Lessons From a Cup of Coffee
We often focus on the major expenses in our lives, and we should. Switching from a large, expensive house to a more affordable one would immediately save lots of money. So would moving to a less expensive part of the country or a whole new country for that matter. But sometimes those options aren’t really possible or realistic. Instead, I like to look at the smaller expenses and I’m always amazed by how a simple change can save money.
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David Bach dubbed this concept the Latte Factor. For me, making the simple switch away from buying iced coffee every day was the first small step I took and it has saved me thousands of dollars over the years.
The Early (Expensive) Years
Anyone who knows me well knows about my love for coffee. Over the last twenty years, I can probably count on my hands the number of days I haven’t had at least a cup.
Throughout my 20s, I bought iced coffee every single day.
Every. Single. Day.
I would stop on my way to work or while running errands on the weekend, but I would also make the trip on days when I had no other reason to leave the house. I remember driving in snowstorms just to get my fix. On Christmas Eve, I would buy an iced coffee for the next morning knowing they wouldn’t be open on Christmas Day.
How a Simple Change Can Save Money
A few years ago, I started to make my coffee at home. The biggest hold-up for me is that I always drink iced coffee, making it more difficult to brew at home. I experimented with a few different methods. I tried brewing a full pot of coffee and refrigerating it for a few days, but it never tasted fresh to me. Then, I moved to a Keurig and brewed a single cup the night before. This tasted better but still lacked the freshness. Finally, I started to brew a strong, dark roast over ice in the morning. The coffee is bold enough so that after it’s brewed over ice, the watered-down strong coffee basically tastes just like a medium roast iced coffee.
Then, for Christmas last year, I got the perfect gift! It’s a quick chill thermos. You fill it up with water in two different compartments and then freeze. You then brew the Keurig right into the thermos and it cools down the coffee within 90 seconds, all without any diluting.
The Cost Breakdown
So let’s break down the costs of my iced coffee addiction. Although, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be disgusted looking back on how much money I wasted.
I bought at least one large iced coffee every single day. On some days, I would buy a second one. On average, I would estimate that I bought ten coffees each week. That adds up to a whopping 520 large iced coffees. Yikes! Assuming a cost of $2.50 each (it’s even more expensive now), I was paying somewhere around $1,300 each year on coffee!!
Instead, I now use Solimo brand K-cups which cost $28/100. Yes, only $0.28 for each cup of coffee. If we do the math, that amounts to $145.60. That’s a savings of over $1,150 from what I was paying before. Looking at this another way, I now save 88.8%!!
Why This Matters for Everyone
The coffee example is just one of hundreds or thousands. Maybe you have a habit of buying a scratch ticket every time you fill up on gas. Perhaps you buy lunch every day instead of making it yourself. Maybe you go to Target for one item but end up spending at least $25 each time you are there.
The lesson from my coffee revelation is that the little things do add up over time. The more wasteful habits we can break, the better off we will be financially. Nobody is perfect, but we can all strive to be better.
Let’s go back to the original math. Over the course of the year, I am now saving over $1,150 on coffee each year. Invest those extra savings over ten years and you suddenly have just over $15,000 assuming a 6% return on investments.
All of this from changing a coffee habit. It’s amazing how a simple change can save money.
Think of where that extra money could go. It could help pay off student loans (like it did for us), it could go toward an earlier retirement, or help pay for a child’s college education. Or maybe it becomes a dream vacation or the down payment for a second home.
It’s Your Money – Use It to Make You Happy
Regardless of where the money goes, make sure that your money is going where you really want it to. I didn’t need to be giving over $1,000 to Dunkin Donuts. That money has been much better spent on daycare and paying off our college loans.
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Then again, if you absolutely love the latte from Starbucks and can’t replicate it at home. Or if you absolutely hate making lunch so eating out is a worthwhile use of your money, then go for it. I’m not here to tell you what to spend money on. Just make sure you are using your money to truly make yourself happier.
After all, that’s really what it’s about, right?
That being said, do you have any examples of how a simple change can save money?
8 thoughts on “How One Simple Change Can Save Money”
Quitting smoking was the first time I easily noticed the build up of frivolous spending. When I quit I was buying a pack a day, each pack cost me around $10 (right! How dumb is THAT!). Over the almost 7 years since I quit I’ve saved almost $31,000…..ok maybe I didn’t save all that but it’s not being spent in a totally ridiculous way!😊
Wow! That is some serious money saved (or at least put to better use)! It always impresses me when you start to do the math over a few years and see how much it all adds up to.
Coffee is sometimes the first example which people give for “millennials” wasting money. But it’s not about the coffee it is what gives you the greatest joy. If it is a barista made cup of pure joy, then go for it!
Loved this post and what it stands for. One can enjoy and optimise at the same time. But life is also to be enjoyed!
Exactly! We have to be able to find that balance!
People love to justify spending money on coffee by saying “dude it’s only $5” (I’ve heard that line so many times in my life). What most don’t realize is that they say that like 250 times out of the year, which adds up quite a lot.
Skipping on buying that coffee from the coffee shop has the potential to actually make you a millionaire.
That doesn’t mean you give up on that lattee altogether, there are way cheaper alternatives by making them yourself by making a trip to the grocery store. There’s always a workaround to every problem in this world.
I totally agree with you, but I also understand how some people just love that special coffee each morning. I think the key is to focus on whether it’s really something that’s special or if it’s just a routine at this point. If that coffee makes your day everyday, hell yeah go for it! But if it’s just a habitual stop on the way to work, stop wasting your money.
The small expenses really do add up. Before kids, my husband and I ate out a lot– it was our fun, discretionary spending. It became harder going out once we had kids so we cooked more and ate at home. Now, it’s hard for us to spend eating out when we can often make the food better than what we get at a restaurant. I don’t want to do the math and find out how much we could have saved on eating out! Thanks for a good read and the great iced coffee tips.
In the spring of 2013 my husband found out he was going to lose his job. We had been considering cancelling our satellite TV prior to that, but with this new issue facing us, it was a simple decision. Considering we save at least $100 a month, over that 9 year time frame, we saved $8100. With all of the streaming services available these days, you can spend as little or as much as you want to, and I shudder to think what that same satellite service costs now! I suspect that savings is probably way more than $8100. We use a Mohu Leaf antenna for our local channels and try to limit our streaming to one channel at a time, which doesn’t sound like much, but there are a lot of free things to watch if you have a Roku.