Turns out it IS possible to go one month without alcohol

bar

Well that was easier than I thought.

Just over a month ago, I wrote here about how I was gonna try not to drink alcohol during February.

Its been a fascinating experience. When I first started, it honestly felt like this could be one of the harder challenges that I’ve set myself.

And that’s not because all the others have been easy. For example, I ran a marathon without training for it. Although that felt hard in the moment, it was all over in 4 and a bit hours. Could I last for 1 month?

Well…as it turns out, yes! The interesting thing is that it gets easier as you go on. If you are a rational sort of person (and you probably are) you might think that going 28 days without alcohol would be 28 times harder than going 1 day without.

But no! Drinking alcohol is a habit that we get into. And if we get into it, we can get out of it. It was hard the first week but after that it just got easier and easier. By the end of the month, I had fallen out of the habit and wasn’t really missing it at all. If someone turned round to me today and said that I wouldn’t be able to drink for another month, I’d be fine.

lose-weight-photoshop-class

Not actual photo of The Escape Artist

I felt great and, as a bonus, was able to eat as much as I wanted and still shed some fat.

Having said that, there was one big challenge. I hadn’t realised that Dry February clashed with our winter sun holiday. To make things interesting, this was one of those all-inclusive holidays with as much free food and drink as you can hold.

The Escape Artist is British. And, if you are British, it is basically good manners to drink as much alcohol as possible when the sun comes out. And when the booze is free…well that’s good personal finance as well….am I right?

The Escape Artist did not get to where he is today by leaving £5 / $5 / €5 notes lying on the floor. Nor by turning down free food and drink. So imagine my inner turmoil when the sun is shining, I’m stood in front of a free bar…and, oh no, its Dry February!

But, in the face of this temptation, I reminded myself of my commitment to you, dear reader, and I went to the gym instead.

I often use analogies to bring personal finance to life. But sometimes I think The Escape Artist might be too subtle…so I’m gonna spell this one out for you:

If I can go without alcohol for a month…even in a free bar…then YOU can go a month without buying any shit

For the avoidance of doubt, the items below count as shit:

  • Plasma screen TVs
  • Curtains / cushions / drapes / doilies
  • Ab-rollers
  • Sports Utility Vehicles
  • Anything on cable TV shopping channels
  • Chicken MuckNuggets
  • Designer toilet seats

If you are thinking of buying something and are in any doubt as to whether your purchase counts as a valuable investment or spending on shit, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll let you know.

Now, at the risk of annoying alcoholics, I’m going to suggest that one month without alcohol has changed me for the better. And I’m not just talking about my abs. I’m going to propose that The Escape Artist is slightly less of a dick than he was before the challenge.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still quite capable of being wrong / annoying / egotistical [insert your favourite criticism of The Escape Artist here]. But I’m a little bit better than I was before. My willpower is stronger and my habits are better. These are things that power your frugality muscles.

Some of you will no doubt be enthusiastically agreeing that The Escape Artist is a bit of a dick sometimes. But I invite you to at least consider the possibility that you too are a bit of a dick sometimes. If you’re human, it kinda goes with the territory. 😉

On this note of humility, I want to talk about complaining.

It’s so easy to complain. Its so common we often don’t even realise that we’re doing it. And it would be nice to pretend that we in the world of Financial Independence are immune from this.

Someone-is-wrong-on-internet

Sadly that’s not the case, as revealed by a quick glance at the comments section of any popular website. Mr Money Mustache wrote about this in his brilliant post: Can we all stop this fucking moaning about our government?

To get rich you must focus on what you can control (or at least influence). You should ignore pretty much everything else…especially The News.

All moaning, complaining and whinging takes time and energy. These are scarce resources. Every minute that you spend writing an angry complaint on the internet is a minute that you’re not sorting your pension out or working on that looming deadline.

Most of the time, the real problem is with the person complaining. Many angry commenters are suffering from low level anxiety or depression that could be fixed simply with better diet, more exercise and sleep. Pro tip: not having a hangover helps!

So one key takeaway from all this is:

Put your own house in order before criticising the world

There are many things about the world that The Escape Artist is not particularly overjoyed with. These might include:

  1. Donald Trumps’s haircut
  2. Jeremy Corbyn’s…errr….stewardship of The Labour Party
  3. The way the human race is destroying our environment
  4. The way that many offices have become soulless factories of mind control, health and safety, political correctness and general bullshit
  5. etc etc

Sadly, The Universe doesn’t give a shit about my feelings on all these. But I can put my own house in order before criticising the world.

  • I can’t do anything about Donald Trump’s hair, but I can stop drinking for a month.
  • I can’t stop Jeremy Corbyn destroying The Labour Party but I can read to my children
  • I can’t stop logging in The Amazon rainforest but I can encourage people to buy less shit
  • I can’t stop the forces of political correctness from squeezing out humour from the workplace…but I can crack some risque jokes on my own website.

Are you starting to see the pattern here?

The veteran American writer P J O’Rourke has spent many years observing political posturing and whiney behaviour (both as a journalist and parent). He draws a parallel between political activists and his teenage children in this neat quote:

Everyone wants to save the world…no one wants to help with the washing up

I’ll repeat.  Get your own shit together before criticising the rest of the world.  Personal finance is basically self-improvement. If you look at Mr Money Mustache, that’s a self-improvement blog with a money theme. Same with The ChooseFI podcast.

When we FI seekers cut down our spending, what’s really going on? It’s a mixture of delaying gratification, applying reason over kneejerk emotion, mindfulness and living intentionally. This is all self-improvement.

When we boost our income, it’s a mixture of working harder, delaying gratification, becoming more creative, taking more intelligent risks, being more resilient, being better with other people. This is all self-improvement.

When we learn to invest better, it’s a mixture of learning, delaying gratification, applying reason over kneejerk emotion. Did I mention that this is all self-improvement??

If you think that personal finance is about life insurance, PPI, endowment policies and all the other nonsense, then you’re looking at it wrong. You don’t need any of that. It’s all a distraction from doing what matters: earning more, spending less and investing the difference wisely.

I’ll let you into a secret now.

My article Is It Even Possible To Go One Month Without Alcohol? was not just about drinking. It was also about how to avoid fundamentalist dogma, false certainties and moral righteousness

This blog describes how I see the world…its my truth. I don’t mean that my way is The Only Way. You are allowed to see the world differently (you are also allowed to be poor).

We’ve already established that The Escape Artist is not Mother Theresa and is not perfect. So, to wrap up with the alcohol theme, I’ll finish with the immortal words of Tucker Max:

I hope they serve beer in hell.


Meet-up Thursday 15 March in London

COY2

There is a Financial Independence London Facebook Group meet-up on Thursday March 15 in The Cittie of Yorke Pub, Holborn from 6pm onwards.

You are welcome to come along and meet other FI-seekers (who will all be lovely people) in the real world! Hope to see you there. 🙂

26 comments

  1. I said to my teenage daughter the quote by P J O Rourke “….No one wants to do the washing up” and in spontaneous passioned voice shouts back …Because it’s a waste of water! 😄

    1. ha-ha…classic teenager response!

  2. Survivor · · Reply

    We who are alive today are definitely somewhere on the feeling privileged spectrum, personal responsibility has been rinsed out of us by the various, powerful, mass-opinion influencers, so that really we are all under the ‘L’oreal generation’ umbrella when it comes to entitlement. [cos we’re worth it, innit? …..end of. No explanation required]

    We expect to feel happy all of the time, complain when we can’t afford the things we want but didn’t earn & so don’t deserve …….& take for granted priceless gifts that we have never known not having – living in eternal peace for example, vs having the misfortune to be born in a weak oil-producing country everyone else fights over.

    At the end of the day, it’s because it’s easier to just complain than to think or do for yourself…..

  3. Well done on lasting the month out….will this now be an annual occurrence?

    Now you mention doilies, just what my living room needs!

    1. Thank you!…I’m now wondering whether to do it regularly…not sure yet…will report back 🙂

  4. I hope they serve beer in hell, not heaven, because that’s where I am going to end up😜
    But cheers to your blog!
    Fascinating.👍

    1. Thanks Sanjana…maybe I’ll see you there?! 🙂

      1. I hope so😋

  5. Fatbritabroad · · Reply

    Ahh I’d have come to the the fi meet up but I’m skiing. Travel is never a waste of money imo!
    I hadn’t realised mmm was in colorado my dad use to live there (I’m British). One of my favourite places in the world. Just beautiful

  6. I read your third bullet point as: I can’t stop logging on to Amazon! Perhaps I have a problem?

    And think I read somewhere that Hitler didn’t drink…

    1. Trump doesn’t drink either… The similarities are endless.. 🙂

      Well done TEA on the dry Feb. I did dry January ages ago and felt moderately better for it. I also did a month without (added) sugar (i.e. fruit ok, cake or processed food not. And found that actually made me feel far better than the no alcohol month. I would say to try it but I think you probably already eat far more healthy than I do anyway so you might not notice all that much different. I should try it again soon as I’m basically back to being a sugar addict again… Haha.

  7. You must have amazing willpower. There is no way I could have gone on an all inclusive and resisted the alcohol. Well done.
    I tend to have mini-breaks when abstaining from alcohol (4-5 days), but generally my consumption is little and often!

  8. I often find it is easier to remove habits than improve ones you already have.

  9. Debbie · · Reply

    On a slightly different note, it just so happens I am reading a science/medical based book on Alcoholism, “Under the Influence: A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism” I’m a medical professional in a hospital so work-related. It is rather fascinating the cellular difference between people who can drink and an alcoholic.

    Bravo to you for sticking to it on vacation. I would have wanted a drink poolside and glass of wine with dinner. In general, think it is a good idea to look at our habits and see what they cost us. I need to take a month off of playing on the Internet at night to get more sleep. 6 hours just isn’t enough and I know is taking a toll physically but there I am reading and playing every night.

    Recently discovered your blog via another financial blog. Can’t remember which one. Wish I was in London to join the meetup.

  10. i don’t recycle. it cuts into the cocktail hour – pj o’rourke.

    i drank up your feb. share as somebody has to carry the weight.

    1. Thank God you were here 😉

  11. I have been thinking about spending and I figured out what we spend perhaps reflect what sort of values or principles we have. If you spend on alcohol, perhaps you value drinking as a culture or psychosocial drug. If you buy a car, perhaps you value the convenience and ability to go further and to places that walking or public transport allows. If you pay for a holiday, perhaps you value culture and gaining new experiences. There is no right or wrong, it’s just each and every person’s individual measure of value and worth of a thing, activity or investment.

    I had a dilemma recently of whether to travel to visit and meet my sister (who lives far away in Australia and who I don’t get to meet often) in Europe in the next couple of week, but the costs (travel time and monetary) is too much for me to bear for the amount of time I would be able to spend with her (just 1 day), hence I forfeited the opportunity. These decisions can still be difficult for me, especially when we talk about spending on relationships and people as my measure on this is still sketchy. Money is not the only currency we spend, perhaps time and effort is of value as well. Identifying the value we put on what we spend on can perhaps illuminate our reasons on spending on it, especially on things that truely make us happy, because happiness is the only logical pursuit.

    I agree, it gets easier with time as we make it a habit.

    FIREplanter

    1. There’s no doubt that our spending reflects our values and principles…to me that’s clear…here are some of mine:

      People > stuff
      Experiences > stuff
      Freedom > stuff

  12. Thanks so much for the cultural tip:
    The Escape Artist is British. And, if you are British, it is basically good manners to drink as much alcohol as possible when the sun comes out.
    This cracks me up!

  13. Well done on the Dry February! You’re definitely right about it being a habit and it’s surprisingly easy to kick it if you can stick out the first week. I had an enforced Dry Three Years a while back due to pregnancy/babies so I figure I’ve done my bit. The not drinking alcohol / not buying shit is a good comparison. Once you become aware of the benefits of not buying shit the whole thing becomes pretty easy. I like your positive attitude about not whining too!

    1. Ha-ha… thanks! Sounds like you’ve definitely done your bit

  14. kupo707 · · Reply

    TVs are not shit!
    As long as you’re not buying a new one every year or two, I think they’re very good value for entertainment. (and having a huge one gives you an excuse to bring friends over regularly)

    On the topic of alcohol, I’ve been drinking much less since I starting driving to the pub, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much. It’s surprisingly easy to forget that you’re sober if everyone else around you is getting drunk. And it saves a bunch of money too.

  15. Thanks to a challenge on the Choose FI podcast I took up a challenge of 6 months without alcohol. A Canadian without beer is like a day without sunshine 😦 I really hate it but I’m determined to last it. July 1st is Canada Day so I think it will be a beer day.
    Great post. Thanks.

  16. @FitFunemployed · · Reply

    I’ve drunk maybe 20-30 units of alcohol in total since I was 18/19 (mainly glasses of fizz at social occasions when I don’t have the energy to have a “why don’t you drink?” conversation) – I’m 34 now. Reading this post had me imagining what it would be like to have a “wet February”. Like Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me with booze. On reflection I don’t think it’s a challenge I’ll set myself 😀 .

  17. Congrats on your dry Feb, I look forward to seeing what other challenges you get up to!

    Totally unrelated question TEA…

    Gym memberships…I’ve moved to a new area with a swish health club charging 110per month membership for myself and the wife. I will certainly be signing the wife up to off-peak at 45per month worst case – she has a health condition which swimming helps and it’s the only nearby pool. I could get a membership elsewhere for 20 a month…so considerably reduced spend each month, though we’re pretty frugal in general.

    On the plus side, the health club is in the local community, it’s near the house so easy weekend visits compared to my alternative gym beside work, some time with the wife on weekend sessions. The downside is the phenomenal cost, that’s about it.

    Penny for your thoughts or do I just deserve a punch in the face?

    Cheers

  18. slackinv · · Reply

    Hats Off … Escape Artist … It is good to challenge yourself .. the declining of the pre-paid drinks would have tested me though … I really enjoy your blog, you are smart and brave!

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