Why I Waited Till 21 to Drink – A Lesson in Opportunity Costs

March 13th, 2017 was my 21st birthday, and it was also the first time I had an alcoholic drink. Yep, you read that right. Didn’t have a sip through high-school, and even living in a dorm in college for two years (I commute now, I didn’t drop out), I still didn’t have a sip. I truly am in the minority in this regard, so you may be wondering… why? Is it because I’m a loser? No (and if you thought that, you might not be mature enough to read this). So, what’s the real reason? It may surprise you.

To be frank, people are stupid when they’re drunk.

Their judgment is severely impaired, they make stupid decisions, and they in general, they shouldn’t do much of anything.

So, how does this relate to opportunity cost? Well, let’s first define opportunity cost. Essentially, it weighs the pros and cons of every decision or opportunity. If one were to purchase a car, for example, the benefits would be having a car to drive to work, school, or Aldi (if you’re a good, frugal shopper), and the costs would be the price of the vehicle, selling your old vehicle (if you liked it), and potential increases in gas consumption, etc.

Now, how would this look for alcohol consumption?

Well, the pros may be a fun, enjoyable time with friends. You may enjoy the taste of certain drinks, or you might drink for other reasons (stress, forget about your life, etc.) among others.

That’s all fine and dandy, but now what are the costs? This is where it gets bad fast.

Some of the costs include but are not limited to: feeling like sh*t, vomiting, potential to get arrested/fined, potential to make stupid decisions and post stupid things on Facebook, etc.

The problem with high-schoolers and even some college students and drinking is that they think they are so “cool” for drinking that they want to post it on Facebook to show it to everyone.

They post it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. They get 50 likes. They look “cool”. But then one day, that junior in high school or freshman in college will grow up. They will need to get a job. And employers do check social media and they will completely ignore you if they see that on social media, no matter how qualified you may be for a position.

Another cost of drinking? Money. If you drink underage, chances are you won’t get thrown in jail. As long as you don’t drink and drive or do something outrageously stupid, most police officers will give you some sort of ticket or fine. From the experience of some of my not-so-intelligent college friends, this can be anywhere from 50-250ish dollars.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of money. Yeah, you could say “that’s just one paycheck, no big deal”, but think about what that 250 dollars could have done for you if it didn’t have to use it to pay off a ticket?

Imagine if you’d invest that into a mutual fund or used it to buy a stock (I don’t recommend buying individual stocks at a young age–stay tuned for more on that later). That money could have grown and worked for you, but instead, it’s going back to the state. The point is, that is two weeks worth of money that didn’t and shouldn’t be used to pay for a ticket.

And don’t even get me started on the most serious cost of them all: drunk driving. According to statistics from Visuallyone person every forty-eight minute dies from drunk driving. That’s outrageous. And yes, I know that drinking when you’re of legal age is no different when it comes to drunk driving, but I like to assume that as one grows older, gets into college and beyond, they develop a sense of maturity and responsibility that high-schoolers simply don’t possess. In other words, older adults develop a sense of respect for alcohol and don’t try to push their limits while under the influence.

These older adults drink responsibly and are mindful of the real consequences such as wasting tons of money, killing people, ruining lives,  and destroying families. It’s all about opportunity costs.

And before you go off saying that I’m some crazy nerd who hates alcohol and belong in the Prohibition Era, hear me out: I love alcohol. I think it’s great, and some beverages can be considered forms of art. Now that I am of age, I usually enjoy a drink or two every weekend to unwind and relax.

But you can bet your ass I won’t step anywhere near my car.

For me, the costs and potential risks of underage drinking always outweighed the opportunity. I truly believe that alcohol is meant for responsible, mature people, and those are two characteristics that I believe are lacking at just about every high-school and college party (especially when it’s time to go home and everyone convinces themselves that they can drive).

That’s why, for the first twenty-one years of my life, I never drank alcohol.

Oh, and this is a finance blog, so I’ll say this too…

Alcohol is expensive as hell!!!!


What are your thoughts on this subject? I’d love to hear from you! Reply down below, and if you enjoyed reading, be sure to share with your friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances (maybe this can be an excuse to talk to the cute guy/girl you’ve been dying to talk to in your Chem lab, huh)?