The True Cost Of A Hangover… In Money & Dignity

Illustrated by Richard Chance.
From accidentally dropping your phone into a pint glass of Dioralyte left by the bed to ordering an Indian takeaway at 11.30am followed by a burger 'for afters', hangovers are costly both in money and dignity.
I now spend more on my hangover than I did the night before. I’m a 35-year-old mum of a toddler, no longer will a packet of salt and vinegar Discos cut it. Instead I’ll start with a cocktail of Nurofen and caffeine but quickly descend into over-ordering takeout sushi. Hangovers are expensive; Barclays has just found the average cost of a hangover to be £19.60, with 11% of the British population regularly spending more than £30 on remedying the night before.
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So what are we spending our money on? Firstly there is the insane need for specific types of food in large quantities; secondly, there are the things we break and the flights we miss and, thirdly, hangovers seem to reroute our personalities where we end up buying things that we would never normally consider.
If you’re reading this hungover, and I really hope you are, snuggle under that duvet, lick those McCoy's-stained fingers, sup on that Rubicon and get ready to be soothed, because the truth is, there is nothing more consoling than another’s misery. So maybe let’s start with people’s costly mistakes. First up is Tomas Leach, a 40-year-old from London who told me: "I bought $200 worth of Bitcoin while hungover about five years ago and set a password I have no chance of remembering. At one point it was worth about £12,000."
Anne, a London lawyer, admitted a rather highbrow, hangover fuck up: "I booked a talk with Ian McEwan thinking it was in Oxford Circus. It was actually in Oxford."
Charlie, a marketing exec from Liverpool, felt an urge she’d never felt before: "I booked a holiday to Beirut, the flights were non-refundable so I had to make it work but it wasn’t necessarily my plan that year – for the one holiday I could afford to be alone in Lebanon."
One fully grown woman admitted to "buying a teddy bear at Sainsbury’s while buying crisps because it was so soft and I thought it would make me feel better". The Barclays research uncovered someone who had spent £45 on a large inflatable duck, presumably for the same reason.
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Then there are the food cravings that we have to quell no matter what the cost; the triple Deliveroo orders, the metre-long Toblerone we chuck greedily into our basket only to realise at the till that it’s £57. Claire, normally a sensible woman often found smashing half marathons at the weekend, admitted that she once "walked through a drive thru for my dinner, I was so desperate for a certain burger I had to walk-queue between the cars."
I spoke to many people who had to replace phones dropped into liquid (one into a glass of piss her friend had left by the bed), another who was sick into her neatly packed suitcase, thereby ruining layers of clothes and meaning her holiday wardrobe never quite smelled okay again. One 26-year-old told me: "I wet the bed and my boyfriend made me buy a new mattress. That was an expensive night out." An intern at an advertising agency still can’t believe "the cost of the flowers I had to send to a work colleague after decorating her white couch with red wine. That stung."
Hangovers often leave us incapable of doing normal human tasks like catching a train, as my friend Alex told me: "I woke up in Cambridge on the floor of a corridor using a balloon as a pillow. I had to take a train to Edinburgh – they weren’t cheap so there was no way I could miss it, but I couldn’t find one of my shoes so I hauled my hungover ass to the station…in one shoe. When I got to the station I puked right off the platform in front of all these business people. Such a low point. But I made that train." The average ticket price from Cambridge to Edinburgh is £141 – no one wanted to be in his shoe that morning.
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I once woke up in my own flat after a party. One of my bed legs had given way and there were cigarette butts and glasses everywhere and inexplicably, poo on a towel. The floors were covered in sticky pools. I couldn’t face the clean-up so booked myself into a hotel and ordered an emergency post-party cleaner (you can google one). I have to say it was the best £200 I’ve ever spent; after a night spent wrapped in goose down, I returned to a flat that smelled of bleach not cider. Barclays found someone who admitted to spending £350 on a hoover, and I get it – there is a very real need to feel clean the morning after the night before.
The question I keep coming back to, often while wrist-deep in a tube of Pringles, is how have scientists not found a hangover cure? Thankfully the trend for expensive IV drips never quite went mainstream, and I was thrilled when a friend who tried one after a night on all the stimulants said they didn’t work. While we would all welcome a cure I would hate it if it were only ever the preserve of the very rich. In the book Hungover, Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall set out to find the ultimate antidote to the poison and landed on this combination of droplets and capsules, taken after drinking but before bed: milk thistle for the liver; N-acetylcysteine for the immune system; vitamins B1, B6 and B12 to quicken metabolism, and the anti-inflammatory frankincense. Throwing all of these into a basket at Holland & Barrett will set you back about £35, which is probably only a few quid per hangover and might just be worth it.
What have we learned? That we malfunction when hungover, that alcohol will cost you more than the price of a drink, that you need to budget for the morning after as much as the night out, oh and I can now tell you that the Apple Genius Bar can detect when a phone has sat in a glass of urine – and their warranty doesn’t cover that.
*Not surprisingly, some names have been changed. But not as many as you might think.
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