Understand the Marginal Utility of Booze and Drugs

Well, the Safety Pirates have finished their raiding of the Reno/Lake Tahoe area, and returned home to their lives of responsibility. As expected, the trip has furthered my education in several dimensions of Mustachianism and led to some insights. And the title of Brave New Life’s guest posting on Thursday nicely describes one of these dimensions, so I have closely emulated it for today’s article.

For decades, Mr. Money Mustache has walked a fine line between two worlds of people. One one side is the productive and healthy and slightly nerdy land of the non-drinkers, and on the other is the reckless and fun and slightly self-destructive world of the drinkers. I meet many people who are deep in one territory or the other, but a much smaller number who are right in the middle. I know these people do exist, but there seem to be forces in human nature that push us to extremes. So people without much enthusiasm for alcoholic beverages or other recreational drugs end up quitting completely, and people who enjoy them end up taking things up quite a few notches in their youth.

Because of my place in the middle of the spectrum, there have been many nights in my life which have involved consuming a few servings of the various party supplies, and if all goes well, getting just a bit out of control and silly. Laughs are had, lifetime stories are created, and ridiculous songs are recorded.

But at some point around 10PM, I realize that if I have another drink, I will severely regret it in the morning. After fearfully imagining a hangover, I will invariably start running through the things I hope to accomplish in the next day as well as the various other reasons I don’t want to dump more mild toxins into my body, which hasn’t been 18 years old for about twenty years.  So I’ll fill up a big glass of water and start drinking it, repeating the process until the party ends several hours later. Meanwhile, the true party people will keep pouring themselves stiff drinks or cracking more beers. We’re all having a great time, but when the night is through there will be four or five bottles in front of me while a heavy-drinking man of my size will have a dozen or so, possibly with a few wine and shot glasses on the side (and maybe an empty bag of weed depending on the crowd).

As this pattern has repeated across the many years since I was a teenager, I have seen heavy drinking pulling down quite a few of my friends and coworkers. The luckiest ones are just less wealthy than they would otherwise be. Others have gained weight and lost the ability to do active things outside, in turn leading to other health problems. The least lucky ones are now dead.

The difference between light and heavy drinkers is multiplied further when they are placed into an environment where alcoholic drinks are ridiculously expensive, which is any place other than your house. The light drinkers will escape the night with little or no financial damage, depending on how much fun was had before ending up at the bar*. The heavy drinkers will dump out tens or even hundreds of their scarce dollars, with nothing more to show for it at the end.

Much of this difference is explained by alcohol tolerance. Just as your body can adapt to cold and hot weather, bicycle commuting, food surplus and shortage, and almost anything else you can throw at it, so can it adapt to repeated floods of alcohol through the blood stream.

Alcohol tolerance is still looked upon with respect in certain circles. High school football players, mustachioed gamblers in Westerns, and college students on spring break still all slap each other on the backs after they pound a fifth of whiskey or funnel a gallon of Bud Light. These people may indeed be somewhat cool, because they have developed an unusual ability through perseverance and ignoring pain.  But it’s a misguided form of coolness, because it runs directly against the Bushy Follicles of the Money Mustache.

A Mustachian does NOT want any sort of alcohol tolerance. It’s a sign of weakness, because it is a sign that you drink too much, and too often. Wikipedia sums this issue up perfectly: “Long-term use of alcohol in excessive quantities is capable of damaging nearly every organ and system in the body”. It will also damage your finances to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars over a few decades.

Deep inside, we all know that any alcohol consumption is bad for us, and we also know that it is a purely optional expense. And developing a tolerance is a double expense: Not only does it takes a lot of spending to create the tolerance, but it decreases the pleasure felt from all future alcoholic beverages. So my heavy-drinking friends on the Party side of the dividing line have to spend twice as much as I do, just to experience exactly the same amount of Good Times.

We Mustachians are an extremely diverse lot.  Many of us are masters of self-control and I regularly hear from people who have willed themselves into incredible feats. Just the other week there was a guy in the comments who casually recommended running 70 miles per week as a convenient method of weight control.

But there are also many beginners in training here, and surely a division of masters of self-deception as well. “I don’t really drink all that much. Way less than my friend Joe. I’m still functioning well at my job and I’m even pretty athletic. And I really like having a few beers with my friends. Sure, on the weekends that may turn into a dozen beers.. but what’s the problem?”

The problem is simply this: you could be even better.

Are you already completely financially independent? If not, there’s a huge and unarguable reason to limit drinking to, say, two drinks per week as a personal challenge. You can’t yet afford to be throwing away money!

Do you already have exactly your idea of an ideal body? If not, alcohol is a very powerful drug for fat gain – why continue regular dosage when it works directly against you?

Are you already able to accomplish any task you set your mind to? If not, this is a great one to work on. Alcohol is difficult to reduce and quit. Whenever something is difficult, that’s usually a sign that you should start doing it. Every drink you skip or postpone, builds your self-discipline muscle, one of the components of the larger Frugality Muscle group.

The bottom line is that Alcohol, like many other drugs, is addictive to many people. That brings up some very confusing feelings about whether or not we will gain happiness by drinking more of it.

I do believe it has some use for increasing the amount of fun in our overly repressed society, which is why I’m not a complete non-drinker myself.  But I also feel it comes with a marginal utility curve that starts to slope down very quickly, and that most drinkers are already way beyond the peak.

Even with all this caution, I also feel that while Mr. Money Mustache dishes out some good advice, there are special occasions in life when all good advice must be damned and you must go crazy. But when you go crazy, you should at least acknowledge that you are being crazy and not rational. And you must realize that I am right there watching you, glad that you are having a good time, but watching and waiting with a Brandished Fist for signs of Excusitis, the failure disease.

Drink wisely and rarely**!



* The whole idea of bars has always seemed sucky to me – you can have expensive drinks and too much noise for real conversation at a bar, or you can have cheap drinks, great food, and your own comfortable house for talking, even without giving up the benefit of meeting attractive strangers, when you host or attend actual parties.

** In the spirit of this article, I’m cutting my own drinking limit from the previous MMM limit of six drinks per week, down to TWO (with rollover beers still allowed), and looking forward to reaping the benefits!

  • Jimbo February 13, 2012, 6:14 am

    Sheesh MMM… I am starting to fear what you will have to say about coffee, also known as the Precious Life Elixir… If you ever write that article, please don’t run it on a Monday morning…

    • Heidi February 13, 2012, 9:11 am

      I’m working on giving up that addiction right now. But, life intervenes and after the 4th morning of being woken up early by my kids, I caved in the afternoon. But, then, I had superpowers. The coffee gave me so much more energy than it has been giving. That was fun and productive. And now I know I can get up in the morning without looking forward to that delicous beverage quite so much.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 13, 2012, 11:04 am

      Hey Jimbo – I think I’d say the same thing I say about alcohol – it’s fine in moderation, but don’t let self-deception create a runaway habit.

      Also, coffee is much better for you than alcohol and the studies seem to have a hard time finding problems with even fairly heavy drinkers.

      My coffee rule is this: “You’re allowed to have one big strong cup of coffee every morning, and up to two per day for special occasions. None of this may be purchased at a coffee shop.”

      Beyond this, I feel it turns into a bit of a silly addiction where you spend half of your day chasing or preparing coffee. It may not be bad for you, but it’s a waste of time and money, and can lead to a wussy addiction which makes things like camping or adventures in coffee-free lands daunting.

      • Gerard February 13, 2012, 2:51 pm

        I can see a mustachian argument against (heavier) coffee drinking, in that it stops you from paying attention to your body. If I feel tired, it’s because I am tired, and I should sleep more. Coffee lets me work hard when I’m not at my best, and that’s not something I want to do often. Especially as it always seems to cover the hours that I’m working for someone else. When it wears off, I feel like doing nothing when I get home.

      • Nerode February 13, 2012, 4:55 pm

        “can lead to a wussy addiction which makes things like camping or adventures in coffee-free lands daunting”

        MMM you sound a teeny bit complainy-pants there – camping and such adventures are fun and worthy in their own right, but they are also recurring training in mustachian living! Anyone who takes television, a/c, etc., with them camping may be subject to your comment, but the rest of us come back from camping having been rejuvenated in our frugal self-control; and quite possibly stinky. But more aware of the possibilities for having an even better time with less than we have at home.

        When you release your best-seller “28 Steps to Frugal Badassity”, camping (simply) should be in the list.

        Even so, I take coffee with me when I camp.

      • Oh Yonghao August 11, 2014, 3:32 pm

        Sounds like Nerode misread your comment on camping.

        Your rule on coffee is basically what I’ve been doing now. Having been a Mormon before coffee was this new interesting thing. I went through stages of double coffee, coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon, and now I have found the same rule.

        I have one cup of coffee, black, in the morning and water the rest of the day. At work it is free, unlimited quantities, yet I choose just one cup. On the weekends I make one pot of coffee that lasts me two days, in a $20 coffee maker with beans that I get from the store about once a month.

        Sometimes I even forget to make coffee and go about my day without missing anything.

      • Nathanael September 22, 2015, 7:47 pm

        I sadly know one coffee addict who can’t go a day without her fix, and often needs a fix several times a day. It is money-burning and she doesn’t have the money for it.

        Such are the woes of addiction even to a fairly harmless drug. Unfortunately, breaking an addiction requires willpower, which she is currently using for other things.

      • Troy October 3, 2015, 4:14 am

        I understand the concept of self control. I feel moderation is the key. Teue moderation dies not mean very litle; rather, it is about striking a balance. I pesonaly do not drink very often. When I do, I drink only to the point of a good solid buzz, which occurs at about 40 to 50 ounces of beer ( 3 16 ounce cans, 2 25 ounce cans, or 4 12 ounce bottles) or in the case of liquor, about 1 pint cut with soda or fresh cold juice and nursed on over a few hours. I cut myself off and slowly come down. I then take vitamin c, 1 coated asperin, and a talk glass of water before sleeping. Coffee, on the other hand, goes like this. Each morning, I drink 2 large mugs of it with creamer and a moderate amount of sugar. If you have it with grapefruit juice, the narginin in the citrus will inhibit cwrtain enzymes and prevent further tolerance to caffeine while allowing the stimulant effect to last longer. This formula is also great for a fat burner. I used to weigh 280 at 25% body fat and now I am 179 at 15% fat
        . I am working on sugar consumption. My idea of moderation is a total of 3 to 4 teaspoons table sugar per day and a total of 350 grams or so carbs, 25 to 30 grams of which is a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber and 90 % of what is left comes from vegetables and whole grains. This is spaced evenly through the day.

        • Mr. Money Mustache October 6, 2015, 7:32 pm

          Awesome self-experimentation Troy, and congrats on the amazing fat loss as well. I will have to try this grapefruit juice trick.

          A bit further down on the sugar scale, I have enjoyed going to zero added sugar and closer to 100-150 grams of carbs on normal days (although more on highly active ones). Most calories are now from fat (plus moderate protein), and this REALLY seems to work well for my own body. This is all based on Mark’s Daily Apple ideas:


  • The Money Monk February 13, 2012, 6:19 am

    yeah I’ve always preferred hanging out and drinking at home to going out and spending a lot of money to do the exact same thing.

    Good article, was just thinking about this exact topic the other day.

    • goon February 15, 2012, 2:00 pm

      completely agree– i’ve always felt this way, even when i was in school. i’ve never quite understood the appeal of spending a ton of money to drink in a too-loud bar.

      on that note, maybe twice a year or so, spending a premium on a different and interesting (not typical bar) atmosphere is worth it, like the saloon in dc or the brewer’s art in baltimore.

  • Mr. Frugal Toque February 13, 2012, 6:26 am

    As a guy who has been able to get a whole night out of a two-drink buzz since University, I’ve always been mildly amused by people who brag about their alcohol tolerance.

    I mean, seriously. That two-four you guys just went through? That was twelve weeks of dancing like an idiot for me.

    The downside is the driving part. If I actually had two drinks, even back when the alcohol impairment limit was still .08, I was technically legal to drive. I didn’t, of course, because I was impaired. Had my two drinks early, walked around downtown T.O. for a few hours, then drove home.

    Also, as a side note, I’m pretty sure we went to bars to try to meet girls. In my recollection, this worked, maybe, sort of, not really, one time in all the years that we went to bars, Not a good R.O.I. Meeting people was a much more realistic expectation at house parties.

  • David Baillieul February 13, 2012, 7:10 am

    Hay Mr Stash

    Just returned from a Cancun vacation. A bucket of 6 Corona beer was $5 in the bars. Being a well taxed Canadian, I figure that 6 Corona would be closer to $30 or so in these parts. So I did the best I could to load up on the bargin beer.

  • anonymous February 13, 2012, 7:17 am

    I suspect that the alcohol, soda, fruit juice, and ultra-sweet coffee culture is largely responsible for the ever expanding waist lines. 750 calories can go down the throat in mere minutes, but it takes hours of brisk exercise to burn that off. In theory, one could simply eat less, to account for the extra calories, but then nutrition takes a hit.

    I don’t drink very often, but I have experimented with a breathalyzer, in a bar setting. I have to drink to about 0.05 to become reasonable “extroverted” and feel comfortable in a group. One more drink gets me to 0.08. At that number, its still legal to drive, but I get a little dizzy. One additional drink beyond 0.08, and it messes up the following day.

    For efficient drinking and socializing at the bar, drop a shot of vodka or gin into tap water. It’s still not healthy, but its half the calories or less than the normal fare. Do two of those at home, and then drive to the bar and drink club sodas, often free, or just $1 plus tip. Order the club sodas in a glass with a lime, and nobody can tell its not a real drink. Just be careful of friends that start buying rounds because then its game over.

  • Matt G February 13, 2012, 7:27 am

    “His organ donation card, also includes his beard”


    • Mr. Money Mustache February 14, 2012, 9:54 am

      Thanks Matt – I quite enjoyed learning about this Most Interesting Man in the World!

      He has already encouraged me to start growing my beard again, and I am considering adopting a Spanish accent as well.

      “It’s never too early to start working on your obituary”

  • Danielle February 13, 2012, 8:11 am

    Great article. I remember walking downtown to my car Saturday mornings in college and kicking myself for not being one of the joggers out for a run. I guess I never developed the 10pm trigger you mentioned. In fact, several tactics I used to try and limit my drinking were misguided and non-mustachian in hindsight. For example, offering to be the DD and not drinking still forces you to pay in gas and wear on your car while you drive your drunk ass (and possibly puking) friends around at 4am. Having top-shelf drinks (for “quality over quantity”) can end up costing twice as much as ordering one of the specials. Definitely work your plan out in your head before the night begins…because all logic can go out the door after the first drink!

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy SImple February 13, 2012, 11:19 am

      You are reminding me of a vacation I went on a few years ago with my spouse’s family. I think my son was 3 yo. My SIL and her college friends and HS friends were there. Quite a big crowd. They like to go out and party once during the week (Myrtle Beach).

      Now, I wouldn’t call the family members heavy drinkers by any stretch. But these are HS and college buddies, and when they get together, they like to PARTY. And there was so much pressure to party with them. But I just don’t feel good when I drink a ton, and I had a 3-yo… My hubby was the designated driver.

      I think I had 3-4 drinks over the full night (4 hours?) We left long before everyone else. They kept buying me drinks even though I said “no”. So after the first two, I dumped them when they weren’t looking. You know it was a bar where you are standing at tables where there are discarded cups from the previous people, so when everyone was looking somewhere else, I just dumped it. Oh, they really thought they were going to get me hammered. Even 3-4 was too much for me.

      We left early and took another couple home (they weren’t drinking either, she was secretly pregnant). Then we went to Denny’s and had a snack and water to counteract the drinks. The next morning I woke up at 6 am (didn’t sleep well anyway… 2 drinks too many still), but ran on the beach and had the BEST run in a long time…4 miles at a great pace. I got back and the other girls were all sitting on the beach, covered in blankets, looking miserable. I fessed up to dumping the drinks and they got pissed that I wasted the money…I mean, I told you I didn’t want them. Your fault. They regretted not shutting themselves off earlier and eating some food.

      We were all late-30’s at the time…old enough to know better!

      • Danielle February 13, 2012, 11:39 pm

        Haha yeah, it sucks when you are “old enough to know better,” like you said. My heaviest drinking occurred when I went back to grad school after 2 years of working. The group of friends I met were fresh from undergrad and still wanted to party like it…and not wanting to get left behind, I went. I drank more in those first two months than I think I drank in the previous 4 years of college! I guess peer pressure can still have an affect in the right context.

  • Kenneth February 13, 2012, 8:24 am

    Like Lay’s potato chips, I find that I can’t just have one. I end up having too many. I had quit for four years, took it up again a couple of years ago, but quit again last July, 2011. I work out 5 days a week, and am experimenting with a 90 percent vegetarian diet after watching the Netflix streaming movie Forks over Knives. I feel great! I’m developing my Mustachian muscles in many different areas. I didn’t take a vacation last year, nor will I this year, because every spare dollar is going to pay down my mortgage. My spreadsheet shows a zero balance happening April 5, 2013, oh happy day! I don’t feel deprived in the slightest spending far less money than the average American, or drinking far less. Life is good, I’m 62 going to retire at 66 God willing. Thank you for being Mister Money Mustache, Mister Money Mustache! Love your blog!

  • Geek February 13, 2012, 9:33 am

    If you’re working on your ideal body type (dieting… although a diet is just what you eat, so wtf is it only dieting when you restrict?) then alcohol has a mega-impact compared to normal. Although it will make you hungrier.

    And a lot of people feel terrible the morning after drinking (emotionally and/or dragging physically) even if they aren’t ‘hung over’. So the utility of drinks may actually be negative (weight gain, morning depression vs. a few hours of tipsy goodness).

  • Tamara February 13, 2012, 9:34 am

    Very timely – my husband and I recently decided we would limit ourselves to opening one bottle of wine per week to ensure we continued to enjoy all there is to love about wine, yet didn’t become dependent on it. We open one bottle each Friday night to hasten in the weekend, and enjoy it slowly over the weekend till it is gone, usually by Sunday evening.

    We’ve given up ordering wine in restaurants and bars altogether. I was at a fancy restaurant for a business dinner some years back and saw our favorite bottle of wine, normally $28, listed at $105 on the wine list! Then my husband saw a bartender pouring $1.99 Charles Shaw wine into a glass at an $8.00 per glass holiday event. That was it for us . . . we haven’t ordered wine out since.

  • JR February 13, 2012, 9:37 am

    Our culture is so weird about alcohol that most people don’t know that moderate alcohol consumption has positive health benefits. This should not be used as an excuse to drink but there is some interesting information out there on the subject.

    • Mark February 28, 2012, 11:54 pm

      Yes, definitely worth mentioning that light drinkers live longer than those who do not drink at all. Yes, the fact is correlational, but I think it’s safe to say it’s not unhealthy to have a little alcohol.

  • Naomi February 13, 2012, 9:41 am

    I stopped drinking in September, mostly as a last-ditch effort to lose the stubborn bits of fat around my middle, but also as a way to save money. I have been partially successful…my body fat has decreased. But what I’ve found about going out with friends to bars and restaurants is that they still want to take the total check and divide it equally. So I end up subsidizing my friends’ drinks. Just last weekend we went to a bar for a birthday celebration and only had drinks. At the end of the night my friend whips out her phone and calculates how much we all owe, even though all I had was water. $20 per head. What do I say? I don’t want to be “that guy”.

    It has been surprisingly easy for me to stop drinking, especially as I have seen the fat melt away. The only thing I truly miss is red wine with dinner.

    • Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple February 13, 2012, 10:09 am

      Personally, I wouldn’t stand for it. Any real friends would understand if you didn’t want to pay for something you didn’t enjoy. And paying $20 to go to a bar and drink water? I wouldn’t have let you do that if I were there!

      • Mr. Money Mustache February 13, 2012, 11:14 am

        Yeah, don’t be shy about telling friends how much you owe at the restaurant. Nobody with a brain would feel good about you paying for THEIR drinks.

        I just casually look at the tab and say “OK, it looks like MY shit adds up to about ten bucks, so I’ll be generous and throw down fourteen to cover tax and tip. Then you guys can divide the rest.”

        As long as you don’t skimp on your share of covering any appetizers, tax, tip, etc., nobody will give you a hard time. If they do, just invite me to your next dinner and I’ll dole out some punches in the face as needed.

        • jaliscokid February 14, 2012, 6:55 pm

          I’ll drink a lot more than I would have when put in this situation. All my wife’s friends are wine drinkers. I could go either way. But just to get my money’s worth, I’ll get a nice Scotch!

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy SImple February 13, 2012, 11:24 am

      Oh, you totally need to be “that guy”. You had water. Offer to pay some of the tip.

      I worked with a guy who would want to divide the bill equally, even when some of us weren’t drinking and he had 3 beers. I didn’t stand for it. I’m not subisdizing your beer habit dude!

      • Jon February 13, 2012, 11:47 am

        >> I’m not subisdizing your beer habit dude!

        LOL. I need to remember that line.

    • Stashette February 14, 2012, 9:02 am

      Yeah, I’m pretty vocal about only paying my share, especially when I don’t drink and usually get inexpensive entrees. If it’s a special event (birthday, bachelorette party) I pay my share of the guest of honor’s meal/drinks, but I still don’t stand for an even split among the parties.

  • JaneMD February 13, 2012, 10:05 am

    I was in a sorority in college and there was a certain point of pride in how much you could drink or deliberately spending the whole day drunk. While that was never my bag, I had my share off too much ‘fun’ a few times. However, when I got to medical school and beyond, I never ever let myself get that intoxicated again. I recognized that all of my classmates where potential professional contacts and word travels fast in that type of circle.

    My husband and I now have regular Friday night dinner parties with a moderate drinking crowd. Between 6 or so adults, we’ll typically finish 1-2 bottles of wine or beer equivalent.

    Unless you are me, in which case, I am forced to exercise my ultra effective method of cutting out alcohol and caffeine – pregnancy.

  • Marcia February 13, 2012, 10:08 am

    This post really spoke to me. I am from a small town in western PA, and it’s a heavy drinking area – in some ways because there’s “nothing else to do”. My brother and sister closest to me in age don’t drink at all. If they have one drink a year, it’s a banner year.

    I live in So Cal, and I love my wine. Now, I do see a tendency to use it as a coping mechanism. I’ll have a half-glass a night. But when I’m stressed, that slowly turns to one glass (and two on weekends), and occasionally 1.5 glasses. I don’t like this tendency. That’s two bottles of wine a week, or about $20. So I’ll play games like “one bottle a week” – I can open a bottle on Friday or Saturday only, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

    Now, luckily, I’m pregnant, so I’m saving a lot of money on alcohol (of course, that’s not a good financial trade in the long run – LOL!) But I haven’t really gotten “crazy” in a long time. Despite others’ encouragement (most of my friends are non to light drinkers, but some coworkers are not), I just don’t want to go crazy. Headache, hangover – my almost-6-year old doesn’t care what I drank last night, he’s waking me up at 6:30 am.

    On a final (and sad) note, my mom spiraled into depression about a decade ago and started drinking heavily. The last few years, it was a bottle and a half of wine per day, and who knows how much whiskey. She became incredibly anti-social, lost her interest in life and food, and was becoming paranoid. She died just before Christmas of liver, kidney, and heart failure due to the drinking. At only 67. Very very sad. It’s a great reminder to me of why having the strength to control your intake and say “no” is better for your health, your mind, and your pocketbook.

    I’m also not a big fan of bars…I’d prefer to have friends over, cook, and open a bottle of good wine to share.

  • Howard Roark February 13, 2012, 10:54 am

    Great post. One thing I found very helpful in controlling my alcohol intake is keeping track. I am quite a weird fellow, and since 2005 I have counted ever single alcoholic beverage I had and recorded it in a spreadsheet. After 7 years and my neurotic tendencies to record weight, workouts ect, I have a pretty good idea of what affect drinking has on my life.

    Anyone ever think to record their drinking patterns?

  • Cass February 13, 2012, 11:01 am

    MMM, sounds like you’ll be starting Lent with us Catholics. This year I’ll be working on reducing my time spent in front of my computer (since I already consume <2 drinks/wk). This is mostly because I want to increase my time and focus spent in other areas (mainly, law school studies).
    Lent for Roman Catholics starts on Feb. 23 this year, and lasts for ~6 weeks.

  • Jon February 13, 2012, 11:16 am

    I rarely drink and have never tried illegal drugs. Just don’t have any desire to. I’m perfectly happy without them. As for drinking, I’m fine with getting a little tipsy at a party, but like you, I know when to stop and start drinking water instead.

    Coca Cola is my only addiction. Just one can a day, but I’d like to get rid of it completely.

  • Christine Wilson February 13, 2012, 11:23 am

    Some people have a natural tolerance for alcohol but I believe scientists have found these people the most likely to develop drinking problems. So I agree.. tolerance is not cool!

  • Bakari February 13, 2012, 11:57 am

    I never really got the appeal of booze or pot.

    Maybe because of how much acid I did in high school.

    Now there is a cost effective form of intoxication – one $5-10 tab provides 8-12 hours of completely out-of-your mind altered consciousness.
    Plus, in the final hours you often come to introspective realizations which (unlike the ones you have on pot) still seem profound the next day, and occasionally cause permanent real life changes in outlook or behavior.

    I probably did that 5 times before I ever tried had a drink of alcohol, and then I was like “this is it? what’s the point?”

    Then again, I never had any problem with inhibitions without the excuse of being drunk, so maybe that’s a factor too.

    Note to the Coast Guard: I haven’t done anything illegal in over a decade, and I admitted all this on my initial application and at MEPS.

    P.S. I am not actually advocating that anyone ever take illegal drugs. I’m just saying it is a very interesting experience, which if I had to do over, I’d have done again without question. Also, it is nearly impossible to detect after a day. just saying…

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 13, 2012, 1:05 pm

      Damn, Bakari – look at that Senior Mustachian image you have set up. Very nice!

      I agree that LSD is pretty neat too, but definitely not a good thing to overdose on!

      • Bakari February 13, 2012, 7:40 pm

        Thats not an image!
        That’s my real mustache.
        Although I admit that your mention of a mustache icon was what inspired me to make it into my new gravatar. I had 2 months between USCG drills, allowing me the most time to grow in 2 years.

        I wouldn’t even consider it a recreational drug – more like something to experience once or twice in a lifetime and then leave alone forever

  • M Jarvis February 13, 2012, 12:22 pm

    >>deep inside, we all know that any alcohol consumption is bad for us,

    I see your point, but what about all those studies we hear about where they say a glass of red wine is actually GOOD for you? Heck, a lot of people give their kids diluted red wine with dinner…

    If you are like me you enjoy having a pint glass in your hand at night. But I’m a homebrewer so I can make great tasting stuff that’s only 2.5% ABV – half that of Bud and even less than Bud Light…

    • Stashette February 14, 2012, 9:15 am

      For every study that shows a benefit to moderate alcohol comsumption (usually cardiovascular benefit), there is another that shows an increased risk. Breast cancer risk, for example, appears to increase even with low to moderate alcohol use. I don’t drink for personal reasons, and I’ve never had a physician try to sway me to start drinking for my health.

      Many studies are also flawed in that the non-drinking population contains many people with baseline medical problems and former alcoholics. The moderate-drinking population self-selects for people without alcohol abuse problems or medical conditions who may be healthier at baseline. Most people in the US drink, unless they have a specific reason not to, so the pool of healthy abstainers is small.

      Anyways, the “ideal” dose of alcohol studied for health appears to be only 1/2 a drink a day (or 1 drink every other day). Many people who laud the health benefits of alcohol consume far more than that. BUT, it looks like MMM will be pretty close to this level with his new goal.

      • Christine Wilson February 14, 2012, 9:34 am

        This is so true. Any doctor I’ve talked to thinks this new research about alcohol is good for you can be detrimental as it gives people a new excuse to drink “for health” when different studies are showing contradictory results. Skewed health baselines in populations of non-drinker vs drinkers is one example. A good salad, water and exercise will always do more for you than any drink can.

        Moderating consumption of alcohol is a needed step to ensure that the body does not become dependent. Saying that alcohol is “healthy” is confusing alcohol as a need. Alcohol is always a want. A strong individual is one that learns to abstain or moderate. And then grows a mustache. Good luck to me!

    • TLV February 15, 2012, 8:10 pm

      There’s at least one study out there that showed non-alcoholic grape juice has similar benefits to red wine. (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/62023.php for example). And I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a study linking other forms of alcohol to any health benefits, so it seems likely that most (if not all) of the beneficial effects of red wine are unrelated to the alcohol.

      Then again, the study favoring grape juice was probably commissioned by teetotalers like me.

  • Chris February 13, 2012, 12:47 pm

    Alcohol wrecks my body. Ever since I hit 30, it gives me a headache, causes me to wake up at 3:00am on the dot and not go back to sleep and gives me wicked hangovers the next day. I do love good vodka and beer, but, for whatever reason, it doesn’t like me.

    I’m starting to think that pot is a much better way to relax and let go a little every now and then. It’s a bit of a travesty that pot is still illegal. It’s fairly obvious to me that it’s big business and the pharmaceutical companies keeping it illegal. When’s the last time somebody died, went to the ER, or really had any other major complications from mild-moderate pot use-never from my research. I’m still in the military and can’t use it, but come retirement in 7 years-game on!

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 13, 2012, 1:03 pm

      I totally agree on the Marijuana issue – it is much healthier and less costly on a per-dose basis. One little $40 bag of the stuff will keep four grown men supplied in excess for an entire week, whereas even at $1 per beer, that budget is only good for 1-2 nights. And the hangover issue is pretty much eliminated. Not everyone gets the same thrill out of it, but I happen to be a fan myself. And it should definitely be legalized.

      The same rules of moderation would apply for Mustachians – don’t become a pothead and plan to use it once a week or less on average just to maintain discipline.

      • Enlightened February 13, 2012, 3:52 pm

        I just want to pile on to the marijuana advocacy coming through in these comments. With all of the incredibly negative events I have seen caused by alcohol and the overwhelming lack thereof with marijuana (or hallucengenics for that matter) it blows my mind that the former is legal while the latter not.

  • Ye Beneficial Bard February 13, 2012, 12:51 pm

    I whole-heartedly agree with your assertion : you could be even better.

    starting last year I have restricted myself to drinking between xmas and new year’s day. holidays with friends and family – that’s it! rest of the year? bettering myself – drinking can and does only work against these goals.

    I feel great and I’m not missing anything (and I used to drink a lot!).

    Ye Beneficial Bard

  • bethh February 13, 2012, 2:34 pm

    I like drinking, but am able to live in that middle ground of drinking some, but not too much. (I haven’t drunk to crazy excess in nearly 20 years.)

    I live in a part of the country with an extremely interesting cocktail scene, but I go out for drinks less than once a month, and only get one or two when I go. It’s just too expensive otherwise.

    Fortunately, I’m lucky to be friends with someone who has a crazy-stocked wine cellar and is always happy to share at various social gatherings – that’s a VERY wallet-friendly route to take!

  • Poor Student February 13, 2012, 2:37 pm

    There are people on my dorm floor who are at least pass $500 on booze so far, and that is a low ball estimate. Nobody around here seems to have as much money as they want but everybody as plenty to drink.

    There are misplaced priorities if you ask me. I like having fun as much as the next guy but knowing when to draw the line allows you to have fun without going overboard, avoid ruining the next day and leaves me a little scratch in my pocket.

  • Melanie February 13, 2012, 3:25 pm

    I’ve been reading your great blog for about 2 months now MMM, and I never thought my first reply would relate to booze, but here goes.

    I think that it is important to point out (as JR did here), that the marginal utility of alcohol is not just about the fun factor, but also about health. Just as you may opt to pay more for organic food, paying to enjoy and benefit from moderate alcohol use is also good for your health. Drinking red wine (or beer to a lesser extent) has been shown to reduce cardiac issues as we age and dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. While those who drink too much have the worst health outcomes, those who don’t drink at all are worse off than those who have their 1-2 of wine a night. So, I see my 1 glass of red wine most nights of the week (1-2 if you are a large man), as an expense for my health. (And at about a bottle a week, that is pretty close to MMM’s $9 booze allowance :)

    This is the first blog I’ve ever followed, and I’m really enjoying it MMM!

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 13, 2012, 4:21 pm

      Thanks Melanie and welcome!

      I’ve studied those alcohol studies somewhat, and the positive effects (from antioxidants, resveratrol, and quercetin) are pretty tiny. Compare them to the positive effects of adding a fresh dark green salad to a vegetable-deficient diet (which almost all of us have). The salad kicks the ass of the wine. Now compare them to the effect of adding a few extra minutes of weight lifting or even something easy like walking to your day. The exercise is MUCH more powerful than the wine. Plus the wine is high in empty calories (160 calories per 8 ounces, with no protein at all). For anyone with weight issues, these calories would be better spent on a high-protein snack.

      So it is true that wine may be a little bit good for you, and you should drink it if you enjoy it. But at $10 bucks a week, it’s an extremely expensive vitamin pill. I’d suggest that people with finite money should focus on the exercise and salads and a higher savings rate, rather than spending that much on wine. Brewing your own is also a good compromise, at about 1/3 the cost, as is the “Two Buck Chuck” line of $2/bottle wine at Trader Joe’s.

      • Jon February 13, 2012, 7:19 pm

        I came here to say that you’d be better off eating a salad than drinking red wine, and here you are already saying it!

  • Shanna February 13, 2012, 3:43 pm

    I think the rise in wine drinking has probably turned a lot of people into excessive drinkers and spenders. I think it has to do with the food pairing and brand comparing and the attitude “it’s JUST wine, it’s healthy!”

    For a family Thanksgiving of 36 people (not all of drinking age) everyone brought a bottle. If there were 10 bottles that is about $100 of wine between maybe 12 adults who indulge. That isn’t even counting the beer.

    I also read that the biggest rise in binge drinkers are over 60 years of age, I have totally seen this with baby boomers partying with their wine and food and thinking they are fancy when really they are as bad as beer gut dude who pounds down a half rack or case in front of the TV.

    The effects of moderate alcohol consumption are very subtle but extremely noticeble if you give it up completely. I have also given up coffee for an extended period of time and was amazed at the difference, which I did NOT think I would see. The quality of sleep even for someone who never drank past 3 pm was amazing not to mention the complete lack of hunger or munchies after dinner from the caffeine messing with my natural appetite. I simply felt uniterested in food after a healthy nutritarian type dinner. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. So alcohol and caffeine are just two sides of a coin of things that totally mess with your appetite and sleep.

    Very timely post for me MMM, I have just started today to cut caffeine to 1 a day and beer to 1 per weekend night. ::sob::sob::

  • Keith February 13, 2012, 4:21 pm

    When my wife was pregnant she cut out all alcohol except the occasional weak wine spritzer. To support her during this time I also mostly did the same. It took a little while to get used to. However now I find it a nice refreshing drink and a perfectly good substitute for anything stronger.

    Having a young family means that we don’t drink much anymore and we try to limit any drinking to weekends. There are those occasional hard-work weekdays where it’s nice to be able to have a drink or 2 to unwind. If we relax with wine spritzers instead of something stronger, then even if we have 2-3 glasses it’s barely a regular glass of wine.

    By limiting our drinking and by watering down our drinks, we both sleep better, we are more productive (I don’t know about anyone else but it’s mostly a waste of time for me to try and read or study after any real drinking), we are losing weight and we are saving a lot of money.

  • Dancedancekj February 13, 2012, 8:54 pm

    Due to a lovely genetic condition that equals a lack of alcohol dehydrogenase (the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde to acetic acid) I don’t drink. I tried drinking for special events in undergrad, and found I either got a hangover headache 1 hour after consumption, got super tired, or threw up (all this off of the equivalent of one drink/one beer/one wine cooler!) It’s known in some circles as the “Asian flush” syndrome (since the individuals also turn a beet red after consumption) I have since learned that Asian populations are at higher risk for esophageal cancer, and that alcohol consumption and the resulting “Asian flush” increases the risk by approximately 10x I believe.
    This has led me to be the person that goes out and doesn’t drink, ever. I never have to waste money on a cab, or inconveniencing another person by crashing at their place. I always have a ride home, and can also offer my inebriated friends rides as well (within a reasonable distance, of course). I love going out, because the only thing I usually pay is cover at the venue , and I have fun too, not bemoaning the fact that I’m not drunk enough for the situation or group.
    It also helps that I’m fairly social, and I am a pretty good dancer with low inhibitions, so people assume that I’m drunk when I’m out ;)

  • grover February 14, 2012, 12:30 am

    That “rollover beer” you mention in the footnotes… that’s when you wake up in the morning, roll over and just hafta have a drink to start the day, right?


  • MiniMe February 14, 2012, 12:43 am

    Read your site for the last few months and haven’t commented until now. From my perspective growing up in NZ I have to say this is your most badass article yet!! Good on you for evening broaching this as a topic. I went through the heavy social drinking/ partying at Uni but have since decided I just don’t get it. So have maybe a beer every couple months – I’m more than happy to be a silly twit sober so don’t feel like there’s much loss to me. As to drugs I’ve thankfully never been interested due to seeing people close to me have life wrecking side effects.
    I agree our society is a bit straight laced and the more people get happy getting loose under their own steam the happier a place it’ll be.

  • Lawrence February 14, 2012, 1:51 am

    I gave up drinking for good last December. This must be at least the tenth time I’ve “given up drinking for good” and I undertook this latest resolution with a good degree of self-skepticism.

    However a few days after starting the new program I happened to discover Jason Vale’s book “Kick the Drink – Easily” (http://amzn.to/wGr91p). This book had a profound effect on me. I now know that I will never knowingly consume another alcoholic drink in my life.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who is uncomfortable with their alcohol consumption, especially if you are, like I was, a moderate but regular drinker. It is written by a British person and has a UK bias but his message is put very clearly.

    Having adopted the mental approach that Vale advocates, I now look forward with enthusiasm to dinner parties and nights out drinking and dining with friends. I find all of these occasions joyful and enjoyable. Better still is the feeling of satisfaction I have the next morning, waking up crystal clear and ready fro the new day.

  • Kenneth February 14, 2012, 7:46 am

    It would be nice if the username and login we selected for the Forum might also be used to leave replies to MMM blog posts also!

  • Executioner February 14, 2012, 10:51 am

    One of life’s joys is racing home on the bicycle (after a day in the office) and then cracking open a nice cold homebrew. I rarely have more than one, and I never do it for the buzz. I drink it because it’s so damn tasty, especially on those hot, sweaty summer afternoons.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 14, 2012, 12:00 pm

      Agreed, Executioner. I’m already saving up my 2 rollover beers per week for this summer, since I’ll probably really want to drink more than two each week.

      After biking home from somewhere on a hot day, I started a new tradition of first drinking a good quart or so of cold water before having any beer. This helps my body separate the desire for beer, from the desire for cold liquid. Otherwise it would be easy to down three beers just because I’m thirsty, leading me to become drunk every time I went out for a bike errand on a hot day.

  • JaneMD February 14, 2012, 10:56 am

    While many people’s opinions vary on the whole pot legal vs illegal situation – right now it is illegal. Courting the potentially expensive consequences of arrest/reputation loss for some weed is not very Mustachian. Not really worth the risk. And some people are very susceptible to the ‘do nothing’ aspect of pot smoking – I had a roommate in college just like that while others did not seem affected.

    Somebody mentioned about alcohol in pregnancy – the US recommends zero alcohol during pregnancy because no one is sure how much it takes to cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Probably the most damage is done during the first trimester, but since we still aren’t sure, alcohol is considered a definite NO.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 14, 2012, 11:55 am

      Whoa there.. I’m going to have to override this attempted re-definition what is and is not Mustachian :-)

      I can see how someone in a sensitive profession like yourself would have cause for concern, so you have to watch yourself. Many of us, however, have much more self-guided lifestyles. I regularly shared marijuana with my fellow high-income engineering colleagues, and will never hide the fact that I like the plant, even from a potential employer.

      And here in Colorado, it is juuuuust about fully legal (there are now fully legal “medical” Marijuana stores in every town and city, complete with lounging couches and reggae music. These pair nicely with the special doctors who stamp out prescriptions for any illness you like).

      I think that certain obviously incorrect laws need to be broken openly to promote social change. I mean hell, some states still have anti-gay-people laws on the books. We don’t blindly follow them just because it’s “illegal” not to!

      • JaneMD February 14, 2012, 6:23 pm

        I don’ t have a dog in the fight about whether pot stays illegal or not. I am pointing out the risk you take on because it is a currently status. At many hospitals, your contract states you can be randomly drug tested – doctors, nurses, cafeteria workers, medical transcriptionists. Similar types of requirements are often placed on police officers, firefights, EMS dispatchers, city employees. I have even seen contracts that let you get random testing for smoking and being forced to sign a smoke free pledge before being employed.

        Do these infringe on your civil liberties? Absolutely. Is it bizarre that pot is treated as if its the equivalent of mainlining heroin? Yes. Should you be upset that ‘Big Brother’ can have that type of power? Probably. I’m just saying its out there and everyone needs to judge their risk based on their situation.

  • Mike Key February 14, 2012, 11:14 am

    Aren’t you a home brewer though? My wife and I have been wanting to go that route. We are not social drinkers or party drinkers, but we really enjoy well made beers and ales. Some like wine, we prefer beer.

  • KD February 14, 2012, 12:59 pm


    I knew there was a reason I disagreed with this post ;) Seriously though, I drink because I like the buzz and as a big guy (6’2″, 200 pounds) 2 beers is kinda a joke. However, to each their own I say and I can’t disagree with the weight loss or money aspect.

    • jaliscokid February 14, 2012, 7:02 pm

      Me too. I’m with you. Loves me some drinking!
      Gonna give it up for Lent, though. Also, trying to reach my fighting weight one last time in this lifetime.

  • Mr Mark February 16, 2012, 9:06 am

    This post may forment a schism in Mustachianism – moderate consumption of wine and other other mild intoxicants is one of the benefits of being ‘retired’!

    Our ‘house wine’ is an awesome Californian Merlot (it’s one of the few things we buy from Whole Foods, apart from eggs) that retails at just $33 a case.

    Having a few bottles of these a week, with me and the wife, is very nice. We don’t wake up with hangovers either – drinking lots of water is the key to avoiding those!

  • financial anarchist / aka palmera February 21, 2012, 11:26 pm

    this was an incredibly difficult post for me, as a problem drink on her way to ERE…but I really needed to hear (read) it.


  • stagleton February 25, 2012, 5:25 pm

    Living in Norway makes me think about this blog a lot. One cheap beer at a bar is over $13. I bought a good beer at a Christmas party and when I got the bill, it was $25. The country reminds me of the anti-mustachian society in Arizona. It’s so crazy how much money people spend here; as a result there are money making opportunities everywhere!

  • istanbul October 23, 2012, 12:53 pm

    Average Brit spend $60,000 for drinks. They can instead invest this sum in the stock market earning 5%real returns and end up with $90,000 in 30 years. Not shabby!!


  • Dan in Darwin September 29, 2015, 7:42 pm

    A beautifully balanced, well-written and thoughtful post here, MMM.

    I challenged myself to stop drinking for a year in 2015, and the difference has been amazing. I have saved so much more money than any previous year when I was boozing (a big night out every two to three weeks, too much and too often for me these days). After not drinking for a month each year for several years, I thought I would do a whole year.

    Whilst it isn’t yet 12 months (it’s September), the clarity of thought, fatness of my bank account, and the feeling of slapping the face of the social norms in Australian drinking culture is just so satisfying. And I am so much fitter.

    With the extra money I have saved, I am getting laser eye surgery to correct my vision permanently, which over a 10 year period will actually work out cheaper than what I was spending on contact lenses and glasses. So by taking off my beer goggles for a year, I am taking off my prescription goggles for life! Go Mustachism!

    I will drink again next year, but only when there is a real occasion to celebrate with booze, which is rarely.

    • Plastic Kiwi October 4, 2015, 3:07 am

      Good for you Dan! I’ve been to Darwin and couldn’t believe the wall-to-wall bars! I guess most people are hot n thirsty?!

      Personally I packed my lifetimes’ worth of drinking into my 20’s. Now I’m in my 40’s I don’t miss it at all.

      But I have discovered caffeine… I can only drink half strength or I get the shakes, one a day is what I have but increasingly feel it’s not enough!

  • Neomustachian February 14, 2017, 5:30 pm

    Hello MMM, I’ve recently discovered your website and I love it, I’ve been binging on it for a week! This blogpost is by far my favorite. I believe I qualify as a master of self deception and this post was a much needed punch in my mouth … thank you! You wrote this post 5 years ago …. have you written any other posts about alcohol consumption more recently? I’m curious to hear your current thoughts on the subject and if you’re still limiting yourself to 2 drinks per week. Thank you sir, you’ve changed my life!

  • Lifetap February 18, 2021, 2:59 pm

    Amen! 🍻


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