Smoking, drinking and gambling — a lot of money gets spent on these intangible things. They’re alternately defined as hobbies and addictions, depending on who you talk to. You don’t really “get” anything by spending money on cigarettes or alcohol, except trouble in the form of illness, cancer, lost nights and possibly lost relationships. Sure, cigarettes give people some sort of high from the nicotine, while alcohol gives you a buzz, but are these things enough to justify the exorbitant expenses?
Here in New Jersey, cigarettes are up to $8.50 a pack, depending on how much you smoke. Mr. Saver smokes about 10 packs a week, making that $85 lost from our savings each week. And someone who smokes 3 packs a day? At 21 packs a week, you’re talking $178.50 a week, or more than $700 monthly. In NYC, a pack of cigarettes costs even more — over $10, easily. I’ve trying to get Mr. Saver to quit this unsavory habit before our baby arrives, but he’s afraid of weight gain, something a lot of smokers use as an excuse not to give up cigarettes. What’s more, we’ll need that money in our budget to pay for child care.
Drinking is another crazy habit that costs a lot of money, especially for those who go out to bars. Don’t get me wrong, we did a lot of bar-hopping in our day, but I’ve never been a big drinker — I can make a beer last for 90 minutes, easily. But some guys can drink their weight in gold (or cash, as the case may be), blowing through $200 a night on drinks and shots and rounds for other people. One night out a week at that clip, or two nights out where they spend less, and you’re talking $800 a month on booze.
Gambling is probably the most insidious money-suck of the three. You’re putting out your hard-earned money on the CHANCE that you can make it back, and then some. Gambling can be fun, in small doses. Living in New Jersey, I’ve been to Atlantic City, as has my brother, gone to the racetrack a time or two, and my father has an affinity for Keno when he’s down in Maryland. We’ve been to Las Vegas. But we only spend what we know we can afford to lose. It’s when you go expecting to “spend big to win big” that things get hairy. While I’ve been to gambling joints, I don’t really care to lose my money, which invariably happens. That’s why I only gamble about once every 2-3 years. I’m a sore loser! And there are those gamblers who will bet on anything and everything — football, pool games, office pools for March Madness — they just can’t seem to keep money in their pockets.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing anyone spending money unnecessarily drives me bananas, whether on tangible things like $500 purses, video games or fancy cars, or intangible things. But it’s the intangible things that really perplex me. Of course, I’m guilty of the same from time to time, but not at the rates that some people blow through their money, endangering their finances in the process.
Other Costs of Intangible Spending
Besides the monetary costs of smoking, drinking and gambling, there are also the emotional, medical and perhaps legal costs associated with these things. Smokers who develop throat cancer or emphysema require medical care, and stained teeth may need cleaning. It’s extremely dangerous (and, of course, illegal) to drive while intoxicated — not only could you cause an accident, you could be arrested, thrown in jail, or even kill someone else. That leads to legal fees and the loss of your car, which could lead to the loss of your job. Gamblers usually run through their money like water, leaving them destitute, begging money from family and friends, and perhaps hiding their losses from spouses.
What do you think — is spending money on intangibles (cigarettes, alcohol, gambling) ridiculous?