When I was writing All the Money in the World some 13 years ago (have you read it?) I frequently came across the trope that people were wasting their retirement money at Starbucks. If you skip a latte a day ($5) for 300 days a year ($1500) and invest this annually at 7 percent interest for 40 years, you have about $322,000! I guess then you can finally enjoy your lattes, though with inflation they’ll cost a lot more (and $322k will be worth less).
I always felt like there should be some middle ground here. Maybe it would be possible to spend $125/month less on housing or a car and have the $ for retirement and lattes. Or maybe lattes become a three times a week treat, and you split the difference between your current and future selves. Or you figure out some way to increase income and have enough to enjoy things now and in the future.
Either way, my current self is spending a lot of money on Starbucks these days. Not because I’m not willing to make my coffee at home. I am! And I do in the morning. But coffee shop trips have migrated firmly out of the need-caffeine category and into the teen/tween social time category. As such, I feel like they’re a good investment.
My 16-year-old, for instance, is always willing to chat with me on the 10-minute drive to our local Starbucks and home (I get the strawberry acai lemonade refresher, he’s now getting the mango dragon drink. These days he usually drives to get his supervised hours in). Do this three times a week and we’ve built in an hour.
We are not the only Starbucks drinkers in the house. My 12-year-old daughter has also started getting into those strawberry acai lemonade refreshers. We bring her one, and she’ll often sit with me at the kitchen table chatting while we both drink our drinks.
I have also found that Starbucks is an effective motivator to get the kids to not rebel about going to church. Anyone who comes can get something there afterwards.
Multiple Starbucks drinks, multiple times per week isn’t cheap. But these older kids aren’t going to be home that many more years, and keeping people happy and connected is probably as good a use of money as anything else. As I like to say, people are a good use of time. So I’ve built in another Starbucks run this afternoon…