I was at the doctor for an early morning appointment the other week. A 7:15 a.m. appointment to be exact. Yeah, I don’t do early mornings that well.
But I was just coming off a case of pneumonia, yes pneumonia. Another story for another time. And since it was serious, you know, pneumonia, I was not going to quibble with my doctor when he asked to see me first thing Monday morning to listen to my lungs to make sure they sounded clear.
Well, because I had to be there at 7:15 I needed to leave my home at 6:30. I decided to hire a Lyft to take me to and from the doctor’s office because I was not 100%. I knew it would cost more than the metro, which would have been the cheapest, or driving and paying for parking, which would have cost more, but neither of those options appealed to the combined exhaustion of an early morning appointment and my recovery. And I was okay with that. Frugal means being mindful on what you spend your money on. I thought this decision through the night before. I was spending my money purposefully.
After getting a “looks good” and “sounds clear” I was given an order for a follow-up chest X-ray in a few weeks and sent on my way. I walked over to the corner to order my Lyft and popped into Starbucks and treated myself to a latte, a venti latte with whole milk. When the cashier told me $4.90 I did do a double take. And then I paid for it. And then I walked over to where the barista was going to work their magic. And then I waited and while I waited I started to feel smug.
“$4.90 a latte!” I thought, “how silly are people who buy coffee every single day!” I make my coffee every single day at home. so look at all the money I save. If I spent $4.90 a day on coffee, that would be $34.30 a week, about $147 a month, $1,788.50 a year.
I was smug until later when as I was going over my expenses for the week and that thought stopped me in my tracks. There I was judging others for mindlessly spending $4.90 on a cup of coffee when I realized, um, I SPENT $4.90 MINDLESSLY ON A CUP OF COFFEE. I ordered the coffee without even considering the price. I just thought I would treat myself. But it is the mindlessly spending of money, whether on a cup of coffee or something else, that gets us in trouble financially.
And how often does a mindless one time purchase turn into a mindless regular purchase? When does a coffee one day turn into a coffee every single day? I will be the first to admit, the next day, at work, I bought another latte.
Now, there is nothing wrong with spending $4.90 on a latte. I plan on spending that much or more for coffee and patisserie in Paris. What was wrong was I spent $4.90 mindlessly on a cup of coffee on an average weekday when I really did not need to. Did I savor the latte as I do my normal morning coffee? Most mornings at home I make a pour-over coffee and drink it while looking out my kitchen window, thinking about the day ahead. Um, no. This $4.90 latte I drank mindlessly while scrolling through my phone in the back of Lyft. Did I even really enjoy it? For $4.90 I should have been reveling in that drink, savoring every last sip. Instead, I mindlessly drank an expensive latte while liking photos on Instagram. What do I remember from that moment? Well, certainly not the taste of the coffee.
So here is to my next $4.90 coffee. May it be lingered over at a cafe in Paris or out in D.C. with a close friend. Because there will surely be another latte like that in my future. Being frugal after all does not mean denying myself such pleasures or purchases. It just won’t be mindless.