Financial Cost of Alcohol Use: How Much is Alcohol Use Really Costing You?

2 min read · 3 sections
Alcohol use can cost you in more ways than one. In addition to impacting you physically, emotionally, and mentally, significant alcohol use can take a bite out of your wallet, costing you far more than simply the price of the alcohol itself. Here’s a quick look at the true price of alcohol consumption—and just how much money you might save if you opt for sobriety.
What you will learn:
How to Calculate Your Annual Alcohol Costs
Hidden Alcohol-Related Expenses
Cost of Addiction vs. Treatment

Overt Costs of Alcohol

It’s difficult to keep a running total of how much you spend on each alcoholic drink, particularly because prices vary dramatically. After all, the wine you purchase at a local store and consume at home likely has a radically different price tag than the same bottle you purchased at a fine-dining restaurant.

Nevertheless, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) offers a tool to help you get a handle on just how much you’re spending on alcohol alone. Its Alcohol Spending Calculator allows you to input the number of days you drink per week, quantity of drinks per day, and average price of a drink to calculate your weekly, monthly, and yearly expenditures.

Let’s say you stay within the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which means one daily drink for women and two for men. Your drink of choice is a 5-ounce glass of wine, and you consume your allotted serving every day. In our scenario, you’re purchasing 25-ounce bottles of wine from the local liquor store at $20 per bottle, so each 5-ounce glass is $4.

Granted, if you’re an avid wine drinker, you might drink more than 5 ounces per glass, have more than one glass some days of the week, and drink pricier wine when you go out to eat. So this is likely a low-end estimate.

  • In this example, a one-glass-a-day habit costs you $1,456man putting coins in jar after realizing how much money sobriety can save you per year.
  • If you have two glasses per day, which is within the dietary guidelines for men, you’re up to $2,912 annually.
  • If you consume a $20 bottle of wine daily, that’s $607 per month, which equates to $7,280 per year.

Hidden Costs of Alcohol Use

The price of alcohol consumption alone—even within dietary guidelines—is impactful. However, there are several seemingly hidden fees associated with drinking, particularly for heavy drinkers and those with an alcohol use disorder. Here’s a brief rundown of some of these related expenses.

  • Healthcare. The long-term effects of alcohol can potentially damage vital organs in your body and increase the risks of a host of conditions—all of which can require costly medical treatment. Among the systems potentially affected are the brain, pancreas, and liver, as well as the cardiovascular, immune, and musculoskeletal systems. In addition, alcohol use can increase the likelihood of cancers involving the breast, liver, esophagus, head, neck, and more.
  • Criminal justice. If you’re charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), you’ll likely incur significant fees related to everything from bail, attorney fees, and court fines to towing charges, department of motor vehicle (DMV) fees, and traffic school. And you can pretty much guarantee that your vehicle-insurance costs will skyrocket. While myriad variables impact the cost of a DUI, a recent Forbes article put this total at roughly $20,000. This staggering figure doesn’t even account for potential accidents in your vehicle, which can result in pricey damage to vehicles, property, and others.
  • Workplace productivity. When you’re hungover, drunk, or even mildly affected by alcohol, your altered state likely affects your workplace productivity. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the U.S. economy loses $179 billion due to alcohol-related decreases in workplace productivity. Additionally, excessive alcohol use can reduce productivity to the point that it leads to work-related penalties and/or the loss of employment. While job loss and demotions can certainly affect your bottom line, ongoing issues with alcohol can also prevent you from securing new employment, obtaining a promotion, and more.

The Cost of Sobriety and Treatment

Clearly, then, even moderate alcohol use has significant associated costs, and heavy drinking and alcohol use disorders can seriously impact both your life and your wallet. Thus, cutting back on consumption or completely abstaining may be a good idea for a host of reasons including the financial consequences.

For some people, however, abstaining or reducing consumption is a struggle due to myriad factors. Thus, many people choose to seek treatment to help them make the changes they desire. Once again, however, finances often factor into these decisions.

Since treatment actually costs money, how does sobriety save you in the long run?

American Addiction Centers offers an online calculator that can help you estimate just how much you can save over the course of your lifetime by seeking alcohol addiction treatment now.

Keep in mind, however, that treatment is often covered by insurance, which means you might not be paying the entire price out of pocket. Plus, even if you don’t have insurance, there are various ways—e.g., sliding fee scales, payment plans, grants, etc.—to assist with payment.

So if you’re ready to take the first steps toward sobriety and you need a little assistance to find and stay on that path, contact our admissions navigators at . In addition to answering your treatment related questions, they can also help hash out your finances to determine just how much you can save—in terms of physical, emotional, mental, and financial health—by going to treatment.

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