The Price of Morning Coffee: Budget vs Realist

The habit of grabbing a morning coffee is controversial in the money-savvy/budgeting/financial planning community. Dave Ramsey die-hards and other will say that the key to financial success is giving up you $6 latte (we’ve all seen those articles ranting about how millennials and young people would have houses if they just gave up their expensive avocado toast!). However, in more recent years, there has been a pushback on this pinch-every-penny-and-pretend-ye-are-a-poor-Dickinsian-child. The founder of Ellevest (the womenx-focused robo-investing platform), Sallie Krawcheck is famous for speaking out against this money-saving message- heck, they even have totes with the message “buy the f***ing latte!” on them. Her argument is that the issue is not cutting corners on everything that gives you small joys in your life, and the real target for financial success is increasing your salary or addressing the gender pay gap that contributes to women making less than men.

I’ll be honest, I still go out and get my morning coffee whenever I want. I see the value in both sides of the to-coffee-or-not-to-coffee argument: on one hand, investing $6 a day into the stock market instead of buying coffee would lead to a large sum in 40 years’ time (assuming 7% rate of return, that’s $483,058 dollars!!), however I ALSO know that running out to get my morning coffee is oftentimes the only reason I leave my apartment all day (since I work from home), or the only motivation for me to get out of bed (“if you get up early, we can make it to starbucks before XYZ meeting!”). Life is worth LIVING, so I’m not going to cut out something that brings me a daily amount of happiness, no matter how small or temporary it is.

That being said, I do believe there is a happy medium. We shouldn’t all spend our money at will “because the real issue isn’t the coffee, it’s how much I’m paid.” There are merits to making sure the “treat yo’ self” attitude doesn’t go too far. Instead of cutting out my morning coffee, I try to order the less expensive drinks. I might order an iced coffee instead of a cold brew, a regular vanilla latte instead of a specialty drink, or a shaken expresso instead of adding extra shots to a latte & paying the add-on cost. Heck, sometimes the cost of additions at Starbucks could equate to buying a whole other drink! I give myself around $25 a week on the Starbucks app to spend on coffee, this is part of my budget, and try my best not to go over it. To appease the Dave-Ramsey-ans, I make sure that coffee is part of my projections and budget for the month and I order the more “modest” coffee drinks. To appease the Sallie Krawcheck-ians, I still allow myself this small treat throughout the week. If we are spending our coffee money mindfully, there’s no reason we can’t have our coffee and drink it too!

So, if you’re like me and need that morning coffee for a jolt of energy, an excuse to get out of bed, or just a reason to leave your apartment today – you’re ALLOWED to go out and get that coffee. Just reflect on how you’d fit a coffee budget into your expenses, and how much is a realistic amount for you – and maybe switch to a flavored latte instead of a 2-extra-shot-vanilla-foam-added-extra-special-venti-holiday-drink. If you’re spending $40 on specialty drinks a week, try swapping out for cheaper drinks here and there, shaving off a few dollars each week. Allow yourself to treat yo’ self, without compromising on your monetary and financial goals for the future.

That being said – I’m off to Starbies now, on this fine winter morning – and you can’t make me feel guilty about it!

Published by Grace

Passionate about personal finance and helping people take control of their finances.

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