Your latte doesn’t have to ruin your financial life

Personal finance gurus will often say the first thing you should give up is your daily latte. Instead, put that money in the bank for your future. Do the math:

$4 x 5 days a week = $20 x 52 weeks a year = $1, 040 x 20 years = $20,800 for your retirement

When you look at it this way, it makes sense. Except that I love my morning coffee. I don’t love it because I’m addicted to caffeine (which I am) or because I don’t have any self-control (which I don’t). I love it because it starts my day. The coffeehouse in the building where I work has a lovely staff who knows me by name. They great me with cheery hellos, and I feel like Norm Peterson minus the hangover. I craddle the hot coffee (a lovely Canadian brand) in my hands, inhale its rich aroma (buttery milk chocolate, caramelized cheeries and pecans) and take a flavourful sip from my mug (a treasured gift from my former boss). This moment transitions me from my home-world into my work-world. It’s really the ritual I love.

Giving it up entirely makes me grumpy. Replacing it with a new ritual – like making the coffee myself with a French press – only lasts for a short time. Instead, I’m minimizing the harm on my financial future.

For one, I’m planning for it every month. I never have before, and so this morning coffee frequently ended up on my Visa. I’ve also found ways to cut down the cost. Super simple solutions that make me feel like a moron for not employing them before: bring my own reusable mug for a cheaper price, make sure I receive my employee discount and have my coffee card punched so every 10th one is free. On the weekends, I order something fancier – like a cappuccino or a single drip Ethiopian blend at the farmer’s market.

The math looks something like this now:

$40 a month (and no more!) x 12 months = $480 x 20 years = $9,600 that I won’t have for retirement

It’s still not perfect, but it’s better. Because as much as I have to think about the future, I still reserve the right to enjoy my life in the present.

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