemade mint soda—use it right away to impart a grassy freshness.

5. Lemony Fresh Herb Coolers
The unusual combination of fresh basil, cilantro, mint and tarragon makes for a delightfully refreshing beverage.

6. Pepper Delicious
The herby flavors of the gin combined with the mint and pepper in this cocktail will be a revelation for the non-gin drinker.

7. Old Faithful Punch
Grapefruit adds a sweet-tart flavor to this citrusy large-batch drink.

This article originally appeared on Food & Wine.

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