Shame On You For Your Expensive Coffee!

How and when I spend money depends on the mind games I play. There’s the British expression, “Penny wise, pound foolish.” (In this context, the pound is money, currency, not weight.) We might shop for sale items, scrimp and save our pennies, only to not apply that same frugality to large purchases, or we make an expensive purchase on a whim. The idea behind the saying is to be careful of the large numbers — be penny wise AND pound wise.

But for me, it backfires a bit. I reflect on the occasional costly mistakes I’ve made, or money I’ve spent that in hindsight was totally wasted. Think a moment … what are two occasions that immediately come to mind when you were “pound foolish?” If I am inevitably pound foolish at times, why not let up and be a little penny foolish, too? I’m not going to spend energy trying to save pennies or a few dollars, or linger with bad feelings if I spent $2 more than I should have. When I want a good coffee — a bag to make at home, or a cup at the cafe, I’m just going to get what I want (within reason).

This recent article from The Atlantic is called The Rise of Coffee Shaming, with the subtitle “Personal-finance gurus really hate coffee.” Suze Orman “has spent years turning the habit of buying coffee into a shorthand for Americans’ profligacy, especially that of young Americans.” Who hasn’t heard some form of financial advice about skipping the daily lattes at the cafe? This quote from the article gets at the gist of the piece,

“coffee endures as a personal-finance flash point because it provides such a tidy intersection of generational tensions.”

“You spent how much?!!” This Huffington Post article talks about why specialty coffee is so expensive. Doing a little math … If you use 1/2 oz of coffee per 8 oz pour-over, an 8 oz bag of coffee would yield 16 x 8 oz cups = 128 oz.  A Starbucks tall cup is 12 oz.  Ten Starbucks tall cups, where a tall costs $2, say, would mean $20. Keep in mind they usually sell their brewed coffee according to a roast profile of coffee that’s a blend from a general geographic area, e.g., Latin America. Another way we sometimes don’t consider expense is when we buy into the brew method & technology that’s expensive (e.g., Keurig cups, K-cups), and the coffee itself might not be all that special.

You get up, you get ready for work. How can you start your day with a little treat or indulgence, bait to get you out there? Don’t we all do similar self talk like this at times? I deserve a good coffee (chocolate, cocktail, massage, doo dad, insert your little vice). I’ve earned this coffee (pastry, etc.). I need this coffee …. Just give me this little moment before I start my day. I just want to enjoy my delicious cup of coffee, free of shame or guilt.

2 thoughts on “Shame On You For Your Expensive Coffee!

  1. Personal finance people don’t learn about thrifty quality of life in their two week training course. Getting coffee out is so much more than the cup. It is a social experience that is relatively cheap. Coffee at home is a ritual.

  2. A fun read, Sharlene. Especially because I/we’ve all been there (or are there).
    Several years ago, a friend from North Carolina was visiting. She returned from a walk to downtown Palo Alto amazed and aghast. “Ah cannot believe people pay $3.00 for a cup of coffee,” she said. (I did say that it was several years ago.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *