We all have our vices. In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that people are indulging more in their vices right now due to the low-grade (but persistent) anxiety of the shelter-in-place period we find ourselves in as a society. People seek something to take the edge off. It’s understandable. However, some vices come with negative consequences. Many vices lead to a negative impact on our relationships, our health, and/or our finances. Financial vices can end up having particularly big consequences.
The Cost of Drinking
Take a look at the list of essential businesses that are allowed to stay open during the shelter-in-place order. You will discover that liquor stores are on the list. It is debatable whether or not their services are “essential.” Nevertheless, a large percentage of people spend a pretty penny on regular consumption of alcohol.
I’ll confess that this is one of my personal financial vices. I drink wine with dinner on most days. After a trip to Portugal last year, I’ve become particularly fond of Port. Port isn’t cheap. Plus, I like expensive bourbon for the occasional boulevardier. Personally, I’m not spending any more on alcohol now than I did before the coronavirus shutdown. That’s because I tend to buy pricey cocktails when bars are open and now I’m replacing that with wine bottles in the same price range. That said, I’m not earning as much right now as before, so continuing to spend money on alcohol is arguably one of my financial vices.
Alcohol comes with costs beyond the financial, of course. There are health concerns, particularly for people with a history of alcohol misuse, a compromised liver, and other specific issues. If drinking goes beyond a vice into an addiction, then there are potential costs to relationships, work, and other key aspects of life. If that addiction requires treatment, the financial costs can become astronomical.
Of course, not all drinking is problematic drinking. It’s just important to be aware of the risks if this is one of your financial vices. Giving up alcohol can save you a lot of money. However, if you don’t want to do that, you may consider reducing your consumption. You may opt to purchase less-expensive alcohol or buy it in bulk to save money. Notice the impact of your drinking on your finances and your health so that you can make the best choice for you.
The Cost of Smoking
Personally, I’ve never been a smoker. However, I have known many people who are, and the number one thing that they complain about is how much it costs them every month. That cost varies depending on where you live and how much you smoke. A pack of cigarettes typically costs between $5 and $10. Even on the low end, if you smoke one pack per day, that’s $35 per week or more than $1800 per year. But, the cost of cigarettes themselves isn’t the major expense. There are a ton of others:
Increased Life Insurance Costs : Smokers are more likely to die young and therefore have to pay more for life insurance.
Health Insurance: Smokers have more medical problems and this risk is reflected in their higher medical insurance premiums.
Health Care: Since smokers are frequently less healthy than non-smokers, they have higher health care costs.
Medications: Because smokers have more medical problems, they also tend to pay more for prescription medicine.
Home Owner’s Insurance: Smokers are more likely to burn down their house and this risk is reflected in higher home owner’s insurance costs.
Value of the House & Possessions: Not only is smoking a financial vice, it leaves a bad smell in housing, furniture and cars, thus decreasing their value to potential buyers.
Car Insurance: Smokers have higher risk of getting into a car accident than non smokers and accordingly pay more for insurance.
Earn Less Money: Studies have found that smokers earn between 4% to 11% less than non-smokers. Also, because smokers earn less money, they receive lower social security and pension benefits.
Cost of Cleaning: Smokers have to spend more to keep their clothes, houses and cars clean.
Giving up cigarettes is one way to save yourself a lot of health concerns and a nice chunk of money. Some people don’t want to give up tobacco completely, of course. If cigarettes are one of your financial vices, you might want to switch to something like snus, a Swedish smokeless tobacco that has fewer health risks than cigarettes.
The Cost of Online Shopping
I was never a big shopper. First of all, I don’t like malls. Moreover, I can’t afford the boutique stores in my neighborhood. While I do have a fondness for antique stores and thrift shops, I don’t generally feel the urge to go buy a bunch of things from them. And yet, over the years, one of the financial vices that I’ve developed is online shopping. It’s just so easy these days! Find anything you want online, click a button, and it’s delivered to your door – sometimes on the very same day!
There are a lot of reasons I regret that this is one of my financial vices. The cost is the obvious reason. I engage in impulse buys for things that I don’t need. I fail to do a cost comparison. Often, I find myself shopping from big brand stores when I’d rather support independent, local businesses. It’s a habit that I’m personally working on breaking.
And yet, right now, when most stores are closed and the ones that are open have long lines, I don’t find myself particularly inclined to give up this vice. Instead, I’m simply trying to curb it. The best trick I know is to put things in an online cart but require myself to wait at least 24 hours – preferably longer – before reviewing the cart and clicking to make the purchase. Often this time delay gives me the perspective to realize that I don’t need to make the purchase after all. Other people block the sites they are most likely to use for shopping or make sure that their credit card info isn’t stored on their computers. Whatever trick you can implement to reduce unnecessary online shopping is good for your bottom line.
Other Common Financial Vices
Drinking, smoking, and online shopping are the financial vices that I see cropping up time and time again. However, there are so many different vices in the world, and plenty of them can compromise your finances. Here are some of the other common financial vices people tend to indulge in:
Expensive Food Habits
People spend money on fast food, which is bad for health and can easily add up in costs as well. People also spend money on coffee drinks, pastries to go, and expensive dinners. Is this one of your vices? I find it easy to justify high food costs for my health but when I look more closely, I see that often this is just an excuse to spend more than I should on food that isn’t actually the best for me.
Marijuana and Other Drugs
Just like with alcohol and cigarettes, marijuana and other drugs can be high-cost financial vices. Recreational use is legal here in California, and I’ve seen firsthand how quickly the tab adds up when you shop for THC/CBD products here.
This used to be one of my financial vices. I would always say, “I know that I probably won’t win but a dollar isn’t so much to spend for that beautiful moment of hope that I might.” However, I rarely spent “just a dollar.” I would often buy multiple tickets for the same drawing. There are several drawings per week. Then there are the scratchers. It’s easy to spend a lot of money on lottery tickets in the hopes of getting more money in return. It rarely works out that way.
Gambling and Other Behavioral Addictions
Of course, the lottery is a form of gambling. Gambling can take many other forms as well, some of which can be much pricier than Lotto tickets. While some people gamble for fun and can quit anytime, other people develop an addiction to gambling. This is one of several behavioral addictions. Online gaming, internet addiction, and various forms of sexual addiction are also behavioral addictions (or compulsive behaviors in people whose problematic behavior doesn’t rise to the level of addiction.) Any of these can cost you financially, compromise your health, and impact your relationships.
What are your most expensive vices? How do you feel about giving them up?