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Thanks a Latte, Starbucks!

by J. Money on Thursday, December 17, 2009

Starbucks - you're welcome.This is a guest post from my talented as hell brother, T. Penny – the guy who reminded us debt is like kissing your sister…and liking it.

I feel cheap – dollar-store cheap. I’ve been used and abused for far too long, and it’s completely my fault. Confession: I, like millions of other people, am a Starbucks addict; a lemming to all things confection and caffeinated … and my wallet hates me for it.

Funny thing about treating yourself to a cup of highly priced Joe is that while it tastes sublime in all of its sugary glory, it can eat away at your checking account like diabetic termites. I know because I’m a repeat victim of modern marketing (Keg-sized peppermint mochas? It’s not the holiday season without it!). I naively buy into the belief that Starbucks is committed to my wellbeing; that if they were given the chance, they’d tuck me into my racecar bed at night, read me the ol’ Green Eggs and check for closet monsters. Nope. They just want my money, and I’m forking it over to them like old people at bakeries.

Truth is, up until recently I’ve been spending about $25 a week consuming what Starbucks is peddling (I’m drinking one as I write this). Buy, sip, swallow – follow the routine until you get the yummy in your tummy and all is right with the world. Eventually, I became a creature of habit, and those casual walks to the corner coffee shop evolved into the staggered walk of a fiend in need of a fix. What do I get for these visits? My teeth hate me, my gums have given up, and, like Tiger Woods, I waste my hard-earned coin on something cheap and disposable.

How did I kick this fix? I had to put on my reflection pants and swim in the lake of me. I needed to change my line of thinking, and to do that, I had to first get to the bottom of my spending. Every month, after all of my bills have been paid, investments made and my check to the Scott Baio Fan Club has been cashed, I’m left with about $700 to my name. Considering I’m 28 years old, single, I have a two-year-old car, I own a condo, I have six large in an emergency fund and zippy in credit card debit, that’s not half bad. What’s not good, however, is that every month $75-100 of that left-over money goes to Captain Capitalism in the form of Starbucks and other caffeinated drinks. You know how much “Charles in Charge” swag I could get for that amount of bank?

Worst of all, like any addict worth his salt, I knew I was going to Starbucks far too often, but the feeling of “treating myself” was alluring. I couldn’t stop. It is coffee, after all. For centuries, indigenous peoples warred, maimed and pillaged over this dark brown beauty … what kind of son of history would I be if I ignored all of that? No, I simply had to commit to my coffee cravings. I had to give myself the occasional treat. After all, what’s one cup a day? Nothing blush-worthy … until that one cup turns into 20 a month, which at $4.50 per serving comes to $90 every four weeks … or-gasp!-$1,080 a year (the cost of a mildly retarded alpaca).

And therein lies the financial rub: I’m wasting $90 each month that I could be investing, all because I fell into the insufferable mindset that treating myself daily is important, that I deserve a little treat here and there, which brings me to my point. It is healthy to treat yourself to something that will make you happy (like that sequined “Member’s Only” jacket you’ve been eyeing), and it’s certainly an important part of living and enjoying life. However, there needs to be a good dose of moderation in the mix. Otherwise, falling under the “I deserve” mind trap can quickly deplete your bank account and leave you with nothing but regrets, and in my case, a caseload of cavities.

What I try and tell myself now is that just because I can afford something, it doesn’t mean I should buy it. Instead of going to Starbucks every day, I started going every other day, and then less frequently after that, until I ended up going only two times a week at best. I also switched things up a bit and started going to Dunkin’ Donuts, where their delicious, low-maintenance coffee runs only a hair above $2- that’s a two-dollar savings right there! Finally, I decided to start brewing more of my coffee and taking it with me. Sure, it tastes like the rainwater that drips off of clay huts, but it’s a start. And I’m saving money. And I’m getting healthier. What’s not to like?

This entire coffee experience has taught me the importance of temperance when it comes to enjoying life’s goodies, as well as the need to step in and “check yo’ self!” on occasion. Doing so can directly affect the way you live your life and how you handle your money. When it comes down to it, making the decision to address my “addiction” is one smart step that’s made my wallet-and my waistline-much happier.

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T. Penny is the “real” journalist in our family, and my dear younger brother – who I both admire, and hate, for being incredibly funnier than me ;) If you like his style, check out his other guest posts: Doing what you love pays dividends, and Debt is like kissing your sister…and liking it.

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