A good coffee shop is one of my favorite things. Here in Seattle, great cafes are plentiful, and are awesome places to hang out, read, or get work done. However, they can also be a much bigger money-pit than you might realize. What’s that cuppa costin’ ya?
Pre-Enlightenment*, I had a bad latte habit and was spending around $3.50 a day on fancy coffee drinks. I’ll have an extra hot double tall hazelnut soy latte for here, STAT!
Back then, I had no idea how much that habit was really costing me.
The Truth Revealed:
Assume I bought a coffee every weekday for the whole year. That’s around $900 in coffee per year. Let’s also assume I did this all throughout college (no assumption needed- I was notorious in class for sleeping on my desk, only waking to sip my latte). Let’s say I kept the habit up for an extra year after college (which I did, and then some). In 5 years, I’ve spent… $4,550.
Seriously? Someone check my math- I slept through that class!
But it doesn’t end there. Half the time, I also bought a cookie. Or a sandwich, bagel, croissant, muffin, chocolate dipped peanut butter oat bar… Assume my cookie was $2 bucks. Assume I only bought a cookie twice a week. My $4,550 dollar coffee habit now jumps to just short of $6,000 every five years. $12,000 every ten years. $48,000 over a 40 year career, equivalent to a teacher’s salary. Was I really willing to work an entire year, full time, just for coffee and cookies?!
For the coffee shop, sugar addict, this is bad news. But don’t despair! They’ve just invented a brand new machine that will revolutionize your life, and you can get them for next to nothing at your local thrift store.
But if you’re in it for the ambiance or specialty drinks, don’t fret, there are still ways to minimize the expense:
1. Go with regular drip coffee and cut your coffee bill in half.
2. Pick a couple favorite cafes that offer stamp cards. It’s often 9 drinks and the 10th is free. For cafe-aholics, these cards fill up fast. If you’re with friends who don’t appreciate coffee stamps, their drink is your stamp.**
3. Every now and then, cash your stamp card in for the fancy $5 dollar drinks you like. Save it for when you really want a treat.
4. Don’t buy a coffee and a treat. Going out for coffee is already a treat. Choose one or the other. If you’re with a group of friends, get a couple yummy things to split.
5. On that note, don’t feel obliged to buy something big. Cafes are relaxed places and there’s no purchase-police. In the past, I’ve felt obligated to buy something even if I didn’t actually want it. These days, I’d rather leave the baristas a tip, or choose something small, than buy for the sake of buying***
6. Just cut back. Do you really need one every day?
7. Buy your own espresso machine. It will last you years and years of espresso-heaven, and it’s fun learning to make your own fancy drinks at home.
8. Sharing is caring. Ever consider splitting things with someone? I’ve often marveled at parents who buy each child their own $4 hot chocolate, every single day.
9. Does your family still give Christmas and birthday presents? Tell ’em your favorite spots for gift cards.
10. Have a desirable skill-set? Try a trade. Store owners might love to trade you coffee for your business services. You won’t know until you ask.****
11. Quit drinking coffee (Just kidding!)
*Before I realized the benefits of living a frugal lifestyle.
**I just took a group of 9 students to a cafe across the street from school for a study party. None of them wanted their stamps, so the barista offered to fill up my card (I go there often), giving me a fancy free drink. Plus, we were supporting an indie cafe, instead of their usual go-to Starbucks.
***This is different when I’m taking someone out. Although I’m frugal with myself, it always feels good to treat other people.
****A friend did this with an expensive hair salon she loved going to, but couldn’t comfortably afford. She’d clean the shop once every few weeks for free hair cuts and coloring services.