Is Store-Bought Coffee Wrecking Your Savings Goals?

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  • Consumers are often told making their own coffee could get them closer to their financial goals.
  • While it's cheaper to make coffee at home, buying it may not be an unreasonable thing to do.

Coffee is a luxury many people enjoy. But should you limit yourself to making it at home?

Years ago, when I first started writing about personal finance on a full-time basis, I spent some time exploring different financial blogs to see what my fellow money nerds were writing about. And a big theme I saw across a bunch of those sites was the age-old: "Your coffee habit is keeping you from retiring."

As someone who buys store-bought coffee frequently despite being a strict saver and budget-follower, I happen to find that line of thinking skewed. Of course it's cheaper to make a cup of coffee at home than to buy it at your local Starbucks. And yes, if I were to take the money I spend every year on coffee and put it into my brokerage account, I'd potentially have the option to grow it into a substantial sum over time.

But I'm not giving up my store-bought coffee anytime soon. And if you're doing reasonably well financially, neither should you.

Small treats shouldn't be a source of guilt

In a new survey by "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," a financial blog, 33% of respondents said that "make coffee at home instead of buying it" is toxic financial advice. And as a big fan of store-bought coffee, I can see where they're coming from.

Now the truth is that if you're deep in credit card debt, have no money in your savings account to fall back on, and can barely cover your basic bills like rent, then you probably shouldn't be buying store-bought coffee. In that scenario, you really shouldn't be buying anything unless it's an absolute necessity.

But if you're in a reasonably solid financial spot, then store-bought coffee isn't a luxury you should feel compelled to give up. And chances are, spending $3 a day on a beverage you could make yourself for pennies isn't actually stopping you from meeting your long-term goals.

I happen to spend about $700 a year on store-bought coffee. I could probably make my own coffee for $50 a year instead. And yes, if I were to invest that money instead of giving it over to Dunkin on the regular, I'd potentially turn it into something in the ballpark of $75,000 over 30 years with a stock-heavy portfolio.

But I don't want to invest that money. I want to drink my coffee and enjoy it. And because I have no unhealthy debt, I max out my retirement account every year, and I have a robust emergency fund, I see no reason why I shouldn't treat myself. (That's not even counting the fact that coffee helps with my on-the-job productivity, which is the key to making money in my line of work.)

Should you give up your store-bought coffee?

If you're in a decent spot financially, that's probably a firm "no." That said, if you're already carrying some unhealthy debt or aren't meeting your savings goals, you may want to consider either cutting back on store-bought coffee, or cutting back on another non-essential expense.

There's nothing wrong with enjoying the small luxuries that make life more enjoyable and manageable. At some point, though, it may be worth assessing your spending and making sure you're indulging in moderation. If you're paying your bills and sticking money into savings consistently, then by all means, buy that extra foam double mocha chip lava with whip -- or whatever it is you prefer to get yourself through the day.

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