No Spend Month: Week 3 Wrap Up and At-Home Coffee Analysis

The giant canister of coffee beans we keep on the counter clinked empty early this week.

Out. Of. Coffee.

This is how most conversations before 10 am start in Seattle:

“I’m not really up and moving yet. Haven’t had my coffee!”
“Hey, do ya wanna go get a coffee?”
“Um, could we talk about this…after coffee?”
“I’m stopping by the latte stand. Can I getcha a coffee?”
“Sorry, I guess I must just need another cup of coffee….”
“Has anyone seen my coffee? No, seriously…it was right here five minutes ago. Oh wait, I finished it. Never mind, sorry!”

Us? Out of coffee? That’s a little problem.

If there’s one thing that gets a solid beat-down when you talk personal finance and spending, it’s coffee. Specifically, fancy-pants coffee. We don’t much go in for fancy-pants coffee anymore, but that doesn’t mean we’ve pried the caffeine monkey off our backs.

Once, in a fit of moral/fitness righteousness, I decided it would be healthier if I didn’t consume caffeine at all. I went through the detox and came out the other side with boundless, consistent, steady energy. It was wonderful.

That didn’t last very long.

Now we’re back to a pot a day, made a home. Usually I take my java black, sometimes if I’m feeling sassy I add a splash of milk or cream or sugar or some combination.

Theoretically, we could cut coffee out of our lives altogether. I have big jars of homemade, homegrown herbal tea that give us essentially free warm and tasty beverages.

In fact, we thought, if there was ever a time to embrace a coffee-free life and go cold turkey on caffeine, running out of coffee during No Spend Month was the time! But I’ll bet you can guess how that turned out. Homebrew Husband went out to get more beans within a few hours of us running out. An empty bean canister makes us twitchy.

Ah…that’s better:

But before we recommitted to our substance abuse problem, we took the time to figure out what our addiction was costing us.

Cost Of Coffee At Home

This is the cheap option, utilizing inexpensive but still decent whole-bean coffee available at our local Costco. The price of coffee beans varies dramatically, but buying in bulk makes even the happy-hippy, organic, shade-grown, fair-trade certified type of coffee much more affordable.

3 pounds coffee – $16.79, or $5.60 per pound.

1, 12-cup coffee pot requires 3.5-4 oz of beans, ground. Let’s round up to 4 oz. to account for occasional spills and because it makes the math very easy.

Coffee pots often mark “cups” in 6-oz increments, which is silly, but there you are. Our 12-cup coffee maker makes 4 huge, 16-ish oz., Seattle-sized servings which is just right for two coffee-loving adults.

Each pound (16 oz.) of beans makes 4, 4-oz. pots of coffee.

So, every pot of coffee costs $1.40 and each huge cup costs $.35.

Water and energy costs on a pot of coffee are really negligible  but even if you round up to $.40 per cup to account for those things, our pot-a-day coffee addiction is costing us under $2 per day.

If you want to start with beans that are twice as expensive for reasons of ethics, taste or fashion, you’re still way under $1 for a huge cup, even if you start adding sugar or cream to it.

 Week Three Spending

Groceries (3 pounds coffee) – $16.79

School Activity Tickets – $5.00


Week 3 Total – $21.79

Prior Weeks – $126.90

Monthly Total – $148.69

Remaining– $101.31

I’m feeling good. We’re really in the home-stretch now, with less than two-weeks to go. $100 for two weeks is kinda child’s-play, since the car is gassed up and we are still bursting at the seams with harvested food. A few paychecks have come in since the beginning of the month, and we can really see the savings starting to pile up, which is the kind of reward that makes it easier to keep pushing forward with the not spending.

My only nagging concern is Halloween….we still don’t have candy to hand out or costumes, but I think we’ll be able to put some fun stuff, creative stuff together from around the house for the kids. Homebrew Husband will, as usual, wear his NASA Astronaut costume, and I won’t be going out anyway due to ongoing eye-wackiness.

How has Week Three been for you? Are you feeling pretty solid as we enter the final twelve days?


  1. says

    I gave up coffee for Lent last year…40 days without coffee made me realize that it is necessary for life…Really buying coffee makes it more tolerable for other people to be near me.

  2. says

    I gave up caffeine about five years ago…. lasted two and a half years, and then fell back off the wagon. I’ve been meaning to give it up again. I don’t drink tea or coffee – diet coke is my poison of choice. Yes, I know, I’ve chosen an apt word to describe it. There’s no describing the chemical crap it’s made up of.

    Some day I’ll have the time and the fortitude to put myself through that again. But today is not that day ;)

  3. LadyBanksia says

    I’ve tried the coffee-/caffeine-less route, too. Uh-uh. Not this kid. Yes, its possible, but not probable. We’re on a low-acid brew right now – it really helps to not tear up the tummy as much, but it ain’t cheap by any means!

    Hubs is drinking tea these mornings, for whatever reason. I commend his travel down this path, however long it will be for. I’ll try it too, again, once the coffee is gone; but thankfully, I still have three containers of ground coffee and half a bag of whole beans waiting for me.

    In the meantime, pull up a chair – the coffee’s almost ready.

  4. says

    My downfall this week was not coffee, but store-bought baked breads. If I’d taken time to bake bread and roll tortillas, I would have spent less on groceries. Sometimes, though, other things are more important.

    For those who are interested, here is my weekly summary.

  5. says

    I’m still pushing for the home roasted coffee. Seriously, you guys, it’s cheaper and is the best tasting coffee you’ll ever have! We roast ours in 3 day batches (full 12-cup pot every day) which helps keep the oils (the shiny slick on beans) from going rancid. No bitterness, just smooth, delicious coffee.

  6. AK says

    I’m with you on the coffee that is the way we do it too. I have friends who stop and buy coffee every day. I did the math once and it cost about as much as our season passes for 4 for skiing, which in my opinion is way more fun than drinking lattes. Btw Good Will usually has lots of cheap Halloween costumes.

  7. says

    For Halloween–clean out your kids’ toy boxes! That’s what I do. It’s amazing how many little bouncy balls, cute erasers, stickers, and in our case a clear excess of Hot Wheels cars pile up. Add to that a handful of beads from my Mardi Gras stash, and I have a box of treats for kids to choose from. Of course, I should add that I get about 15 trick-or-treaters per year (I always have stuff left over). If you live in a neighborhood that gets 150 ghouls and goblins then this method probably won’t work for you.

    While I’ve mostly failed at No-Spend month (if I want to have a social life, and I desperately do, that means eating out), I am happy to say that my son’s panda costume is going to cost me nothing, as I’m pulling it together from a gifted panda hat, a hand-me-down one-piece fleece pajama, and a pair of old black leggings. (For this reason, he was not given a choice of what to be this year. Fortunately he loves pandas!)

  8. TinaC says

    Usually I get halloween candy for free by looking for those online printable coupons for the boxes of little individual bags of those gummy fruit snack things. Generally you can find them for 50 cents. Since my local stores double coupons, I print out a few (usually you can print 2 per computer) and then wait for the boxes to go on sale for $1. I’m generally able to get enough free boxes to fill the candy bowl and the kids seem to like them. When we lived in a small town I’d make my own caramel corn or cookies for the kids, but now we live in a more urban area and I don’t know a lot of the families very well so I’m sure they would be leary of homemade treats. This is the only processed thing I buy from the store all year!

    • Suzie J says

      I honestly think that kiddies LIKE getting peanuts in their shells for trick-or-treat. My family tries to tell me differently, but I’ll continue to give out this inexpensive, conveniently packaged, nutritious, non-cariogenic snack for Halloween. I let them take as many fistfuls as they want. Oh- did I mention – I’m a dental hygienist. ;-)

  9. says

    I did the no-caffeine thing for about 20 years, believing the line that not consuming caffeine would somehow give me more energy than consuming it. IT’S A LIE! :-) I started drinking moderate amounts about 5 years ago–not enough to develop a big tolerance, but enough to goose me a bit. I look forward to that cup of warm wake-me-up every day, and have no regrets about starting the habit. (Mind you–it’s on-the-cheap. It’s a very rare day when my caffeine isn’t home-brewed.)

  10. Carol Ann says

    I bought a size 2 cone filter holder for @ work, so I make get my joe there for about .25cents a cup, plus 1/2 & 1/2 from home. And it tastes so much better! A wee bit of heaven on earth, IMHO.

    Plus coffee has some big health benefits, like protection from diabetes and beacoup anti-oxidants, not to mention prevention of bodily harm to others.

    • says

      Prevention of bodily harm to others is of TANTAMOUNT importance!

      Coffee is my one little, “Ahhh…it’s morning. It’s great to be alive!” moments.

      I tried giving up beer and wine for Lent once…I had the same results as many people do with giving up coffee. I don’t drink a LOT, but we brew our own beer and make our own wine – I can’t fathom, aside from REAL medical reasons or religious reasons, why someone would willingly forgo a good mug of beer or a nice glass of wine occasionally. It’s beyond me! It’s what keeps me sane ;)

  11. says

    Kevin and I stopped drinking coffee in April when his gallbladder freaked out and his whole diet changed temporarily. We decided not to go back, and it’s been fine for him. Me? I was waking up every morning grumpy, craving coffee, and definitely NOT full of energy. I finally cracked and got a coffee two weeks ago, but it made me feel terrible–super jittery and yucky. I thought it must have been a fluke so I tried another cup last week and had the same thing happen. That’s what finally stopped my craving, but I still miss it and I’m not sure I won’t go back to it someday. Only things I don’t miss are the cost, the daily dose of cream & sugar, and all the coffee gear taking up space on the counter.

    • LG says

      Black tea? 1/3 to 1/2 the caffeine, and it supposedly makes for a gentler and longer-lasting lift without the coffee crash a couple hours later.

  12. says

    I use Caffeine as the cornerstone of my arsenal against depression. So I spend way, way, way too much on it. I make the pot of coffee then might buy lattes too. Before my run, I prefer tea. I’ll take a Coke if offered. It’s sad, really, but less sad than when I refuse to get out of bed- or shower, which is much worse.

    Caffeine, Carbs, and Cardio. : )

  13. says

    I’m a coffee addict but I will never compromise on using fair-trade coffee. The thought of young children being used in the coffee trade sends a chill through my spine. To be honest with you I really did not like at all MMM; his mentality of saving no matter what made me very an easy. I read in one of his posts something about not having pets! I mean that’s atrocious. So to adopt a pet from a shelter or foster some is no no in his books! That is a very dangerous mentality.

    I’m 100% with no spend mentality but when it comes to my ethics I will not compromise. Helping some local businesses, artists, and farmers gives me joy and satisfaction; but fair-trade coffee and banana is a Must for me; I stopped buying banana here in italy because it is very difficult to find fair-trade, plus when it is available it is very very expensive, so now I only buy it once in a while, as for coffee, I just can not live without it. For God’s sake it is the only joy I have, as I do not drink alcohol, I do not smoke, I do not go to the cinema, I do not shop, I do not eat out, I do not buy packaged foods like crisps/chips, fizzy drinks, chocolate (I hate chocolate), candy, biscuits, pasta (I make my own), canned beans, etc.

    My week was a success as usual :) Less that $10 for the whole week and I did give a private lesson for one hour and made 10 euros. I know that is a very cheap price, 10 euros per hr; again it is my ethics as I give a lesson to a person who earns very little and 10 euros is fair :)

    Erica, I enjoyed reading your posts as usual :)

    • says

      Cyrene, you out-Moustache Mr. Money Moustache. Your life is 100% badassity, to use his phrase. :) For me, the point of No Spend type exercises like this is to get people to think about they really want and value and to hopefully encourage people to act on that, whatever it is for them. You live the most values-based life of anyone I’ve known/heard of, and it seems to me that you have a very clear sense of what you will and will not put your money and time towards. Most of us (myself included) are still figuring it out, fine-tuning our values and working through occasionally conflicting desires, like putting our money towards the most ethical foodstuffs vs. saving more money in total, or living in an expensive neighborhood with good schools vs. spending less on housing in an area which might have other drawbacks for our family. You are such an inspiration because you have been able to really cut out those things that no longer hold value for you and can focus on the things, like animal care, time in nature, etc. that bring you such joy. I am constantly amazed by what you are doing, but I don’t know if most people would be willing to go as far as you have gone. I’m not sure I would, though radical, radical downsizing is a rather constant fantasy of mine. Maybe I’ll work my way there. :) I love the way you say, “No Spend success as usual!” like there was even the possibility that you were going to go one a crazy spending binge and buy $400 worth of shoes on credit. ;)

      • says

        Thank you very much dear Erica for your kind and wise words; i totally agree with everything you’ve said and i totally understand that what I’m doing is radical and not feasible for the majority of people (I might share my whole experience one day because I was just one of those girls who would spend $800 on a bag without the slightest tinge of guilt.) .

        You are an inspiration and the beautiful message you are spreading among your readers is awesome .

        My only worry right now is that I’m getting addicted to your blog and reading every post and comment on it :)

  14. Paul says

    If there was ever a time when it was important to have coffee, it’s this week when the weather in Seattle shifted for real, and it became clear that our glorious summer was over, and it’s time to hunker down for the descent into ‘cold, dark and wet for months on end’. There are things one needs to live in Seattle, and raincoats and coffee are two of them. (Just be glad you’re buying at Costco, and not hooked on Stumptown! ;-)

  15. Maggie says

    I’ve done okay thus far in no-spend October, although I haven’t stuck as close to my budget as I would have liked. Thankfully, this no-spend month was self-imposed, and not imposed by my work situation, so going over budget mostly just makes me feel rather guilty rather than more dire consequences. Instead of feeling guilty, and then shrugging it off, I’m working on holding myself accountable by continuing this no-spend month into November. Mostly I’m still working on mindfulness where my spending is concerned, and I think I need longer than just one month.

    This time around I’m going to sit down and make a plan at the beginning to help myself track what I’m spending and what extra expenses I can afford within that budget. I already know my car gas expenses will be increasing: we’re moving to a new office in the next town over in early November and it’s 1: too far/dangerous to bike when there’s less than 11 hours of sunlight, 2: public transportation does not exist in western Nebraska, and 3: my daily commute distance will triple.

  16. says

    I don’t drink coffee – I seem to have inherited the “coffee tastes icky” gene from my dad and somehow survived almost a decade of grad school without it – but my usual nemesis was my downfall this week, this time in the guise of the annual library book sale and a stack of 13 new-to-me books. I swear, this year the universe conspired against me by tossing out offering after $2 offering by authors that have have been on my want to read list for quite some time now. Add on some groceries, a dinner out that I forgot about when budgeting, and extra gas in the car, and I’m not really doing so well (to the point where I’m considering a redo next month).

    On the up side, I do think I’m spending less that I normally would, and I’m more aware of my spending. I’m admittedly spending more than I wanted to at the outset, but I’m walking away from a lot of stuff that wasn’t in my budget. I’m also more aware of my excuses and justifications, which is something I’d like to keep an eye on. And, on top of that, I have a pile of books that I’m hoping to sell to a used bookstore, which has also cleared off a bit of space on my overcrowded shelves. So even though the budget is really not so good, in aggregate No Spend Month feels like it’s coming along okay.

  17. Carolyn Thomas says

    I am not a addicted coffee drinker but I do like to have it. Earl Grey Tea is my caffeine of choice. And I DO NOT want the cheap stuff! No flavor. I didn’t sit down and make a budget or discuss with Hubby about a no spend, but I have tried to keep it to essentials. I live 10 miles from work, gas is a necessity. I do car pool with my daughter-in-law, so it cuts down their gasoline bill. I don’t worry too much about mine, cause I drive a Metro at 40 mpg. Also we have Karate twice a week with a 40 mile round trip. Definitely necessary for my Autistic son. You did say at the beginning of the month that some expenses were exempt and that is one of them. But no stopping at the convenience store or Papa Murphy’s or DQ afterwards! I also have resisted the morning stop at the convenience store for latte or other treat that my daughter in-law seems to need. (Hers is a St***cks energy drink and a Dr P. We get up at 4am for a 5:30am start work time. Getting to bed early doesn’t not seem to happen for either of us due to the needs of other members of our families, so the artificial energy is necessary. Due to my being overweight and the lack of stores that carry clothing that fits me, shopping for pleasure, is not something I do. Where we really “blew the budget”? Sonny boy’s (and daughter-in-law’s) house blew the electrical panel last week due to a storm that damaged the transformer and ground wire at the power pole. We have been informed that the power company will approve our claim once we finish re-wiring the house (which is actually my rental house, so I am obligated to get it fixed!) But……. it was an unexpected expense! My biggest reason for trying the no spend month is because we are also trying to buy a new home and move out of the small town where we are, out to the country with 34 acres. Lots of green papers but almost within our reach! I will keep trying on the No spend just to keep inconsequential spending to a minimum.

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