What’s Your Personal Starbucks?

Starbucks doesn't work for everyone

Not everyone goes crazy for coffee.

Starbucks has become the default reference point for wasteful spending. It has become an easy cliché. But there's a problem.  Starbucks' revenue in 2010 ($10.7b) works out to about 1 Large Coffee of the Day ($1.70) for every person on the planet, or one Venti White Chocolate Mocha ($4.00) for every three people. Considering the folks who have multiple cups per day, it's worth believing that the Starbucks analogy doesn't work for everyone. When the analogy doesn't apply, it's easy to mentally check-out on the rest of the lesson.

If you're going to buy a house, though, you need a down payment. You can do it, but there can be no excuses. Starting right here I'm going to indulge a little entitlement and help you figure out your own personal central source of wasted cash.

It might be scratch-off lottery tickets. It might be eating lunch out at work, or higher octane gas. It might be high-end makeup or your weekly trip to the salon. As we move forward, when I refer to YPS, I mean Your Personal Starbucks.

In my case when I needed to start saving money to make a career change, I wound up cutting out eating out completely for about 2 years. That meant no more quick stops at Dunkin' Donuts, no more ordering out pizzas, no more stopping in to say hi to my favorite bartender. I had been spending about $90 per week on eating out. (5 cafes at $6 each, 2 restaurant meals at $20 each and one lunch sandwich at $10). I swapped out instead for 5 $2 breakfasts at home and 3 more home cooked meals at $5-10 each. It added up to about $50 per week.

Let's do the math:

$50 per week x 4 = $200 per month.
$200 x 12 = $2400 in a year.

It's been 4 years now since I cut out eating out. I've kept to the same plan.

I have saved just shy of $10,000. (I've also learned a lot about cooking and have lost about 35 pounds. I love multitasking!)

Here's how I figured out my personal Starbucks:

  • When I got my bank statement, that was the start of the tracking month.
  • I kept all of my the receipts from cash purchases for the tracking month.
  • At the end of the month, I took a look at my new bank statement.
  • I made a quick spreadsheet with all of the items from my bank statement and all of the cash purchases. The columns were: Location, Cost, Category.
  • I assigned every item a Category and subcategory as follows:

Life essential (basic food, shelter, basic utilities like heat and power, medication.)
Society essential (transportation, work clothing)
Future planning and safety (insurance, retirement)
Luxury goods (everything else)

  • I also broke down the larger receipts from department and grocery stores, as it's easy to toss in a luxury item along with the basics.
  • I sorted the whole thing by Location and took subtotals. The highest 3 locations were noted as possible things to cut out.
  • I then sorted everything by subcategory and took subtotals. In this case the highest 3 luxury items were noted as possible things to cut out.
  • Out of the 6 contenders, I chose the 3 that were most likely to save me the most cash and removed them from my spending habits.

Give it a try, then come on back and tell me what you've found to be Your Personal Starbucks. Then stop going there, and start saving up for your down payment instead.