I go to a coffee shop almost every morning to work on this blog. Before starting Millennial Money Diaries, I got a latte 1-2 times a week–it was a special treat. Now I pay $2.73 daily for a cup of coffee and admission to work at my local coffee shop in the mornings.
When I was a college student, I couldn’t imagine paying money for the sake of getting work done. I had friends who would go off on their own to work at a nice coffee shop or even just the local Starbucks on campus. They would even go just to organize their life. I just didn’t get it. It seemed like an incredible luxury to be able to buy coffee just to get 1-2 hours of homework or life work done.
On top of that, I was indoctrinated early by my parents, who never bought coffee out of the house. I pretty much thought people who pay for coffee instead of making it themselves were just lazy, wasteful chumps.
Being on the other side of this, it must mean I’ve made it! I’ve made it to the side of luxury.
Here’s why I no longer cringe at the thought of buying coffee:
My Apartment is an Endless Tunnel of Distractions
When I’m at home, I get distracted by all sorts of things. If I’m anywhere within a 5 foot radius of something I can lie down on, I’m going to lie down. I’m a creature of comfort and having my bed and couch a few feet away constantly necessitates yet another “2 minute” break which turns into a 10 minute cuddle session with my throw blanket or comforter.
The kitchen is right on the other side of the couch, and when you’re stuck on a problem, it’s tempting to take a breather by just going through all your cupboards or fridge for snacks.
There always seems to be something that requires cleaning in our apartment. Whether it’s putting the dishes away, or vacuuming, or organizing all the old mail on the dining room table where we do work…when you’re stuck on a problem, it’s so easy to see all the other things you can be making progress on when you’re surrounded by all the other things you need to do.
When you go to a coffee shop you immediately eliminate all of these distractions. If you’re stuck, you sit there until you’ve figured it out. There’s only a reasonable number of times I can keep going to the bathroom for a break! Of course I could choose to stop getting distracted at home, but there are so many little decisions involved in every step. I believe in adding friction between you and bad habits and removing friction between you and good habits. This is an example of adding friction. I’m adding physical distance between me and my distractions so I literally can’t be distracted. Eliminating choice is so much more effective!
Limited Time = Greater Productivity
When I first started doing work at Starbucks occasionally a few years ago, I would never bring my charger. There was just so much involved in crawling under my desk, bumping my head, and bumping into the chair to remove it. Then there was the added stress of finding a free table with an outlet. Then there was the crawling under my desk to get it plugged back in at home. I couldn’t handle all of that so I started leaving my charger at home.
So when I got to the coffee shop, I knew I could only be there (optimistically) for 3-4 hours before I had to head home to charge my laptop. That made my time there valuable. I couldn’t afford to waste an hour on reddit or worse, on Youtube which would start draining my battery really quickly, so I always made the most of my time.
Incentive To Make Commute Time Worth It
In college I hated spending time going to the coffee shop. It always took me 15 minutes to get out the door because I had to collect my things. Like…crawling under that desk for the computer charger. Then making sure I always had a sweater on me in case I got cold. Then making sure I had my keys and phone…and the phone charger, which was a whole other annoying unplugging/replugging event in itself.
It would take me another 10-15 minutes to walk across campus to whichever coffee shop I’d set my sights on. And the entire time I was heading there it would grate on me that I was spending almost 30 minutes alone just getting there! I was already counting the “waste of time” it would be to lose another 15 minutes getting back home. My brain would round up my commute time, and I would feel so burdened by the fact I was going to be in transit for an entire hour AND I was going to pay money on top of that to get work done? Time is money and money is money, damn it.
But I always got so much more done at the coffee shop because I wanted to make up for lost time. I was trying to equalize the sunk cost of commuting there. At home I would have taken my sweet time anyways–making a cup of tea, settling in, doing some “light” internet browsing before getting started. That would have taken more than an hour!
So I came to learn what all of us inevitably learn at some point. There’s a cost to productivity. Yes, you can try and focus at home and eliminate distractions, etc, or you can pay for a cup of coffee and settle in for what reliably produces good work. I’m lucky to be at a point now financially where $2-$3 on a coffee everyday isn’t a really stressful amount to put towards a non-necessity. It does still add up to almost $1000 a year if I’m drinking it 365 days out, so it’s definitely non-negligible when you look at the total. But $1000 a year seems a small price to pay for 365 days of getting shit done!
How do you view the daily coffee? Is it unnecessary luxury or a daily necessity? And what other things do you buy now because of the value add that you wouldn’t have considered before?