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In this episode of The TFD Test Lab, host Jazmine shows us what happened when she cut out alcohol for 30 days straight — from what she saved, to the benefits she gained.

In The TFD Test Lab, we're sharing real-life experiences challenging ourselves to live better, more budget-friendly lives. Whether through attempting a no-spend challenge, switching up a budget system, or tracking progress on a new healthy routine, we'll be highlighting all the risks *and* rewards of frugal living.

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Hey, everyone.

Welcome back to "The Test Lab." I am your host, Jazmine Reed-Clark, for "The Financial Diet." And this is the space where I take on different challenges to live a healthier, more budget-friendly lifestyle. [MUSIC PLAYING] So for this episode's challenge we decided to do things just a little bit different. Rather than taking on fun, trending challenges for a week or two weeks, I decided to see what my relationship with money would look like if we also decided to address my relationship to alcohol.

And we stripped out the sauce for 30 days. And I do want to interject here and do a little bit of-- this is a broom-- housekeeping and say that this, by no means, is commentary on the lifestyle choices you should be making. And this certainly isn't a video dedicated to wellness, although there were plenty of mental health benefits I did experience through this challenge.

This was purely to see what my relationship to money would look like through the lens of stripping away something that is a bit of a cultural crutch. We use alcohol to go to parties, to say welcome home, to get over a breakup, to meet new people to celebrate anniversaries. So we simply just wanted to take something out and see what I could replace it with and if I would save money in the process.

So if after watching this video, you're not inspired to cut back on drinking or even assess how much you're spending on drinking, that's on you, boo. That's good. This was something more so for me.

And I'm just excited to share my results. So something I didn't expect was to see so much progress, positive progress, as it related to my business by taking alcohol out of my budget for the last 30 days. And here's what I mean.

I am a career coach. For those who don't know, I also do consulting in the recruiting and HR space. So when my clients, my career coaching clients, land a new job or they get that negotiation raise or whatever it is that we're working on together, I love to send a little trinket or a hell yeah, you did that.

And in the past, it's primarily been wine baskets. And looking back, they're not even cute. It's kind of like-- I don't want to bash any brands-- but the things that your parents get or would bring home from work around the holidays.

So I thought I wanted to nix that. Even though I wasn't consuming the alcohol, let's just see, again, how alcohol can be sort of a crutch for gift giving. And when I took that out, I saw the savings swell.

And I don't think-- sorry, for future clients, you are never going to get a bottle of rose from me. But in addition to client gifts, I saw that networking opportunities could be heavily fueled by happy hours. Pre-pandemic, every networking event had beer and wine.

But also, if someone and I wanted to get together or catch up on a more professional basis or in a more professional setting, it was nothing to do it over wine or rose. So I decided to take that out of the equation and do all of my networking over coffee. And then the third thing that I found interesting that I can't necessarily put a monetary value on, I saw that when I took alcohol out of the equation, I had more energy to take on more work.

And I don't think it's a coincidence that I saw a positive uptick in my revenue and my growth, both in my business and with some of my other online projects, when I took alcohol out of the equation. But to focus on the two big changes that I can put a dollar amount on, so in August, I sent a client gift that cost about $125. It was a wine box from a major label.

And it was, honestly, not even that personalized other than the note. But I thought, everyone, like that's how you say congratulations is with wine. But in September, I had two clients reach the goals that they had set out for themselves when working with me.

And I sent congratulation Oreos that just looked so cute and were a bit more personalized for that particular client's palette and the colors. And I know she loves Oreos, so hello. And then another client, who I found out doesn't even drink, so I would have been sending her a gift that she wouldn't really have used unless she just re-gifted it to someone, I paid for her to have dessert with a girlfriend to celebrate her new job at a hip New York restaurant that I can't pronounce.

So I'm not going to try. And in that alone, I was able to save $55. And both of these clients in September who I celebrated, they got gifts that were way more personalized, thoughtful.

And I'm sure they enjoyed it much more. And in these pandemic times, I'm not going to networking events. But what I would do is if I had a virtual happy hour, I would get one of those like canned roses, canned wines or canned roses.

And I spent about $20 between, really, July and August, but we're just going to lump them in together. But in the month of August I spent about $20 on those canned wines for virtual happy hours. And instead, I only spent $8 on coffee, saving me an extra $12 getting to network with people.

In the business department, I saved about $67 by taking out alcohol. And again, I think it's much more than that, because I was doing all of my work completely 100% clear-headed, not working on a lingering hangover from the weekend. And I know that I was putting out work that I was much more proud of when alcohol was out of the equation.

So another area of life I was excited to see transform over 30 days was self-care. Not at all because, I mean, believe me you. I have learned the hard way more than I would like to admit that alcohol and self-care don't really go hand in hand.

We all love a good glass of wine after a long day, but I've really worked hard to cultivate a healthier self-care routine with my therapist. But more so, I wanted to see how many days I could go without those little impulse purchases. Because I think alcohol can, at times, fuel some of my self-sabotaging habits related to money saying, oh, screw it, if I'm budgeting, or say, oh, I really need this thing while I'm tipsy on Amazon-- just speaking hypothetically, of course.

Lo and behold, I did not have as much impulse spending. And it turns out alcohol is like that little whisper in your ear that tells you you need a $20 candle or whatever it is for you. And so I have less clutter around the home.

But more importantly, I was just able to stay more intentional with my self-care plan, taking more walks, spending more time with the dog. Oh, and I wanted to celebrate myself. And I remembered that I had a gift card I hadn't used yet.

So I got to have a massage, the first one I've had in a really long time. And that was really nice. Win-win, I feel like I basically got a free spa day, and no alcohol was needed to feel a nice sensation.

So taking a look at my social life previous to the challenge, it wasn't that alcohol was the center of my universe with friends or Jordan. In fact, Jordan doesn't really even drink. But more so, it definitely was always a part of the equation, like catching up on life involves happy hour or bottomless mimosas.

Or going out to dinner to celebrate a professional win in either me or Jordan's life involved red wine. So when I decided to take on this challenge, I knew for me personally to stay true to my budget, I couldn't be in those spaces. So I nixed brunch, which in Dallas is like blasphemy.

But next brunch, I decided that we should trade our dinner dates for breakfast dates. And I ultimately challenged my friends and I to do things outside of breaking bread and instead breaking a sweat. That literally just came to me, y'all.

That wasn't bad. To bond and catch up on life-- so for the last 30 days, here's exactly what that looked like. By trading dinner dates for breakfast dates-- which PS, me and Jordan declare that breakfast dates are way more romantic and more enjoyable than dinner dates.

But you guys can debate me in the comments. I know you will. And we were able to save about $80.

So previously, we typically would spend about $100 over the course of a month between different dates, sometimes involving alcohol, sometimes not. But when we stuck to like pre-10:00 AM dates, we were just buzzing with caffeine and maybe every now and again a pastry. But we spent a whopping $20.

So that's how we got to an $80 savings on dates. I saw that when I traded bottomless brunch for dance classes, I saved a respectable $40 in the month of September. And typically, if we are ever invited to a game night or couples night or a party, every once in a blue moon, we'll typically bring some sort of food, so a healthy salad or charcuterie board and pair it with Two Buck Chuck-- let's be honest-- and spend about $15 going to a gathering with friends.

Well, we let our friends know about the challenge and that we couldn't be on alcohol duty as usual. And we got put on lemon duty, like straight up that scene from The Breakup with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. And y'all, always, always volunteer to bring the garnish.

So what was typically a $15 run to Trader Joe's became a $2 run to our local supermarket. And we saved a nice $13. So between the $80 savings on dinner dates, the $40 savings hanging out with friends, and the $13 savings trying to be a good guest at a friend's house, we saved a really nice $133.

During this 30-day challenge, it looks like I saved approximately $200 between the different savings related to business and personal spending. And that pretty much seems to add up. That is in line with what I was spending beforehand.

And that is a nice chunk of change. All right, so time for some reflections and hot takes-- so number one, alcohol is a very expensive security blanket. Obviously, I can't speak for anyone watching.

But for me, I felt the most challenged to stick true with this "Test Lab" episode when I had some social anxiety. I think I've used-- and I've known this for a bit now. But I think I definitely use alcohol as a social anxiety crutch.

It's almost like the one thing I can latch onto if I'm at an uncomfortable happy hour or a networking event or a family outing. And so through this challenge, I've had to challenge myself to not rely on my old tricks and my old like, if I just keep this in hand, I look like everyone else. And I belong.

And it's really helped shape more of my confidence moving forward. And so for that, I'm really, really grateful. But I also know that that's just my story.

For other people, I think alcohol can be a security blanket in many other ways, some seemingly harmless and some much more detrimental to the health. But when we look at it purely through a financial lens, I also think alcohol can be a security blanket when needing to gift someone something. It's pretty much a safe bet.

It's like candles and wine. And you know the person's going to at least kind of like your gift. I also think, in a financial sense, that alcohol can prove to be a security blanket when we just don't know what else to do when it comes to celebrating us or celebrating others.

So this challenge really helped me get more creative and put more thought into the way I was celebrating both myself and others. And it was purely an added bonus that it was cheaper-- so, awesome. Number two, breakfast dates are better than dinner dates.

That's it. That's my hot take. Number three, I feel more empowered to stay focused on my financial goals and budget for a night out when alcohol is out of the equation.

So a really great personal blind spot that I learned through this challenge is I have to continue to find empowerment and seeing that no is a complete sentence. I'm very thankful that where I'm at in life, I no longer surround myself with people who peer pressure me into spending more money or going above my budget. But I think because I did spend so much of my college years and my early 20s trying to impress basically everyone else around me, not through-- y'all I was about to say flossing.

I don't think that's been hip since the 2000s. But I wasn't the chick doing like a Bow Wow challenge and pretending to have more than I did. But I definitely was someone who would buy gifts and over-flatter people.

If you're into the Enneagram, I have a very heavy two wing. So that would come out when trying to cultivate relationships and bond with others. And understanding that I don't have to sacrifice my own budget goals to build community, so through this challenge, I definitely am walking away realizing that I still have a long way to go.

But I'm really grateful for the last 30 days. It was a hard, no, girl, I don't want to split that bottle of wine with you. Or no, can I actually bring something else to the cookout this weekend?

And also, for me-- and if this isn't your story, honestly, kudos to you. But I know that when alcohol is out of the equation, I feel like I don't have to compromise any of my goals for the night out. If I budgeted $20 for that night out, it's really helpful to not have alcohol, A, have to factor into that budget, but B, having a buzz have that whisper in my ear that we talked about telling me, it's OK, you can break your budget.

You'll make it up later. So moving on to some tips for those who are watching, as I said in the beginning, this challenge was never meant to and is still not meant to shame you or suggest that if you want to be debt-free you need to cut out alcohol. I'm not here to Dave Ramsey anyone watching.

But if you did watch this challenge and you're wondering how can you apply some of its tangible principles to your life, here are some things I would suggest. Number one, examine your relationship with alcohol and money. Now, some people, like my husband, can have a beer.

And that's that. And it doesn't affect how he spends money. But for other people like me, people who tend to be more emotional spenders and more impulsive, I know we're not in the same boat as frugal Frank.

So it's understanding how can you enforce your own guardrails and how can you feel empowered when people are pressuring you or your atmosphere or the environment that you're in is pressuring you to compromise your own boundaries. Two, an idea that I think could be really beneficial no matter where you are in life or your relationship with money and alcohol or the two things together, having appetizers out and then having drinks in. One thing I used to do when I was saving for my emergency fund was I would allow myself either you can have apps when you go out or you can have-- I was about to say desserts.

Or you can have wine when you go out. But you can't have both. Typically, at least here in Dallas, the markup is so outrageous.

And more often than not, I mean, your girl chose the food. I'm always going to choose the food over alcohol. And then I would just, if I wanted to, have a beer when I got home or have a glass of wine when I got home.

So apps out, drinks in, and typically, you can get more bang for your buck if you do at least half of your night indoors. And tip number three, if nothing else, don't be the asshole friend pressuring your friends to drink more, buy more, and spend more, especially if you know that they're trying to stick on a budget for the night or in life. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk, OK.

Going into this challenge, I did hypothesize that I would see the positive shifts both in my financial wellness and my mental wellness when eliminating alcohol for 30 days. But I know a lot of you like to know what do I keep up? What do I do after the challenges?

And this is one that I went into for more personal reasons. Since the challenge has wrapped, I've continued to almost nearly not drink. I did have a family gathering where I did drink.

But outside of that, no, I haven't spent money on alcohol. I dabble into the non-alcoholic beers, which I've really been enjoying. And that has all been for more reasons related to mental health.

But on a financial front, I saw the greatest positive shift in my impulse spending when I took alcohol out of the equation. So this is something I will continue to do. I am a part of the #SoberCurious movement.

And that was all to say that I do not demonize alcohol. I love alcohol. I just realized it was no longer benefiting my goals related to holistic wellness.

And I want to keep on that journey. Things can always change, but that's where I'm at right now. And again, financially, I am keeping with more care packages for clients rather than just sending wine baskets.

And I'm also doing more homemade gifts rather than just always showing up to a housewarming party or a birthday party with a nice bottle of champagne. And so far, my life has not suffered in the meantime. All right, guys, so that's what the last month has looked like.

But I would love to hear your opinions. What is something that you feel like you could cut out? Or how have you seen alcohol impact your spending habits?

Sound off in the comments below and let me know what challenges I should take on next. And as always, I am Jazmine Reed-Clark for "The Financial Diet." Like, subscribe, hit that notification bell, and I will see you in our next video. Bye. [MUSIC PLAYING]