Finance Fridays…

Every morning, my alarm chimes at 6:45am.  As I stare into the blackness (at this time of year, sun’s not up until well after 7am), a single question taunts me:  ‘Will I be able to say “no” to Starbucks today?”.  And the mental math starts – I have gone every day this week (not good)  that must be, what, $20 that i’ve already spent there?  (yikes).  I come to a firm decision:

from now on, I will only go to Starbucks on Fridays – as a treat.  Gah!  

Thank God it’s Friday.

Three years ago, when I lived in a tiny town in Southern Ontario, the closest Starbucks was a 45 minute drive away and this wasn’t an issue.  Back in those days, we had “timmies runs”.  Meaning that someone actually had to get in their car and drive to Tim Hortons.  and a Cafe Mocha was two bucks.

At the corner of Burrard and Robson (downtown Vancouver) there are 92 Starbucks (not to mention Blenzs, Cafe Artigianos, Waves, and even a few timmies) within a 5km radius of my workplace.  I have an 18 minute walk to the office, during which I pass 5 different Starbucks, 2 Waves and a Blenz.  What’s a girl to do?

Well, what this girl’s done is to slowly adopt a lifestyle where I am justifying spending a noticeable portion of my salary on designer coffee, and it’s time to confront this monster.  I have printed out my online account statements for the last three months (October, November and December 2011) and am going through them with a highlighter as I type this… total for October 1 – December 31:  237.86.  Ouch.  And, if i’m being completely honest (which I might as well) I also received $180 worth of Starbucks gift cards during that time as random gifts, so the real total of what I’ve spent on coffee in 4 months is $417.86.  Yowzer.

How else can I put this…  $417.86 for 3 months would indicate roughly $1255 / year, which equals roughly 4% of my take-home pay.  Wow.  And for what?  Coffee that I generally drink 3/4 of, then let get cold and end up tossing into the garbage pail under my desk.

Visual artist, Sonny Assu presents a piece, creatively touching upon this issue.  Entitled,  Disposable Wealth & 1884/1951, the artist presents 67 disposable coffee cups, cast in copper, illustrating

The status of wealth for a (Aboriginal) Chief was his copper shield… stories of Chiefs who felt they were so rich after a potlatch, that they destroyed parts of their Copper to prove it. Chief’s would commonly one-up themselves by breaking off pieces of their copper and tossing them in the fire…  an interesting juxtaposition of culture, where we as a western society will happily spend $5 on a latte and walk around town displaying our wealth in these disposable cups, only to toss them away in an unconscious act of proving ourselves.”

Despite having a comparatively stable, well-paying job, what I do not have is anything remotely close to “disposable wealth” of any kind.  And I really don’t think that I have anything to prove…  so here is my plan:  as a 13.5 week pregnant mother-to-be, I really Should be avoiding caffeine whenever possible anyway (lately, I have taken to decaf mochas and banana smoothies.  And Oat Fudge Bars.)  I will begin making smoothies at home  to sip on throughout the morning at work, and take part of the money that would have gone towards Starbucks and put it into a fund, saving for a top-of-the-line, fancypants coffee maker to start making delicious caffeinated treats at home post-baby.   The rest will go towards one of the crazy-luxe strollers that we have been checking out.   Time to stop treating the money I work for as “disposable” and start investing in myself and my family in a way that moves us toward our goals.

Speaking of investment, using a fun investment-interest calculator found here, I have learned that if I took that Starbucks money and invested it in a super-basic, 5% return account, it would build up to $7561.08 over 5 years – over a ten year period, it could grow to over $18000 – a major chunk of the down payment on that house i’d like to own one day.   There’s a little extra motivation to cut down on the designer java.

Challenge: print out your online account statements for the past three months and add up the sum-total of the squeakiest leak in your finances.  Don’t feel pressured to change it (yet 😉 ).  Knowledge is a huge step.  

*image and quote from Sonny Assu  taken (with love, respect and awe)  from


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