Technology news is full of information about self-tracking apps helping to “quantify” yourself. Fitbits track your sleep and exercise. Apps like Mint help you track your spending habits. And…no, let’s just stop right there. Apps like Mint track your spending patterns and help you see how out of control your coffee drinking habits are.
Okay, let’s stop again. Mint tracked my “Coffee Shop” budget for six months and slapped me into reality. And now, I’m better. Here’s what happened…
A conversation sometime last year:
Me: I’m setting up our monthly budgets in Mint. How much do you spend for golf every month.
Mick: I don’t know, I don’t keep track.
Me: Well, my one “luxury” every month is going to the coffee shop, relaxing with a latte, and reading. I’m budgeting $120 per month for me. That’s my luxury item. How about you? What’s your average golf expenditures?
Mick’s golf budget is not part of this story. But, the idea that I was using social exchange theory is. In one sense, quite honestly, I was trying to justify my coffee spending habits by externalizing Mick’s golf activity spending habits. Fair for you; fair for me…
In another way, however, I was trying to find a “number” that fit with how much we were each going to allow ourselves on luxury items per month we had already been spending, but needed to acknowledge. This “budget line item” allowance we gave ourselves worked like a charm. For six months or so, we kept a silent tally in our heads of “approximately THAT number” for “our THING.”
But at some point, however, my number began to slip. I quit paying attention to my “Coffee Shop” line item. And, it gently creeped upward. Until April of 2014. April was big month. A full month. Cram packed with activities, late nights, extra projects, and…extra stops at Starbucks. I met colleagues at Starbucks to go over goals for research. It was legislative session, so I had planning sessions at Starbucks followed by phone meetings at Starbucks. All of the sudden, my $120 Starbucks habit had turned into…wait, WHAT? TWO-HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SEVEN DOLLARS???
And here’s the real clincher: If I’m truly honest with myself, I don’t even like Starbucks coffee that much. I love coffee…but the Starbucks roasts, or process, isn’t even my favorite. I tend to like more smooth, toasty, caramel-note blends. Blends like Sumatra Bodhi Batak I purchased from Hoboken Coffee Roasters one Saturday morning…while racking up my “Coffee Shop” line item in my Mint app during the month of May…while contemplating my “Coffee Shop” problem.
So, there I was, see…sitting in this way cool, Oklahoman-owned coffee shop in downtown Guthrie, listening to fantastic music. I took a photo of that day because I was so happy:
I was just sitting there in the corner, reading a journal article, listening to Gary Clark Jr. and was in a perfectly zen place, drinking my iced latte when I realized: I love this coffee so much more than Starbucks.
But here’s the thing. Yes, I DO love that coffee, but I also know “emotionally focused theory” was at work: I have a personal vulnerability for crazy good music. I was feeling great because I was doing the thing I like to do (relax in coffee shops) listening to thing thing I love to hear (crazy good music) and drinking the thing I love more than Starbucks (a latte made with coffee that’s been roasted to my personal preference).
Then I remembered…I love cold brewed coffee with ice and milk. I love it as much as an iced latte. Sometimes I love it more, depending upon the coffee. And, it’s so easy. I read about how to make it on The Pioneer Woman blog a couple of years ago. WHY wasn’t I making this for myself?
I walked to the counter, asked about buying a bag of coffee beans roasted “that were smooth, toasty, and had caramel-notes.” And was handed this:
That’s all I needed. I bought my coffee (one-half pound = about 2 quarts which lasts about 2 weeks for me). I drove home. Ground my beans, filled up my pitcher with water, refrigerated it overnight, strained out the grounds twice, made my first cold-brewed coffee with milk, and haven’t racked up a dime at Starbucks since.
My name is Kelly, and I was a Starbucks addict. But now I’ve been “clean” for four weeks. And so far, I’ve spent zero dollars on “Coffee Shops” in June (see photo above).
And, in case you’re wondering, my coffee habit is now about $8 per month, plus milk costs.
I think I have a little extra money to buy some Billy Holiday music…