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 2014: I’ve expanded to some awesome local coffee shops in town. If you’re in Atlanta, head to Dancing Goats Coffee Shop, which is just about as cool as it sounds. (The location off Ponce has an indoor waterfall and sofa-swingsets!)