Yes, it’s true. “Don’t buy lattes” may be a personal finance cliché, but I literally buy a Starbucks coffee every day. I pay $1.78 for a tall (which is Starbucksian for “small,”) plus 54 cents for a refill. Daily damage: $2.32.
That’s $71.92 per month, if I go daily (which I sometimes do). As anyone who has read any given personal finance book ever could tell you, I’m flushing gazillions down the toilet. If I invested that same $71.92 per month at an 8 percent compounding rate, I’d have $13,245 after a decade.
And guess what? I don’t care. Yes, you heard me. I. DON’T. GIVE. A. HOOT. I’ve given my coffee consumption plenty of thought, and I’ve decided that a) I’m truly nerdy for having thought so hard about a daily coffee, and b) it’s worth every dime.
I’m location independent, which means I can work anywhere on earth with an Internet connection.
For most of 2011, “anywhere” meant my home office. I worked in my pajamas all day, conversed with my cat, and didn’t interact with any humans other than the FedEx guy. Pathetic, huh? That needed to end.
So I snagged a membership to a “co-working space,” a shared office space for developers, designers, writers and other freewheeling laptop-workers. It was set in an industrial brick building with exposed ducts, and it held an urban-hipster aura that appeals to the tech crowd. Cost: $70 per month.
First problem: I was the only girl. Awkward! Second problem: lack of windows. Ugh.
Two other women, a pair of graphic designers, started showing up to the space, so I hung onto my membership for two months. Eventually, though, I bounced after getting drained by the lack of sunlight. I’m like a plant; I need to photosynthesize.
That’s when I discovered Starbucks. It was magical. For a minimum $1.78 loitering fee, I can tap their Internet for a few hours each day while sitting near floor-to-ceiling picture windows. If I lingered at any other business for that long, I’d probably get arrested.
Given how much broadband I tap, I’d say the coffee shop is getting the worse end of the deal.
Nonetheless, I am a personal finance writer, and — although I could easily work at home — I buy $71 worth of coffee each month. I use discounted gift cards to cover my bill, which saves me 10 percent, bringing my total costs to about $63.
That’s infinitely more expensive than the “free” option that I have at home. It’s also infinitely more pleasant. And money should be spent deliberately to improve your quality of life.
The irony, of course, is that I sit at Starbucks writing stories about not buying a daily latte. Go figure.
Update September 16, 2013: I’ve given up coffee entirely — not as a cost-saving measure, but because I want to kick my caffeine addiction. I went cold turkey during a week-long camping trip, and refused to re-start the habit back at home. Instead, I now make a point of hitting some ‘networking’ event, like an startup entrepreneurs lunch, at least once a week.