My Spending Vices (And What I Do About Them)

I started writing this post while somewhat hungover after a night out in Toronto with friends from University that included a bar that had 343 different kinds of beer on it’s menu.  This was an expensive night (with that many different flavours, I felt it was my duty to try to get through as many as I could) that I don’t regret (other then the tiredness and sore head in the morning) and got me thinking about other things that I buy or spend money on that I know are a waste of money and are counterproductive to my end goal of retirement at 45, but I do anyway because of various justifications.  Over the years, I have also learned how to limit the amount of money I spend on these activities in order to at least have some semblance of budgeting with my vices, which are as follows:

Video Games: This “hobby” is probably my most expensive habit.  I own an XBox 360, Wii and Playstation 3, which means in total, I have approximately $1,000 worth of hardware that all play essentially the same games (in my defense though, the PS3 was a wedding present).  Trent at the Simple Dollar gave tips on how to reduce the cost of video games by buying only games that have long-time playability, reducing your cost per hour to a minimum.  I don’t have an attention span long enough to continually play a game for months and months and after I have beat it, I rarely feel the need to return to it to play it again.  Up until a few years ago, this meant that I would be trading in games for 25% of what I bought them for to get new games, something that is not entirely desirable.  Now, I spend $17 per month and rent games over the internet through  I pick the games I want to play and the company mails them to me as I mail them back.  This allows me to play several more games then I normally would for a flat fee, thus limiting the expensive ownership cost of the games.  The only downside of the service is that I never know what game I’m going to get, which is kind of interesting sometimes.

Golf: I love to golf.  If I had a choice, I would spend most of my summer wandering around courses in the area.  This is a very expensive hobby as well, with equipment and usage costs, a person could spend significant amounts of money over a season.  I have limited my costs in couple of ways:

  1. I golf in the evenings, utilizing “twilight” deals offered by most public courses in the area.  For most courses, it works out to 25-50% just by starting the round later.
  2. I limit golf equipment spending.  I limit club purchases to at most one per year.  Golf balls can also be expensive, but you can find deals online on used balls.  In my experience, a $0.20 golf ball will go just as far in the bush, or just as deep in a pond as one you’ve spent $1-$3 on.  Last year I bought 10 dozen used balls for $30 + $10 shipping.  These should last me several years and work just fine.
  3. I budget year-round for this hobby.  I could fix the playing cost by purchasing a membership, but in general unless you play 50+ rounds at the same course during the day, it doesn’t work out to be cheaper then paying on a per-round basis.

Gambling: This vice actually costs me the least amount of money per year, and actually allows me to make a little bit of profit on a per year basis [If I pick the right teams, which I didn’t do yesterday when I went 1 out of 4 in the first round of the NFL playoffs 🙁  ].  I found a gaming site that accepts bets as low as $1 per game and use this, reducing my risk, while still allowing a wager on the game, which is really all I want.  Profitability is uncertain, but if bets are researched (similar to stocks), I think that a skilled person could make decent long-term profit through betting.

Beer: I’ve been led to believe that most people also enjoy beer (unless I’ve been watching too many football games), which can get expensive to drink in Canada where alcohol and tobacco are taxed significantly.  This year, I am going to start brewing my own beer, mainly because I enjoy making most things from scratch, but also because I believe if I learn to do it well, it could lead to some cost savings down the road, after purchasing the equipment.  Right now, I just drink cheaper beer, after finding a few brands that I enjoy (I’m not sure if it’s available elsewhere in the country, but I would highly recommend Brava Light). It would be healthier to give up beer altogether, but it is something that I enjoy occasionally, and it’s just tasty :).

How about you, what are your vices?  How do you fit them into your financial plan?

14 thoughts on “My Spending Vices (And What I Do About Them)”

  1. $1000 in gaming hardware?!?!? Gee I suddenly feel a bit better about my $350 on my ebook reader. *grin*

    Actually we tend to have some dedicated money for our vices like booze and eating out. But we enjoy them and we don’t go crazy on them. Part of the point of money in my mind is to enjoy it otherwise who wants to retire early if you aren’t going to be doing anything fun.


  2. Churchill said it best:
    I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.

    $50/month for booze and about 1 game per month for me or my son.

    I’d like to learn to make my own wine but am worried I’d want to drink more. 🙂

    I don’t know, is entertainment (like golf) really a vice? Or just a vice to a LBYM’er because it’s a more expensive “sport” – like skiing? I think of BUYING books as one of my vices that I’m trying to control. In past years, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on books that I’ve just had to declutter. That’s why I’ve resisted buying an e-reader/kindle (so far).

  3. @ Tim – And most of the time it just sits there 🙂

    @ Traciatim – My mistake – although I also use, gameaccess out of Quebec is what I use for video games (I think I had the site open in front of me as I was writing – thanks for pointing that out.

    @ Jacqjolie – I classify golf as a vice due to its significant cost – there are cheaper sports I could get involved in that would cost next to nothing, but I choose to frustrate myself on a golf course.

  4. We are lucky enough to live across the street from a golf course, so with all the errant shots, my husband is able to have collected a whole bucket full from the street for his play.

    As to the alcohol, that’s an expense I would not put in the category of wasting money. No, not at all.

    (And note to jacqjolie: we made our own wine, and believe me, it did not make us want to drink more. Just feel guilty about drinking actual good wine when we already own so much bad wine!

  5. I love to golf too and, like you, generally play twilight. Not only is it cheaper but it is usually more comfortable (in summer) and less busy so one can get around faster.

    If one has “recent” equipment (say within the last 5-10 years) then I don’t think one needs the new stuff because not that much has changed in the technology despite what the equipment marketers will tell you.

    When I do buy “new” I usually buy something that has been out for a year or two and has been discounted to make way for the new $400 drivers, etc. Check out for great deals.

    My golfing buddy plays to the single digits and while I’m rummaging in the woods for my ball, he looks for Pro V1’s. Everything else he throws my way (and I throw out the Top Flites) 🙂

  6. My vices are poker, drinking, books, movies and video games.

    So far, I’m up for poker, so it’s not really an expensive one.

    I save money on drinking by inviting friends over rather than hitting a bar. I can get 26 drinks for the cost of 5 or so at the bar.

    Having lots of money and no fun would suck. You just need to spend money on the things that you enjoy and cut out the things you don’t. I’m eating out less so I can gamble more! 🙂
    I usually buy older games so I’m paying 20-30 instead of 60-70 a game. Although I could probably stop that as well, because I don’t usually play games again. Although Rock Band was a great investment! 🙂

    I watch movies again and again, so I think it’s cheaper then renting. Plus I wait for deals on these as well.

    I could probably rent the games but I don’t always have the time or interest to play games all the time and when I rent I feel I have to. Same issue with going to the library I feel I’m rushed to read the book and I can’t refer back to it later if need be.

    I stopped buying fantasy novels though because I don’t read them a second time. I just borrow from friends or from the library.

  7. I loooove booze…but it makes me poor and fat. But, doesn’t stop me. Lakeport Light is pretty good…that saves a bit over a coors light or whatever.

    my expensive hobby is music. 10 guitars plus plus plus.


  8. I have no vices. I don’t drink, smoke, or gamble. Never had any desire to do them. I recall going to a local mini-mart to buy some milk and everyone there was buying beer, smokes, or lottery tickets. I thought to myself, “What a waste of money for self-destructive habits!”

    I don’t play golf, either. Played some mini-golf years ago but most of the courses no longer exist today.

    My PC has some card games I play on it once in a while.

  9. Does buying more clothes than my kids need count as a vice? (All from the consignment store on 50% off days) Otherwise, I’m with deegee (but I have a mac – bought with the profits I made on my Apple stock!)
    My husband just yelled over that buying stocks is my vice. I guess it could be called gambling sometimes.

  10. @ Retired Syd – hoping my beer making will go better then your wine making experience.

    @ Mark – It’s been hit and miss, but I’ve had okay luck getting “clone” clubs – not drivers, but irons are all basically the same.

    @ Andy – “I’m eating out less so I can gamble more” – my wife loved that line. I much prefer drinking at home as well – you get to pick the music, plus the bed is much closer then a cab ride…..the only downside is the lack of variety on the greasy after-bar foods:)

    @Ashby corner – I could see guitar collecting being an expensive habit….

    @ Deegee – You could put golf on the self-destructive habits as well – some days I leave the course more grumpy then when I started.

    @ Mom of 3 kids – Not a bad habit, buying stocks – I’ll stick with sports teams for the time being while I’m paying down my mortgage.

  11. I always drink at home, never out. I buy 1L bottles from duty free whenever I cross the border and have my reserves at home 🙂

    I don’t play video games as I learned at a young age how much time can be wasted, wasted, wasted each day.
    But if I am at someone else’s house who has every consol, ofcourse I will play.

    I save gambling for Vegas. I go a couple times a year. (total airfare and hotel cost me $150-200 for 4-5 nights)

  12. I constantly battle with if/when/how much to spend on travel. We earn good salaries but live very frugally. Stuff just doesn’t interest us for the most part. Or at least not enough to take priority over maximizing savings so we can retire early. Then there’s the love of travel. I’m constantly plotting the next trip, planning every detail. In the back of my mind I’m thinking I could/should sock that money into our RRSPs or against the mortgage. Then I counter with “we’re already saving at least 35% of our take home”. Yes I could do a little more but we also need to have a life while we work toward retirement.

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