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One of the trends in personal-finance blogging and YouTubing these days is to track expenses for a week and report on where all the money went. I thought I had nothing to learn about weekly-spending surprises until I came across the Alcohol Spending Calculator.

This online tool is offered by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse to make people more aware of their drinking. It does this by helping you see how much you spend on buying drinks every week, month and year (it also shows the drinks’ carolric-content).

The calculator shows that even a few drinks per week can add up to a significant cost. For example, two nights per week at a bar or restaurant where you order two drinks per outing at an average $8 would total $1,664 annually. Add an extra drink each at every outing and you get almost $2,500 annually.

Part of the issue with alcohol costs is that restaurants and bars can really ding you for a cocktail or glass of wine, beer or hard liquor. But our consumption habits are part of this, too. Drinking while socializing at bars and restaurants can be costly.

Tracking all your spending is a huge task, as you’ll find out if you watch this video by Alyssa Davies of the Mixed Up Money blog. In taking you through a week of spending in her life, she offers some lessons about using this process to hold yourself accountable for your spending. A simple way to get this process started: Track your spending on alcohol.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

Best travel reward programs offered by the big banks

Travel reward programs from six banks and American Express are ranked by factors including the value of points, the ease of redemption and how easy it is to earn.

A TFSA trap for young adults

The 2020 TFSA contribution limit was set at $6,000, which means total room of $69,500 for an eligible person who has never contributed. But this assumes you were born before 1992. If you were born later, your total TFSA room is different.

Money tips for spouses with unequal incomes

A blogger surveys some different views on dividing expenses in a couple where incomes are different and talks about her personal experience.

Four car-safety features worth the cost for older drivers

These features can compensate for physical limitations that might compromise reaction time in an emergency situation.

Ask Rob

Q: If we go to the United States this winter and use a credit card, which one do you recommend as being the most user-friendly, i.e. no heavy charges for exchange from U.S. dollars to Canadian dollars.

A: Here’s my latest column on credit cards that do not charge the usual 2.5-per-cent markup on purchases made in foreign currency.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

If you’re new to investing, you’ll find a pretty good briefing on the fundamentals in a new website created by the Ontario Securities Commission.

Video of the week

The CBC TV show Marketplace looks into the free credit scores available online. The takeaway is that online credit scores are just an indication of how creditworthy you are and in no way definitive. Also, lenders consult scores that are different than the ones made available for free.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories

  • As Emily approaches retirement, how soon should she draw on her RRSP?
  • Ask a travel expert: How can I avoid checking a bag - but still have everything I want? (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)
  • How should we accommodate our newly house-poor friends? (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

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