Enjoy Your Latte Without Worrying About Dying Penniless


Coffee MoneyIf you read enough advice columns, one fact will come through loud and clear: Personal finance experts hate lattes.

Expensive coffee drinks are an easy target for money pundits. Here's how the argument goes:

  • They point out that you spend $4 a day on your liquid addiction, and over the course of a year that amounts to a four-digit bite out of your potential savings.
  • Next, they make the grand assumption that you'd actually invest that money if you didn't stand in line every morning to spend it.
  • Finally comes the magic of math – specifically, compound interest. There's a drumroll, some fancy math, and -- voilà! – suddenly we're talking about hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars lost over the course of a lifetime of your latte drinking.

That's right: You could have been a millionaire, but evidently, you were more interested in a little pick-me-up to start your day.

Sweating the Small Stuff Can Lead to Big Problems

Now, I understand how small expenses can add up to big sums of money. But you don't have to give up your favorite addictions to reach your financial goals.

Just knowing how you spend your money every month can make you reassess whether the things you buy are really worth the price you pay. That's why going to the trouble of having a budget makes lots of sense, especially if you're having trouble making ends meet.

But if you turn cutting costs into a crusade against every little expense you incur, you risk cutting into your quality of life. And that's a huge danger -- because having to sacrifice all your little pleasures can breed resentment that will eventually lead you to give up on your spending plan entirely.

Have Your Latte and Do These Things Instead

Instead of clamping down on every stick of gum or breath mint you take to the cash register, try turning financial responsibility toward a more positive point of view. Focus your valuable time on the things that will really make a big difference to your bottom line.

1. Above all else, pay yourself first. Yes, it's another common nugget, but this one is hard to argue against. Paying yourself first will ensure that you don't skimp on your savings when money gets tight right before your next paycheck.

If you have a retirement plan at work, such as a 401(k) plan, and aren't contributing to it, then start putting aside some money today. Start small if you have to, but set yourself the goal of increasing the portion of your paycheck you contribute to that plan over the year, with an eventual target of saving 10% of your pay.

2. Don't make small cuts until you've made the big ones. When you're looking for ways to save money, spend the most time trying to cut your biggest expenses. Many people drive clear across town to save a couple bucks on a $20 item, but they won't do things that could pay them back a lot more. For example:

  • If you carry a balance on your credit cards, a short phone call to get your interest rate reduced could help you save hundreds per year.
  • Pushing up the deductibles on your auto, homeowners, and other insurance policies can reduce your premiums by 15% or more.
  • When you buy a house, a car, or other big-ticket items, take the time to look for ways to save. Getting a buyer's agent when you're considering a home purchase usually won't cost you a penny, but your agent could help you save thousands by negotiating a better price or warning you of problems you might have missed. Similarly, don't be in a rush to pay the sticker price on a vehicle; haggling with salespeople is a hassle, but for most of us, a few extra hours to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars is time well spent.

Once you take care of those major things, you'll find that the rest of your financial life falls into place a lot more easily. Getting used to a new way of doing things may take some time, but the stress reduction that comes with it is priceless.

Drink Up!

Take care of business up front and then order that latte – and make it a double. Then enjoy every sip without having to worry about visiting the poorhouse in your golden years.

Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger actually does hate lattes; his guilty pleasure is hot chocolate. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Introduction to Retirement Funds

Target date funds help you maintain a long term portfolio.

View Course »

How Financial Planners go Grocery Shopping

Learn to shop smart and save.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

Interesting article and perspective! At Pawngo, we believe also that you don't have to give up the small luxuries that make you happy (like your daily Starbucks!) To control the deficit in your budget, consider pawning jewelry or digital devices with Pawngo.com. We are a hassle-free, risk-free, great option for acquiring a short term loan. Our website makes it easy and convenient...there's no walking into a pawn shop involved either! Everything is online and via UPS! For more info, please visit Pawngo.com or feel free to email me at katy@pawngo.com. Best wishes! ~Katy

July 15 2011 at 1:28 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

This is bad advice for those who are not financially well off. The little things DO add up, and make a huge difference in one's finances. It's those day-to-day mindless expenditures that drain the money out of people's wallets. Take care of the big stuff AND the little stuff.

July 15 2011 at 11:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

rich and dead isn't any different than poor and dead. You are dead, your wallet doesn't make a difference in this one. Death...the great equalizer

July 15 2011 at 5:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

where's the article?

July 15 2011 at 12:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Ed Baggett

Errol Flynn once said..."if I die with more than 1 penny in my pocket, I consider my life a failure "

July 14 2011 at 11:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dying pennyless should be the goal of everyone. Who wants to leave one cent to some clown in your family or to some government handout moocher? Take what you have earned and live it up in your final days. You don't owe those bozos anything. I am leaving anything left to the local SPCA.

July 14 2011 at 11:33 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Hey Chris 1011-they may not tax "net worth", but all that networth is accumulated by earning interest, capital gains, or starting a business and making profits. Even the wealth you inherit is taxed. "Net Worth" is whats left after you pay the taxes.

July 14 2011 at 8:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Trudy Marie

Marry a rich old coot that is ready to kick it! That is a SURE solution to not dying penniless.

July 14 2011 at 5:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Mad Dog

Why save money????? Mr Obama is going to take of us all!

July 14 2011 at 4:49 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

i don't worry about dying penniless. every paycheck for the last 36 years my government has taken money out and put into a separate account and will pay me back after i retire. i just made myself yuckle.

July 14 2011 at 3:09 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to thomasva6's comment

And if they hadn't taken it out, you would have spent every dime on wine, women and song and the rest you would have just wasted. Then when you are too old to move due to sickness or injury, it would have been up- to the rest of us to feed your sorry azz..

July 14 2011 at 3:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mad Dog

It appears Chris1011 and thomasva6 have a past. Want to share?

July 14 2011 at 4:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply