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Want to save big money consider the no booze budget


´╗┐Would you give up alcohol to help balance the family budget?I posed that very question on social media recently. These were some of the answers I got:"Yeah, right.""Gosh no - it's what gets us through the week.""As if that would ever happen."And so on, in the same vein. Most responses ranged from sarcastic to outright incredulous. But one other answer stood out, which got to the heart of the matter:"I quit drinking - and it was like we won the lottery!"And there's the rub. We all tend to complain, in an era of stagnant incomes and rising prices, about how we just can't make ends meet. There is just no place we could possibly find more savings. But is that really true? Consider this: The average U.S. household spent $445 on wine, beer and spirits in 2013, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That amounts to roughly 1 percent of our household expenditures, and it compares with an average household figure of $268 in 1993.

That is more than we spend on all nonalcoholic beverages combined, by the way. Keep in mind those averages include nondrinkers, too. That means some households are spending much, much more than that already-hefty average on alcohol. So let's be honest with ourselves. It is not always the case that we can't squeeze any more savings out of our budgets. It is that we choose not to, because we just don't want to give up the booze. When New York City's Jenna Hollenstein sat down one day and calculated what her drinking was costing her, she was shocked. The 39-year-old dietician used to enjoy a nice bottle of wine or some gin after work, and it was starting to add up. "Even if it was only a $15 bottle of wine, three times a week, that was $45," she remembers. "That's $180 a month, or over $2,000 a year."That's a significant amount of money - and that's not even including going out for cocktails with friends."

Hollenstein finally decided to give up her pricey habit, and even wrote a book on her experiences, "Drinking to Distraction." But she is hardly alone in having a taste for a nip after work. After all, 64 percent of American adults report drinking occasionally, according to Gallup's most recent poll on consumption habits. Through boom times and bust, one of our most consistent national traits is that we enjoy our booze, and are not willing to give it up."We've been asking this question since the 1930s, and the numbers are remarkably constant," says Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief. "Even in an era of huge demographic changes, the percentage of drinkers just doesn't seem to budge."BEER OR WINE?

Beer is America's beverage of choice, by the way, followed by wine and then spirits. The average drinker enjoys a shade over four alcoholic beverages a week, according to the Gallup poll. But 9 percent of people have more than eight drinks over the same period, and 5 percent of folks are guzzling more than 20. And that can get very expensive indeed - especially if you do your drinking in restaurants or bars with high markups. We might not even realize how much we are spending on this habit, since it drips out in relatively small increments - a beer or two here, a carafe of wine there. Personal-finance expert Tiffany Aliche, author of "The One Week Budget," suggests forcing yourself to do the math - just as Hollenstein did - before tossing back yet another nightcap."Let's say you drink three nights a week and spend $30 each time," she says. "That's over $4,000 a year, or as much as a trip to Paris or Rome."It is not an all-or-nothing proposition, notes Aliche, who is not a drinker herself. You don't have to become a teetotaler in order to realize massive savings. "Instead of drinking three times a week, just drink twice - and then go on your vacation, too," she advises. As for Hollenstein, who had a long and complex relationship with alcohol, she thought it was best to give up drinking altogether. She did not necessarily do it for the money - but when she did, she noticed that her finances changed overnight."As soon as I gave it up, the money thing became so clear," she says. "Drinking was just a mindless, habitual thing I did on a daily basis. And I didn't really notice it - until I got my credit card bill or looked at my bank account."

Your money want to stay together dont mess with the hair budget


´╗┐Here's a little marital tip: When financial experts say couples should compromise on absolutely everything, there are times when you just need to split hairs. For instance, just try to tell your spouse how much he or she should spend on getting their hair done. Guaranteed nuclear war. I asked my social media followers about the way couples should handle the significant costs of getting one's hair done, and the reaction was fiery. A sampler: "There are some things you don't share with your spouse, and hair cost is one of them.""It costs to look this good ... and no, hubby doesn't need to know, nor does he ask.""Smart husbands don't mess with the hair-doing budget.""Two things men should only address if they have something good to say: hair and weight."

Haircare, in particular, seems to be an intensely personal subject for couples. Throw money concerns into the mix, and it can lead to the financial equivalent of a really bad hair day. Indeed, financial arguments are by far the No. 1 one predictor of divorce, according to research by Sonya Britt, a professor at Kansas State University. There is no doubt the costs of haircare can add up, and quickly. U.S. spending on hair services in 2014 amounted to a record $46 billion, estimates Parsippany, New Jersey-based consulting firm Kline & Co. The average salon client drops $67.17 per visit for hair services, according to American Salon's Green Book industry report. That's a repeated cost, of course, with men going to a stylist 11.2 times a year on average, and women dropping in 12.9 times annually."As a woman you grow up feeling like expensive hair treatments are mandatory, almost like you're being shamed into it," says Dr. Phoenyx Austin, a fitness expert in Washington and author of "If You Love It, It Will Grow" and the children's book "Love Your Hair."

"You don't want someone telling you you're spending too much money. It's a very touchy subject."That said, Austin says the final tab can easily get "out of hand," when you are combining pricey appointments with expensive take-home products. She knows of women who spend up to $1,500 a month on their hair. ELABORATE PROCEDURES

Costs can disproportionately affect minority communities, where haircare procedures tend to be more elaborate. The average cost of getting extensions or weaves, according to the Green Book: A whopping $487.25 every time, up $137.29 in a single year. Austin, who is African-American, went for a more natural look years ago, which saves a ton of money on processes like chemical straightening. But if times are tight and there is room for your family's salon budget to be cut back, she advises that you look in the mirror first."The worst thing is to come at your spouse complaining about a salon bill, when you're shelling out lots of money on other stuff," she says."Make sure to frame the discussion that any cutbacks will go into family savings, or to your kids' college. That's a good way to massage it into the conversation."Samantha McGarry once went into battle on the subject, and the skirmish was brief and decisive."At one point, my husband said something about the cost of getting my hair done," says the 47-year-old public relations executive from Framingham, Massachusetts. "So we had a little conversation, and now he knows to focus on other areas."If times got really tough, McGarry would find room to trim spending and try more do-it-yourself coloring jobs. Truth be told, McGarry doesn't spend crazy amounts on her hair: $120 every now and then on a cut-and-color. She certainly does not want that budget shorn."It's about feeling beautiful, it's about having 'Me Time,' it's about all of that," McGarry says. "Spouses should probably steer clear in order to keep the peace."