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Originally published June 7, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 7, 2009 at 7:39 AM

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Money Tip

Drinkers save money by taking it home

A growing number of consumers are spurning drinking in restaurants and bars to save money. They're also choosing less-expensive beer, wine and liquor to take home. Some are even trading down from wine and spirits to beer, which typically costs less.

The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — Bad economy or not, Marty Stogsdill still likes his scotch.

But the 26-year-old computer consultant is more apt to enjoy it at his condo with friends than in a bar these days. Going out, he pays $10 to $18 for a glass of scotch. At home? He can buy a bottle for $35 to $50.

"You're not really giving anything up," he said. "You're just cutting out the markup, essentially."

A growing number of consumers are spurning drinking in restaurants and bars to save money. They're also choosing less-expensive beer, wine and liquor to take home. Some are even trading down from wine and spirits to beer, which typically costs less.

Sales of liquor, wine and beer meant to be consumed at home are now expected to rise 4.8 percent this year to $79 billion, according to Mintel International Group. The Chicago-based research firm recently had to revise its 2009 forecast to keep up with how quickly people are changing their behavior.

Mintel expects this to be the first year since at least 2003 that Americans cut their spending on alcohol in bars and restaurants. Alcohol sales in bars and restaurants are forecast to drop 1.2 percent to $54.2 billion.

So it's not that we're drinking any less; spending during the recession is just shifting to stores. Already in the 12 months ending in February, Americans spent 7.2 percent more on wine at food, drug and mass-merchandise stores than they did in the same period a year earlier, according to Nielsen.

When people socialize at home, not only is there no one to tip, there's also no bar or restaurant markup. Having even one glass of wine at a bar can cost as much as a whole bottle to take home — especially as people have gravitated to buying less-expensive wines.

Not to suggest that bars and restaurants are empty. But customers aren't spending like they used to.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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