Just over a month ago we started our 30 day challenge to stay Starbucks free. As a self-professed Starbucks addict who, for the past several years (*ahem*… decades), has rarely missed a day of picking up my Venti Decafe Americano with coconut milk, one would think this challenge would have been……….well….challenging!
But instead, what I had slowly begun to suspect a few months ago, was conclusively verified. My “addiction” seemingly had a lot more to do with the overall experience of GOING to Starbucks, as opposed to solely the beverage itself.
And that addiction to the experience largely stemmed from the “good old days” when Mike and I worked many overlapping projects together and would take a moment to step away from the stressors of our jobs, and stop for the momentary indulgence of our coffee’s. Savoring each de-stressing sip.
Or during our limited time off when we would find ourselves lazily sipping away, pouring over our latest library book.
Since the birth of our youngest son, and retirement for our jobs, we’ve no longer been getting that same in-Starbucks experience. This in turn has resulted in an overall diminished return on our daily “investment”, so it was long overdue for me to give some critical evaluation to this ongoing expense.
Turns out – I think I’m over my Starbucks addiction. And so is Mike (although I’m sure he would have given it up long ago if not for me!).
Now, I didn’t go cold turkey. Well I did go cold turkey on going to Starbucks. But I didn’t eliminate my daily coffee! (Let’s not get crazy.)
What we did do was start a new habit of making coffee at home in the morning.
Now – I have a whole new addiction, which I will call a hobby in order to frame it in a healthier way 🙂
Who knew that home brewing was such an art?! I’ve found a whole new world of blogs to read, and I can safely say it’s gonna take me a heck of lot longer than 30 days to explore this new world, but I think I’m really gonna like it.
For this first 30 days, I kept things pretty simple. We used our trusty home coffee maker, sampled both grinding the beans and buying pre-ground. (I now get why buying fresh beans is touted as the most basic of coffee making 101 – definitely makes a substantial difference!)
I also gave a sprinkle of cinnamon in the grinds a shot (not a fan), and I tried out this handy little trick of adding just a dash of salt to the grinds prior to brewing in order to minimize bitterness (it made the cheap pre-ground coffee my frugal self bought taste a MILLION times better – thanks Mom!!).
Anyways, the bottom line is that this whole new experience of brewing coffee at home is producing far more value and interest than any of my Starbucks purchases of late.
So for now, with our current lifestyle – I won’t be returning to my daily Starbucks habit, but rather attempting to become a home brew aficionado. Should be fun.
I will however reserve the right to hit up a Starbucks drive-thru on long road trips though :). Just because I no longer see the return on my daily investment, doesn’t mean I won’t savour and enjoy the occasional cup.
Now – onto the numbers.
Pre 30 day challenge we had a monthly budget of $250.00 at Starbucks, (which we always spent. Always.) for a whopping annual cost of $3000.00.
Over the 30 day challenge, here’s what I spent on home coffee supplies:
- Coffee (1 Large bag of beans and 1 canister of pre-ground) $28.50.
Mike bought a yummy and reasonably priced bag of beans from Costco. When we ran out, I went to the grocery store and stared at the aisle of coffee options for about 10 minutes, not knowing where on earth to start.
When my toddler got tired of Aisle 2, I hastily grabbed the largest, cheapest can of pre-ground coffee available. It seemed reasonable at the time, but it didn’t take long for me to doubt my choice.
Mike promptly made a LOT of jokes at my expense when I came home with this ultra cheap, ultra large can of coffee, and we subsequently paid the price for the following 2 weeks. I mean, I wasn’t about to throw it out, right? I’ll do better next time.
Note* Just before I hit publish on this post, I did do better. I did some research and came up with a list of coffee brands we are going to try for the next few weeks. I started with Lavazza yesterday, and we’ll be following it up with sampling a few options from Peet’s and Kicking Horse, all companies which have received rave reviews from legit coffee people. I’m beginning to feel like this coffee venture is a lot like wine.
- Coffee Filters (30 @ .05 cents a pop) $1.50
We started off the month using the gold mesh filter that came with our coffee maker. It worked well – but man was it a pain in the butt to clean every time.
I also found that I would dump the grinds onto a paper towel, and then put them into the compost bin, so I figured hey, why not use a filter in the first place instead of the paper towel?
As Mike and I often like to do, I started be doing some research on paper filters vs. mesh and learned that there are some keys differences aside from convenience.
Turns out the mesh filters allow a lot of the oils from the beans into the coffee, (and not good oils, more the kind of oils that contribute to bad cholesterol), and they also allow a decent amount of grinds into the coffee giving it a stronger overall flavour and more viscous texture (snagged that term directly off a coffee blog I read last week. Starting to sound like I know what I’m talking about right?)
I’ve decided I’m not a huge fan of the more robust flavours the mesh filter produces, or the viscous texture of the coffee, nor do I feel great about the idea of consuming coffee bean oil unnecessarily, so moving forward, we’ll stick with compostable paper filters.
- Coconut Milk x 2 $7.59
I don’t drink regular milk, and neither does Mike, but I have also found that almond milk produces a very bitter in coffee. So we bought a couple cartons of coconut milk at our usual grocery store. Normally we buy the 6 pack from Costco, which knocks the price down to about $2.00 per carton.
- Salt .10 cents
This worked great to take the edge off of my cheap pre-ground coffee, but is quite unnecessary when a higher quality bean is purchased, so moving forward I shouldn’t need to rely on this anymore (unless I fall prey to my frugalness again – no guarantees either way.)
In total, I ended up spending $37.69 on home coffee supplies.
All in – our switch to home brewing netted us a total monthly savings of $212.31, or an annual savings of $2547.72.
Not bad, but not exactly a surprise either. If we were still working towards Financial Freedom, I would 100% be using that money to either pay down debt, increase savings or build a passive income stream (all depending where I was in my FF process).
BUT – since we’re at FF, reached early retirement, and still have a healthy monthly savings rate, I’ve decided to do a better job of ignoring my frugal tendencies, and start being a bit more open to spending money on worthwhile experiences/habits/hobbies etc.
After all – what’s the point of reaching FF if I can’t enjoy the fruits of our labour???
So – what are we going to do with that extra money in our budget?
We thought about adding an additional family trip, but since the savings are the result of a daily habit, we thought it would be more fitting to replace it with something a little more frequent than a once a year trip.
Here’s our plan:
- We’re going to up our home coffee brewing budget from the $37.69 we spent this month, to $100 p/month. ($1200 annually).
This will allow us to start sampling some cool coffee making methods and a variety of beans! I’m super excited for this one, because not only will it give us a new hobby, it will inspire me to visit more of our local markets on the hunt for some cool new coffee discoveries.
This budget will also account for the occasional Starbucks when we are out on a road trip, or Mike and I are able to slip away for a reading date!
- We’re going to purchase passes to our local zoo, aquarium and science world ($750.00 annually)
Our local aquariums have done a great job of adopting a conversation approach. It’s no long about big exhibits to draw the crows, they use their admission fee’s to focus on rehabilitation to injured animals, providing educational programs throughout our local, and funding further conservation efforts throughout our region.
Buying the passes is a way of supporting their efforts, and allowing me to take the boys on a regular basis to at least one of these spots, which they absolutely LOVE, and is a great option for rainy Vancouver days.
- I’m going to treat myself to a weekly yoga class at a studio within walking distance of home; ($528 annually)
I love yoga – so getting back into a class setting will be a huge treat for me, one that I ditched during our pursuit of Financial Freedom, and I haven’t picked it back up with any regularity since. I am really looking forward to this one!
The remainder we will use to increase a budget we have set aside in order to facilitate discussions with our oldest son about giving. By involving him in identifying how we choose to donate these funds, his opportunity to learn how to assess charitable opportunities, and give back in impactful ways is increased.
Looking at that list and the value we will get from each item comparative to what we were getting out of our daily Starbucks as of late, this seems like a total no brainer move.
This challenge has been a great reminder to me of the importance of consistently re-evaluating where your money is going, particularly recurring expenses, and whether or not you are maximizing your return on “investment”.
It’s easy to assume that because we were getting value from something, that we will continue to do so. But just because something was once a worthwhile expense, doesn’t mean it always will be.
Hope you enjoyed our look at the 30 day challenge!
Is there an ongoing expense in your life that you think might be time to re-evaluate? If so – tell us about it in the comments.
AND – if you have a tip on brewing coffee at home, or the PERFECT coffee bean for us to try, please leave us a comment and tell us about it! As a total coffee brewing newb, I need all the help I can get!
Thanks for reading – and check back for next week’s post where we’ll dive into our experience with Financial Advisors.