My dry January saved me £150

Cutting alcohol out for a month saved me £150 - but is there an unpalatable social cost to pay?

After the season to get sozzled was over, the prospect of a New Year's resolution loomed large on the horizon. While this is never an attractive proposition and one that I, and doubtless many others, have ducked completely on many occasions, this year seemed to be a good time to try out a Dry January. So, at the time of writing, I am thirteen hours, nineteen minutes away from making it. Not that I'm counting, of course.

It has to be said that the tangible benefits of this have outweighed the costs. The most obvious benefit is financial. A few beers a day certainly helps pile on the pounds around our waistlines, but it also helps ensure that the pounds in our wallet seep away.

I'm not sure if I count as a mild or moderate drinker, as according to the media coverage that I've read, Britons are - not literally thankfully - swimming in booze. But I estimate that on the basis of this month alone, I have saved somewhere in the region of £150 purely from not drinking alcohol.

Thinking about the implications of this is quite staggering. This would mean I could save £1,800 a year, which would be enough for three weeks away overseas. Or if I was feeling thrifty, then over a decade I could save over £22,000 by cutting out booze simply by putting the money I'd saved in ISA accounts, even if interest rates remain at their present historically low level.

With Britons collectively spending approximately £40 billion a year on booze, the impact on the nation's personal finances is quite clear. This is before one considers the potential health impacts. Needless to say, these are overwhelmingly negative.

It's only when you cut alcohol out, though, that you realise the extent of its social grip in Britain. It's not merely 'binge drinking' as the tabloids would have us believe. It's lunchtime pints with work colleagues, and a quick drink to catch up with friends. Inevitably, I assure you, one will find these activities considerably less enjoyable when everyone else is well-oiled, and you're not.

As my Dry January draws to a close, I can't help thinking back to 'The Simpsons' episode in which Homer agrees to give up alcohol for thirty days, finds that almost everything in his life has improved, and then goes to Moe's bar to get loaded at the first available opportunity once the thirty day period has elapsed. As Homer proclaimed in a later episode "To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems!"

Unfortunately, next month it will start being a cause of some of my problems again. But I've learnt enough from the experience to believe there is a halfway house in which I can socialise happily, while saving a few pounds into the bargain.