How I Save $1,183 a Year with Homemade Latte

Poor Starbucks.  It seems like every article, post and news story about budgeting attacks the luxury latte, as if it were the source of all evil.

It’s not evil, but let’s say the $4 coffee is just another curlicue on the gilded pillars of the last few decades.

And by the way — I’m not going to tell you to stop buying your cappuccino.  If you get great pleasure from it, you should buy it. Budgeting, after all, is about defining your priorities, loves and hopes, and then spending accordingly.

Protect Your Wallet, Feed Your Coffee-Loving Soul

Here are my weapons in this mission:

  1. A Krups mini espresso machine, and
  2. a can of Bustelo coffee.

OK, the machine you get, but Bustelo?

Mining the Black Gold Market

As I wrote in Explore the Ethnic Aisle to Save Money at the Supermarket,  I had a hard time finding a budget brand that compares with the chocolatey taste and aroma of pricey Italian coffee, until I tried Bustelo, a Cuban-style espresso.

Bustelo costs one-fourth as much as the upscale Illy, and you know what?  It tastes just as good.  And — in case this matters — it’s hip now too.  (The New York Times Style section reported that Bustelo, long a bohemian staple, has now made it into the young and trendy party scene.)

I was curious:  how much does making my coffee at home every day save me, over buying it at a place like Starbucks?

If you want to hash out with me all the nickels and dimes, see The Math, but here’s the kernel:

In Ten Years, Buy a Car with Coffee Money

Coffee made at home for my husband and me — a double-shot latte with no foam and an espresso macchiato — cost us $0.39.

We save $3.24 every day over buying similar drinks at Starbucks.

  • One year savings = $1,183
  • Ten year savings = $11,830

We just bought a used car for about that amount.  It’s amazing to think that, over the 10 years of our marriage, we paid for it by drinking homemade coffee.

Why I Love Making my Coffee at Home

Coffee shops are still a great place to hang out and meet up with friends.  But I’m going to stick with my daily grind.  Besides the savings, here are some more reasons why I love making my own coffee:

  • The promise of drinking it helps me get out of bed in time.
  • It’s less wasteful — no paper cups, sugar packets, stirrers, or plastic lids.
  • Both my husband and I prefer the tactile pleasure of drinking out of ceramic cups.
  • Did I already say I can drink it as soon as I get up?  In my pajamas.
  • The aroma fills my house in the morning.
  • I can make it in less time than it takes to order, wait and pay for a Tall Cafe’ Latte with Whole Milk.

Three Lessons Learned

1.  Black coffee drinkers are frugal.

Milk costs more than coffee!  (See The Math.)

2.  Small changes make a difference.

As J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly explains in his core tenets, big changes are not the only answer.  Small amounts matter.

3.  Start doing it for money.  Keep doing it for love.

So many of our family’s habits have been shaped by our tight budget.  But over time, I’ve realized that they’ve made us happy, and who we are.

Photo credits:  cappuccino, smiley coffee, glass cup.

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  • Melanie March 3, 2011, 7:51 pm

    We invested in a Nespresso machine 8 years ago, used it religiously, and just got a new one for Christmas. It was pricey, and the capsules aren’t cheap, but we still save a lot on not going to Starbucks every day. The Nespresso coffee is great and the machines are small, chic and easy to clean.

    • Amy March 5, 2011, 9:18 pm

      HI Melanie,

      I agree on all counts — the Nespresso is not cheap, but it makes damn good coffee. Italian coffee bar coffee. Much more than I can say for my $60 Krups. And, as you say, even if it’s more expensive than other brands, it’ll still save you more than buying coffee every day from a shop.

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Reid March 2, 2011, 3:23 pm

    I love the idea that there is inherent value in our choice to do things the simple and inexpensive way. That, in fact, our frugal choices often lead us down interesting paths and help make us who we are. One of the advantages to doing coffee at home is you can make it exactly how you want it. Sometimes I use a stove top espresso maker, sometimes a drip coffee maker. And recently I started experimenting with non-dairy “milk.” At the coffee shop, you will usually be given a choice of soy milk or … soy milk. At home I use almond milk, which I prefer and which also produces a decent foam using a cheap Ikea frother.

    • Amy March 5, 2011, 9:23 pm

      Hi Reid,

      You really captured what I want my blog to be about: the inherent value in doing things the simple way, since so much of frugality is about simplicity and the old-fashioned. And, I should also say, the “slow” way, as popularized by the slow food and slow parenting movements.

      I think it makes us feel good to realize that we are no longer depriving ourselves, but living life the way we want it to be lived.

      Almond milk — that’s a new one! It sounds delicious.

      Thank you for writing in,

  • Jen @ Jen Spends March 2, 2011, 2:35 pm

    I’m a recent convert to coffee, and my coffee-making skills range from magnificent to fascinatingly awful. I think I need lessons. A french press probably isn’t the best way for a novice to start out. As much as I love the occasional coffee treat from Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, I truly enjoy the process of making coffee myself every morning.

    • Amy March 5, 2011, 9:26 pm

      Hi Jen,

      A new coffee convert — fascinating. What did you drink before? I used to think coffee — or at least caffeine — was bad for me, but now all these studies are saying the opposite.

      French presses seem difficult to me too. Have you tried a moka? I would say it’s the Italian version — most Italians use this non-electric, simple stove-top coffee maker at home.

      My electric maker is pretty hard to screw up — it’s a Krups mini espresso maker.

      Thank you for writing in,

      • Jen @ Jen Spends March 7, 2011, 4:50 pm

        I started drinking Earl Grey tea after I met my husband, and that was the only caffeine I would have. My mom has never liked coffee, so I was kind of programmed to think it was awful stuff. A few months ago I concluded that all the other moms I know who seem to accomplish a lot during the day are also coffee drinkers, so I decided to give it a try myself. I can’t say that the one cup I drink every morning really makes a difference in my productivity, but I do enjoy it :)

        • Amy March 7, 2011, 8:54 pm

          I also realized that bloggers, and other productive types, talked about coffee a lot. Now I know why! Naps are out, coffee is in. I need it the most after lunch actually. But I don’t make another cup — I pop a chocolate-covered coffee bean and I don’t think about a nap anymore. :-)