Is Your Coffee Habit Breaking Your Budget? How to Get Things Back on Track

A few years ago, I lost my main freelance gig, and I had nothing in the bank. I was so freaked out, I could barely function, but I knew I had to cut my expenses fast. Instead of walking my dog to my favorite cafe and indulging my coffee habit every morning as usual, I started making coffee at home. At first, it sucked. The coffee itself was fine, but I missed my normal routine, and I felt sorry for myself on my coffee-less dog walks. Still, I stuck with it, because I had to, for financial reasons.

According to Time magazine, the average American spends over $1000 on coffee a year. (DID YOU READ THAT?!!!)

My French press was $20 at Target, and it has a built-in filter. Over time, I’ve started to appreciate my homemade coffee, so I’m still making it. Going the DIY route saves me a few bucks a day, so I buy the organic, fair trade beans I like, and pick up a few toppings so I feel like I’m at a cafe. (I like to sprinkle on a little cinnamon and a spoonful of hot chocolate mix.) When it’s warm out, I make extra coffee and save it in the fridge so I have iced coffee waiting for me later.

If you’re going to start making coffee at home, stick with a French press or a normal coffeemaker. The cheapest option is to get one of those pour-over cones that sits on top of a mug. Don’t be tempted to splurge on a Keurig or any other coffee machine that requires you to buy special coffee pods or capsules. Not only are those coffeemakers more expensive up front, the replacement pods cost far more than a typical bag of coffee. (Even the inventor of K-Cups says they’re too expensive!) Plus, those little plastic pods are bad for the environment. 

If you make coffee at home for a few weeks and find you’re really craving the fancy latte or blended mocha drink you used to order, don’t beat yourself up. I consider it OK to treat myself, as long as I don’t do it every day. I try not to go to cafes alone (unless my Internet is down and I need the free wifi), but I still visit on special occasions. If I’m meeting with a friend I haven’t seen in a while or a potential business associate, I let myself order any coffee I want — and if it’s work-related, I save the receipt. That business meeting is probably a tax deduction.

The truth is, making coffee at home probably won’t drastically change your financial situation, but it might leave you with a few extra bucks in your pocket (or your bank account) when you really need them. If you’ve ever bounced a check because your account was a few bucks short, you know how frustrating it can be, especially if your bank hits you with a $30 overdraft fee. If skipping a $2 coffee prevents that from happening, won’t you be glad you did?

BTW: Anyone who likes coffee and saving money should mark September 29th on their calendar. It’s National Coffee Day! Krispy Kreme is giving out free coffee and donuts to celebrate, and lots of other coffee places have special deals, too.