How to Save for Retirement with Coffee

Coffee drinks are all the rage ever since Starbucks expanded to every corner and convinced everyone that they should pay $6.00 for a cup of coffee on the way into work.  Being a graduate of UC Berkeley, which I consider to be the center of the coffee-house universe, I can’t stand Starbucks.  You see, a coffee-house is supposed to be an experience.  You go and order coffee drinks made with machinery that you could not afford to possess, get served in fancy glasses and cups, and then sit for an hour or two, sipping your beverage and pondering life.  You can also get together with friends and relax on a nice couch and play a board game or two over a latte and scones.    When Starbucks came along, they doubled the price you would normally pay for coffee, plus everything was suddenly served in paper cups instead of a real glass or mug.  Now the experience is like going and paying for a movie, only to be handed a DVD to take home and watch.  Totally missing the point!  (Starbucks likes to think of themselves as environmental, but now thanks to their influence instead of people reusing glasses and mugs each time they get a cup, everyone is getting a paper cup, a cardboard wrapper so they don’t burn their hands, and a plastic lid.  Not very green!)

Still, everyone around me seems to be stopping off at Starbucks on their way into work.  I’ve also started to see people with bottles of Starbucks iced coffee in the refrigerator or at their desk.  At least in this case Starbucks put the drinks in a nice bottle.  I’m surprised they don’t come in a plastic soda bottle, given how much Starbucks degraded the coffee shop experience.


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That got me thinking.  Here is a great way that people could save a lot of money, perhaps so that they could start to contribute to a retirement account, with very little if any sacrifice on their part.  Let’s say you drink 2-3 of those Starbucks iced coffees per day.  The Starbucks website lists their suggested retail price at $4.99 to $5.99 for a pack of four.  That’s about  $3-$4.50 per day if you drink 2-3 of them.  If you do this each work week, that’s $720-$1,080 in coffee per year.  Invested in growth stocks, getting 12% per year from age 22 to age 70, that’s between $1.5 M and $2.3 M for retirement.  (You can check my numbers in the investment calculator here, and play around with your own numbers of you like.  Note the most amazing thing about that calculation is that you only contribute something like $32,000 yourself – it is investing and compounding that takes care of the rest!)

But wait – what about your coffee fix?  Well, those bottles are totally washable and reusable.  Start off by buying a couple of 4-packs, then save and wash out the bottles.  You could even use the dishwasher if you’re lazy.  Then, get some good coffee (check out some of the selections below if you wish).  You can get something like 50 cups of coffee from each pound of coffee, so with a quality coffee selling for about $10 per pound, you can make about 50 iced coffee bottles for about 20 cents each from a pound of coffee beans.


The recipe would be something like:

  • While still hot, dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 4 cups of coffee.  If desired, add a flavoring.
  • Once cool, in a pitcher, add 1 cup milk, or half milk and half cream, and mix.
  • Divide between 4 cleaned bottles, using a funnel.  Add milk to fill bottles as desired.
  • Cap and store in the refrigerator until ready to take to work or drink at home.

Note you could make 8 cups of coffee and make eight bottles by doubling the recipe, or even make more at the start of the week if desired to save time later in the week.  The cost for everything will be something like $0.30-$0.40, depending on whether you use only milk or milk and cream, how strong you make the coffee, and how much sugar you add.  You could also make it lower calorie by using skim milk and less sugar.


So there you have it.  You can save for retirement, still have your coffee, and even reduce the amount of waste you generate by reusing bottles over-and-over.  You can have better coffee, be able to reduce the calories you’re consuming if desired, or even make it especially decadent by using more cream and extra sugar and flavorings if desired for a special treat now and then.  It’s really a win-win for everyone except perhaps Starbucks.  If you feel bad for them, you could use Starbucks coffee beans.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

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