Give Up Your Vices and Save

Tis the season for over-indulging. If you have vices, maybe there’s where you need to look to find money to save so you can increase your net worth next year.

I have relatively few vices: I like good tea, I buy my television on DVDs because I go to bed early (and it’s still cheaper than a Tivo), and I don’t skimp on my ingredients when I’m in an all out cooking frenzy. I haven’t smoked in about 14 years. I gave up coffee, cola and all the other bad-for-me crap when I was pregnant with Baby Girl. And I’ve never been a booze-hound.

Sometimes I’m a little surprised at what people will spend money on even when they’re in debt or not saving a penny. Exorbitant bank fees… really? You can’t walk a block to your own ATM? Hundreds of dollars a month in liquor and wine… really? Not even for a few months can you give up your numbing-juice? And as for the people who still smoke… lord love a duck!

The Stats Man says that Canadians spend about 2% of their income on alcohol and tobacco. You can’t tell me you don’t have money to save if you’re watching your money go up in smoke or down the potty. With Canadian household debt continuing to grow, how can we justify spending $18 billion a year on booze?

That’s the price we’re willing to pay for a good night’s sleep, it seems. Charles Morin, a professor of psychology at Laval University and one of the authors of a study published in the journal Sleep says that 8% of folks report using alcohol as a sleep aid. Oy!

Here’s an idea for a new year’s resolution, if you’re into that kinda thing: Perhaps all we need to do to sleep better is rebalance our lives and shift our priorities so that we’re financially stable.

I sleep like a baby not worrying about overdraft, outstanding balances and whether I’ll have enough to retire on.  And if I’m having a little trouble getting to sleep, a nice warm home-made chai latte does the job. No need to numb-out to pass out.

45 Responses to “Give Up Your Vices and Save”

  1. Gave up my vices to save money and what a difference its made so far this month! I even think clearer on my shopping choices, groceries and otherwise. Not sure where to start with everything else, but this has been the BEST start! Your shows helped me out with that too!

  2. My husband gave up smoking three and a half years ago. I financial situation has changed a lot in that three years. Part of it is coincidence. Child care costs reduced and work situation changed, but part of it was living with a different attitude and priorities. We’ve gone on wonderful trips and bought vehicles without worrying about whether we have enough $ in the bank each month to cover payments. We’re debt free in about 3 months. We have my entire one year’s salary in the bank right now, and are deciding how best to use/save/spend it. We have RESPs and RRSPs and a TFSA.
    Yes, 3 1/2 years later, and we are in a very nice spot.
    Keep plugging away. It seems that once you make a small change, more happen, and things start looking up faster. Last year, how much I owed (inc. mortgage) was higher than what I had in the bank. Right now, what I have is 4x more than what I owe. It’s a great feeling!
    Thank you Gail. I’m looking forward to a very exciting 2013!

  3. My vice was alcohol. A few years ago, I stopped having a weekly bottle of wine in order to be more frugal. Some other benefits occurred like losing weight and becoming healthier. Now I reserve it for special occasions instead of a routine.
    When family complains about not being able to repay their debt on a 6 figure salary but they are still enjoying their daily glass of wine, a half pack of smokes and all their meals at a restaurant, they don’t get my pity.

  4. I’ve often wondered where people find the money to smoke and drink. We hear on the news that times are tough but the restaurants are packed to overflowing and at all hours of the day and night there is a lineup at Tim Hortons. Keep telling us off Gail…we need to hear it.

  5. Our family vice is snacks. For the longest time I was putting Tim’s and Starbuck’s into the food category and it didn’t make sense why we were going over our food budget when our grocery bills were about $125/week. So this month I created a category called “Snacks” and it is an eye opener. It’s not just a coffee run. It’s a coffee and lemon and poppyseed loaf run. A $2 treat becomes at least $5 each time and it adds up when our children are with us. This year I intend to have something in the car or at work that’s healthy so I’m not tempting to eat carb- and fat-laden foods that I will regret later, especially since I’m also trying to lose weight.

  6. I look at it as really being honest with yourself. It all ties together. Smoking, drinking, over-eating, they can all be ways to escape and as Gail mentions above, “numb” out. Not being financially healthy is another one. They all also relate to each other.

    I found for me, the once I was able to look at how things are connected and just being a little more aware of what I was really doing, I was able to make changes.

    No one is perfect and I believe life is about a good ride, but all within a certain balance.

    Here’s to a fantastic 2013 with more awareness! 🙂

  7. As a nurse, I often hear patients say they stopped their medication because it was too expensive. Frequently, these same people are smoking at least a pack/day. Just like with being in debt, the connection isn’t always made.
    Sometimes quitting your vices isn’t just about saving money, sometimes it is about saving your life.

  8. My vice is Timmies. I managed to wean myself off. Bought a Keurig and some travel mugs and was doing well until last year’s ” roll up the rim”. Worse than ever now. I’m still working at it. I have no credit cards or overdraft and only one small loan that will be paid off in two years. Budgeting is still hard and Timmies doesn’t help.

  9. The fun part about vices is on indulging in them occasionally! I like a good drink, but I probably only have one once a week! same with eating out!

    I think my biggest vice is diet coke…but considering I am debt free, I think I am allowed to celebrate with unlimited diet cokes, right?

  10. My biggest vice is grocery shopping. I love to shop for groceries… find it very calming to go grocery shopping on a daily basis. The problem is I’m single and end up wasting lots of food. But on an up note, the Food Bank does well by me.

    The other vice is actually my cat’s vice – he is the worlds pickiest eater – oh well the cat rescues do well by his rejects too and I’ve learned to never buy any foods in bulk for him

    I don’t have any debt but I’m hoping to retire within 3 years so need to get a grip on my spending

  11. My vice is cheap food – I’m NEVER going to lose the last 15 lbs. /wail

    I can actually feel my willpower draining away when I start craving something awful – it makes me understand those who experience the same thing with spending.

  12. Jay you reminded me of a 3rd vice – weight loss products and ‘groups’ and I have a lot more than 15 pounds to lose. Darn

  13. My vice is coke zero and sometimes those cheap romance novels. After being lectured by my daughter about the fact that if I couldn’t pronounce properly the ingredients of that can of coke then perhaps I shouldn’t be drinking it, more research shows how bad the darker pops are for women and the cost when I sometimes would run across the street to the school and grab one out of the veding machine I said enough was enough. I always bring a big thing of ice water to work with me now. If I’m thinking I’d like one I think of the $2+ in my pocket instead.

    As for the books, I have a ton of other books on my shelves that I really really need to read – including Gail’s new one!! Since I have every Nancy Drew book written before her hair color was changed (plus the cookbook), I’ve decided that I am going to reread them in 2013 and see how far I get.

    After our kitchen reno and realizing how much we were eating out, we have made an effort to have food in the fridge ready, i.e. wash the lettuce and store it, one day have carrots, etc., chopped so if anyone feels like a snack there it is because everyone was too lazy to actually peel a carrot.

  14. THANK YOU Gail

    Just yesterday my husband and I paid off our last credit card. All we have now is our mortgage and our truck. We have savings and a retirement plan. AND we are getting new windows put in our house paid for in cash!!!!!

    We gave up “stuff” and it has paid off big time.

    THANK YOU no vice could feel this good.

  15. I get it the message… but I also think of what Pete Best (soccer player) said:

    “I’ve made a lot of money in my life, and spent millions on birds (girls), booze and fast cars…. the rest I’ve just squandered.”

    Happy holidays everyone!

  16. Don’t forget gambling! I’m going to try and stay out of the casinos this year. If I do go, I’ll go once a month, go within my entertainment budget and not take my ATM card.

  17. Correction to my posting. Not this year, next year.

  18. I quit the smoking & casinos 3 months ago today. I have an extra $2,000 now. I’ve found I really like things going in a positive direction. I now use my casino time to do charity knitting. That has the added value of decreasing my yarn stash as well as saving the gas money that went to the trips to the casino.

    Gail, you’ve made a huge difference in my life this year. Thank you.

  19. I can easily spend $30 a week on wine, and ironically it is horrible for my sleep the older I get. Quitting would net me a $1500 vacation next year “free”. Maybe it’s time to let go of that routine.

  20. @Fernsk

    Some peole needs help to do ther grocery like hold or blind people.
    You could help them and enjoy your vices.

  21. Sadly, I’m a “lord love a duck”. 🙁

    But I used to go drop $25 at the pub 3 times a week. This year I cut it down to two. (Thursdays weren’t much fun anyway.) Afternoon coffee shop visit has been replaced by instant made at my own desk.

    But the smokes thing has got to go pronto! I’ve saved all this money, both in my pension and my personal accounts, and I want it to get bigger and actually live to use it.

  22. Love to read people’s answers prompted by your thoughtful columns Gail! I just bought 2 bottles of wine for the Christmas table… $27 +. Yikes. That’s not going to be a habit! I have recently quit buying diet coke (very addictive stuff) and only will allow myself a glass if I am “out” for dinner which happens only once a month or so. I won’t buy it for the house any longer. Lucky for me I don’t drink coffee (tim’s doesn’t make money off me).
    My vice is definitely chocolate. I have asked for chocolate for Christmas from my kids because that is what I love and don’t want to live without. I have stemmed the urge to buy magazines for the most part and go and get a bunch from the library rather than buy them. Splurges are OK, I just try not to make it a habit. Happy Holidays to Gail and to all the readers… I find you all very entertaining! Cheers!

  23. To the people with a pop vice….have you tried Nestlé pure life sparkling water? I am a fan of the orange flavour, when its cold. So good, and its nothing but water and orange but you get rid of the “bubbly drink” craving! 1 litre is about $1.39 at walmart.

  24. Edward ~ me too 🙁 I mentioned to hubby I would quit on Dec. 26th, but in my head I believe I’ve already pushed it to at least Jan 1. My reasoning for the 26th was he would be home for the week and if I cheated, he’d know – supposed to help me with willpower but I feel like I’m failing already… 🙁

    Also, don’t want to gain any weight, I have a health condition that does that for me already, and just “staying the course” is very difficult. Anyway… I will post if I do quit, and if you post your quit date I will do my very best to encourage you 🙂

    Merry Christmas to All!! 🙂


  25. My biggest vice would have to be Starbucks. Over the past couple of months, I’ve cut way back on the number of times per week that I go there (and ideally, I’d be able to quit going there entirely, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen).

    Luckily, I don’t really have any other major vices (I’ve never smoked, and I only drink a couple times a year).

    In terms of my spending categories, I spend the vast majority of my money on food. Ever since putting a budget together and sticking within it, though, I have managed to cut my food expenses way back, so that’s a start.

    My big goal for 2013 will be to keep sticking to my budget (especially since this is still a new thing for me), and to keep working on paying down my debt, and slowly building up my emergency savings.

    Actually, the fact that I even have a tiny amount tucked away for emergency savings was a huge accomplishment for me this year – much better than the zero I used to have saved up!

    Here’s to a successful 2013 for everyone!

  26. My only vice is chocolate. But ever since last year’s gall stone attack, I’ve had to cut way back on my consumption. It’s not like I was stuffing myself before, it was just too frequent for my body to handle.

  27. I have no vices- just children! I too have purchased the books, used the online tools and watched the programs. My benefit has been been slow though because it is hard when your significant other sees financial issues one hundred and eighty degrees different from you! Slow and steady wins the race!

  28. Anne, I so understand! My husband wants to be in charge of our finances but his decisions are far less conservative than mine! And, although he loves Gail’s show, he doesn’t think her advice applies to us…but it does. It looks like I’m going to have to implement some tough love principles here and, once I take action, my husband may not talk to me for days. I hate to start the New Year at odds but waiting for him to do the right thing has already cost us plenty. I wished he would just agree and then we could take the correct actions together… ????

  29. Our bad vice is grocery shopping, I must admit. We only go once weekly however we will buy more than we need. I found out where our extra spending money went in 2012 when I took a closer look at end last month. We spent enough to take a vacation for the 3 of us or pay for a renovation However I cannot complain as we will be debt free in 23 months from now. What a concept, I am happily counting down the months til this happens.
    We don’t drink or gamble. Our groceries is our major vice. This is be something that we will be working on in 2013 to be better at sticking to our list.
    Happy 2013 everyone

  30. avatar Allysgrandma Says:
    December 23, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Fabric and stuff for granddaughter! There I said it! My favorite on line fabric store has a sale with 10-25% off depending on how much you buy…….I don’t need any fabric, but yet I find myself looking. Must.stop.buying.fabric.

    The good news is I make quilts and give them away! Does that make up for it? Just a little maybe??

  31. Allysgrandma, can you sell the quilts? Or maybe fabric comes out of your gifts budget. That way there is a limit on how much you buy.

    My vice is restaurants. I love going out to eat, especially when its just my husband and I. We have 4 kids, so there is no time to just relax and have a quiet meal. We do budget eating out, but I still feel guilty doing it knowing I can make the dishes for 1/4 of the price of going out.

  32. My pvr was only $160 that is less than a couple of seasons of the shows I like to watch.

  33. Merry Christmas everyone! Costco is definitely a vice for me – always seems to be something on the list and extra stuff that comes home just because “it may not be there next time” particularly around the holidays! Need. To. Stop. Going. There.

  34. avatar jolene kotyk Says:
    December 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Hi Gail,
    My husband and I over spend on food and drinks. I am wondering how much of your budget should be allotted for food and beverages. We are currently spending… A LOT and wasting… A LOT! We are done with throwing our hard earned money out into the garbage. We are a family of 3, our daughter is 7 years old. My husband works one week out of town (therefore it is just my daughter and I for half the month) and is home for one week. Any suggestions would be wonderful!! We are going to print off the budget worksheet today! thanks

  35. @Jolene
    There are several postings with great comments on how to get your food budget under control. It’s worth a browse through past blog posting for find them and get ideas.
    I seem to recall the suggested reasonable number of $50.00 per adult person per week as being something of no particular hardship. I don’t remember kids, but I imagine some increasing percentage of that based on age.
    As for drinking, I think that depends on what you drink. Some people don’t drink any alcohol at all, so I think their drink budget would be quite different from mine. But I put my alcohol in my entertainment and treats category, not in my food category, if that helps. Then it becomes completely discretionary (theoretically).

  36. […] week Gail Vaz-Oxlade tells you why you should Give Up Your Vices and Save.  With the end of the year coming, now is certainly the time to make some life […]

  37. My vice is in online clothes shopping, particularly I’ve spent way more than I’m ready to admit on super cute dresses and tops there! It’s distracting me from what I’m supposed to be doing… exercising to lose weight to fit back into the clothes I already have…*sigh*

  38. We all have our vices – mine include (but are not limited to) good wine, fancy coffees, gourmet restaurant meals, and fun vacations. But I can afford them and, while I’m not entirely debt free (yet), I’m close, apart from the mortgage making good progress in paying debt down (including the mortgage), while having fun. My own definition of problematic vices has always hinged on whether they impede one’s functioning in life – i.e. if something is making you sick, or having an impact on your career, or your ability to parent, or you’re going into debt to do it, then it’s a problem for you and you need to figure out how to stop. If you’re functional in your life and you’re paying for your wine, vacations or whatever out of your own money without starving your children, then I say enjoy 🙂

  39. I am going to pay a lump sum on the third towards my mortgage. Even the Chinese Calendar is working in my favour. Nothing bad on that day as far as I can tell. Good day for funerals apparently. Once I pay my lump sum I will have one year left of mortgage payments and then I will be mortgage free!!
    My mom says that I love to spend money – and she is right. I found myself looking at a Toyota Yaris (car) site. What the h$ll do I need a car for? A few more days Jan 3 and I will be that much closer to mortgage free. Stick with it. No vices will get in my way – not even the I love to spend money vice. It’s hard but I will be strong. Be strong!!

  40. Gail, you have the best and most realistic advice!

    Last year my husband and I declared bankruptcy for an amount to the tune of 76000! Luckily, our bank did not want our house as there is continual damage from an unresolved leak in the front of the house.

    We have no credit (and to my credit – I never want credit again!) and only have debit cards. I just want to thank Gail and Slice for this education. I have never been a big spender, and I am not a shopper, it still never explained where the money goes.

    This New Years Resolution aside from the yearly promise to lose weight, I plan to add the Gail Budget System and the Jar form of living monthly!

    Now… To convince my husband that he does not need his cigarettes anymore!

    Happy New Year and to happy budgeting and debt relief!

  41. I crunched some numbers awhile ago and found that cutting back on designer coffees, smoking and drinking can yield $4,991 per year in savings!

    Not only do you save money but your body will thank you too. Alcohol and rich coffees have lots of calories that most of us don`t need anyway.

  42. To all of you who have named smoking as your vice:

    I hear you and sympathize, but I want to offer hope! Quitting smoking is the hardest thing I have ever done. Ever. EVER. But I have been smoke free for fifteen months now, and I promise you that it CAN be done.

    My troubles with quitting smoking were twofold: first, for a long time I couldn’t find the proper motivation to turn the key in my head. And second, even once I did find my personal motivation, I had a couple of false starts – times where I’d quit for a few weeks (or even months) and then fall off the wagon. I felt like a failure.

    It’s been a process, but I’ve learned that screwing up does NOT make me a failure – it makes me a person who had a setback, but recaptured my motivation and came back stronger. You CAN do it, and the rewards you will glean in all areas of life are exponential. Put that cigarette money away towards something nice for yourself – you will have earned it. 🙂

  43. AA is free, for those who need it- there is support for those who are affected by someone’s drinking as well.

  44. We don’t have many vices, except good Thai and Indian food which we indulge in once every two weeks, but its budgeted for so its not a problem.
    However, my coworker is always complaining about how broke she is and they never have money to buy clothes, go on trips or save. So I offered to go over her budget with her. After fixed and variable expenses there was still $1500 unaccounted for. Then I remember she and her hubby smoke. So I asked her how much that was, she said, “we’ll we buy two packs every day so that’s about $20 a day”. So that’s $600 a month. Then I remembered that her and her hubby show up for work with extra large timmies every day (IDK why, that coffee is gross) so I asker he how much there Tim run was, she said, “well about $5 on the way to work if we just get coffee and about $5 on the way home.” So that’s about $300-$450 a week considering they usually buy bagels or muffins for breakfast too. THEN she said, “we’ll my hubby smokes weed too so that’s about $200 a month as well. So for habits alone they are spending $1250 a month alone. She was shocked. Even more so when I told her two months of habits could buy her and her hubby a nice trip to the Caribbean and that her yearly total of habits is $15000!!!!!!!
    I said to her, it almost makes me wish that I had habits to give up so I could find an extra $15000 a year.

  45. Costco, Winners, LCBO I’ve got vices!
    Now I’ve got Gail’s Debt-Free Forever book (for Christmas to myself).
    What an eye opener. I spent, at the LCBO alone, more than half of what I’d spent on groceries in 6 months. Funnily I was only spending $40/mn in cash HA! So I knew exactly where the money was going (not on what, but definitely where).
    I’ve set up my budget and I’ll be avoiding all my vices…for as long as I can. I figure after a few months it won’t be such a habit to head to these places.
    I’ve never lived on cash. I like to pay my bills online and pay everything with debit. Still I’m going to try the cash solution for at least a month to get a feel for how fast my money goes. Maybe two months to make it a habit. So I think I’ll need to create the budget binder for myself.
    I’ll be interested to see how the cash jars work out for savings (ie vacations etc). As I’m not confident I can keep the cash in my bank account without temptation. So remove the temptation and I might actually be able to save!
    I guess it would be bad to hit the $store one last time to get some nice jars…yup I’m that bad!
    Wish me luck!
    A Happy New Year to you all!

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