Oh, before you cry out loud, “come on, it’s only coffee”, hear me out.
After all the mistakes I’ve made, I can tell you what I’m going to talk about today is not just about coffee.
It’s about living an intentional life, therefore, making good choices.
Coffee happens to be a prime example of mine.
Yours may be something else.
Anyway, you know the “fancy” stuff from Starbucks or Costa?
When I first got my 9 to 5 job after college, popping into Starbucks was my daily routine.
I had plenty of coffee at home.
We had a canteen at work where we could make coffee to our heart’s content.
Why then did I start indulging in fancy coffee?
It seems harmless, right?
I mean it’s not like $3.95 for coffee frappuccino is going to break your bank and puts you in financial distress.
Not in the near future, anyway.
The significance of it was how it started shaping my spending habits from then on.
It wasn’t only about Starbucks’ coffee.
It applied to everything I made a decision thereafter.
How I ended up living an inflated lifestyle later on.
Working for our first paycheck and getting one is indeed a pivotal moment in our life.
It’s not exaggerating to say financial habits we form from that first paycheck determines the quality of our lives in the next 20, 30+ years and beyond.
And I don’t know where I got the bright idea of walking into Starbucks en route to work to grab my favourite drink, Coffee Frappuccino, every day.
That’s the thing. I didn’t think.
It started off as one of those things: a little thing.
It soon became a habit.
A daily ritual which went on for 5 years!
One coffee each day: it turned out I had spent over $1,000.00 per year.
I was shocked when I realised it much later.
Even more shocked how much I could have made had I saved and invested it instead.
From $86.00 Month to $6,974.91 for Coffee Frappuccino
Coffee Frappuccino back then was a little cheaper.
Some days, I had more than 2.
$3.95 per day for 5 working days amounts to $1,027.00 per year.
That’s $86 per month.
Let’s say we invest the same amount each month for 5 years at 7% return.
(Adjusting the S&P 500 for inflation and accounting for dividends, we arrive at 7% annual return for the period 1950 to 2009.)
Looking at the more recent years, the return from 1987 to 2016 is even better at around 12%.
If I had put $86 aside each month — the same money I had spent on coffee daily —, I would have had extra $6,157.46 (7%) by the time I left the company.
Or $6,974.91 (12%).
Here’s the kicker.
Let’s say $86 was such a small amount I could’ve lived without (which is true) and decided to carry on saving into the same investment portfolio for the next 20 years.
In 25 years, I’d have $67,722.36 (7%) or $146,389.77 (12%).
It’s incredible how as small as $86 per month could compound over the long period of time enough to provide us with a financial safety net much later in our life.
This made me think about my spending habits on everything.
How About You?
How are your spending habits shaping up?
Take small expenses you know you can do without today.
Pop the numbers into this compound interest calculator.
See how much you could have in x years by saving and investing instead of spending for today’s short-lived pleasure.
It’s a simple exercise.
But it’ll help you see and cultivate a conscious mind over every decision you make with money.
Stingy Work Colleague with Vast Property Portfolio
I often bought and treated people in my department with, yep again, Starbucks’ varieties.
My colleagues loved them.
I relished in their joy.
I was always a generous person.
But I suspect I also sought others’ approval with goodies, almost bribing for their support.
I had very low self-esteem (which I have overcome since thanks to this book).
I had a Brazilian work colleague.
He was a receiver than a giver to the point that he earned a reputation of being stingy.
I learned later he had been sending all his money to Brazil where he had bought a house first and has since expanded it to multiple investment portfolios.
I don’t regret the treats I bought for my work colleagues.
But I do regret the frequency of them.
I wish I had been wiser with the way I had spent money.
Is Fancy Coffee Really Fancier?
Let’s face it.
When we consume, fancy coffee is processed in the same way (with the same effect) as any other coffee we can grab from our kitchen or canteen at work.
By all means, enjoy your favourite drink at Starbucks or Costa.
But do it so occasionally it becomes a treat instead of a mindless habit as mine was.
This is not about Starbucks coffee.
It’s about building good money habits by making a conscious decision.
I hope you can see the magnitude of the compound effect of the small amount over the long period.
Why it’s so important to live intentionally in everything you do, especially when it comes to spending money.
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