The Affordable Beer Conjecture

Affordability doesn’t always mean cheap vs expensive prices. If a gallon of milk is cheaper in the US than in Canada that doesn’t automatically mean milk is more affordable for Americans, although in this case that does seem to be true (>_<) What I mean though is that affordability can also refer to our purchasing power in a local economy. For example, an affordable beer index. Below is the a chart from The Economist showing how many minutes a person who makes the median income in a country has to work to afford half a liter of beer, which is roughly 1 pint I believe.

Known for its high income earners and low cost to do business, the most affordable place to make a living and drink beer is in the US. On the other hand beer is more pricey in Britain and Japan, and not surprisingly they are also less affordable for people to buy. But of course affordability isn’t just about the price. For example, according to the IMF, CIA, and the World Bank, people in Romania and China make just a fraction of what Canadians make, (about $5000 to $9,000 a year if converted all to US dollars), yet they don’t have to work as long as us to earn themselves a drink because their beer is so cheap. That means if you lived in those countries and worked an average job, you would be able to do more with your salary than doing a similar average job in Canada. Well at least you can do more drinking (^_-)

So if you live in a country near the bottom of the chart then you should be thankful that you can enjoy one of life’s simpler luxuries without breaking the bank. But if you live in a country above that average line, then you might want to think twice about going out for a drink next time because depending on your priorities, you may find a better use for your hard earned money elsewhere.

I’ve always thought that alcohol in Canada was expensive and over priced. But I’ve made the mistake of only comparing Canada to the US. Now I’ve realized that we don’t have it all that bad :0) I don’t feel upset anymore about paying more money for beer because I know it’s still more affordable than what most people in the world have to deal with.

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10/09/2012 10:48 pm

Interesting chart, I thought at first that I wouldn’t want to work for one hour to afford what used to be the drink of the poor. Then I realized many bars in Paris charge $12 for half a litter of beer, and that is more than the minimum hourly wage here. Way more affordable from the supermarket.

10/10/2012 11:45 pm
Reply to  Pauline

$12 is quite expensive for a beer :0( It’s much cheaper to buy alcohol from the liquor store in Canada. Plus, save on the tips.

10/09/2012 11:42 pm

I like your idea of using beer in your affordability chart, but unfortunately I think it skews the figures somewhat compared with say, the price of bread. For example, here in the UK beer is quite heavily taxed, (much more so than the US I would imagine), and the previous commenter mentions Paris. $12 for a beer IS common there but they have an entirely different drinking culture, and their tipple of choice is, generally speaking, wine, not beer, and it’s not uncommon to find bottles of wine in french supermarkets for as little as one euro.

10/10/2012 11:48 pm
Reply to  mevrocket

Yeah there are too many factors not considered with this study. It reminds me of the Big Mac index, where it compares how affordable Big Macs are around the world, but some countries heavily subsidize their hamburgers so the real cost is hard to say.

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
10/10/2012 5:00 am

Wow. People in India and Columbia are getting hosed. Well at least in Columbia they can siphon off some drugs or something to make up for it. 😉 Chart makes me glad to live in the U.S.! Yea for beer!

10/10/2012 11:54 pm

Sucks to be a beer lover in those countries. I doubt most people who live there can afford a couple of drinks after work. I’ve never been to India or Columbia before, but now I know if I ever visit them I’ll think twice about drinking in those countries because I want to blend in with the locals, and get to know their culture from an average person’s point of view.

John S @ Frugal Rules
10/10/2012 7:28 am

Interesting chart. This is one of the reasons why I’ll look for ways to save money on alchohol, like buying it from the store as opposed to when I am out. I echo TB’s thoughts…Hooray for beer! 🙂

10/10/2012 11:57 pm

Yes, beer is great. Wish we had more places to buy beer in Canada. In BC at least we have decided stores which sell alcohol, either that or pay the premium at a bar, hotel, etc…

Steve@The Loonie Bin
Steve@The Loonie Bin
10/10/2012 3:19 pm

In Canada alcohol is heavily taxed except in the whiny province that starts with a Q. I found a way to avoid paying the high prices for booze in bars and restaurants though: not ordering any.

10/11/2012 12:06 am

A woman comes home and says to her husband “Hey, I just got a great deal on this new purse. It was so cheap I had to buy it. I got 50% off, what a bargain!”
Then the husband said “That’s nice dear, but if you had just stayed home and not bought the purse you would have saved 100%.” He slept on the living room couch that night :0)

10/10/2012 8:53 pm

Interesting analysis/perspective. Working part time in the industry, I often don’t think of it like this. The laws are still archaic and outdated in Canada, even if we don’t pay that much comparatively. Every country below Canada (except maybe China) has a culture of beer that doesn’t make you feel like you’re a drug addict when you buy it!

10/11/2012 12:10 am

Luckily for me I don’t drink much beer, but I know what you mean. A big part of it is the social aspect, and expectations vary in different countries.

Savvy Scot
10/10/2012 11:59 pm

Amazing Chart! I didn’t realise it was so much cheaper to drink beer in Vietnam than Thailand… Bizarre! I think I will print this chart and stick it on my wall for holiday planning purposes!

10/11/2012 12:14 am
Reply to  Savvy Scot

Nice, I’m planning for my year end vacation as well. I didn’t notice that before you mentioned it, but that does seem like a big price gap between Vietnam and Thailand. Maybe it has something to do with the quality of the beer too.

10/11/2012 11:06 pm

Nice comparison! I still feel it’s cheaper down in the states from food to housing prices. Planning on shopping across the border this weekend… maybe stock up on some beer and resell at a higher price here? It’s especially cheaper now since our dollar is on par. I don’t drink so I save tons on not buying any alcoholic drinks.

10/12/2012 6:58 am
Reply to  agentfang

Interesting idea. There are already people in Vancouver who go across the border to buy milk and then bring it back to resell. Have fun shopping. Fingers crossed for good weather over the weekend.

Anne @ Unique Gifter
10/16/2012 12:55 pm
Reply to  Liquid

Really?? There’s a $20 limit on dairy, per person.

10/16/2012 1:05 pm

Haha yeah, I don’t know how they get away with it. Maybe they drive across with their entire family or something. Some people in Bellingham want to reduce the limit to $10, but then again, I wonder how much this rule is being enforced by border control right now.

10/19/2012 12:34 am
Reply to  Liquid

We have a similar thing with wine from France for people who live on the south coast. The narrowest crossing is only 22 miles so ferry tickets are pretty cheap. Tobacco is much less heavily taxed over there too, so they load up a van and bring it all back!

hungry hungry artist (@blerghhh)

Unfortunately (for the Americans) they have some of the WORST beer on the planet and it’s available to them at dirt-cheap prices. For this survey to have been accurate, it should have included a couple “global” standard brands as well as the local micro-brews into the equation.

Here’s a interesting factoid from a few years ago: After Labatts was swallowed up, the The president of Arrheniuser-bush was most proud of the Budweiser beer brewed in CANADA. (Not the stuff they brew at home). This sums up the quality of US mega-brands in a nutshell.

10/15/2012 9:24 am

Ah, that explains it then. They should really have some kind of standard for these studies.

myownadvisor (@myownadvisor)
10/18/2012 5:13 pm

I’ve been to Spain and Argentina and surprised the numbers aren’t lower for those countries. You can get amazing beer super cheap! Ah, I miss travelling….

Fun post.


10/18/2012 10:25 pm

You seem very well traveled. I haven’t been off this continent in over 5 years. Might be fun to go around the world just tasting different kinds of beer :0)