How to Save $1,500 on Coffee

By Kate Lister on 23 October 2010 (Updated 2 February 2011) 17 comments
Photo: russelljsmith

By now, many of us are familiar with The Latte Factor, the idea that if you put aside a little bit each day (equivalent to the cost of your morning coffee and a pastry), you can save a lot. But have you ever actually added up how much you spend at your favorite coffee shop? It's probably a lot more than you thought — if you buy lattes, easily as much as $1,500 a year per household. (See also: DIY Coffee Roasting)

Think it couldn't possibly be that much? Here are the numbers:

Let's say two of us (my husband and I) stop for coffee 200 times a year (4 visits a week, 50 weeks a year). A latte is, let's say, $3.50 plus tax — so $3.75 a cup. That means we're spending $1,500 (3.75 x 200 visits x 2 people) a year for coffee!

What's the solution? Why, make your own, of course.

It might seem like you won't actually save that much over the coffee shop, considering that you have to buy an espresso machine and beans. The savings are, however, substantial. A good machine is about $600 (ours is a Saeco, $549 at Amazon, and it's lasted four years so far) and espresso beans are $10-20 a pound (we buy three pounds of French Roast at Costco for $13). We spend $40 a month for coffee and milk, or $480 a year. Thus, over a two-year period, we spent $550 for the machine and $960 for the drinks. That's $1,510 spent in the same period we'd have otherwise given $3,000 to the coffee shop.

There's a flip side to this argument, but we don't feel like we're missing out on anything; the machine makes great coffee two shots at a time, and the steamer creates creamy, smooth, steamed milk in nothing flat. And not only has this method saved us almost $1,500 over two years, it's also saved us from gaining extra pounds eating coffee shop pastries.

 

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Guest's picture
LaDonna

I use an old Krups espresso machine that I bought at a garage sale for $5 and 'splurge' on Starbucks espresso beans (which they grind). I hate foam so I just nuke the milk for a couple minutes for my 'no foam latte'. Instead of $100 a month for Starbucks, I spend about the same about for the entire year!

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Kris

My husband takes it a step further -- he buys green coffee beans, either from the local coffee shop (NOT Starbucks) or sweetmarias.com, for about 1/2 the price of roasted beans and roasts them, using an air popper, every few days. So we have REALLY fresh roasted coffee. There's lots of online instructions for roasting coffee beans using an air popper.erya

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Guest

What if I only buy one latte a month? I don't think buying a machine, learning how to use it, buying beans, grinding them, etc is worthwhile. I spend maybe $40 a year on lattes. And that's it. It would take me over ten years to recoup even the cost of your machine.

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Guest

Dear Friends: We do the same -- make our's almost always. (We buy coffees when traveling as a treat.)

Question: Does anyone have a recipe to replace the premixed frappe' mixes? We make our own frappes/granitas, but buy a mix as we've never quite found the right mix of instant coffee/instant milk/sugar.

Help. :))

Many thanks!

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Hunter

Good idea, I might suggest how I saved a little more. I bought a stainless steel coffee press from TJ Maxx for $10.00 it's by the brand "The Palm" works great also a 6 oz Moka Pot also stainless steel for $8.00. Also I buy green coffee beans and roast them in a hot air popcorn popper so I use only the freshest roasted beans.

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Elena

Excellent point! It's the small stuff that adds really fast.
Everyone think that it's big purchases that make a big hole in the budget, but it's actually little every day things that add up in thousands of dollars.
Great post! Makes a lot of sense, especially in these hard economic times.
Elena

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Joanna

We bought a Breville espresso machine in May (about $600) and absolutely love it. Our favorite little coffee shop closed so we had to take matters into our own hands. It's great because it's definately cheaper in the long run, you can tailor your cup exactly how you want it, it's actually fun to make and it's something my husband and I do together when it's "latte time"! Thanks for this great post - I agree 100%.

Guest's picture

And Dunkin Donut coffee beans are now available in the grocery store - great coffee for $6lb. ;)

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Guest

Hilarious! If you're really frugal, you don't go to coffee shops in the first place and you don't drink lattes. Thus you save all the money and you don't gain the weight.

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Guest

You've got to be kidding me! I spent $12 on a coffee maker that does everything I need it to do (timer, hot water) and $5 on a can of coffee. A splurge for me is the bag of after-Halloween-sale Hershey Kisses to stir in my cup o'joe.

Guest's picture

In my opinion, you've got to mention what the relative cost to you is versus another family. For example, if you're spening $1,500 a year on lattes, but your household income is $300K with no kids - I'd say this is a nice treat you should continue to give yourself. On the other hand, if you're making $100K total, paying for 3 kids, etc. - you might want to just drink the stale coffee at the office.

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Guest

Not a hard sacrifice to use the old industrial coffee pot I have from the 50's. Going to the upscale coffee shops much outside of the truck stop circuit was not fun, I got tired of the average coffee barista looking at me like I am a barbarian for wanting an honest to goodness (no cream, no sugar, no fufu additives) plain old cup of joe...and it can have sat in the pot for a while as well

Guest's picture

We sprang for a home keurig machine, makes excellent brews and will pay for itself in a few short months assuming you buy lattes 5 days a week.

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Guest

I really like my "Coco Latte" Machine. It will froth the coffee as it pours out of the spinner. It doesn't make expresso but you don't even need a machine to make espresso. You just need a simple expresso coffee pot you keep on the stove.

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Davida

I like these types of tips and implement the ones that are sensible for me. My challenge/question, what's the best way to day by day save those dollars and pennies that you would have otherwise spent at the coffee bar? Do you put $4 in your money jar when you get home? Do you discipline yourself to put that money into your savings account each week? A good system/habit of saving the 'little' dollars would be helpful.

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Edward

That picture of a cup of coffee looks like it's taken from the movie 'The Green Hornet'.

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Banjo Steve

We make our own delicious coffee each morning with tour $24 drip coffee maker. Just the way we like it. Plus no gas usage to get to WAWA or Starbucks, which has to add on at least 50 cents a day in this age of expensive gas.