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How Billie Holiday, Hoboken Coffee and The Pioneer Woman Talked Me Down from my Starbucks Addiction

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??? Continue reading How Billie Holiday, Hoboken Coffee and The Pioneer Woman Talked Me Down from my Starbucks Addiction