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How to do dry January

Adrienne Wyper / 05 January 2017

Make an alcohol-free month easier with our ideas to help you feel the benefits of being booze-free.

alcohol-free drinks
Non-alcoholic flavoured waters take minutes to make.

Whatever your reasons for abstaining from alcohol this month, whether you’re doing it for charity, for your health, for weight loss, to save money, as a charity fundraiser (or even to see whether you can…), try these ideas for a more enjoyable experience.

Are you drinking more than you think?

Focus on the health benefits

The positive effects of giving up alcohol are wide-ranging and well-known: everything from deeper sleep, to a brighter mood and improved energy levels. And your looks could also benefit, as skin is likely to be less dehydrated, and there’s weight loss potential, too, as a pint of beer contains 180 calories and a glass of white wine has 142 calories.

And once you start to experience these beneficial side-effects, it should make it easier to carry on.

Read about how our diet expert, Judith Wills, gave up alcohol in the weeks before Christmas

Make money a motivation

Boost your own bank balance by setting aside what you would spend on booze for an end-of-the-month treat, or get sponsored to abstain, and raise money for charities Alcohol Concern, Cancer Research, or Breast Cancer Now. Doing it for others may help strengthen your resolve.

Visit our giving section for more ideas on giving to charity

Pick your places

You needn’t shy away from socialising simply because – for a month at least – you’re not a social drinker. Instead of going to the pub, suggest a walk (with the added treat of a tearoom stop), coffee and cake, or something cultural like the cinema, theatre or an exhibition. When you go out, decide in advance what you’re going to drink, to avoid last-minute wavering.

Do some research, and plan at least some of your socialising in cafés, tearooms, juice bars etc, where you can get a delicious drink that may even be good for you.

If your social life revolves around pubs and bars, many now offer alcohol-free beer such as Beck’s Blue. And on the soft-drink side, don’t just settle for push-button soda water from behind the bar; get creative. Try a St Clements (orange juice and lemonade), ginger beer with a dash of lime cordial, tonic water with ice and a slice, Fentiman’s innovative soft drinks range, a bottle of orange juice topped up with mineral water, a virgin Mary. Most bars that serve cocktails also offer mocktails.

Socialising at friends’ or family’s homes? You might want to take along a bottle of your favourite tipple, just in case you’re bored with the usual orange juice or sparkling water.

Try these delicious mocktails

Take comfort in numbers

Apparently, one in six of us gave up booze last January, so it’s likely that at least some of your friends, family and colleagues will be on the wagon too. Why not arrange a social gathering for mutual support?

Go social

Find fellowship on social media by connecting with friends and others to share stories and tips with hashtags like #dryjanuary, #dryathlon, #day15 or Facebook pages including Dry January and Dryathlon

Be aware of trigger times

Think about when and why you usually drink alcohol, and plan alternatives. Got in from work? How about a cup of tea instead of a glass of wine? Settling in for a box-set binge? How about popping some corn instead of popping a cork?

Offer to drive

Ramp up your altruism points by nominating yourself as the designated driver for an evening out. Knowing you’re behind the wheel will keep you on track. This strategy will also silence anyone set on encouraging you to have a drink.

Does coffee sober you up? Alcohol myths busted

Drink new things

At home, you need to lay in supplies of tempting non-alcoholic alternatives, unless you know you’re happy with your usual brew or tap water. Buy or make herbal teas – lemon, fresh mint, ginger wake up your tastebuds – or how about flavoured coffees? Flavoured waters – including cucumber, mint, lemon, pomegranate – take minutes to make by shaking up the flavourings in a bottle of water. Spend your booze budget on new drinks, like coconut water, watermelon juice, Just Bee range of flavoured honey water, or birch water.

Try making this watermelon slushie

Read all about it

For some sobering statistics (as well as info, tests and support) take a look at the Drink Wise, Age Well report on alcohol and ageing.

Alcohol, liver damage and kidney problems in older adults


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.