The Drip-Coffee-in-a-Reusable-Mug Factor

coffeeI know I’ve heard something about something to do with personal finance and coffee…somewhere…I’m not totally sure what it was about? But I think it had something to do with not overspending so that you could retire early?

The thing is, I have a total line in the sand on buying coffee. It’s not possible to make myself a decent cup at work in the afternoon, and I tried bringing it in a thermos a couple of times last year but it didn’t stay acceptably hot until 2:00 pm. And obviously I’m not going to quit that afternoon cup. I just read in my housemate’s copy of Real Simple today that coffee is the healthiest thing you can drink except water! On top of everything else, I like the break in the afternoon that getting up and going for it gives me.

Anyway, the upshot is I pretty much always do buy coffee at work. However, I’ve greatly reduced my costs in a couple of ways. First of all, I switched my coffee-buying venue: from Starbucks to Au Bon Pain. (I’d rather have a better option on campus, but I don’t.) ABP saved me 30 cents a cup right off the top, which was good — I went from $2.11 to $1.81.

Then I had an epiphany. It actually came not because I was trying to save money, but because I’ve been trying to be a bit more environmentally friendly. I dug out a travel mug I used to use sometime, and brought it in one afternoon instead of getting a paper cup. And lo and behold, my $1.81 cup of coffee dropped to $1.27.

That’s a price I can live with. I’m saving $.84 from each cup (based on my baseline Starbucks cup), which is $4.20 a week, enough to pay for the first three coffees I drink the next week. I’m wondering if I shouldn’t start putting the actual change in a jar or something; I’ve been having less fun saving lately, and maybe a game like that would help.

23 thoughts on “The Drip-Coffee-in-a-Reusable-Mug Factor

  1. Alicia says:

    I hear ya on drip coffee out… To me, it’s a “necessary” expense – well, until I quit it earlier this year. I had it worked out to about $1.50 when it was all said and done.

    I think you should start saving the change to see how it adds up – throw it in a savings goal once your piggie bank is full 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Quitting would reduce my quality of life 🙂 I am going to get a change jar for the office though, definitely.

    2. Leigh says:

      Great idea! Takeout coffee/food is my #1 money waster, I may put a change/dollar bill jar on my desk and see what I can save!

      1. thesingledollar says:

        Cool! Let’s have a spare-change competition 🙂

        1. Leigh says:

          Sounds good! If I added it up, the money I spent since January alone on takeout coffee, I’d most likely cry….

  2. Hannah says:

    Working from home has given me the opportunity to drop my afternoon cup of coffee (it was pretty ugly the first few weeks). However, when I worked from my office I pretty much had an IV drip from Bruegger’s (Bottomless Mug Club) to my hand. I usually managed to remember one of my 15 reusable travel mugs, so it cut down on waste a bit.

    When it comes to saving change, I use a really small jar, so I feel like I’m swimming in money (Scrooge McDuck style) after about 3 purchases.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I need it even more when I work at home! It perks me up when I’m sliding during a long day 🙂 I love the concept of using a tiny change jar to make you feel rich.

  3. Nice Savings! I agree with the others that you need a savings jar. Then the money will actually be savings and not just money you didn’t spend.
    What if you drank more in the morning. Do you think you could eliminate your afternoon cup?

    1. thesingledollar says:

      (1) I love that “savings and not just money you didn’t spend” concept. Change jar is imminent. (2) Yes and no; if I have two cups in the morning, I don’t need another one in the afternoon. But I wouldn’t drink one right after the other, so I’d really be looking at going to get a cup at 10 am or something, which is just the same problem all over again 🙂

  4. If I drank an afternoon cup of coffee I’d be up all night! 🙂 I don’t think you should feel guilty about it. I think if it’s in your spending plan/budget, totally cool. It’s spending money on stuff that is most important to us, and if coffee is that, enjoy! 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I can’t really drink it after 3:30 or so, but I love that 2-3-ish cup. It’s partly the caffeine, but I think it’s mostly the ritual and the taste. It makes me happy 🙂

  5. I love saving my savings. It’s awesome to actually see that the money is there. I don’t do change, but instead have a separate account online. Every time I save money — from a coupon to the $92 we no longer pay for Dish — it goes into the saved savings account.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Oh, I kind of like that idea, except it might drive my bank crazy to constantly be transferring $.81 🙂 I could do a transfer once a week maybe. It wouldn’t be as dramatic as $92 a month; your account must look awesome!

  6. Maria says:

    Ok, maybe this is the most obvious *facepalm* question ever, so feel free to sigh and roll your eyes, but here it comes: Have you considered keeping tea at your job, so you could just add hot water?
    Also, have you tried greek coffee? Again, you just add boiling water, it’s as easy as instant coffee, but it tastes fresh and real. I don’t like it as much as I like “regular” coffee , but I still like it.

    If this is a routine you don’t want to change however, then enjoy yourself. 🙂 You’ve done a great job at making it cheap!


    1. thesingledollar says:

      Hee. I do in fact keep some tea there! But I really don’t like it nearly as much as coffee. Greek coffee — huh, I’ll have to look that up. Never heard of it. Honestly, even if I did like it, I might stick with my routine — I like the part where I get up and stretch and walk over to another building, too — but maybe at least for the summer I could make coffee inside and then take it outside for a while 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion.

  7. I totally get the need for an afternoon cup, and it sounds like you’ve made it as cheap as possible. Enjoy!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Oh man, I love my afternoon cup so much 🙂

  8. Kalie says:

    Coffee rituals are not to be forsaken! I firmly believe I’m looking out those around me by observing my caffeine routine. I like that you found a cheaper way to buy coffee out. Being frugal is not necessarily about spending the absolute least amount possible, but often about finding cheaper ways to get the things you want or need.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      It’s really the ritual as much as anything! I love it so much, so I wasn’t looking to quit, just to bring my costs down. It’s a really nice bonus that I can be environmentally friendly while also saving $$ 🙂

  9. Kirsten says:

    I am with you. I will never completely give up coffee for any financial pursuit. I am a much better person with my coffee. We have free coffee at work but it’s TERRIBLE. The best thing I can do is K-cups, which I now are expensive and horrible for the environment. But I’m pretty sure they keep me from being fired some days. So I am sure they are worth it.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Hee, keeping from being fired is the only reason I can think of for using a K-cup, but it’s a good one 🙂 Drink on!

  10. Amanda says:

    First, thanks for the great content! I’ve been reading for six months or so, but (I think) this is the first time I’m commenting.

    I’m with you on quality of life purchases. I try to be wise with my trips to the coffee shop in the morning (ie, not every day) but sometimes, I need that little reward, especially if I’ll be in meetings or court all day. But some days, I also use the most amazing travel mug ever. It’s pricey, but a friend recommended it, and I’ve heard from anyone who uses this brand that things stay HOT. Especially if it’s a thermos vs. a travel mug, (so it’s not be opened multiple times throughout the day.) Just in case you ever want to try bringing coffee to work again.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Thanks for the comment! Glad to know you’ve been reading 🙂 I’ll definitely check out that mug — I might give it a shot in the future.

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