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Not-so-cheap thrills

Go straight-edge and save like a pro

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It’s a bleary Sunday morning. You’ve woken up again with a massive headache, a sore throat, and a bloated stomach. Time to check your phone for any regrettable Instagram posts and then pound some coffee, right?

Yep, boozing, smoking, eating takeout, and drinking fancy espresso are the shameful focal points of most of our weekends. But while we’re happy to brag about it all this stuff during brunch the morning after, few of us are owning up to how expensive it all is.


We spoke with three people who recently gave up their bad habits (and one who’s totally working on it you guys) to hear about the difference it made on their physical and mental health — and on their bank accounts.


Hey, did you know that smoking can be hazardous to your health? It’s true! And believe it or not, it’s also stupidly expensive!

Sean Price is a 27 year-old computer programming student in Toronto. He started smoking in his late teens, and kept it up until last year — even though he never actually enjoyed it that much. “I’m an idiot,” says Sean. “All my friends smoked, I lived in a house with smokers, and I just kept doing it without thinking about it very much. Then I finally thought about it like an actual adult and realized that I was spending a bunch of money on something that was harming me and I didn’t enjoy.”

Since he made the choice to quit, Sean’s run the gauntlet of techy-approved quitting methods: He downloaded a quitting app, briefly took up vaping, and now microdoses to improve his focus and minimize the cravings. It’s been six months since his last cigarette, and the difference in palpable. “Obviously it’s nice having my lungs work properly again, but yeah, having an extra $30 every week to play with is great too,” says Sean.

The cost: During his heaviest peak, Sean smoked a half-pack of Belmonts a day. That’s $2,044 a year. And that’s insane.

And if he’d invested it? If Sean had put that $2,044 in Disney stock in 2014, he’d have $3,009 today. That Frozen merchandise is still flying off the shelves.



As smug American tourists have probably told you, drinking in Canada is expensive. That’s mostly due to provincial and federal taxes, but it means that we typically pay more whether drinking in bars or stocking up at the liquor store. Plus there are all the associated costs with drinking, like the midnight poutine, the taxi fare home, and the gallons of blue Gatorade you’ll have to chug the next morning.

Ditching your glass of after-work merlot is one thing — quitting drinking when your entire social and professional life is built around it another. Catherine Quinlan works in a health food store in Victoria, but in a former life, she was a server and occasional DJ in Montreal. “When all your friends are in the service industry, you only see each other after your shifts,” says Catherine. “Everything we did revolved around drinking. I’d earn $150 in tips, and then immediately spend $40 drinking at the bar next door.”

Every time she tried to ease up on the booze, there’d be another excuse to cave; the end of a busy shift, a friend’s going away party, a Tuesday. To quit full-stop, Catherine started dating someone who didn’t drink, and eventually had to move back to her hometown, away from Montreal’s party scene. “Quitting smoking was easy for me, but to stop drinking I had to change my entire life. It was pretty traumatic. But I’ve never regretted it.”

The cost: During her time in Montreal, Catherine estimates she spent around $3,000-$4,000 a year on alcohol.


And if she’d invested it? Buddy, putting $3,500 in Apple stock in 2014 would be worth $6,025 today.


Ah, the most socially acceptable drug. Without it, how would you make small talk with your coworkers or use a cafe’s WiFi when your data plan runs out?

Jess Sullivan is a freelance artist and graphic designer who recently cut coffee out of her diet to help stabilize her moods (and save some coin). “Coffee was kind of a medication thing for me,” explains Jess. “I have depression and anxiety, and caffeine would really help me to focus to do my work. But whenever I stopped drinking it, it made both of those things a lot worse. I hated having that dependence, and I was spending a lot of money on a luxury.”

Quitting was a difficult process for Jess, who felt really lethargic and irritable when she started cutting down. But eventually the withdrawal effects subsided and she started a healthier, cheaper habit. “I still like the ritual of it, of starting my day with something warm,” says Jess. “I drink herbal tea, and I really only drink it at home. A bag is probably ten cents, tops.”

The cost: Jess would switch it up between drinking home brew and going to the local coffee shop. She estimates she probably spent about $3 a day on coffee, or around $1,095 a year.

And if she’d invested it? Your mom just can’t enough of those 60 second cooking vids. A $1,095 investment in Facebook in 2014 would be worth $2,726 today.


Eating Out:

Does the local shawarma joint know you by name? Does the Vietnamese place predict your order as soon as you say your address?

Kim Johnston is a PR professional in Vancouver whose knows this situation well. “My parents weren’t really into cooking, and when I did my undergrad I was on the meal plan so I never got around to learning,” she says. “I still eat like a teenager.” Kim estimates she buys about 75 percent of her meals, picking up lunch every day from the ready-made section of the grocery store near her office, and grabbing sushi or burritos most nights for dinner. “Every time I try to start cooking, I spend like $40 on all the stuff, but then it tends to go bad before I’ve even had three meals out of it. At that point, spending $7 on dinner seems to make more sense.” Still, Kim’s hopeful she’ll one day make the switch to a fully-grown human lifestyle, complete with spatulas and Jamie Oliver.

The cost: Kim guesses she spends about $15 a day on take-out food, or about $5,475 a year. Switching to groceries would save her around $2,475 a year.

And if she’d invested it? For the futurists out there: a $2,475 investment in Tesla would pay out $3,784 today.


Struggling to quit whatever shameful thing you’ve got going? Try keeping an honest diary of your spending for a month, and note what you could save by giving it up. This might just be your tipping point.