Seattle Leads the Largest Metros in Alcohol Spending, While Houston Is at the Bottom

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How is booze affecting Americans’ budgets? According to a recent LendingTree survey, more than a quarter of drinkers admitted alcohol has negatively affected their finances.

But we wanted to know more about how much money Americans are pouring into alcohol. Our latest study analyzes alcohol spending as a percentage of total expenditures nationally and across the largest metros and various demographics.

Among our findings: Households are spending more on alcohol but less as a percentage of their total expenditures. Read on for more intoxicating findings.

  • Since 2000, alcohol spending as a percentage of expenditures has only been lower once than it was in 2022. In 2022 (the latest year available), alcohol accounted for just 0.80% of American household spending — the lowest since 0.78% in 2020 (the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic). In 2000, this figure was 0.98%. In this period, annual alcohol spending rose from $372 (2000) to $583 (2022). So households are spending more annually on alcohol but less as a percentage of their total expenditures.
  • Among the 20 largest U.S. metros, Seattle households spent the most on alcohol. Households in the Washington metro spent 1.35% of their total expenditures on alcohol, or $1,269 a year, between 2021 and 2022. Minneapolis (1.32%) and Miami and Boston (tied at 1.23%) followed.
  • Houston households spent the least on alcohol. Households in the Texas metro spent 0.79% of their total expenditures on alcohol, or $585 a year. Houston was just ahead of Atlanta (0.83%) and Baltimore (0.84%).
  • Annual alcohol spending increased the most in Tampa, Fla., and decreased the most in San Diego. Since 2016 and 2017, yearly alcohol expenditures jumped 91.61% in Tampa, from $417 to $799. Meanwhile, annual alcohol expenditures dropped 19.06% in San Diego, from $1,112 to $900.
  • The oldest Americans spend the least on alcohol. Americans 77 and older spend just 0.53% of their total expenditures on alcohol. Of note, Americans 25 or younger, 26 to 41 and 58 to 76 each are the same — 0.88% of their total expenditures on alcohol. Americans 42 to 57 spend 0.71%.
  • Among the demographics examined, the biggest source of alcohol spending was single men who earn six figures. Single men who make $100,000 or more a year put an average of 2.20% of their total spending toward alcohol. Interestingly, single men who make less than $15,000 a year were closest, at 1.67%.

Are Americans spending more or less on alcohol these days? It depends on how you look at it. Alcohol accounted for just 0.80% of American household spending in 2022 — the latest year for which data was available. That’s the second-lowest rate since 2000 — the first year in the period studied.

Does that mean Americans are drinking less? Not necessarily. LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz says inflation and the fledgling economy likely contributed, at least partially, to the decrease.

“If the price of alcohol rose more slowly than the price of other items in your budget, that could certainly account for the decrease in the percentage of expenditures,” he says. “Also, if you’re on a tight budget and concerned about your financial situation, you may be less likely to splurge on higher-priced alcohol. Instead of spending on a super-fancy cocktail, you might order a glass of house wine. Or rather than buying the fancy craft IPA, you might settle for a Miller Lite.”

The only year in which the percentage of expenditures spent on alcohol was lower than in 2022 was 2020, when it was 0.78%. That may seem strange since that was the first year of the pandemic, and statistics link the pandemic to increased drinking rates. (For example, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that alcohol consumption in November 2020 was 39% greater than in February 2020.)

But Schulz says even if people drank more during the onset of the pandemic, where they drank almost certainly changed. Instead of going to restaurants and bars for high-priced cocktails and beer and wine, they probably did most of their imbibing at home, where it can often be done far more cheaply.

Annual alcohol spending as a percentage of total annual expenditures, 2000 to 2022

Year Total annual expenditures Annual alcohol expenditures % of total expenditures on alcohol
2000 $38,045 $372 0.98%
2001 $39,518 $349 0.88%
2002 $40,677 $376 0.92%
2003 $40,817 $391 0.96%
2004 $43,395 $459 1.06%
2005 $46,409 $426 0.92%
2006 $48,400 $497 1.03%
2007 $49,638 $457 0.92%
2008 $50,486 $444 0.88%
2009 $49,067 $435 0.89%
2010 $48,109 $412 0.86%
2011 $49,705 $456 0.92%
2012 $51,442 $451 0.88%
2013 $51,100 $445 0.87%
2014 $53,495 $463 0.87%
2015 $55,978 $515 0.92%
2016 $57,311 $484 0.84%
2017 $60,060 $558 0.93%
2018 $61,224 $583 0.95%
2019 $63,036 $579 0.92%
2020 $61,334 $478 0.78%
2021 $66,928 $554 0.83%
2022 $72,967 $583 0.80%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Expenditure Surveys.

Overall, even though Americans are spending less on alcohol as a percentage of their total expenditures, spending is up dollarwise in 2022, at an average of $583. That’s more than any other year in our study, except for a tie in 2018. In 2020, the average was $478.

The fact that the inflation rate for alcohol since 1952 has been lower than the overall rate of inflation — 2.81% versus 3.47%, according to in2013dollars.com — could indicate people are drinking more.

Where in the country does alcohol take the biggest cut out of budgets? When we looked at the averages across 2021 and 2022 in the 20 largest U.S. metros, we found Seattleites spent the most on alcohol. Those in the Emerald City poured 1.35% of their expenditures into libations.

Note: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) metro data is based on two-year averages, while demographic data is yearly. Riverside, Calif. — a top 20 metro by population — wasn’t included in the BLS data, so it’s omitted here.

Why the spike in Seattle? It’s likely a combination of the high cost of living and the drinking habits of those who live there. Seattle ranks as one of the most expensive U.S. cities — the cost of living there is 50% above the national average, according to PayScale. Also, its rainy climate may drive people to explore more indoor activities that include alcohol, such as going to bars and breweries.

Highest annual alcohol spending as a percentage of total annual expenditures

Rank Metro Total annual expenditures, 2021-22 Annual alcohol expenditures, 2021-22 % of total expenditures on alcohol, 2021-22
1 Seattle, WA $93,905 $1,269 1.35%
2 Minneapolis, MN $82,883 $1,098 1.32%
3 Miami, FL $64,943 $799 1.23%
3 Boston, MA $89,795 $1,100 1.23%

Source: BLS 2021-22 Consumer Expenditure Surveys. Note: Figures are two-year averages.

Other metros topping the list of those spending the most on alcohol: Minneapolis, where residents funneled 1.32% of their expenditures into alcohol, and Miami and Boston, where residents of each city funneled 1.23% of theirs.

The reasons why these metros appeared at the top weren’t cut and dry but are likely a combination of the same reasons Seattlites spend more — high costs of living (50% above the national average in Boston, 21% above in Miami and just 1% below in Minneapolis, according to PayScale) and residents’ lifestyle habits. For example, the long, cold seasons in Boston and Minneapolis may drive people to more alcohol-inclusive indoor activities. At the same time, Miami’s beach and nightclub scene may make people more likely to raise a glass.

Some things may be bigger in Texas, but alcohol spending in Houston isn’t one of them. Houstonian households spent the least on alcohol — just 0.79% of their total expenditures, which rang up to an average of $585 a year.

The reason they spend less? The cost of living in Houston is 8% lower than the national average, according to PayScale, so alcohol may cost less in general. It could also be attributed to a lower average household income, which can generally be linked to lower spending on alcohol. For example, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, the median household income in Houston was $60,440 from 2018 to 2022, versus $116,068 in Seattle.

Lowest annual alcohol spending as a percentage of total annual expenditures

Rank Metro Total annual expenditures, 2021-22 Annual alcohol expenditures, 2021-22 % of total expenditures on alcohol, 2021-22
1 Houston, TX $73,772 $585 0.79%
2 Atlanta, GA $72,537 $600 0.83%
3 Baltimore, MD $82,095 $692 0.84%

Source: BLS 2021-22 Consumer Expenditure Surveys. Note: Figures are two-year averages.

Households in Atlanta and Baltimore were just above Houstonians, spending an average of 0.83% and 0.84% of expenditures on alcohol, respectively. These cities have higher-than-average costs of living, according to PayScale, so the lifestyles of residents are likely at play.

Here’s how the rest of the biggest metros rank:

Full rankings

Highest/lowest annual alcohol spending as a percentage of total annual expenditures

Rank Metro Total annual expenditures, 2021-22 Annual alcohol expenditures, 2021-22 % of total expenditures on alcohol, 2021-22
1 Seattle, WA $93,905 $1,269 1.35%
2 Minneapolis, MN $82,883 $1,098 1.32%
3 Miami, FL $64,943 $799 1.23%
3 Boston, MA $89,795 $1,100 1.23%
5 Chicago, IL $74,266 $907 1.22%
6 Tampa, FL $67,636 $799 1.18%
7 Phoenix, AZ $71,750 $815 1.14%
8 St. Louis, MO $71,182 $789 1.11%
9 Denver, CO $84,293 $898 1.07%
10 San Diego, CA $86,299 $900 1.04%
11 Philadelphia, PA $85,897 $871 1.01%
12 Washington, DC $94,171 $929 0.99%
13 San Francisco, CA $101,880 $998 0.98%
14 Detroit, MI $68,866 $655 0.95%
14 New York, NY $83,064 $788 0.95%
16 Los Angeles, CA $77,024 $720 0.93%
17 Dallas, TX $71,932 $663 0.92%
18 Baltimore, MD $82,095 $692 0.84%
19 Atlanta, GA $72,537 $600 0.83%
20 Houston, TX $73,772 $585 0.79%

Source: BLS 2021-22 Consumer Expenditure Surveys. Note: Figures are two-year averages.

Alcohol spending is rising in some U.S. metros while falling in others. We compared annual expenditures on alcohol between 2016-17 and 2021-22, and Tampa, Fla., had the biggest increase — 91.61%.

Meanwhile, across the country in California, San Diego saw a 19.06% decrease in spending on alcohol. Could the trendy metro be riding the popular sober-curious wave? Perhaps, but the disparity could also be tied to the cost of living, which is 44% higher than the national average in San Diego, according to PayScale. In Tampa, on the other hand, it’s even with the national average, meaning people may not be as reluctant to spend money on alcohol as in San Diego, where they may be tightening their spending.

Change in annual alcohol spending, 2016-17 to 2021-22

Rank Metro Annual alcohol expenditures, 2016-17 Annual alcohol expenditures, 2021-22 % change in annual alcohol expenditures, 2016-17 to 2021-22
1 Tampa, FL $417 $799 91.61%
2 Chicago, IL $509 $907 78.19%
3 Philadelphia, PA $492 $871 77.03%
4 Phoenix, AZ $485 $815 68.04%
5 Miami, FL $487 $799 64.07%
6 New York, NY $499 $788 57.92%
7 Atlanta, GA $385 $600 55.84%
8 Minneapolis, MN $754 $1,098 45.62%
9 Washington, DC $662 $929 40.33%
10 Boston, MA $823 $1,100 33.66%
11 Seattle, WA $986 $1,269 28.70%
12 Denver, CO $771 $898 16.47%
13 Los Angeles, CA $620 $720 16.13%
14 St. Louis, MO $684 $789 15.35%
15 Dallas, TX $576 $663 15.10%
16 San Francisco, CA $875 $998 14.06%
17 Detroit, MI $658 $655 -0.46%
18 Baltimore, MD $724 $692 -4.42%
19 Houston, TX $650 $585 -10.00%
20 San Diego, CA $1,112 $900 -19.06%

Source: BLS 2016-17 and 2021-22 Consumer Expenditure Surveys.

Age

With age comes wisdom and, apparently, a lower alcohol bill. Americans 77 and older direct just 0.53% of their total expenditures toward alcohol. Meanwhile, Americans in all available age groups 76 and younger direct at least 0.71% of theirs to alcohol.

Annual alcohol spending as a percentage of total annual expenditures, by age

Age Total annual expenditures, 2022 Annual alcohol expenditures, 2022 % of total expenditures on alcohol, 2022
25 or younger $47,975 $423 0.88%
26 to 41 $74,782 $661 0.88%
58 to 76 $66,362 $587 0.88%
42 to 57 $91,382 $645 0.71%
77 or older $52,005 $275 0.53%

Source: BLS 2022 Consumer Expenditure Survey.

The lower rate of the 77-and-older set is likely influenced by their health and living circumstances. For example, they may be more likely to be on doctor’s orders not to drink or live in assisted living or nursing homes that may not provide or allow alcohol.

Schulz says it’s somewhat surprising that those 25 or younger and 26 to 41 spend the same amount as those 58 to 76. But one explanation is that older Americans may develop more expensive tastes. So even if they’re drinking less, their drinking still leads to more spending. You may drink more when young, but it’s often about finding the cheapest stuff.

Race

Breaking it down by race, we found Asians spent the least on alcohol — just 0.44% of their total expenditures in 2022. That compares to Black or African Americans, who spent 0.61%, and whites and all other races, who spent 0.85%.

Annual alcohol spending as a percentage of total annual expenditures, by race

Race Total annual expenditures, 2022 Annual alcohol expenditures, 2022 % of total expenditures on alcohol, 2022
White and all other races, not including Black or African American $74,333 $634 0.85%
Black or African American $57,996 $354 0.61%
Asian $87,950 $390 0.44%

Source: BLS 2022 Consumer Expenditure Survey.

One possible explanation for the divergence: Studies show alcohol consumption is higher for whites than for other races.

Education

For the most part, we found the more educated one is, the more they spend on alcohol. Those with a bachelor’s degree spent the most — 0.90% of their expenditures in 2022. Their more- educated peers with master’s, professional or doctoral degrees spent slightly less — 0.86%.

It drops from there, with those without a high school degree spending the least, at 0.42%.

The reason may again have to do with earnings related to the degrees. As we noted earlier and will see again in our analysis, those who earn the most typically spend more on alcohol than those who earn less.

Annual alcohol spending as a percentage of total annual expenditures, by education

Education Total annual expenditures, 2022 Annual alcohol expenditures, 2022 % of total expenditures on alcohol, 2022
Bachelor’s degree $86,295 $775 0.90%
Master’s, professional or doctoral degree $109,691 $942 0.86%
High school graduate with some college $56,511 $453 0.80%
Associate degree $63,106 $429 0.68%
High school graduate $46,097 $251 0.54%
Less than high school graduate $37,012 $156 0.42%

Source: BLS 2022 Consumer Expenditure Survey.

Income among single men

Who’s coughing up the most cash for alcohol? It’s single men who earn six figures. Single guys who make $100,000 more a year pour an average of 2.20% of their total spending into alcohol. That’s far higher than the average of 1.58% for all single men.

Annual alcohol spending as a percentage of total annual expenditures, by income among single men

Single men/income Total annual expenditures, 2022 Annual alcohol expenditures, 2022 % of total expenditures on alcohol, 2022
$100,000 and over $93,822 $2,068 2.20%
Less than $15,000 $23,949 $401 1.67%
All single men $43,299 $684 1.58%
$50,000 to $69,999 $46,883 $682 1.45%
$70,000 to $99,999 $58,716 $851 1.45%
$30,000 to $39,999 $34,630 $460 1.33%
$15,000 to $29,999 $30,153 $337 1.12%
$40,000 to $49,999 $39,850 $403 1.01%

Source: BLS 2022 Consumer Expenditure Survey.

But Schulz says higher earners spending a larger percentage isn’t surprising.

“It can be very, very easy to spend a whole lot of money on alcohol,” he says. “High-end wines and spirits can cost $100 or more a bottle. Lower-income folks may be flabbergasted that people would spend that much money on a bottle of bourbon or cabernet sauvignon, but it becomes more of a reality — and sometimes even an expectation — as you make more money. It’s a perfect example of lifestyle creep, which is a real thing and can easily wreck budgets when it gets out of control.”

It’s also significant that single men who earn less than $15,000 put the second-biggest percentage of their total expenditures toward alcohol. The rest of the lower-income groups populate the bottom of the list by percentage.

Income among single women

The pattern is similar for single women, though they spend significantly less on alcohol overall than men (and the BLS tracks their income levels differently). Those who earn the most pour a higher portion of their income into alcohol. Single women who made $70,000 or more spent 1.10% on alcohol in 2022. That compares to an average of 0.87% among all single women.

Annual alcohol spending as a percentage of total annual expenditures, by income among single women

Single women/income Total annual expenditures, 2022 Annual alcohol expenditures, 2022 % of total expenditures on alcohol, 2022
$70,000 and more $77,889 $855 1.10%
$40,000 to $49,999 $46,114 $480 1.04%
$50,000 to $69,999 $50,971 $515 1.01%
All single women $42,174 $365 0.87%
$30,000 to $39,999 $42,488 $333 0.78%
$15,000 to $29,999 $32,758 $224 0.68%
Less than $15,000 $25,738 $127 0.49%

Source: BLS 2022 Consumer Expenditure Survey.

Region

Regionally, there are some differences in alcohol expenditures, but they’re not all that stark. In the Northeast and Midwest, residents direct an average of 0.85% of their expenditures to alcohol, versus 0.77% in the South. Residents in the West rang in just under that at 0.76%.

Annual alcohol spending as a percentage of total annual expenditures, by region

Region Total annual expenditures, 2021-22 Annual alcohol expenditures, 2021-22 % of total expenditures on alcohol, 2021-22
Northeast $79,741 $679 0.85%
Midwest $69,870 $591 0.85%
South $65,576 $506 0.77%
West $83,317 $634 0.76%

Source: BLS 2021-2022 Consumer Expenditure Surveys. Note: Figures are two-year averages.

If you like to imbibe, Schulz says there are ways you can save and still get your drink on. Here are four tips:

  • Drink at home. Rather than paying for an Uber to take you to a bar, where you have to pay for overpriced cocktails and probably underwhelming appetizers, consider inviting friends, family and colleagues to your place. Turn it into a potluck and get everyone involved. It’ll be less expensive and safer — and probably just as fun.
  • Remember, more expensive isn’t always better. Sure, the sommelier at your favorite restaurant may be able to give you all the details about why that $50 bottle of wine is so, so, so much better than the $8 bottle from the grocery store, but you may not notice that much of a difference. And if you like to have a glass of wine at home most nights after dinner, that difference in cost can add up to something meaningful.
  • Get a financial accountability partner. If you and your besties are open with each other about your financial situations, you’re probably less likely to put yourselves in situations where you might wreck your budget. That doesn’t mean you have to tell them every little thing about your financial life. But if you’re willing to be vulnerable and share some of your goals, they’ll likely be more than happy to support you. And, like Mom and Dad said, if they give you too much of a hard time about it, it might be time to consider finding new friends.
  • Drink less. Not to be a buzzkill, but there are countless reasons to drink less or avoid alcohol altogether. Abstaining could be better for your health and budget.

LendingTree researchers analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Expenditure Surveys to examine how alcohol consumption has changed over time.

Specifically, researchers compiled annual alcohol expenditures and total annual expenditures, comparing these two to calculate the percentage of yearly expenditures dedicated to alcohol. We did this nationally, across the 20 largest U.S. metros — excluding Riverside, Calif., which wasn’t included in the data — and across demographics, including age, race, education, income and region.

We also calculated the five-year change in annual alcohol spending. Note that while demographic data is based on yearly averages, metro data is based on two-year averages (for example, comparing 2016 and 2017 to 2021 and 2022 to get the five-year change).

Source

This article originally appeared on LendingTree and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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This article originally appeared on LendingTree and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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