Why I Quit Buying Coffee: A Financial Experiment In 4 Parts

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We all have secrets nobody but us knows about. We all try to hide unflattering parts of us from other people. I have a secret too. And sure, on a scale of embarrassing family pet names to skeletons in my closet, it’s not quite at the latter end, but it’s something I’m not proud of. “Hi, my name is Deepshikha and I’m addicted to buying coffee”

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The first step is admitting you have a problem

It all started at the end of last month when I looked at my bank account and it looked right back at me, ransacked and angry, in utter judgement. They say there are two ways of uncovering people’s secrets: 1) Look at their medicine cabinets 2) Look at their bank statements. And in that moment, my bank accounts were revealing to me what I badly wanted to escape knowing: I’d spent a whopping Rs. 12,000 on coffee alone.

You’re probably thinking I’m one of those spoilt avocado-toast loving millennials who needs to get her act together. Let me tell you you’re wrong. I am one of those but my avocados are brown, and liquid, and come with milk with sugar. Alright, I have little to say in my defense except the pandemic has been rough on me and stepping outside three times a day, waltzing into my favorite coffee shop in Goa, and ordering that delightful cup of joe with my name on it is all I’ve lived for the past year and a half.

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My mid-pandemic resolution

I’m not one to wallow in guilt once I’ve figured out the problem so the very next day I decided to devise a plan. I got my pen and notebook and wrote this down:

Cups of coffee/day: 3

Meals consumed in coffee shop/day: Once a day

Some people invest in stocks, some keep their money in Fixed Deposits, I was eating and drinking mine. This had to change, so I wrote down my new plan of action:

Cups of coffee/day: 1

Meals consumed in coffee shop: Thrice a week

I also created a savings account in a popular digital platform of Rs. 5000/month. This would be the only money I spent on eating or drinking outside. I would track it and use it to stay responsible.

New Me, New Routine

I decided I would have my morning coffee at home everyday. Then at 4 pm I’d allow myself one responsible coffee at my favorite coffee place. I’d skip evening coffee and switch to peppermint tea at home.

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Coffee was a metaphor

As the days wore on I was surprised to see that I was sticking to my schedule. I was happy, I was healthy, and I wasn’t breaking the bank on caffeine for the first time in ages! The ease with which I pulled off the switch from coffee outside to making my favorite filter coffee at home got me thinking: what else could I substitute with thriftier options and become that “fiscally responsible” thing everybody’s always going on about?

I’m not saying I would never buy coffee again. Or anything else for that matter. But through this experiment, I realized the difference between treating yourself sometimes and picking a pocket-friendly yet just as desirable option sometimes. It depends on the individual how much they want to lean on either of the two sides of the spectrum. But I was stuck in a rut of always treating myself and thereby diminishing marginal utility for the very thing I love, cherish, and assume runs through my veins and keeps me hyper: coffee!

Towards the end of my experimental month it also struck me what else got me going to that coffee shop so often: human contact. A fellow patron’s smile, a friendly doggo’s “Woof!”, my favorite barista walking up to me and asking me, “Shall I get the usual?”. But by the end of July 2021 I had learned that all those things were in fact free and the once-a-day I walked into the coffee shop, I felt like I earned them even more!

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On the last day of my experiment I decided to jot down my final note. And the most important one! How much did I save?

₹1668/week

Or

₹6672/month!

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And on that celebratory note I’ll go do what I do best: take a coffee break, but of course, at home!

- Written by Dwijal Mehta, narrated by Deepshikha Singh.

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