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Why Ditching Your Daily Coffee Habit Isn't the Greatest Way to Save

Are you the type of person who can't get through the day without a dose of caffeine? Business Insider shares why skipping out on your daily coffee won't necessarily save you as much money as you thought.

It's a rule so basic that it's been touted in just about every personal finance book and blog post on savings in the last decade.

Want to save more? Try ditching that daily coffee habit.

RELATED: Here are the Professions That the Most Coffee at Work

Among those who championed the idea that Americans' love for little luxuries was the culprit behind their inability to save was personal finance guru David Bach.


He coined the term "The Latte Factor," even adding a calculator on his website to show people how much their caffeine kick cost them.

According to Bach's math, a woman in her early 20s could tuck away $2,000 a year by saving the $5 she might spend per day on a latte and snack at Starbucks. Invested with an expected return of 10% to 11%, that savings could grow to more than $1 million by the time she hit retirement.

"There was only one thing wrong with the latte factor," writes Helaine Olen in her book "Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry": "It wasn't true."

Read on for more.

By her calculations, the math didn't add up.

"It didn't work in terms of what we were actually spending our money on," she writes. "And it didn't take into account what life costs were actually rising or falling. The latte factor was, to mix our drinking metaphors for a moment, the financial equivalent of the Miller beer — it tasted great, but was less filling."

Here's her reasoning:

$5 a day? Not quite. First off, you'd be hard-pressed to find a latte that sells for more than $5 a pop. Bach factored a chocolate biscotti and other incidental snacks into his total. "Even then, his numbers didn't quite add up," Olen writes. "Five dollars a day, 365 days a year, is $1,825. So Bach 'rounded' the number up to $2,000 annually, the better to exaggerate the amount of money that latte was, in the long run, costing the person who was drinking it."

That 10% to 11% return? Yeah right. Bach's original calculation was made during the dot com boom, just short of the millennium, when maybe it was likely stock market investments could see such steady returns. But the number "had no basis in reality, as anyone who was certified in anything financial should have known," Olen writes. "Bach, a supposed expert financial adviser, did not take inflation or taxes into account." Over the years, other financial experts have done the same calculation with drastically different results.

Bad Money Advice: $173,000 over 30 years
Kimberly Palmer, U.S. News & World Report: $50,000 over 30 years
Suze Orman, "The Courage To Be Rich": $165,152 over 30 years

None of those figures is anything to sniff at — who wouldn't be better off with an extra $1,825 in their pocket each year? — but they aren't exactly $1 million either.

We reached out to Bach for comment via email. Here's what he had to say:

"I take total issue....The Latte Factor is a METAPHOR for how we waste small amounts of money on small things. It's a teaching method to get people to "re-think" how they spend money, and realize they have more than enough to start saving. It's not about guaranteed returns, and my books don't promise 10% returns. And my books show in many cases compounded interest rate examples from 1% to 10%."

Bach's certainly not the only established money expert Olen, a freelance journalist, drags through the mud in the book. Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, and Jean Chatzky are just a few others whose popular tips are torn to shreds.

This is an update of a piece that previously ran.

— Mandi Woodruff

Check out these smart tips from Business Insider:

7 Apps That Every Coffee Lover Should Get

6 Awesome Places to Grab a Cup of Coffee Around the World

The Best Hotel Coffee Bars in America

10 Good Reasons to Drink Coffee

Image Source: Shutterstock
Join The Conversation
Chessaria-Moriarty Chessaria-Moriarty 3 years
I disagree a little with this book. I have not read it, but I read the blurb on Amazon and it seems like the book is just going against some of the big names in order to make money. I have listened to Dave Ramsy and Suze Orman, and they are just trying to tell people that we are living too large for our paychecks. You can't have absolutely everything so you have to give a little from one budget to take to another budget. This book seems so extreme, the blurb on Amazon says: "Small pleasures can bankrupt you: Gurus popular­ized the idea that cutting out lattes and other small expenditures could make us millionaires. But reduc­ing our caffeine consumption will not offset our biggest expenses: housing, education, health care, and retirement." Sure, it doesn't offset some of the big expenditures, but it is the starting point. Cut back on the little things, and you will find money you didn't realize you had. Keep working at it, and you will find more. Splurges are fine, but daily coffee from Starbucks? That's not a splurge anymore. So ultimately, these financial gurus are just telling people we can do better than we are with our money.
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