YNAB BLOG

When it Comes to Coffee, Twenty is Plenty

1024px-A_small_cup_of_coffeeTwenty bucks. That’s all I’ve got in my coffee budget, meaning all coffee consumed out of the house. It includes hangouts with fellow authors, meetings with clients, and visits with friends. Twenty bucks.

It took a bit of training and practice to let go of the vanilla latte habit. But see, when one can get eight cups of drip coffee for the price of four lattes, well, you understand at a glance how much richer one’s social life can be.

Another sad fact? I used to be unable to enjoy a coffee without a little snack to go with it. Usually I liked a muffin or a scone. But I found my coffee budget didn’t go half as far. So I took it in baby steps, swapping the $3 scone for a $1.50 biscotti. And then one day, I just…ate beforehand, so I wasn’t running on empty when I got to the coffee shop. And I found I could be completely happy with just a coffee and some good company.

It was a very Buddhist moment. Simplicity and contentment and all.

Sometimes I get lucky and a client treats me. And every so often I’ll have a good run on a gift card that someone has given me in exchange for doing a presentation on writing. All of this generous goodness means I can squeeze a few more coffee dates into a given month. And I do love that.

But generally speaking, twenty is plenty.

And I have to admit: part of the fun of being a YNABer is seeing just . . . how . . . far . . . you can get your money to s t r e t c h. I see it as a challenge now, rather than a restriction.

It’s addictive, isn’t it?

17 Responses to “When it Comes to Coffee, Twenty is Plenty”

  1. Tricia

    Totally! Yesterday, I thought of stopping by a coffee place because I had mistimed my arrival somewhere and had a half an hour to wait. Instead of dashing right off, I thought about my category balance and whether I really wanted to reassign more money into it. Turns out that I really didn’t and so, no coffee. Felt good!

    Reply
  2. Kenneth

    I’m sure I drink more coffee than average. But my coffee budget is maybe $3/mo. I never stop at Starbucks/Caribou. I take advantage of the free coffee at work. We might buy a can of coffee every 2 to 3 months for home use.

    Mmmm… I’m enjoying a cup at work right now!

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  3. Seposm

    I’m not a coffee drinker, but I think this applies to more than coffee. We all have our pet categories, I do think we need to be realistic and budget for some fun and the things we enjoy, otherwise the budget becomes oppressive. But once we own up to it, we often realize we can spend a little more wisely and still get the enjoyment that we really want.

    Reply
  4. Michelle

    I applaud and agree with the post and comments. In addition I have another perspective. My coffee budget is $25/week because I enjoy the experience of reading in my local independent coffee shop and want to support their coffee/local art business. Again, not disagreeing with the principle of limiting one’s personal consumption and indulgences but simply sharing how my coffee budget serves a community-building purpose

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    • Michelle C

      We used to support our very good Local Coffee shop til we moved to middle of nowhere. So we rarely step foot in a coffee shop anymore. However, we must have good beans, our budget is right there too, $75/month, and that is squeaking by sometimes, but that is the one category that we both have decided is our luxury and we budget accordingly, no regrets. Most of the time this ends up being more than our entire dining out for a family of 4.

      Reply
    • Alex

      Yep, ohhh yesss, Michelle! I squeak by on $20 a month because I brew a honkin’ mug of really great coffee at home every morning…and, well…because I choose to funnel my…uh…”indulgences” money into a different category. (Stay tuned, ’cause I’ll be writing about that one, too!)

      Reply
  5. Dale Powers

    Your experience is mine, exactly! $20/month. Goes sooo much further at Panera ($2.29 for an endlessly refillable cup) than at “Five-bucks” for the one-and-done cup. If we can convince the world that budgeting is really a giant game of how to win with money, we can do some serious good for humanity! Thanks for affirming my coffee strategy!

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    • Alex

      Consider yourself affirmed. (I just love the idea of calling it a “coffee strategy”. Thanks for the grin!)

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  6. Mary

    I have given up coffee shops. Instead I have started subbing Gevalia in a fancy cup. It costs the same as one venti mocha at Starbucks. I could get really indulgent and hit it with a shot of rediwhip HaHa! When I do go, I have water with lemon and whoever is with me gets coffee.

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  7. Lisa

    I have the same problem. I have whittled it down to a coffee with no treat and hopefully my coffee budget next month will be even lower. Thanks for the great article!

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  8. Mike

    The true budget purest would have counted the gifted coffee shop gift-card as “Income” and budgeted it along with all other income… not assume that it can only be spent on coffee.

    In other words, gift cards should be treated as any other income… and those dollars given a job. The coffee budget shouldn’t change.

    You can, of course, throw the $30 gift cards dollars in the “coffee” category. That’s your choice. But it’s not mandatory.

    I have an on-budget “account” called “Gift cards”. Money in and out is tracked just like cash or my checking account.

    Reply
  9. Sarah

    Love this! And good tips for enjoying a trip to the coffee shop without going for all the bells and whistles.

    Coffee is one of my favorite things so it’s got it’s own category in my budget. Right now it’s $55/month, which I’d love to lower. I’ve thought about bringing an individual french press to work and making my own coffee at my desk (my work doesn’t provide any) but then I was thinking that part of my budget is blown by my daily work coffee-shop runs because I really enjoy those few-minutes to get outside, stretch my legs and have a mental break. It’s like a cigarette break – it’s more sanctioned to go out for a cup of coffee than to just disappear from work to wander around for a few minutes.

    On the weekends, I love checking out new independent coffee shops in my area and working on my writing projects with the ambiance of people around. I am ok spending a bit more for a latte there because it offers a couple hours of entertainment value when I could be doing something pricier. But still, gonna start aiming for drip coffees instead of lattes and see if I can lower that to $40!

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  10. Deborah Shepard

    I agree. I am quite addictive to the whole scene not just the coffee. What I found to be very helpful is using my Starbucks app on my phone or one could use a gift card. I load it for the month and that is all I get to use. Of course it is in my budget but I also get free drinks

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  11. Maiya

    I enjoy my own coffee at home in the mornings and sometimes have afternoon tea out with friends, but I bring my own favorite tea bag and just ask for a cup of hot water. I don’t buy ‘treats’ out any more, so my coffee /tea / snacks out budget is $10 a month and I usually spend less. Mostly it’s tips for the hot water!

    Reply

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