While eliminating our vices altogether would certainly benefit our budgets, for many of us the downsides of giving up things we love (or are simply addicted to) outweigh the benefits of bidding them farewell. There are certain things that are a nearly universal expense for most of you reading this, including shelter, utilities, food, and medical care, among others. And then there are the myriad ‘other’ things we spend money on, which can vary quite a bit from person to person. These would include clothing, furniture, entertainment, travel, and countless other things, including what can collectively fall under the category of vices.
What Do I Define as Vices?
To me, a vice is something that we engage in even though it carries some negative aspects, be they physical, emotional, financial, or any combination of the 3. So why do we continue to serve these vices? Usually, it’s because the pleasure they bring is more important to us than the downsides, because we have made these things an integral aspect of our daily lives, or are potentially even addicted to them. Vices can include everything from a toxic relationship to gambling, but I think the ‘big 3’ most common vices in America are likely cigarettes, alcohol, and coffee. And as luck would have it, all 3 of these things can easily sabotage your budget. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of more cost-effective alternatives for those of you who aren’t ready to abandon these vices entirely, but are ready to try something new in the name of savings.
To give an example of what you’ll get for your money, I checked out 21stCenturySmoke.com. They offer a wide variety of e cigarette products, so I chose the one that looked like what I imagine most people would start with – the Electronic Cigarette Super Kit Box. This is currently on sale for $11.99, and includes a wall charger, 2 rechargeable batteries, and 6 e cig cartridges, with each cartridge equating to about 2 packs of regular cigarettes. If we consider those 6 cartridges to be 12 packs of cigarettes, the cost for each pack would break down to $1 per pack. With regular cigarette prices per pack being higher than $10 in many locations across the country, this certainly offers a more cost-effective alternative.
The Vice: Cigarettes
The Budget-Friendlier Alternative: E Cigs
I’m not a smoker myself, and I’m not an expert on e cigs, but what I do have an increasingly firmer grasp on is smart budgeting. And with that in mind, and a little research, I can say with reasonable certainty that electronic cigarettes make for a much cheaper vice than traditional cigarettes. Would I encourage anyone to use them who isn’t already a smoker? Absolutely not! But if you are a smoker, and are looking for a way to satisfy your nicotine cravings for less cash, you might want to consider e cigs.
The Vice: Beer and Wine
The Budget Friendlier Alternatives: Home Brews and Boxed Wines
Thinking back on my childhood, it seemed there were only a few brands of beer. When we had parties at our house, the options included Genesee and Pabst Blue Ribbon. The adults who wanted a beer chose between the two, and very little was said about it. As far as I could tell back then, beer was beer, plain and simple. As for today? I’ve witnessed people spend entire parties talking about nothing but the beer they were drinking! Who knew there were so many subtle nuances to consider?
You will still find plenty of people who are open to drinking whatever beer is available without issue or complaint. But for true beer aficionados, even a very occasional beer drinking habit can prove costly. While wine was always considered the more expensive drink when I was younger, on the drink menus of today it is increasingly more common to see specialty brews whose price per glass far surpasses many of the wines. If you are among those beer drinkers whose palate has been refined and a simple PBR will never satisfy again, consider trying your hand at brewing your own beer. Not only will you save money and get to tinker with the flavor until it’s just right, but it can also be a fun, budget-friendly activity you share with your friends or significant other.
More interested in wine than beer? If you haven’t already given up the bottle in favor of the box, do yourself a favor and give it a try! There is a certain stigma attached to boxed wine that at least in my experience is undeserved. In fact, I find most boxed wines I’ve tried to be quite enjoyable. In addition to being cheaper than most bottled wines, boxed wines can keep fresh in the refrigerator for a much longer time, making them a smart choice for those who might only want one glass at a time.
The Vice: Coffee House Coffee
The Budget-Friendlier Alternative: Invest in a French Press
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about coffee over the years, it is that you truly do often get what you pay for. Are most coffee house coffees way too expensive? They sure are! But usually they are also very tasty, which keeps people coming back time and again. So what are you to do if you simply aren’t willing to sacrifice rich, fresh flavor in the name of your budget? My top recommendation is that you invest in a French press.
A quality French press coffee maker can range quite a bit in price, but generally speaking you can find a nice-sized option for about $20. If you aren’t familiar with a French press, their operation is quite simple. Start with a clean carafe, add the desired amount of coffee grounds, fill with hot water and gently stir, allow it to steep for at least 4 minutes, and slowly lower the plunger, forcing the grounds to the bottom of the press. All that’s left to do after that is carefully pour one of the best cups of coffee you’ve ever enjoyed!
Do any of you have experience with e cigs, home-brewed beer, boxed wine, or French press coffee? I’d love to hear your take in the comments.