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Enjoy your coffee, but save your money

Our family is days away from fully funding our six month emergency fund.  We never thought we’d be here, but we can look back on this financial journey and say with satisfaction that it honestly wasn’t as hard to save this money as we once thought.

When it comes to saving money, the little things really do count.
Just like using snowflakes to pay off debt, piling up those small chunks of change somehow transform into a decent amount of money.

Two years ago, we would have looked at the math and assumed it would take us two years to save a six-month emergency fund.  Instead, it took us four months.  And our biggest contributor was piling away all those little chunks of change.

The Latte Factor

We still had dates, and we would still hang out at our neighborhood coffee shop.  But not often.  Definitely not as often as we could afford.

Consider this — let’s say the average gourmet latte is $4.  And as a busy mom, you really only have time to grab one about three times a week, between running errands, or during that occasional treat when you can sit down with a friend and chat.  That’s around $48 a month.  Simple math will show that this latte indulgence costs $576 annually.


Don’t get me wrong — I really do love getting out and sipping gourmet coffee.  Truly.  I write my book from a coffee shop about twice a month.  But since we buy quality beans and brew our own java at home with a French press, we don’t feel the need to leave our home often to get a decent cup.  And that has saved us quite a chunk of change.

Less Java, More Maturity

Photo by Alex Steffler

One of the best side effects to financial progress is increased inner maturity, and part of this inner maturity is learning the value of saying “no.” I’m not saying our family totally has our act together.  I still get weak in the knees over a beautifully-scented candle.  I have more things favorited in Etsy than I have time to shop.  But as a family, we’ve seen the value of saying no with our own eyes.

When you see how much those little things here and there add up (called “gazingus pins” in our book club’s first read, Your Money or Your Life), it’s much easier to pass on its momentary satisfaction.  I’m fine with quality-brewed coffee at home.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you know you need to save, but you’re not sure how much and what forIt’s much easier and less stressful to make smaller, reachable savings goals as a family — and this also makes it much easier to pass on your latte.  Or whatever it is for you.

Here are some keys that made it possible for us to save so quickly.

1.  Make a plan.

As a couple, my husband and I decided we wanted to save X amount by X date.  We’d do the math often, and track our progress when we could.  We didn’t obsess, but we kept watch regularly.

2.  We named the savings goals.

Our first goal was a six-month emergency fund , which was for any and all household emergencies.  A broken radiator, unforeseen car repairs, things like that.  Christmas isn’t an emergency, because it’s on December 25 every year, and we know it’s coming.

We’ve named our next goals as well — a long overdue family vacation, which we’re taking in November, then a car fund, and then a house down payment fund.  All with a set goals of X dollars by X date.

3.  Make it easy to allocate the funds.

I truly do love the ease of ING Direct, because we can have unlimited savings accounts and name them according to each of our savings goals or our regular sinking funds.  We have our Electric Orange checking account with a debit card, which we use to transfer money from our many ING savings accounts whenever we need to use those funds.

A screenshot of our accounts at ING:

We can also have an unlimited amount of automatic transfers, so that once we have everything set up, it’s virtually brainless.  And because everything is online, we get slightly higher interest rates than with a traditional brick-and-mortar bank, and it’s incredibly easy to keep up daily with our funds.

I recommend them highly as your family’s main savings base.  Their customer service is super friendly and helpful as well.

4.  Save your lattes.

Photo by Jeremy Noble

Your latte factor — whatever it is on which you spend little chunks of money on a regular basis — can make a serious dent in your savings goals.  $576 per year on top of what you set aside regularly for savings adds up to — well, quite a bit.

To curb your latte factor automatically, transfer $12 per week into your current goals’ savings account.

It’s not easy, but it’s simple.  When you make bite-sized financial goals, they’re much easier to digest. Get out of debt one day at a time, then start saving for your goals.  Make it easier with a great French press.

What are your savings goals?

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  1. Shannon

    Great article. It’s really easy to get caught up in the little wants, especially when you forget how much they add up. I find that when we remind ourselves what we’re working towards – a better life for our children – it makes it much easier to say no to the “lattes”.
    .-= Shannon´s last blog ..Food Roots, September 10th: where does your food come from? =-.

  2. Satakieli

    Fantastic post. I only go out for coffee maybe once per month but my real problem is with those little things like cosmetics or cute household items that I don’t really need. My husband for sure has a problem saying no to DVD’s and videogames, that really does mount up but we’re slowly working on it.
    .-= Satakieli´s last blog ..Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp =-.

  3. steadymom

    I’ve told myself this so many times, but in the end, the financial savings weren’t enough to inspire me to give up my frappucinos. Instead, it was my health.

    After researching and learning much of what goes in all those drinks, I decided I would rather save the money to enable us to spend more on organic, whole, natural food. And I really haven’t missed Starbucks at all!

    .-= steadymom´s last blog ..An Authentic Mother =-.

  4. Mrs. Not the Jet Set

    Congrats on saving up your 6 month emergency fund! That is a huge accomplishment. You should be very proud of yourselves 🙂
    .-= Mrs. Not the Jet Set´s last blog ..Microfinance or Microslavery? =-.

  5. Mrs. Smith

    So glad I don’t drink Lattes!! $2 is the most I’ll ever spend on a coffee, only because I can not make a decent pot at home. 🙁
    .-= Mrs. Smith´s last blog ..Weekend with The Jones’ =-.

  6. Micha

    It is always inspiring to read about saving ideas. My husband collect all his coins, too and it’s always amazing, how much is it after a while. I feel, that I need all those little coins for my everyday shopping or giving the kids the money to buy something in school (they have a healthy breakfast there). In the UK we saw those coin machines at the superstores, where you can add the coins and use the money in the market, which is a good idea.
    .-= Micha´s last blog ..ein Eimer Farbe… / a pot of color =-.

    • Karen

      Yes, unless you dozily forget to hand in the little paper token you get from the machine (as it has to be used on the day you get it.) Duh…
      After many phone calls to Asda and the machine company, Asda eventually let me use the voucher another day.
      Live and learn…
      Karen (in Scotland)

  7. Zengirl

    Congratulations on 6 months emergency fund funded. 🙂 My latte factor is books, I can not seem to go to bookstore, used store, flea market etc and love to buy books, cook books, money books, fiction, non-fiction, kids, you name it, I have too many books and I really trying to stop somewhat successfully, but still a weak point.
    .-= Zengirl´s last blog ..Healing the hurting heart =-.

  8. Lu

    If this post is not right on time for me. Awesome you were able to get our emergency fund in place in four months. Magazines and books are my weakness, but I know I can pull my savings together by letting them go and supporting my local library more. Thanks for the kick in the ass and the inspiration.

  9. Jessalyn

    Thanks for the encouragement! It is always a blessing to hear how others are “doing it” and know that it IS possible. Thank you, we look forward to the day when we are as close as you are!
    .-= Jessalyn´s last blog ..The Ends of the Earth =-.

  10. Jean

    As I sit hear sipping my Pumpkin Spice latte, I wonder if I will be able to fully give up my addiction to too sweet/too strong/too expensive coffee. But, I just have to look past the cup and see photos of my girls to really get the big picture. With saving and budgeting, I need small steps and this is exactly the kick in the butt I’ve been waiting for. I think I’ll open that ING account today. Thank you.

    • Tsh

      I understand, though – those Pumpkin Spice lattes are good. 😉

  11. Amanda

    You should look at It’s got much higher interest than some places and it’s designed to save x amount by x date: say you wanted to save $500 by March – it would calculate payments and auto withdraw them from any other account, at any bank.

  12. kat

    We finished FPU a month and a half ago. Now I’m facilitating the course at our church. Life changing!

  13. Janna

    Thank you for addressing this topic. Saying NO is one of my struggles, especially when I see a “great deal” or have some spare cash in the wallet. It always helps to see things laid out in such simple and concrete terms!

  14. Christie

    You were my first blog find and have been hooked since. At that time, I read your $30,000 in debt to zero in 1 year and told my husband about it. He kind of laughed it off. We’re also in the Dave Ramsey fan club and we’ll be paying off $43,000 in 2 years! Thank you for your inspriational posts on saving, living on little but still enjoying your life! It’s such an emotional time for us as we go through this and we’re so excited to see others on board.
    .-= Christie´s last blog ..7 Years =-.

    • Tsh

      I’m so glad you’re encouraged! That’s awesome. Dave Ramsey is the man.

      You might be thinking of my friend Rachel at Small Notebook. She wrote a post about her and her husband paying off $30,000 in one year.

  15. kimc

    This is a slightly different subject, but I solved my “latte factor” by learning to make Starbucks style fraps at home. Now I’m not even *tempted* to spend $4 or more on one!
    My brother-in-law used to manage a Starbucks and he says my recipe is very close to the real thing.
    .-= kimc´s last blog ..Cash for Clunkers hurts everyone =-.

    • Tsh

      Hey Kim, the link to your recipe isn’t working for me. I’d love to see it, though — mind posting it again? 🙂

  16. Megan

    We’re saving for a nice family vacation next summer before my husband deploys to Afghanistan. We want to rent a cabin on a lake and just relax together before things get hectic. We also save for things like Christmas, car insurance, major appliances and we even saved up a few grand before we got pregnant so that we could buy all Baby’s nursery goodies, including the fancy stroller I want so bad! Now it won’t be a burden, but a blessing. And we got the idea from your blog when I read your post about “sinking funds”. It really is a great way to keep things separate and actually see a goal become a reality.

  17. Karen

    This is such a great post with loads of solid advice. My husband had/has a bad habit of buying cheap DVDs at the supermarket with the excuse “They’re only a fiver!” He knows my response now is “Ten times a fiver is £50.” It feels stingy but I’m a champion saver and it’s taken me ten years to show him the benefits of that kind of mentality.
    I was trying to explain to my sister why I try to do all my non-food shopping in one go, rather than drive to a neighbouring town on a weekly basis (I only tank up the car once every five weeks – she has to do it weekly).
    Thing is, if you save in all the little, not too important areas, it means you can enjoy the big, fun stuff (holidays, quality toys rather than plastic etc) without the guilt.
    Thanks for such interesting posts – yesterday’s jam one made me determined to go bramble picking this year.
    Kaen (in Scotland)

  18. 280 Days

    This post really hit home for me, having just spent over £10 this morning on lattes and snacks for my mum, daughter and myself. Ouch! I am a stay at home mum, and the little treats I buy when my daughter and I have day trips really add up. Off to look into a good coffee machine for home now… You may have saved me lots of money in the future 🙂
    .-= 280 Days´s last blog ..Potty Talk =-.

    • Tsh

      I’d seriously look into a simple French press. They’re super easy, they’re usually inexpensive, and in my opinion, the coffee is better.

      Here’s a basic one on Amazon, just as an example.

      • 280 Days

        That looks great. Thanks Tsh.
        .-= 280 Days´s last blog ..Potty Talk =-.

  19. Dominique

    I don’t drink coffee but do know how expensive Starbuck’s coffees are
    ( they cost $7 per cup over here). My saving goal is to have about 1.5yrs of living expenses as Baby/kid fund by the time #3 arrives so that I can spend a year of taking care of the kids at home.
    .-= Dominique´s last blog ..Child Passanger Safety Week Sept 12-18 =-.

  20. Zina Harrington

    Thanks for the post! We are on the Dave plan and these little pings of hope & suggestions are always wonderful. Watch me run like a gazelle!

  21. Larissa

    I loved your article today. Congratulations on reaching your savings goal! It really is the small stuff that adds up. My husband is a HUGE saver and he signed us up for to do our budget. It was amazing to see how much money we spent on coffee, books, and other small things. We started to cut back on this to see if we could save more money. I have to admit that I was not enthusiastic about this and thought we were saving too much! In January, my husband’s company was hemorrhaging money and it took 6 months, before the accountants found out that someone was stealing money. In the meantime, we made $0 income after payroll and expenses were paid. It was then that our emergency fund was used and I realized the wisdom in my husband’s saving. If it wasn’t for his diligence in this, we would have been in trouble! We did have to move to a “commando” budget (a little tighter), but we were definitely not stressed and still able to pay for the unexpected big expenses that also came during that time.

  22. Courtney

    I agree that specific goals are key to success. My husband and I save a percentage of his total annual salary. When he gets a raise, we save more automatically…this makes it a no brainer. Our biggest savings goals are for travel, our forever home (not yet built), and retirement.
    .-= Courtney´s last blog ..Fun with friends and….crawling! =-.

  23. Donna S

    Thanks for this post, I really needed it today. I have a serious Starbucks addiction, and I think I’m ready to admit it! Just this morning I went to Target and immediatly popped over to their Starbucks. I walked away with a delicious drink in hand, along with some vanilla scones but $6.00 less in my wallet! I also have a tendency to stop before I go grocery shopping and spend around $4 each time, I justify this usually because I’m saving at least $20 each shopping trip using coupons. I’ve been thinking alot about how this is adding up and how in NO WAY can we afford it! So I’ve decided to STOP!

    After reading your post I’ve made a commitment to only have this special treat 2 times a month, and the money has to come out of my spending money! We are hoping to do FPU this Fall at church and I’m planning on going back to using the envelope system in October too! I just woke up this week and realized that I CAN change the way our finances are. I spend 90% of all of the money in the house ( groceries, clothes, gas, household, gifts…etc) I can control the spending much better!

    Thank you for this very timely kick in the cup (of coffee that is!)

    .-= Donna S´s last blog ..Product Review: The Pouchee =-.

  24. The Urban Cowboy

    I have a huge bowl that I keep on my coffee table. At the end of each day I empty my pockets of all the change and throw it in. By the end of the year I usually have close to 1000 dollars!
    .-= The Urban Cowboy´s last blog ..9/11 We Can Not Forget =-.

    • Tsh

      Wow! That’s impressive.

  25. The Rambling Housewife

    Congratulations on saving your emergency fund! That’s a pretty major goal to reach. I have to say, though, that I get really frustrated with advice columns on financial peace and savings, because it seems like Starbucks is everyone’s favourite example. I’m sure it’s a good one, because probably a lot of people do go to something along those lines on a regular basis and spend more than they realize. But it’s frustrating for my dh and I because we can’t afford that…at all. The only way we can afford to take our family out to eat is if someone gives us a gift (example: My father knows my son really likes Chick-Fil-A, so every once in a while he’ll send us $30 to take the family there). But we’re in grad school, struggling to get by on a pittance, and the basic ideas for cutting back on spending really don’t help us much. What do you tell someone who feels like they need to cut back on their grocery spending, and the only way to do it is to eat a whole lot more dried beans? Does anyone have good, really tasty recipes for dried beans that don’t rely on meat to make it taste good, and don’t contain fifteen other really expensive ingredients?
    .-= The Rambling Housewife´s last blog ..I knew we kept him for a reason… =-.

    • Tsh

      If you’re not already, I’d encourage you to read Money Saving Mom. Crystal and her husband lived uber-frugally when her husband went through law school. They managed to do it debt-free with her staying home, and I think they even had their first daughter before he graduated. They’re now saving 100% for a house that they hope to buy next year. They’re a huge inspiration!

  26. Amanda

    Right now I’m working on paying off the birth of my youngest. It is substantial and with him having to get a heart echo every couple of months, I’m barely making a dent…even with pretty decent health insurance. And, did I mention that my husband got laid off in January and is STILL looking for work?
    We have cut almost all of the unnecessary costs, but right now we have nothing in savings. It’s amazing how helpless you feel once that net doesn’t exist anymore.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Coffee and a Book =-.

  27. Taryn

    Yeesh, bizzy bee. What’s with the aggression and the language? If you don’t have a “latte factor” problem, then this post isn’t for you. Every post can’t apply to every reader. Obviously, the post did/does apply to many people.

    I stopped buying lattes and such years ago too. Also, I can happily tell you I am not “smoking anything.”

  28. from the desk of

    this was a great post and it helped validate my latest effort. i just decided this week that i was going to have four saving accounts with ING for specific goals. my friend thought i was nuts and couldn’t understand my logic. thanks for helping me see that my plan might actually work.

    congrats on achieving your emergency fund!!!!!
    .-= from the desk of …me´s last blog ..Day One In the Lap of Luxury =-.

  29. Tsh

    @BizzyBee — Sorry, I had to delete your comment. I don’t allow language on my site. Thanks for understanding.

    @everyone else — I understand if the coffee/latte/Starbucks example isn’t your thing. I think it’s the most common example because coffee is pretty universal. Most people know of Starbucks, and many people drink coffee. Plenty of those people enjoy gourmet coffee drinks. So in my mind, it’s the best “universal” example to describe those little things here and there — the things we don’t actually need — that deplete our cash. Please don’t read it as pretention, because that’s not what I mean. It can be anything — books, magazines, the dollar section at Target, Netflix, fabric sales, scrapbooking supplies, mp3 downloads… you get the idea. Whatever it is for you.

  30. Julie

    What a great post! I neede encouragement in this area. Thanks!

  31. Gourmet Scented Candles

    Great advise here. Saving change in a hidden piggy bank is a great way to do something. In today’s economy this will help with the unexpected.

  32. Kika

    Since finding your site, around last January, and then reading whatever Dave Ramsey info. I could find, we’ve paid off our vehicle early (no other consumer debt) have been making extra principal-only-mortgage payments and are working on our emergency fund. We don’t follow DR advice to the letter and have decided this year to keep saving but we’ll use part of this to fund a family trip and the other half for our emergency fund. Our oldest will be 14 years next summer and we feel that if we don’t take this trip (debt-free) soon, we may miss our opportunity… anyways, my point is I’ve learned much from you and been so inspired to maintain debt-free living. My husband and I have been discussing our goals more openly, too, which is wonderful.

    • Kika

      Sorry – want to add more. I do budget $20/month for coffee for myself (Tim Hortons) as I feel that these “little luxuries” do a lot towards helping us stay on track and enjoy life NOW rather than only waiting to accomplish those bigger goals. On the other hand, we make lots of other sacrifices so that we can stay out of debt.

  33. Denise C.

    When our son was born 3 years ago, he was (still is) a horrible sleeper, to combat that my husband and I began drinking Starbucks, MULTIPLE times DAILY. I forget now, but we tallied up our spenditures for one month and it was THROUGH THE ROOF!
    We bought our own espresso machine, and grinder and began making lattes at home. SO MUCH BETTER!

    Someday I’d love to try a French Press out, I’ve heard that they make fabulous cups of coffee!

    We recently purchased a house, and while our minds (mine in particular) are soaring with decorating ideas, one of the first things we need to do is replenish our savings account (which is where our down payment came from).

  34. monica ruckett

    Great article,great advice. My husband and I started a website to help churches and its members. Its just a coupon site, groceries and household items, but its a free site no registration and we encouragepeople to donate 10,20,30 percent of what they save from using these coupons to their church. We believe the site is one of God’s many resources he’s given us. So if you guys get time , check it out, write us and tell us what you think.

  35. Kelley

    I too have cut back on going out for coffee. I now treat myself once a month or so and have noticed the extra money in my pocket. Thanks for such a great article and some great suggestions too! 🙂
    .-= Kelley´s last blog ..40% off on – 3 days only! =-.

  36. kimc

    I’ll try again: Homemade Starbucks-style Fraps. They’re good even if you don’t use a blender – just serve over ice, and they taste like the bottled ones from the grocery store. When you can make them at home for pennies, even $1.25 each looks pretty steep.
    .-= kimc´s last blog ..The Cost of Convenience =-.

    • Simple Mom

      Thanks, Kim. It worked this time!
      .-= Simple Mom´s last blog ..Weekend Links =-.

  37. Susan

    Great post! Any suggestions for an alternative place to write a book when you have two little bubs at home? Cafes have been my salvation! But when you put it in financial perspective – it makes you think twice… That’s a lot of babysitting dollars!
    .-= Susan ´s last blog ..Writing communities =-.

  38. Alissa

    My husband and I always joke that we wish we would have started the “latte a day” habit when we were first out of college and both making good money. Imagine how much we could save by kicking the habit today! =) Alas, we started brewing our own right from the get go, but we both have our other “small indulgences” that really add up over time.
    .-= Alissa´s last blog ..Yea Seattle! =-.

  39. chet scott

    We found that coffee really suck mucho dollars out of our bank account.
    That being said, we can’t stand bad coffee and we really like mocha’s so we snagged some instant expresso, chocolate milk and whipped cream and it takes only 5 minutes to whip it up in the microwave.

    That being said, we also pulled back on any re-occurring expense that we could. So, we don’t have cable or satellite. No Tivo. Just a DTV and an old VCR. We found better things to do with our time that continuing to watching the tube. Instead, we spend more time together as a family and that is a payoff way beyond dollars.
    .-= chet scott´s last blog ..The Cheapskate Family Vacation =-.

  40. Bobby

    You mentioned your 6 months emergency fund so I can only assume you have been working the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps. Those baby steps and his books have helped my family and I though a very difficult time in our lives. It has been a huge blessing to us.

    One thing I have found to save money on coffee is to roast my own coffee at home. It has required very little money (just enough to buy a used popcorn popper), green coffee beans are far less expensive than their roasted cousins, and it has become a very fun hobby.

  41. Michael Firstman@ Mig Welder

    Family or couple savings always reminds me of the touching intro montage of the movie UP where the couple try saving for a trip to South America but always end up breaking their piggy bank for emergencies. I’ve done that myself in regards to car troubles. So it’s November now, did you guys go on that holiday? I hope it all worked out.

  42. Courtney

    My husband and I finally bit the bullet and bought an espresso machine for our home…and while it seemed like a splurge for us, we found a super affordable model and I can only imagine how much we’ve saved making lattes at home. Yes, I do miss our local baristas immensely, but I still swing in from time to time to say hello and catch up, just not as frequently. It’s amazing what a big difference small changes like this can make for your pocketbook!

  43. Krista

    I’m not a big latte drinker, but I am a fan of stopping almost every day before work to get a cup of coffee from Starbucks or a mom-and-pop shop close to my house. It never seems like a lot at the time — just two bucks, but I did the calculations the other day and realized that at the current rate I buy out for coffee, I will easily spend $500 on it this year. One bag of coffee that makes way, way more than one cup is only six or seven bucks at Target. What a simple way to stash money! I’m glad I came across this article as I am now trying to be very aware of putting money into a savings fund specifically for emergencies. I use ING because of different post I saw you write, and I have to say, they’re so easy to bank with!

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