I read an interesting guest post by Jacob from iHeartBudgets at Budgets are Sexy the other day which was a look at how much money he had earned and spent throughout his entire life, and then comparing it to his net worth. The upshot was that his net worth was a meagre 15% of the total amount of money that he’d earnt or otherwise received! Naturally this got me thinking about the money I’ve spent during my lifetime, and I’m sad to say that my net worth as a percentage would be even lower than that right now (13% with a very rough estimate).

The perhaps even sadder thing is that I’ve been relatively well behaved in the personal finance stakes, never carrying a credit card balance for any significant amount time, never even financing a car.

So how come I’m not stinking rich by now, I hear you ask?

Well, I could moan about the low wages and economy and stuff like that, but it really just boils down to the first law of personal finance: I’ve spent all of the money I’ve earned, simple as that. I’ve been good at saving up throughout my years, but ultimately it has all been spent on unproductive assets (apart from the deposit for the flat, plus mortgage payments, you might argue). I then thought of some more questions:

  • What have I spent actually it on?!
  • Could you consider any of the spending particularly wasteful?
  • If I hadn’t spent that “wasted” money and invested it instead how much would it be worth today?
  • How much percentage would my current net worth be increased by?

Where’s it gone?

Travel? Yea I’ve spent a lot on travel, but the experiences I have had impacted me in such a positive way I think they were totally worth it. That was not wasteful in any way, in my opinion.

Getting Married? Again… it was a lot but I wouldn’t consider this a waste.

I was having trouble thinking of something, somewhere, I might have been able to actually save some cash and put it into investments, then around that same time this article from Stephen at the Simple Economist (which is well worth a read as well by the way!) popped into my inbox and the answer hit me square in the face like a flaming tequila at 2am.


Yes the old moonshine my friends. I’ve had my fair share of the stuff. I’ve been drunk, pissed, wasted, trolleyed, hammered and gazebo’d more times than I care to remember can actually remember. I will offer no excuses as the only one I could really come up with is “everyone else was doing it” which is no excuse whatsover. But considering that I came of age when the terms “Binge Drinking” and “Booze Britain” were coined, the drinking culture was clearly as pervasive throughout young society as any times previous. Did I really ever stand a chance? 🙂

As Stephen points out in his article, alcohol doesn’t bring you too much on the positive side of the holistic balance sheet, so I think out of all spending categories, this fairly described as the biggest waste of money in my life. So let’s find out the damage, and find out what my net worth could have been if I were a tee-totaller.

0-15 years

Easy one to start of with. A big fat zero.

16-17 years

I somehow managed to get into a few pubs and clubs despite looking about the age of 12, so started my life long habit of spending money on booze. Ten pounds back then could get me wasted and I used to earn about £30 a week in my part time job, I’d say at least a third of that went straight up against the wall so let’s call it a round £500 a year

Running Total: £1000

18-19 years

At the age of 17 I got a better job (It was selling computers, very lucrative just before the dot com bubble burst!), and at 18 I left school to go full time for one year. I could do the job with a hangover pretty well so it didn’t stop me going out 3-4 times per week. Midweek nights were cheap, maybe £20, but weekends I could drop up to £100 if we went out “on a big one” up to London or something like that, although that obviously was not all on alcohol. Average weekly spending was probably £100 on the actual alcohol. Let’s round it to £5K a year

Running Total: £11,000 (Eep!)

20-22 years

I went to university! So the full time income obviously dropped like a lead balloon. However I’d saved up a fair bit from working for a year and decided to make use of a student loan as well, plus working during the summer enabled me to continue to spend a fair bit on the amber nectar. Things were cheaper with student nights and discounts, but on average I’d imagine I spent around £50 a week on the devils water. So three years of that tots up to a nice fat £8,000 slightly rounded up.

Running Total £19,000 (Gadzooks laddie!)

23-25 years

I got a full time job fairly soon after leaving University (Yay!) but there seemed to be a bit of a booze culture at this new company (Booo! Although I wasn’t complaining at the time obviously). On average I probably only went out 2 times a week in this period, but being based in London, everything was a lot more expensive. I would say I easily spent £400 a month going out each month during this period, as that is what used to allocate for myself in my half-ass budget back then. There wasn’t much fine dining, bowling, cinema or any other non booze related activities included in that figure, so let’s say £350 per month of that was going straight into giving my long suffering liver a bloody good kicking. Per year that’s £4,200 and £12,600 for the full three years.

Running Total £31,600 (*Eyes pop out! Liver whimpers!*)

26-32 years (i.e. to present)

I met Mrs TFS when I was 26 so I am going to lump this period of my life together, as gradually we started to do coupley type things as our relationship became more serious, which generally involved slightly less drinking. But not that much! What can I say, we both like to party. Anyway at some point I started to do a more serious budget and our “Going out” budget became £400, but now this was for both of us. So over time I’ve pretty much halved my expenditure on alcohol. It was more at the start of this period and less now, so I think it’s fair to average it out at £150 per month over the whole period.
That’s £1,800 per year, I am going to round this up to £2000 though because of a few holidays here and there, and because it sounds like too low an initial estimate. So we have £14,000 for this total period.

Final Total £45,600

Man alive! That is a lot of cash to have spent purely on a liquid based form of entertainment. The real figure may be even higher, especially considering some of the extra expenses I would have paid that seem to go hand in hand with drinking alcohol such as club entry fees, kebab at the end of the night 😉 etc… Overall I think that is a pretty good estimate of what I have spent purely on the liquor itself.

Now for the final peice of the puzzle: What would have happened if I’d invested this into stocks and shares? How much closer to FI would I be right now? Or would I already be sipping champagne on the beach tea in my flat rather than on the train to work as I type this.

I’ve made the following assumptions and methods when calculating the figure:

  • Assume a lump sum on January 1st of each year with the preceding years “savings” from not drinking alcohol.
  • Assume all savings are in a tax wrapped ISA so all capital gains remain untouched by the tax man.
  • Assume Dividends are paid at 3%, and expenses are 1% to be on the high side*. These are paid and deducted yearly also. The remaining 2% is reinvested immediatley.
  • I will take the yearly rise or fall of the FTSE 100 and recalculate the portfolio value every year.

I made a spread sheet to do the calculations, if you are a geek like me and want to have a look you can view it here: Yes I am a geek!

If you don’t want to bother looking at it then no worries, the final figure of the portfolio would have been:


At 4% draw down this would currently be producing a yearly income of £2353 and a monthly income of £213 – all tax free of course. Ok, so I still wouldn’t be financially independent yet, but I’d be a hell of a lot nearer, and my net worth would have been over 330% higher compared to what it is right now!


The lesson here is not that you should never drink alcohol. It’s not even that we should look back on life and regret what money you have spent on things that you no longer think are worth it. People change and with them so do their priorities, no big deal.

Realistically I’m not even going to cut out alcohol entirely like the Simple Economist has done (massive respect to him for doing so though!), but I’m looking at my current £2000 a year figure and thinking I could easily half that with no determinable difference to the amount of fun I have in my life.

So the lesson here is simply that whatever your level of spending and no matter how frugal you think you are, there is always something in your budget that you can identify as wasteful spending. Maybe if I was a tee-totaller I would have spent all of my money of collectable Star Wars action figures? Or DVD’s and music? Who knows? The point is to work out where your money is going down the drain and where you can put the plugs in most effectively.

A good excercise is to look at your budget from the eyes of impartial third party, maybe even as your new ultra strict financial coach theFIREstarter if it helps, and see what you could be wasting.

Now divert those extra found dollars and pounds to your investment accounts and see your early retirement date get nearer by leaps and bounds!

Readers: are there any areas of spending that you’ve been particularly wasteful over the years and could now cut back on easily if you put your mind to it? Whether it’s been on cars, beauty products, booze or star wars figures, please let us know in the comments section below!


*I have no idea what total expense ratios were like back in 1999!? If anyone would like to let me know in the comments I can always update the calculations Back ↑