Rise & Shine….

I was in my mid-twenties when I became a regular coffee drinker.  Note, I said drinker and not connoisseur.  At that point in my life, my financial resources were limited to pretty much the basics, so I got my fix from eighty-nine cent cups of whatever the gas station was brewing on my way to work.  But every Friday, I treated myself to something yummy at Starbuck’s. Sometimes it was a Vanilla Latte, or a Caramel Macchiato or whatever seasonal treat was available for a limited time.

I loved the taste of the Starbuck’s concoctions.  The gas station stuff though….not so much.  I just needed the caffeine boost in order to jump start my day.  Since my employer had a strict no tolerance policy when it came to illegal drugs, crack was out of the question.  Also, crack wasn’t in my budget.  Also, all the other reasons for not pursuing crack as a substitute for caffeine.  So, gas station swill it was.

Eventually,  I began to appreciate the taste of a good cup of coffee, without all the added sugar, syrups and spices and I slowly transitioned from drinking the Shell special to a basic Starbuck’s brew most days, but I still enjoyed the dressed up stuff every Friday.

As I got older and my financial situation began to improve, I ditched dressed down coffee altogether and became a strict Vanilla Latte devotee.  Every day, seven days a week, I worshipped at the Church of Starbuck’s….sometimes twice a day.

When I traveled out of town, one of the first things I did upon arrival at my destination, was locate the nearest Starbuck’s.

One of my favorite things to do was to spend a Saturday afternoon at Barnes and Noble with a venti-Vanilla Latte in hand, snuggled into an oversized chair to read magazines or browse through the rows of books.

Fighting the holiday crowds at Christmas, was always that much more tolerable with a cheery, festive Starbuck’s cup in hand.

Of course, like all relationships, ours had its ups and downs.  Though I know that a latte is topped off with foam, nothing would piss me off more than being served a $5.00 coffee that had approximately $2.00 worth of coffee and $3.00 worth of foam.  When the cup was handed to me, I could tell by its weight in my hand whether or not I had been cheated. But, like a crack addict not dissuaded by a bad score, I always returned for more.

Last week though, as I was waiting in the drive-thru line….on a day when I’d decided a second cup was crucial to my survival….it occurred to me that I was probably spending an awful lot of money on coffee.  Sure, I’d considered the cost before, but I’m not what anyone would call a spend thrift.  A fair amount of my furniture consists of pieces I found in thrift stores, consignment shops, or plucked from curbside trash and restored with my own sweat equity.

I’m an expert shopper and I’ll happily spend hours researching large purchases in order to ensure we get the best pricing by leveraging coupons and special savings.  This year, I outfitted my son for the new school year using the accumulation of all the cash I got back by making qualified online purchases through Ebates.

I know the best time to book a flight, how to prompt a free coupon from an online retailer (fill up your online shopping basket and then close out your browser for a day or two….guaranteed to get you a code for at least 20% off and free shipping) and the best ways to score cash back deals and special coupons from higher-end retailers….without having to sift through the racks at Marshalls or TJ Max for their castoff’s.

I don’t necessarily have to be so thrifty, but growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money.  So early on, I learned to squeeze a nickel until the Buffalo shit and old habits die hard.

All things considered, a daily coffee purchase….or two….hardly seemed like an extravagance when I thought about all the things I could be wasting money on.

Finances have been on my mind a lot recently though, as my husband and I just purchased an antique, colonial home we’re restoring and renovating.  The house was built in the 1730’s and we’re only the sixth family to own the home in the last 280 years.  It’s been beautifully maintained, but it’s still 280 years old and it needs some TLC.  I imagine my coffee budget came to mind in the swirl of costs associated with a new furnace, kitchen remodel and other repairs.

“Ok,”  I thought as I sat in the line of cars waiting to reach the drive-thru speaker.  “If I spend roughly $5.00 per day on coffee, that’s $35.00 a week….$140.00 a month….over $1500.00 a year!?”

Given that I regularly make twice daily runs, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that I am spending more than $2,000.00 a year on something I drink from a paper cup and is largely flushed from my system within an hour.  In a five year period, it’s likely I’ve spent somewhere around $10,000 on coffee.

I felt sick by the realization.  That money could have cut my remaining student loan balance in half.  I could have put it into my 401k or spread it out among the kids college funds.  I could have replaced the entire heating system in our new home.  We could have taken a number of great vacations.  I could have donated it to something really worthwhile.  Instead, I drank $10,000…. and I have nothing to show for the investment.

So, when it was my turn to place my order, I knew it would be my last.  Of course, I’m not giving up coffee altogether, I’m not strong enough to survive the withdrawals again….I did it once when I was planning to get pregnant and remained coffee sober throughout my entire pregnancy.  It was hell.  I spent an entire weekend, in bed, in the dark, fighting off terrible migraines.

“This must his must be what it feels like to withdrawal from heroine….only that’s probably a little worse,” I thought as I writhed in pain.

I fell off the wagon pretty much immediately after my son had exited the shoot.  Before anyone get’s all judgy and starts shrieking, “Breast is best!”  I was still undergoing cancer treatments at the time and breastfeeding was out of the question….unless I wanted my baby to glow in the dark.

Anyway, I was pleased when the Barista handed me a cup of a suitable weight.  It felt good to part on a high note.  Since I was wearing a flannel, puffy vest, skinny jeans and my navy blue Hunter rain boots, I felt it was only appropriate to pop into Target, with my warm cup of happiness cradled in my hands, to walk the aisles and leave with a $150 worth of stuff I really did need from the home goods section….like the so very basic white girl I am.

Since then, I’ve been dutifully brewing Starbuck’s (Hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day) coffee every morning.  Most of the time it tastes like mud, but I’m beginning to learn some things here and there and overtime, I just might become a connoisseur, rather than a mere drinker.

I can’t promise I won’t have the occasional relapse and find myself shaking with anticipation in the Starbuck’s drive-thru line from time to time.  I’m not perfect.  But I’ve got my eye on the bigger prize….an extra $1500 a year can buy a whole lot of fun stuff at Target.



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