20 July 2017

Budget Life

Drinking good beer on a budget isn't always easy and when you are a guy who loves to try new and different ones all the time, it can get downright difficult. I will admit this is a very first world problem and do not wish to diminish the struggles myself or anyone else has in their life when it comes to money and survival but this isn't about that, it is about how I spend what money I budget and still enjoy many different beers.
 Contrary to popular belief, I don't receive much in the way of free beer. I have had the occasional brewery send me a beer or two, sometimes it is people who I have met online or in real life that give the gift of beer to me. But that isn't a weekly or even monthly occurrence and while I treasure anything someone sends me, I don't rely on the largesse of others to explore beer. I buy the majority of what you see me consume either at the breweries themselves or the LCBO. It pains me sometimes to receive a beer saint gift because at the end of the day, I don't have the means to return the favour, no matter how much I want to.
Last year's Tabernac Craft Beer haul from my Eastern Beer Saint friends
  Years of poor financial decisions left me almost broken and with a very bleak future staring me in the face. For far too long, I spent money on what I wanted and damn the bills. Even repeated warnings, final warnings and actual disconnections didn't scare me, I just kept blindly throwing money everywhere without regard to anyone or thing. While I have documented how craft beer has helped me control my over indulgent lifestyle, I rarely touch upon how it has changed my life when it comes to money. In order to try so many new beers and make sure the bills are paid, I had to do something most people do automatically, make a budget. But not just any pre fab program or idea would work and it took a few years of trial and error, slip ups and mistakes to finally arrive at a workable plan that has me less worried about the hydro bill and more concerned with living my life.
Issues man...

  To achieve this I had to get myself back to even on all my bills and then plan out the entire year, with some flexibility for emergencies, to make sure the utilities, mortgage, and other necessary things were always up to date and even a little ahead. I tracked years back on the bills and laid out a reasonable bi weekly amount that went to each and every one of them. Looking at an entire year of Hydro bills, for example, led me to see that $130 a pay to them meant I would always be in the black when the bill came due without wondering how I would be able to pay the entire thing. I did this with all the bills and began every payday with a few moments reviewing and then paying a certain amount to each bill. It was scary at first because my bank account would dwindle so fast but the money left was truly ours to spend and not borrowing from stuff that really needed to come first. I am still digging my way out of my poor decisions in the past but the light at the end of the tunnel is just over a year away and I am chugging along with the plan that has got me this far.
It was cheap and got me drunk, not my best choice.

 For the most part, I only buy 1 or 2 of any new beer that I find. Would I like to have 6 or 10 to try and then share/trade with my beer pals? Of course, but with a very limited budget, I had to make choices that respect the course I have found to bring me back to where I need to be. So I keep track of who has sent me something and when there is a little room in the budget, I try to return the favour. But I am indebted to those folks who just send Beer Saint gifts with no demand for a return, your karma is growing and one day I will show my thanks properly. The beer fridge is mostly full of whatever is new at the LCBO or the odd trip to a brewery, stuff friends give me and the rare thing sent from a brewery themselves. I am so lucky to get things from my friends in the industry and believe me I know how awesome any beer mail can be. So a big thank you to anyone who does this wonderfully thoughtful thing and I acknowledge my debt to you.
Durham Beer Saints Bottle share

  Respecting my budget and buying new beers leaves me with some cash left for a few favourites and regular craft beers to have when I just want a beer. These are usually purchased at the Liquor store and given that my free time is limited, like most people, that's where I am forced to do most of my shopping. Grocery stores are getting better with their craft offerings and as they see the sales and demand grow, hopefully it will continue to expand their selections. There is little doubt in my mind that without my turn to better beer, I would still be living paycheque to 4 days before paycheque and I will always continue to sing the praises of our local and not so local craft brewers for all the good they have brought into my life. I choose my regular beers based on knowing their quality, cost and what style I am feeling. There are many options for all price ranges and stuff like Great Lakes Canuck Pale or Collective Arts Ransack the Universe still provide the most bang for your buck and deliver great flavour. Look around at your local LCBO and breweries, they are sure to have something to fit your budget and taste. I have learned to let go of not being able to get every release I want. Given the sheer amount of breweries in Ontario that is a good approach because there is no way I could afford to buy every beer that comes out. Even when it comes to the ones that I really do want when I see them posted on social media, I remind myself that what is important is to contribute what I can to the cause and be joyful that my fridge has so many amazing things already. I wish I had an unlimited budget and the time to get the beer I want, but I have finally come to a point in my life when I accept what is and embrace what I have. I have learned to appreciate what is in my glass without worrying about what is in someone else's. I hope to be able to keep sharing when I can afford it and when the tide of my life has fully turned for the good, I will make it my mission to do more. Keep sharing and let's never doubt that this community is pretty damn amazing.

Raise your glass and your standards,
One Beer at a time.



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