Who would’ve known that all this time we have been pouring caffeine-laced devil’s brew down our throats every morning?! If you’re not aware that the latte factor is the reason that we have poor people in the world, and are most likely the major cause of the growing income gap, increased student debt, and foreclosures, then you haven’t been reading many personal finance blogs lately. Seriously though people, what did poor lattes ever do to you? Why choose to single out that frivolous expense as opposed to our other frivolous expenses? I mean, how many people consume sodas, cigarettes, French fries, booze etc. on a daily basis, yet somehow lattes get to become the whipping boy? They are so hated they even get their own trending title of the “The Latte Factor” to make it all dark and mysterious? Now I must admit, I too have succumbed to the “my site needs a coffee article before it is complete” syndrome myself. It is a useful figure for showing how compounded savings can work.
The Latte Factor Prophet Himself
In case you actually have a social life and don’t read many personal finance blogs, the latte factor is an idea generally accredited to David Bach. It shows just how effective daily saving and investment can be. By taking the cost of an over-priced cup of coffee (seriously, why do these scenarios always use like the Starbucks mocha-frappa-double-choc-frothalicious that costs more than a happy meal) and showing how much money you can garner when the black magic of compound investment returns is applied to it, every personal finance blogger in the world believes they have found the path to true happiness. A sort of financial nirvana if you will. The articles usually forget to deduct what the coffee, cream, sugar etc. would have cost at home, and they usually assume extremely high investment returns, but yes, let’s all agree that cutting back on the coffee could help us out to the tune of a couple hundred grand when we are 103. Sweet.
A Venial Sin At Worst
The bottom line is that this is a tough strategy to enact because it advocates an extremely frugal position. People like a small creature comfort, and if a little coffee (by the way, in Canada we have this magic place called Tim Hortons – it’s kind of a cultural icon – and I get a great double-double there for like $1.50, you should try it sometime) prevents someone from going crazy in this insane world they live in, then hey, let ‘em have it.
The key is to limit the luxuries we spend money on to a level that we are comfortable with and have made a conscious choice to spend beforehand. If you figure that you can spend $100 on “token luxuries” in a given two-week stretch, and you don’t smoke, rarely drink, and hate fast food, then knock yourself out and enjoy the caffeinated heaven that is calling your name.
Everyone has different priorities, so to just casually send someone to frugal purgatory because they like a good cup of java makes little sense to me. As long as people are aware of the long-term sacrifice of the occasional cup of coffee (and how could they not be with the staggering amount of anti-coffee propaganda pouring out of keyboards everywhere), then who are we to tell them no?
As financially-enlightened individuals we often give people a free ride, or a mild rebuke for driving luxury vehicles, investing in mutual funds that have ridiculous MERs, or spending money on gifts that will likely be underappreciated anyway. Yet we feel the need to fill the blogosphere with more coffee-bashing articles than there are hipsters in a downtown Starbucks. Come on guys and gals… we can be better, we must be better. Baristas of the world rejoice, hold your coffee up high and say, “I will staff write one post about the evil bean and it will pay for a week’s worth of my sinful ways.”
What are your thoughts on the latte factor?
Photo credit: @Doug88888