Frugal Advice: Drinking On a Budget

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This is a Guest Post from my friend over at BeerNBling.com.

I met Kevin about a year ago. We both work for the same company and became friends over our common interest in living a frugal lifestyle, investing, and just general shit talking.

In 2013 I started dabbling in dividend stocks. Although my portfolio is in its infancy, I’m doing better than most single women in their 30’s. Between my Roth IRA (which I started in my 20’s), my 401k (which I also started in my 20’s), my rental property (that I’ve owned since 2006) and my E-trade account (recently created in 2013), I’m hoping to retire well below the current median age of 62.

As I mentioned before, Kevin and I have a few other common interests, one that includes my real passion, beer.

I moved to Seattle almost 2 years ago and shortly after began a mission to visit all breweries in the state of Washington. As of August 2015, I’m up to 59 and counting. In addition to touring local craft breweries, I home-brew and started a mostly beer blog called beernbling.com. I am a gemologist by trade and the blog includes pictures and reviews of the breweries I visit, food and beer pairing suggestions, fun interviews with fellow beer lovers, links to local beer events, random beer related shenanigans that can’t be categorized and last but not least, bling. Seattle is an amazing city with a strong craft beer and art culture. I am never short of content. In fact my writing struggles to keep up with my activities.

So, how does drinking beer relate to living a frugal lifestyle? Well, beer is my main hobby and what I choose to categorize as my entertainment budget. I rarely spend money on going out to eat. I make my lunch and other daily meals. I have little need for things since I’m living in a relatively small 553 sq. ft. apartment just outside of Seattle. I don’t own a car and have a short 10-minute bus commute to work. I have no debt other than the mortgage of the rental property. I make it a point to live below my means. This affords me the ability to save for retirement while enjoying my beer drinking and brewery tours. Did I mention I’m flying out to Denver this September to attend the Great American Beer Fest (GABF)!

To give you an idea of my monthly beer expenses, let’s take a look back at the first three months of the year where I spent a total of $292.66 on beer related activities. This averages to less than $100 a month. There are many different sources one can reference on the subject of entertainment expenses, including the definition, but on average sources agree, Americans spend approx. $2500/year in this budget category. This equates to a little more than $200/month.

In the month of January I spent a total of $91.99 on beer, which included 6 new brewery visits and a few happy hours.

In the month of February I spent $80.17 on beer, which included 2 new brewery visits, a couple beer tasting at a local bottle shop, and the purchase of a growler from one of the breweries.

In the month of March I spent $120.50 on beer, which included 3 brewery visits, a trip to a bottle shop for some unique beer purchases plus tastings and finally celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with co-workers for happy hour. Yes, I did pick up the tab.

It is possible to drink great beer on a small budget. Here are a few ways I make it happen.

Flights
If you’re like me and want to try everything a new brewery has to offer, check out their tasting flights. Flights are a relatively inexpensive way to try many different beers. Most flights include 3-5oz pours and range from $1-$2 per sample. Many breweries have set tasting trays. For example No Li Brewery has their “Usual Suspects” sampler which includes 6- 4oz tasters for $7.

Bottle Shops and Brewer’s Nights
The weekly tasting at The Beer Junction bottle shop in West Seattle that I attend every Thursday night costs between $4-$5 each evening. The tastings consist of 5-6 different 4-oz samples and feature a different craft brewery each week or sometimes a theme (such as Belgian Beer Week). Check local bars for their Brewer’s nights which have similar events with discounted tastings.

Event Nights
Many breweries also have special weekly discounted event nights such as “Tuesday Nights – Enjoy $6 Growler Fills.” A growler is equivalent to 64oz (a six pack is approx. 72 ounces for comparison). With a $6 growler, that’s less that $0.10/oz.  

Happy Hour
Also, don’t forget to check out local bars for their happy hour selections. A local Seattle bar, J&M Cafe offers 50% off happy hour beers (which makes most of their pints $2.50-$3.00 each) and they have a decent selection of some local craft beers as well as the usual suspects that consist of Stella, Bud Light, Miller, Guinness, Manny’s and Mac & Jacks African Amber. A pint is equivalent to 16 ounces. Pretty inexpensive way to socialize with coworkers. I also happen to be a slow drinker and can enjoy two pints within the short happy hour discount window.

Rewards Programs
If you’re a regular, check on rewards programs or Mug Clubs at local breweries and bottle shops.

Beer Fests
Another great way to enjoy lots of beer. On average these festivals range from $20-$40. If you purchase early some events offer discounted tickets or extra tasting tokens. One of my favorite events in Seattle is the Bacon and Beer Classic. The ticket price was a little higher than most beer fests at $59/ticket. But this event included all you can eat (delicious bacon inspired treats and appetizers hosted by 31 different restaurants) and beer (with 50 different breweries on tap) once inside the venue.

Trivia Nights
Trivia Nights at local pubs – Check out your local watering hole for event nights. These usually offer discounted drinks and chances to win free beer or prizes.

Free Beer Tours
Many Breweries offer tours that are free or really inexpensive. Mac N Jacks Brewery offers free beer tours. The tour includes free tastings and a commemorative pint glass. Red Hook Brewery offers their brewery tour for $5, which includes 5 tastings and a free commemorative pint glass.

Kegerators!!!
I have a friend that has a kegerator for home use. When it’s time to refill the keg, I will tag along for the tastings. Many breweries offer free tastings if they know you are purchasing a keg. Not only do I get to drink for free and sample each beer, but I have the very important and difficult job of helping to make the next selection.

Beer Blogs
Follow beer blogs for listing of other local events, giveaways for beer fest tickets and other fun and free beer related happenings. Here are some of my favorite in Washington: WABL, Washington Beer Blog & Seattle Beer News.

Don’t forget Pub Crawls
These events will be similar to a Beer Fest with either tickets to the crawl or discounted drink selection for those participating.

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