22p a can lager, get drunk for £1. MoneySaving or MoneyWasting?

This weekend’s papers are full of the fact that there’s a supermarket price war in the dirt-cheap lager market. Asda’s now dropped the price of its cheapest lager to 22p a can, and all the main supermarkets now sell their no-frills equivalent brand for about the same cost. There’s much gnashing of teeth and righteous indignation. Yet when I read it I can’t help but think “hold on, here’s something being sold cheaper than usual, isn’t that a good thing?” There’s certainly a dilemma here; is this the type of thing I should be covering and encouraging on the site, or would that be socially irresponsible?

Of course, the 22p lager isn’t exactly rated the greatest quality, but it’s cheap and legal and if you’re planning to get drunk, as many do; then the fact this enables you to do it while spending less is certainly a good thing. It also can’t be argued it’s a bargain, as some estimate the supermarkets actually lose money by selling these as the excise duties higher than the can cost.

So I thought I’d set out my view of the pros and cons…

Is dirt-cheap booze MoneySaving?

The arguments for…

  • It’s a cheap subsidized legal product.
  • Many people spend a substantial proportion of their finances on it, so the fact you’re saving 80% on it is MoneySaving.
  • If your aim is to get drunk then this enables you to do it more cheaply.
  • Provided its properly policed so those who are under-age don’t get it, it enables people to get a product cheaper and those who have alchohol problems already are going to buy it anyway and at least this way they’re finances are less impacted.

The arguments against…

  • Addictions aren’t MoneySaving. An addiction to alchohol means you now have a new compulsory spending habit which in the long run is costly.
  • If the addiction is caused by access to this cheap booze, its effectively a very poor investment as the short term gain is soon lost after long term expenditure.
  • If alchohol causes health problems, they can be very expensive (either to you or the state) and impact your ability to earn money.
  • MoneySaving is about living your life in exactly the same way but spending less on it, and developing an alchohol problem certainly has a negative impact on lifestyle.
  • One of the inhibitions people lose when drunk is their control of their finances, making irrational purchases, and spending too much cash.

What’s the answer?

I remember discussing the UK’s attitude to alcohol once while on the panel on The Wright Stuff and my overall view was I think the UK as a nation doesn’t have a drink problem, it has a drunk problem. Cheaper alcohol if then used within reason isn’t a bad thing; yet if the result is more inappropriate binge drinking it’s not healthy.

Perhaps the answer is, rather than putting it directly in the weekly e-mail or covering it on the site, I should just write a blog about it which provides the information, but in a neutral way and putting both sides of the argument. What do you think?

Comment and discuss