Eleven thousand pounds.

It’s a 5% deposit on a £200,000 property, or just over the price of a Ford Fiesta.

It’s also the amount of money I’ve saved on alcohol alone since giving it up just two years ago. 

When I decided to quit booze, just days before my 34th birthday, I was tired of the impact it was having on my mental and physical health.

I was sluggish, hungover more often than I would like to admit, my skin was grey and my eyes looked dull. 

Nights out, which were once fun, were often followed by days shrouded by a cloud of hangxiety. I was also working with a number of sober people and their lives looked brighter, happier and more successful than mine – I wanted what they had. 

At first I gave up for Dry January and downloaded an app to keep track of my progress – from how many days I’d been booze free, to how I was feeling and how much I’d saved. 

When it came to calculating what I was really spending I had to be brutally honest with myself. 

There were the after work bottles of wine or prosecco costing £30-40 each, the ‘one for the road,’ cocktails on dates setting me back up to £16 a go, and the spirits I’d buy if I was hosting friends at my flat. 

I came to the conclusion that with my busy social life, I was spending around £100 a week on alcohol alone. Going out was my biggest expense and, as it turned out, it was really expensive. 

And that was before I tallied up the additional costs: the cabs home, the many McDonald’s orders, the £15 packet of cigarettes that seemed like such a good idea at the time. 

In the two years since I’ve given up alcohol I’ve taken eight Ubers; while I was drinking that would have easily been my total for a month.

It feels shameful to admit now, especially as recent research has shown that on average people saved £118 doing Dry January, just a quarter of my old outgoings, but at the time, I didn’t feel my spending was unusual. 

Living in London and working in the media, going out regularly was the norm. Plus, I was single for much of my late twenties and early thirties, so I could easily be out three or four times a week.

The money slipped out of my bank account as easily as the third glasses of Pinot Grigio slipped down my throat. 

I’m not alone, Love Island’s Dr Alex George, who has been vocal about giving up alcohol, previously revealed that he saved £1,000 in just the first month after he gave up. And research has shown that the average drinker will spend £62,899 on alcohol over the course of their lifetime, with 19% considering alcohol to be an essential purchase. 

What did shock me was that I’d never questioned it. Having grown up without much I’d always been what I considered to be a financially safe person, never spending outside of my means and thinking hard before making big purchases, yet alcohol was the one thing I’d made an exception for.

So I gave it up.

I got the odd comment questioning how I’d survive without it but I quickly learned that if someone has an issue with you not drinking, it’s usually because they have an issue with their own relationship to it. 

The truth is, for me, going teetotal wasn’t difficult. Whether it’s jobs or relationships, I’ve always had a strong sense of when something is no longer serving me and I’d felt that way about alcohol for a while. 

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With nothing holding me back, I started putting the money that I saved aside.

But of course, some of the money has been spent; there was the two week holiday to Mexico one year and the same to Greece the next and, most recently, some of it has been used to furnish a new flat.

These things feel like a reward for making a big life decision and sticking to it, and I can safely say I’ve had more joy from walking across a deserted sandy beach, or treating myself to a dolphin spotting trip (which cost the same as two bottles of Prosecco in a London bar) than I ever did from drinking. 

Then there are the smaller pleasures: I recently upgraded my gym membership. I go out for nicer dinners and buy tickets to art exhibitions. 

Before, nearly all of my social life revolved around drinking; stopping hasn’t meant I don’t go out any more, it’s just now I spend my money more carefully and it goes further.

Glasonbury, for example, once cost me hundreds; going sober, my expenses across the weekend amounted to about £150, meaning I could enjoy it without having to worry about a huge dent in my bank balance at the end.

I also have some stashed away for a rainy day. Being freelance, slow work periods used to be the cause of huge anxiety for me, but with the financial cushion of some of the money I’ve saved, I’ve been able to take the pressure off myself.

The other unexpected benefit is that I’ve earned more; without the distraction of big nights out, or terrible hangovers which could eat away whole days, I’ve been freer to put myself out there more with new projects.

As Dry January ends, after a record number of people took part, many people will be looking back at the benefits, whether it’s the brighter skin or sunnier outlook on life. 

From my experience you can’t overlook the financial gains if you decide to keep it up. 

Who knows, you might even get yourself a new Ford Fiesta.

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