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  • Writer's pictureZach

Saving Money By Drinking Cheaper

Updated: Feb 22, 2019

See the top left one? That's where I live.

Dubai has the most expensive beer in the world.  It’s a scientific fact.  More expensive than London, more expensive than Singapore, and WAY more expensive than New York.  I doubt wine and spirits are any different.  It’s not uncommon to spend over $20 USD on a single mixed drink, and plenty of micro brews will cost you the same out at a bar.   

When I go to Europe or the US or really anywhere else, I feel compelled to drink more, because it’s JUST SO CHEAP!  “You mean I can get a whole pitcher of sangria here for the cost of a single glass of it back in Dubai?? How can I pass it up! Give me the the whole pitcher!”  (True story, thanks Portugal!)


International Teaching is often dominated by younger people, under 30 years old. This leads to a LOT of nights out on the town, no matter what exotic country that town might be in.  Some places, that will be economical. In Prague you can buy a round of 5 drinks for about $8 USD.  That same drink purchase in Dubai could run you $100 USD. Sure, you might make more money in Dubai, but you don’t make 12 time more! 

For many people here and in places like Singapore and Hong Kong (two other International School Hot Spots), people who go out drinking socially have a hard time saving money, even though they make way more money than they would at home. Let’s do some math to see what the financial repercussions of those decisions are. 

Let’s say you go out twice a week to get drinks with friends. You’re a responsible person, you don’t drink and drive, so you need a cab both ways. Let’s be generous and say you split the cab fare, so that’s about $10 USD (I know this is could vary wildly, but I’m going for a conservative estimate). You go out for a few hours, so that’s easily 4 drinks per night. If drinks in Dubai average $15 each, that’s $60 in drinks. If you’re fancy and need bottle service or VIP treatment, or you just have a high tolerance, that can easily double or triple the cost. After those drinks, you might need some snacks, so that’s probably another $15 at least. If you’re lucky, you’re getting out of there with $85 USD per night out.  If you do that twice a week, that’s $170 a week in “entertainment” costs, which makes up around $680 per month. Most teachers are only in Dubai for around 9 months a year, going home or traveling to avoid the brutal summer heat. So, per year, saying you don’t go out partying on holiday (yah, right), you’re looking at $6,120 a year in nights going out. 


Using our handy dandy compound interest calculator, we can see that if we had invested that in low cost index funds with an average return of 7%, in a 20 year career if you keep that rate of spending, that $6,120 would turn into $292,137.35.  That is A LOT of nest egg to give up!  

And I’m not even being crazy here.  Many people I know spend WAY more than that on a night out.  They also party a huge amount on their holidays.  This is why when people ask me how much they can save in a given location, my first question is “How many bad habits do you have?”  

But fear not, dear reader!  I wouldn’t shove a problem in your face without giving some solutions!   The easiest solution is to go out “on the lash” (as our British cousins like to say) less often.  If you only go out once a week, you halve your output of cash, to $3,060 a year, which compounded over 20 years is $146,068.68 in lost nest egg, still a lot, but not as bad.  

If you’re a lady, you can go to the various ladies nights.  This handy dandy guide breaks it down by what day of the week it is.   I have a feeling that with a little effort, you could drink for free every night of the week.  This is a great, cost efficient option.  But it’s terribly sexist against men, and there are FAR fewer men’s nights (and the deals aren’t nearly as good).  

Happy hours are also a good option, I’ve seen beers and glasses of wine down to about $8 USD.  You can halve your cost if you go out earlier.  But what are the odds that you will only want to go out between 5:00 and 8:00?  

There are always discount apps/books like The Entertainer and Guzzle that you can use to save money. They aren't bad options, and Guzzle is free! You can be a bit limited by what the restaurant chooses for you to drink, and if you go back more than a couple times, you'll probably run out of coupons, but you can definitely save money this way.

You could have kids as well! This tends to radically change people's social lives, although it certainly doesn't mean you'll spend less. And it may make you want to drink more.

Let me tell you a secret about “The Happiest Teacher”.  I would rather pull my own teeth out with a pair of rusty pliers than go to a smoky bar where some “Dj" plays terrible music way too loud so that you have to shout at the top of your lungs and the bar tender makes you wait 10 minutes to get a drink while snootily ignoring you.  When I was younger, that was far more appealing to me, and I know plenty of people my age who still happily do that, and if that’s you, awesome, I’m glad you’ve found something you love.  For me though, nope.  I would much rather hang out at someone’s home, cook some good food, play some games (drinking or otherwise), listen to much better music at a more conversational level, and then have it dissolve into a sloppy dance party in the wee hours.  Maybe people will get out some instruments and jam.  Maybe cards will be involved, or board games, or a karaoke machine.  Again, this is my preference. But it also saves me A LOT of money. I average around $200 USD a month and $2400 a year on Entertainment and Alcohol, but I can tend to be a homebody unless inspired.

much better!

The main thing that saves me money here is that liquor stores (or even better, duty free) will provide you with the same alcohol for a small fraction of the price.  I can get 24 big beers for about $30 (less if they’re on sale).  So the same 4 drinks I would pay $60 at a bar now cost a grand total of $5 USD.  I just saved $55.  I can get a whole bottle of Jack Daniels for about $38 which makes about 15 decent mixed drinks, so instead of $18 for a single Jack and Coke at a bar, I’m spending about $4.  Over 4 drinks, that saves me $56.  If I do half mixed drinks and half beers for four drinks I’m spending about $10.50.  If the cab and food costs stay the same, I’m looking at about $35 for a night out, or $70 per week, $280 per month, $2520 per year, $120,291.85 over 20 years with investments. If you only do this once a week, all those numbers are halved. I also like to host these sorts of evenings, so I don't need a cab! That's like $720 per year less!

Of course, variety is the spice of life.  Anything done repetitively loses a lot of its appeal.  Mixing things up and making luxurious, expensive things an infrequent treat gives you something to look forward to.  But we also get into habits.  We do the same things over and over because it takes less energy and less risk than constantly trying new things.  I know I have fallen into the “we go to the same club every weekend because that’s just what we do” rut, and it’s definitely cost me a lot of money in the past.  

Takeaway Lessons:

  1. Use a spending app to track your spending.  You won’t know how much you’re spending by going out (or doing anything) unless you keep track.  This can be harder when drinking is involved, but if you pay with a credit or debit card, you can look back the next day and put in any costs you may have drunkenly forgotten.  

  2. If you want to go out frequently, be a woman and take advantage of ladies nights.  There are a lot of them that will give you unlimited drinks and even food.  Definitely the most economical.  If you’re not a lady, there are still deals to be had, but harder to find and usually not on weekends.

  3. Realize that nights in with friends can be just as good or even way better than going out.  You don’t have to keep up with the wild partying Joneses. Here are 31 ideas for free or nearly free activities you can do in with friends. Bonus points if you can make it so that nobody is on their phone!

  4. Take advantage of liquor stores.  They can cut your alcohol costs by 5/6 or more.  Even better if you can utilize Duty Free at the airport.  Make sure you have a liquor license in Dubai and follow all the laws! 

Wouldn't you like to save an extra $4,000 a year? I know I would! Subscribe below if this helps, and if you disagree (or agree), feel free to comment below.

If you liked this post, come join the discussion over at The Happiest Teacher Facebook Group! I would love to have your voice added to the discussion! Also, if you're into that Twitter life, come follow me!

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