It’s the first thing budget advisers tell you to cut if you want to save money: take-out coffee.
But for many Western New Yorkers, skipping our on-the-go specialty joe is simply not a sacrifice we’re willing to make.
“Just like money has different meanings to different people, coffee means different things to everyone who drinks it,” said Amy Jo Lauber of Lauber Financial Planning, who runs budget workshops.
For many, coffee is an affordable luxury well worth its price.
But for years we’ve been harangued about the latte factor – the idea that little luxuries add up over time to big expenditures. And it’s true: Skipping a lot of the little stuff can lead to big savings in the long run.
This week, MoneySmart did the math and laid out the costs of different kinds of coffee down to the ounce.
So, just how much money can really be saved by skipping or scaling back gourmet takeout purchases? Quite a bit, it turns out. Brewing Maxwell House at home instead of buying Starbucks takeout could save an astounding $785 per year. Those Keurig single-cup coffee makers aren’t a bargain either, even though you’re brewing at home. While they’re cheaper than take-out, K-cups can easily cost 10 times more than the cheapest home-brewing options.
But the hard decision is up to you.
Look at how much you’re spending on coffee each year, calculate the savings that could be had, and then decide whether cutting back or switching to a cheaper variety is worth it. Or is the value you get from a specialty cup of coffee worth keeping it in the budget?
To calculate your annual savings, multiply the per-ounce cost of your current beverage (see chart) by the number of ounces you typically drink per day. Then multiply that by the number of days you drink it (365 if it’s a daily habit).
Do the same thing to find out how much you might save by switching to a cheaper coffee or a cheaper delivery method. Just plug in the cost per fluid ounce of the alternative coffee, and subtract that total from the cost of your current coffee costs.
For example, if you drink a venti Starbucks every day, that’s 20 ounces at 11.25 cents per ounce, which comes to $2.25 per day, times 365 for $821.25 per year.
If you were to brew your own Starbucks at home with a drip brewer, it would cost 1.76 cents per ounce, which would be 35 cents per day, or $127.75 per year.
So, if you were to switch from buying your coffee at Starbucks every day to making it at home using Starbucks beans in a drip coffee maker, you could save $1.90 per day or $693.50 per year.
That could be an additional mortgage payment!
By the same calculations, if you switched to brewing at home using a cheaper brand of coffee such as Maxwell House, you could get your coffee expenses down to just 10 cents per cup. So switching from buying Starbucks to making Maxwell House at home, you could save $2.15 per day, or $784.75 per year.
But Starbucks lovers might say it’s just not the same, and just not worth it.
You might decide that making Starbucks at home for 25 cents more per cup than Maxwell House might just be worth that extra $91.25 per year.
Lots of families have been turning to Keurig single-cup brewers. The machines use single “K-cup” capsules, which usually cost at least 50 cents. Sure, they’re a cheaper way to get a coffee fix than buying takeout, but boy are they an expensive way to brew at home.
Here’s an example: If you now brew Dunkin’ Donuts brand beans at home, you’re paying about 13 cents per 10-ounce cup of coffee.
But if you brew Dunkin’ K-cups in a Keurig, you’d be paying about 86 cents per cup.
That’s better than the $1.29 plus tax you would pay at the drive-thru, but still $266.45 more per year than using a traditional coffee maker.
And that tally doesn’t even take into account the cost of the machine itself.
Opting for a traditional coffee maker instead of a Keurig could save you enough money to make an additional car payment every year.
The choice is yours. “If someone really, really desires to improve their financial situation and coffee is a large expenditure that could be cut, I guess that person needs to ask what is more important,” Lauber said. “Money should be enjoyed as well as saved. It’s a matter of balance and priorities.”