I love specialty coffee with a fierce passion. My license plate frame even says “Outta my way, I’m going to Starbucks!” I used to get coffee pretty much every day, which cost me after tip about $5.00 a day, and then I would buy some coffee for home too. I didn’t think much of it until I looked at my spending while doing my taxes, only to find that I spent over $1,600 that year on Starbucks. That is a mountain of beans if I ever saw one!
I started to think about how exactly I got to the point where I was spending $1,600 a year on Starbucks. I knew I didn’t intend to do that. On my phone, I had even gone so far as to set a monthly auto reload for $50 a month, which means that I thought I was spending $600 a year, not an extra $1,000 on top of it. So I did something that’s really difficult – I looked at every single Starbucks transaction, to see where the money went. Well, at first my plan worked – I was spending just the $50 a month. However, when work got stressful and my time was getting crunched, my visit frequency increased. I could see on my credit card where I reloaded – small reloads for $10 at first, but as the year progressed I could see those reloads actually equal the same amount I was depositing each month. I wasn’t just going to Starbucks to fill my stomach or my desire to be more awake. I was using it to cover the fact that emotionally, I was not in a great place at all. My logical spending plan was overwritten by my emotional needs not being met.
Some people are not morning people at all. They hit snooze about a dozen times before getting out of bed. They clumsily fling themselves into the shower, where they resign to the idea that the commute to work is in front of them. But even “not morning people” get hungry, and once again a need strikes – a desire for breakfast and to be more awake. But there’s no time – you have to get out the door and not be late for work! Making breakfast is entirely out of the question; hitting snooze killed any chance of making coffee or scrambling some eggs or nuking a breakfast sandwich. So you dash out the door, hungry and tired, but along your travels you remember that “America Runs on Dunkin'” or you think about the greasy, gooey, sweet and savory McGriddles sandwich and without a second thought you are in line. A few minutes later, breakfast acquired and onward to work you go. And so went your $5-$10 with it, but trading $5 or $10, that isn’t a big deal is it? That one choice, no, but doing it four days a week, along with any other meals you eat out for instead of prepare, and it is no wonder that the average American household will spend well over $4,000 a year on convenience dining.
We can’t keep doing this to ourselves. We are literally eating ourselves out of house and home. Our consumption is literally robbing our future selves of the ability to travel, to retire comfortably, to educate our kids, to start a business, to volunteer for a non-profit, to pay for longer-term medical expenses, to do anything we could want to do with our lives.
I have to ask, is this the life you want to live? Do you want to keep eating away your earnings, accepting as a deposit all those calories and the health problems and costs attached to them? Are you making that trade now and sick of punishing yourself in waist and wallet?
Let’s fix it. Here are some tips for how to avoid breakfast expenses.
1. Set a reminder to eat breakfast at home. Put a reminder on your phone’s calendar, on your refrigerator, on your bathroom mirror, or even a sticky note on the inside of your front door, to eat breakfast at home.
2. Plan ahead! Set the alarm earlier so that even after hitting snooze a dozen times you still have the time you need to make the coffee.
3. Grab and go. Prepare a few breakfast sandwiches, fruit and yogurt cups, or other snacks that you can take on the road with you so that if you wake up late, you can quickly grab one of these to-go items and avoid the drive-thru. You can even store these in the freezer in reusable containers and reheat them at the office.
4. Schedule “reward days.” Instead of going 3-4 days a week, schedule one day a week where instead of packing the breakfast, you get the reward of going out and enjoying that guilty pleasure. Pick a day and time for that – it is not a “cheat” day because you aren’t breaking any rules. It is a reward day, part of your weekly rhythm, and something you can proudly look forward to, not be ashamed out. My Starbucks time is Tuesday mornings – I use the time to meet new people, catch up with the staff, and get some writing done for the blog and the Briggs Financial Facebook page (which you should like for more tips weekly!).
5. Work with a financial coach. Many financial planners are stuffy suit-and-tie guys who want to sell you insurance or some form of product. I approach this very differently. My goal as a planner is to be a coach, to communicate and work together through the successes and the failures of life on a consistent basis, to help you achieve the lifestyle and the financial outcomes you desire. Why do people hire trainers in the gym? Because they are not getting results themselves. Having that professional trainer to hold you accountable and provide a plan to help you reach your goals without injuring yourself, that’s why working with a trainer gets results the gym.
This is also why you should consider working with a coach when it comes to your spending and finances. A professional financial coach will work with you in building a sustainable lifestyle and a plan for the dollars you earn. That coach will hold you accountable so you stay disciplined and support you every step of the journey as you work to achieve your goals. And a professional coach can help you sort out what is driving your decision-making, helping you identify what is actually causing you to spend, and work with you to meet that personal need so you stay on track.
Finally, your emotions drive you to make decisions with financial consequences that you do not necessarily intend. In order to combat this, you need to build a lifestyle that is conducive to living sustainably – to enjoy life, but live within your means and to be conscious of every dollar you are spending. When an emergency crops up or a lack of emotional preparedness hits (like feeling very hungry or being overly stressed), you will tend to make decisions to pacify that immediate concern or need, longer-term consequences be damned. When you make these decisions regularly, you rob yourself of the opportunity to build wealth, to build a stronger future.
You deserve the opportunity to build wealth. It’s time to trade back convenience for cost.
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Finally, if you feel that working with a financial coach could help you stay on track in reaching your personal financial and investment goals, schedule a free consultation or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I would love to meet you!