I Gave Up Coffee and It’s Saving Me $500 a Year. Could You Do the Same?
Hi, my name is Dana, and I’m addicted to coffee.
Or… I was. Or… I guess I am, but now I abstain? In any case, I had a huge coffee problem, but I’ve recently quit cold
Let me be clear about how huge this was.
I could not start my day without coffee. I don’t mean that in a cute, novelty-mug way. I mean it in a dead-eyed, snarling Don’t effing talk to me until I’ve had my coffee way.
It complicated road trips. It dominated my morning routine. It required emergency trips to the grocery store -- with a stop at Starbucks “to hold me over.”
My partner, who isn’t a coffee drinker and seems somehow able to partake in all of life’s joys in healthy moderation, didn’t believe this would stick.
He encouraged me when I said I’d try to detox for a week. When I put the coffee maker in our Goodwill box after three days, he suggested we give it some time. When I tallied two weeks coffee-free, he was stunned.
When I surpassed five weeks, we donated the coffee maker, and I haven’t looked back.
How Much Money Will I Save by Giving Up Coffee?
I’ve survived about two months now without coffee, or caffeine from any source.
Getting rid of this anchor my day used to be tied to is a relief, to say the least. Eliminating the mood swings and insomnia makes me happier overall.
Plus, I get that wonderful feeling of superiority over everyone whose life is still driven by the black-eyed monster.
Best of all for a Penny Hoarder: I’m saving a ton of money.
My particular addiction was simple: I brewed coffee at home and drank it black. I would go through about a pound a week (plus a free cup or a few from the office kitchen).
I wasn’t loyal to a specialty brand or roast, but I wasn’t drinking Folgers, either. I preferred either Dunkin Donuts or beans from my local grocery store that ran a few dollars more per pound.
To keep the math simple, let’s say I always ran on Dunkin.
A one-pound bag of DD’s Original Blend costs $8.99. At one bag per week for 52 weeks a year, that’s $467.48 a year before tax.
That yielded about two 16-ounce cups of coffee a day.
When I’m flying, about five trips last year, I had to pick up a Grande Fresh Brewed Coffee from the airport Starbucks each way. At $2.10 apiece, that’s another $21 for my 10 travel coffees.
Because a black drip is easy to prepare at home and free at the office, I didn’t consistently buy coffee out. But about once a month, I’d grab a cup at Dunkin, Starbucks or a local coffee shop for whatever reason I could justify.
At approximately $2 a pop, that’s another $24 a year in discretionary coffees.
Some weeks cost a lot more -- like when I was in New York and bought a large iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts every morning and a few afternoons (and one late night). But what’s above is the baseline, so I’ll stick with those numbers.
That means I spent $512.48 on coffee last year that I won’t spend this year.
Oh my god -- that’s a full extra vacation. (Don’t believe me? Check out my $300 road trip for two.)
brb… browsing Priceline and sleeping peacefully.
What if you don’t brew coffee at home every morning? Let’s find out how much you might save if you kick other coffee habits.
Daily Convenience-Store Coffee
If you go with the best deal on gas station coffee -- which we found to be Wawa -- you can get a 16-ounce drip coffee for $1.45 each day.
If you grab a cup every day on your way to work five days a week and take two weeks’ vacation in the year, you’d spend $362.50 a year -- for only one cup of coffee per day.
With my two-cup-a-day habit, that would be $750 a year. And, let’s be honest, coffee addicts like you and I aren’t skipping weekends or vacation days, so it would be more like $1,058.50.
That’s two vacations.
Daily Coffee Shop Drinks
If you prefer a coffee or espresso drink crafted with love, tattoos and unsolicited opinions about poetry, you’re probably spending a lot more to get your daily fix from a coffee shop.
If you buy just one $4 latte each work day, for example, your coffee habit would run you $1,000 a year.
You can understand why the most dedicated among us train our taste buds to make do with basic drip.
If you’re a sucker for an impulse buy and give into the bakery case every time you stop in for coffee, you might spend even more.
The average transaction at Starbucks is $7.67. Do that each work day, and you’ll run a tab of $1,917.50.
How I Gave Up Coffee (Sorry, There’s No Secret Here)
But coffee is seriously hard to kick. It tastes good. It feels good to hold. It smells like a grandmother’s love. It makes your brain work when you thought it couldn’t possibly.
If you do want to quit to save hundreds of dollars a year or thousands of snippy comments you can’t take back, I wish I could tell you I discovered an easy way to do it.
Nothing I’ve done is groundbreaking, but I’ll tell you what’s gotten me through.
1. Time and moderation. Though I’d hardly missed a day of coffee in about six years, I did start easing up on my habit long before I dropped it altogether.
I stopped drinking coffee at midnight after some near panic attacks two years ago.
I cut myself off at 5 p.m. when I started my first nine-to-five day job just over a year ago and slowly moved that limit to about 2 p.m. until I could sleep through the night.
I started brewing lighter coffee at home when the strength of the office coffee started to make me twitch.
By the time I decided to quit, I was down to two moderate-strength cups a day.
2. Tylenol. This may not happen to you, but my body punished me for giving up caffeine. A few hours into day one, this vise locked squarely onto my temples with a headache I was sure would cause my eyes to pop straight out of my head.
Thankfully, caffeine withdrawal is one of the simpler and quicker of the withdrawals. I relied on extra-strength Tylenol to quell headaches for the first two days, but was fine after.
3. Good food and exercise (or at least movement). Once I got over the headaches, I still had to battle what felt like drowsiness from a lack of caffeine. My brain had to get used to running on real energy again.
That was mostly a matter of time, but I dealt with it the first few days by eating energy-boosting foods like protein, whole grains and leafy greens when I felt sluggish.
I don’t do much for exercise, but when my caffeine purge made me groggy, a quick jaunt around the office or a longer walk outside were usually enough to recharge.
4. Herbal tea. I know, coffee people. We hate herbal tea people. Sitting up on those high horses with willpower and well-balanced lives. Egck.
But, alas, I’m an herbal tea person now.
The final hurdle of giving up coffee was to overcome the habit. Saturday mornings with a warm cup and a good book. Afternoons with holiday treats that beg to be washed down by something hot.
Herbal tea fills that void. It’s not addictive, and it’s way cheaper than coffee.
Plus, I’m loving the view from atop this high horse.
Your Turn: Are you trying to give up coffee? What’s the hardest part for you?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).