All Posts by Nicole

Are You Frothing At the Mouth To Get Out Of Debt?

Are you frothing at the mouth to get out of debt? If so, your coffee habit maybe the way to kickstart your savings plan. Coffee is the thing many people crave first thing in the morning to get their day started off on the right foot. Here’s the thing. Coffee isn’t only desirable in the morning. People gotta get their java throughout the day, into the evening, and even at night. It is the largest traded commodity behind crude oil. Americans spend in excess of  $12 billion on coffee sales annually.

If the best things come in the form of morning cup of coffee, and your day is maladjusted until you’ve had at least one cup, you are not alone.

What is your coffee experience? Does it include Sanka, Folgers, drip coffee, or something else? Coffee is a big deal, and so many people leave home to tantalize their tongue with a gourmet experience they don’t know they can achieve right in their own kitchens. In the US people rush from home to stop by any of the big three: Starbucks, Dunkin’, or McCafe. They yearn for the perfectly roasted beans at the right color, the right flavor, and the “just so,” taste on the tongue that they pay [too much] for. It’s the gourmet experience they pay for, but they miss the relaxation of the “at home” experience.

Gourmet coffee is a “thing”. Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks are spending millions to keep up with the growing trend.

Chris Fuqua, Dunkin’s Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing said:

“Coffee culture in the country is getting a little bit more sophisticated by the day,”

… And…

“Customers really understand what craft coffee beverages are.”

Dunkin’ recently released its cold brew and Starbucks introduced its Nitro Cold Brew. Home made, home brewed drinks are coming to the home front for a pleasurable experience, and we’re not talking about beer. “Forward thinking coffee drinkers”, (yes, that is becoming a term), meet home beer brewers, for a new “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights”, experience, (Hello, Meatloaf), that is not legal anywhere but at home.  

Both companies see gourmet coffee as a key part of its future success.

Gourmet coffee is also present in the healthy forum. The buttered coffee trend, combined with mycotoxin-free beans, grass fed butter, and MCT oil, pioneered by Bulletproof CEO Dave Asprey is catching on. Bulletproof recently celebrated its cutting edge healthy brew by opening a standalone brick-and-mortar opening in Santa Monica, CA. If you like ghee, or grass fed butter you can enjoy Kerrygold at $2.79 per 8 oz. at a variety of stores. Upper end could cost $3.99. If you can’t mistake the Bulletproof quality for lesser ingredients, then keep on keepin’ on. The benefits are there. But, if you are okay with arabica beans, which are resistant to mycotoxins, and okay with shopping your own ingredients online (Hello, Amazon), then enjoy the same experience and rivalrous quality, at a much lesser price.

Cost Beans MCT oil Coconut oil 100 % Ghee Total:
Bulletproof $1.29 $0.53 $0.25 $0.81 $2.88
Generic Ingredients $0.95 $0.27 $0.25 $0.19-$0.53 $1.66-$1.99

But, gourmet coffee comes at a high price. Bulletproof is at the high end, at a retail price of $4.25 for a small cup, before add-ins at the Santa Monica brick-and-mortar shop.  I agree with its benefits, and there’s no way I am willing to pay that price for a retail cup, or for its components, no matter how good it is for me. For the rest of this article I am following the Starbucks pricing menu as a median gourmet pricing structure.

Have you analyzed what gourmet coffee is costing you? The chart below may help.

Price of various of gourmet coffees

At-Home Gourmet Starbucks Keurig
Beans Specialty Milk Beans + Milk Cappuccino Iced Coffee Caffe Latte K cup pod
Price $0.19 per 2 oz $0.12 per 2.5 oz $0.31 $3.65 $2.65 $3.65 $0.80
30 day total $5.70 $3.60 $9.30 $109.50 $79.50 $109.50 $24.00

Assumptions: Starbucks, grande size (16 oz.), used unless otherwise noted.

Regular milk is at least half the price of specialty milk.

I’m a bit of a coffee snob. That means I love the coffee experience. It’s a relaxing event for me, to slow down and sip from that cup. I analyze everything from the beans, to the milk, to the sugar. It all matters because it all makes a difference in the experience.  If you are a coffee snob too you may enjoy lactose free milk options like almond, or soy. I enjoy almond milk in my morning brew. There are plenty of sugar options too: honey, agave, coconut sugar, raw cane sugar, stevia, or the good old-fashioned white sugar. If you prefer other options please comment and share your pleasure of add-ins (the above includes regular white sugar, which is so cheap, and I use less than 1/2 teaspoon, I didn’t include a cost for it).

We’re trying to get out of debt here. So, let’s explore how to create additional cash flow while working a plan to save money. It won’t happen by buying a commercial grade espresso machine and opening a coffee shop, at least not without creating a lot of debt first. If your goal is a commercial-type coffee experience without the retail price, then this is where we come full circle. You can have the same quality at home, for a fraction of the price, while saving the retail at-the-counter cost and reinvesting the difference to better your financial freedom. Keeping your choice add-ins at home and buying a couple of startup items could help you put less money into your brew, and brew your saving plan to be debt free.

Startup cost

Start up equipment Cost
Moka Pot $27.01
Nespresso Frother $82.93
Total $109.94
Moka pot

Moka pot

Nespresso milk frother

Nespresso milk frother

Follow those links to order yours on Amazon. Okay, that’s a month worth of cappuccino, but if you are stopping at Starbucks for your morning fix, then you are spending that every month. I have both of those products at home because my spouse and I both enjoy cappuccino, and we aren’t willing to pay the Starbucks price.

If you are married, and both coffee lovers, you spend nearly $220, $1,200 annually, on cappuccino at Starbucks each month–and that’s if you only have one cup. The average American drinks 3 to 5 cups each day, so hopefully you are supplementing this habit somewhere other than Starbucks. Look at the results:

Cost per cup/Savings to pay down debt

1 cup 2 cups 3 cups 4 cups 5 cups more
Starbucks – Cost per cup $3.65 $7.30 $10.95 $14.60 $18.25 $@!%$
30 day total cost $109.50 $219.00 $328.50 $438.00 $547.50 Are you for real?
Cost of beans + milk $0.31 $0.62 $0.93 $1.24 $1.55 $1.86 +
30 day cost $9.30 $18.60 $27.90 $37.20 $46.50 $55.80 +
30 day savings $100.20 $200.40 $300.60 $400.80 $501.00 You’re intensely saving!!!

If you only buy 1 cup per day you are instantly saving $100 each month. If you have a spouse, or buy 2 or more cups of coffee at Starbucks a day, then you can’t afford not to make this initial investment. You’re on the road to saving $200 each month, $2,400 annually, by investing a little time at home and investing your savings in getting out of debt. When the best cappuccino is available at home–why go anywhere else?

Okay, you love coffee, but you’re short on time in the morning. I get it. Mornings are hectic, especially if you have a family and the unpredictability of kids thrown into the mix. What if I told you that in the 8 minutes you spent in the Starbucks drive through, you could have your very own gourmet experience at home? That’s all it takes–8 minutes–the amount of time it takes to boil water.

I grind the beans the night before, premeasure them, and put them in a plastic container, in the freezer. While I am locking down the house at night I fill the moka pot to the water line and have it waiting for morning. When preparing breakfast for the family, or finishing packing lunches I am also brewing the most delectable part of my day. By the time I hear the espresso brewing I turn off the burner and hit the button on the milk frother so that they are ready at the same time. I love the sip more than I can put into words, so while the kids eat breakfast I am sipping on the paradise dream of gourmet coffee that affords me the possibility to get through the day. If you are a coffee connoisseur you understand the dream, and how the experience sets your day into perfect motion.

If you consume serious amounts of coffee, it may take sacrifice in the first month to curb your habit long enough to cash flow the startup equipment. Make the initial investment so that you can save passionately. You might also be saving time by enjoying a shorter work commute, and fuel costs by not idling in the Starbucks drive through that not accounted for here.

Homemade gourmet cappuccino

Homemade gourmet cappuccino

If this is all too snobby for your coffee preference then you aren’t alone. At more than $12 billion annually this business isn’t going away anytime soon, but its trends could be changing again right before our eyes. Can you really taste the gourmet difference? A recent taste test stumped Today show hosts Al Roker, Matt Lauer, and Savannah Gutherie. They preferred the cheap stuff over gourmet. If your tastes are similar to theirs then the expensive stuff tastes “bitter”, and when a higher cost is indicative of a higher quality the bitterness left a bad taste in their mouths. If $1 or so a cup delights your taste buds, then you may opt to stay our of Starbucks and enjoy greater saving potential than is presented here.

If you have a simple life hack for your budget that has resulted in big get out of debt savings, please comment below and share your hack with the community. We’d like to celebrate your success.

Related articles: A healthier coffee

Clothes Do Make the Budget … With Healthy Choices

At some time or another everyone dreams of being successful and famous. Some very successful people have figured out that the secret to their successful morning means dressing in less. We’re not talking about going to work barely covered, we’re talking about simplicity–that is pairing the closet down to the same kinds of clothes–and wearing them over and over. It’s the joy of a streamlined, simplified closet.

Before you dismiss it as boring, let’s look at who has done it.

  • Steve Jobs: The Apple co-founder wore a black mock turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers.
  • Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook’s chief executive wears a grey t-shirt or hoodie. Recently I saw him in a grey suit and I had to do a double take because he had broken his own dress code.
  • Albert Einstein: The famous physicist wore a grey suit, no socks, and unkempt hair.
  • Barack Obama: President Obama pared his closet down to only blue or grey suits.

Simon Cowell, Angelina Jolie, Karl Lagerfeld, Michael Kors, and the list goes on…

These people have figured out that they don’t have to think about how to dress for the day. They wear the same thing.

Every.

Single.

Day.

Mornings in my house are chaotic. The dog needs fed. My spouse has to get to work, and the kiddos need nutritious lunches to take to school, and I need to steal a little time to pull myself together for the day. I hope you are telling yourself about your own getting ready for the day story right now. Life for each of us is different, but we can relate in the hecticness of getting everyone to the right place at the right time, with all the necessities to succeed for the day.

In a perfect world the clothes are laid out and lunches are made the night before.

Yada, yada. Who lives in a perfect world? I sure don’t. What about you? What if you had just one less decision to make each morning? What if it started by having less clothing?

Most of us don’t have someone to get the kids ready for us, and we have to prepare our own lunches etc. We have even less time to accomplish more than the people above, and we have to do it on our own.

They may be onto something.

What if mental morning health starts by redefining your closet with fewer items and less to think about? And, that success affects the amount of green stuff in your wallet. You may be surprised that you’ll actually have a healthier, fatter wallet, and more Benjamins to spend. If you are getting out of debt, it could be the way to get momentum and pay off some smaller debts on your way to bigger changes and more financial freedom.

Courtney Carver, a former advertising sales executive started the experiment about six years ago.

“You are really learning what ‘enough’ is,” she said.

For her the financial payoff was in excess of $5K annually.

“When I go to shop, I’m not lured in by the marketing,” she said.

A minimalist wardrobe doesn’t have to be devoid of fashion and creativity. Let’s see how it is done.

Chivalry isn’t dead. I’d address a lady’s closet first, but she will probably read through the men’s section to see how she can help him through the less is more approach. The converse may not be true.

A man’s simplified closet

We recognize that individuals are different. Please adjust as dictated by your needs. Most men can easily manage with this list from the Unclutterer:

  • A navy blue suit in a four-season wool fabric.
  • A charcoal grey suit in a four-season wool fabric.
  • Three white long-sleeve dress shirts and at least one light blue long-sleeve dress shirt. If you work in a corporate environment, you’ll need more than this to make it through the week (less than 15 total, however). If you work in a casual environment or from home, these four long-sleeve dress shirts will very likely suffice.
  • One short-sleeve knit polo shirt.
  • A cotton-blend front-zip jacket to wear with jeans or khakis.
  • A small collection of silk ties (the number varies with how many days in a year you wear them). Your collection should contain at least a solid color tie and a striped tie that work with both of your basic suits.
  • Seven white undershirts and 14 pair of underwear.
  • Two/four pair of jeans.
  • Three to five additional shirts that are appropriate to your social schedule. If you’re a t-shirt and jeans guy, let these shirts reflect this.
  • A heavy sweater in a solid color. Black and solid grey v-neck sweaters always seem to be in style.
  • Two pair of dress khakis and a pair of khaki shorts.
  • A set of athletic pants and a t-shirt you wouldn’t mind if paint were spilled on it.
  • Pajamas
  • A swimsuit

Don’t confuse a fewer number of clothing items with being devoid of fashion. If you are a man who takes heed about fashion you can still do this. Even Don Draper can do it.  It might look like this. men's wardrobe

A woman’s simplified closet

When thinking about fashion, people think high designers and Paris. A woman wants to feel fashionable, and her style can easily reflect her desire, while being simple. Here are tips courtesy of Bellatory:

  • Neutral Colors: Predominantly black and white, but can also include navy and denim, cream, and shades of grey.
  • Mix and Match: By keeping it simple, everything mixes and matches together.
  • Attention to Fit: Clothes are neither figure-hugging or baggy and are a comfortable fit.
  • Quality, Natural Fabrics
  • Prints: not too many patterned or floral fabrics, maybe because they are harder to mix and match. Instead, Breton stripes, or limited power pieces.
  • Texture: To add interest to an outfit, they may include textured fabrics such as tweed or lace.
  • Footwear: Suitable styles for walking around Paris are flat ballet pumps or sandals, and in the winter a pair of boots. Medium height heels are also an option if they are suitable for walking around. Shoes are also in neutral colours for easy mixing and matching with the clothes.
  • Accessories: This is where the fun comes! Chic women focus on a few well-chosen, good quality accessories to pull an outfit together and provide and individual look. Accessories enable you to play dress up. They may include a neutral coloured leather bag, pearls, a silk scarf, a beautiful necklace or bracelet, or hosiery.
  • Scarves: Wearing scarves and tie them in a variety of different ways.

It might look like this.

woman's wardrobe

Anyone can do it

If you are new to simplifying your mind, your morning routine and your closet, but think you’d like to give it a try, start small. In my house we begin each New Year by turning all the hangers backward. As items get worn, washed, and returned to the closet, they get hung from the front. Any hangers facing backward by the end of the year get pulled, bagged, and sent to Goodwill. If an item hasn’t been used in a year someone else needs it worse me.

The key is to buy high quality items that last over time, and multiple washings, versus ones that fade and wear out quickly. It is easier to shop when you know what needs to be replaced. It’s easier to avoid sales, and items that won’t leave the closet too.

Consider the freedom in these:

  • You will have more disposable income.
  • You will have more time to live your life.
  • Mornings will feature less stress.
  • Laundry days will be easier.

Kids figure this out when they are young. They fall in love with a favorite shirt, and wear it over and over until it is threadbare. Or, sleep in clothes because they love the feel. They wake up the next morning, roll outta bed, and don’t care if they are a wrinkled mess, or if they coordinate. They don’t care what they wear. It’s parents who are prideful about what kids wear. Kids wear what they love. Maybe we should do the same.

The Who, What, When, Where, Why of Insurance. Just the Basics, Please.

 

Nearly everyone has insurance. There’s insurance for the house or renter’s insurance, car insurance, health insurance, liability, life insurance. There are more kinds of insurance then you can shake a stick at, there’s even pet insurance. Let’s look at insurance basics and see: What is it? Who needs it? Why we have it? How does it work? This is the first of a series, so please let us know what you want to learn about insurance.


What is it?

Insurance: Business Dictionary used more legalese then I will. For the full definition check that link. I’ll summarize it as a risk-transfer mechanism that ensures full or partial financial compensation for the loss or damage caused by events beyond the control of the insured party. Under contract, the insured is indemnified from loss when a sum is paid.

Let’s simplify.

If I want my “stuff” to stay healthy, or at least like it is right now, I pay someone a fee to protect it. If damage happens, during the covered time, a company pays me money to restore my “stuff” to normal. I move the risk from me personally, to the company.

Insurance can be yawn, a bore. So we’ll start off by keeping it interesting.

I think of it in the way Dr. Seuss said in “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”:

“I’m sorry to say so

But, sadly, it’s true

That Bang-ups

And Hang-ups

Can happen to you…

 

You’ll be left in a lurch…

 

You’ll come down from the Lurch

With an unpleasant bump.

And chances are, then

That you’ll be in a slump”.

Insurance replaces the bang-ups, hang-ups, and lurches that happen in life, and helps get you out of a slump.

Who needs it?

Anyone needs insurance who wants to defer risk. 

  • If the dog drinks antifreeze and has an emergency vet visit,
  • If your death impacts dependents (mom, dad, or kids),
  • If a wreck changes your transportation status, or
  • If a hail storm means that you need a new roof.

Each of these items could be game changers in the Game of Life. If you don’t want to pay for these damages out of pocket then you can displace that risk by paying a premium to offset the expense.

These things don’t happen to everyone, but guess what I am doing right now? I am replacing the roof. I am learning, firsthand, about the process. The insurance company has enough data to know how many people will experience these setbacks, and how much it will cost to recover from them. With enough time and information the company can spread its risk among all its customers. The key is getting the right kind of insurance, with the right coverage, to win at Game of Life. Can you just spin the dial instead? Sure, but, life gets more complicated.

When did it start?

Let’s spin the dial backward to see how insurance started. The earliest forms of displacing risk may have come from Chinese and Babylonian traders. Chinese merchants would redistribute their wares across many vessels to offset risk in the event of a capsizing ship. If a merchant received a loan for his wares, he could also pay an additional fee should his goods be lost or stolen at sea, and the lender’s promise to cancel his debt.

Lloyd’s of London got its start in a coffee shop, helping similar merchants. Merchants wanted a guarantee that goods displaced at the bottom of the sea would be replaced, so a guarantee was made for a fee. If the voyage reached its destination without incident the fee was retained, but if disaster happened the price of goods was fully recovered. No single investor wanted responsibility for the whole risk, so a group of underwriters pledged what percentage of responsibility it had in the total risk.

In America, Benjamin Franklin was “Father” of some of the earliest fire insurance policies to offset the colonists risk of losing their homes. The catalyst was the great fire of 1730 in Philadelphia, and the situation gave rise to insurance policies and terms, many guaranteed by Franklin himself. Franklin reported in his Gazette that there was no wind, had there been better equipment the fire could likely have been contained. The fire brigade was born.

Why have it?

Let’s briefly cover some reasons to have insurance. We won’t go in-depth about the kinds of coverage here, but we will touch on the main reasons people choose to offset risk.

  • Homeownership: banks want to ensure they are in first lien position on your home until the mortgage is paid in full.
  • Disability maintains your current standard of living
  • Healthcare: doctor costs, eye care, dental care, prescription drugs etc. *
  • Life: provides for your family or dependents in case of death.
  • Business: manages the risks of owning and running a small business.
  • Travel: take vacations without worry of flight cancellations or other concerns.
  • Car repairs, healthcare costs, or legal expenses associated with collisions unless they have coverage.

Car Insurance is multifaceted. The kinds of insurance are offered here. If you’re looking to buy a car, there’s a series on our resource page about that too.

  1. Full coverage doesn’t really exist. It is commonly understood as a combination of liability, comprehensive and collision.
  2. Liability insurance is as basic as coverage gets. It covers damages to another person resulting from an accident you cause. It is mandatory in every state, but minimum limits vary, depending on your location.
  3. Comprehensive is designed to cover your auto caused by something other than a collision. It could cover fire, theft, vandalism. If you hit an animal, or if your car is stolen this may apply.
  4. Collision reimburses for damage to the personal auto due to the fault of the insured driver.
  5. Collateral protects auto lenders from financial loss if the buyer has a lapse in coverage or is uninsured.
  6. Gap coverage is an option for a person who likes to drive a new car. The car goes down in value as soon as you drive off the lot. If your car is damaged the replacement is based on market or book value. If your brand new car is in a collision a week later there is a gap between the market value and the replacement value.
  7. New car replacement is a possibility, but it isn’t free. Some companies offer this option if your car is less than a year old, not leased, and under 15,000 miles.
  8. Better car replacement also isn’t free. In many cases you still pay the deductible. It is possible if your car is a complete loss. If your vehicle is older, or has higher miles, you can get money for a better one.

How does it work?

In general, insurance helps defer risk by spreading the risk around to a number of people in the same area with similar risks. When you take out an insurance policy you pay a monthly or annual premium. That premium goes into a bigger pool along with the premiums of many thousands of other policyholders. Hopefully you never have to draw out of the pool, but if you do have a claim the pool of funds are used to help you get back to normal.

The amount of funds available is determined by the kind of policy you have. It is important to know your policy, and what it covers, in case of an event. Your insurer may repair, replace, or issue a cash settlement in accordance with your policy. A healthy evaluation of your policy guidelines on an annual basis may be the difference between the getting normal and paying in should a claim need to be filed.

Your premium is the amount you pay the insurance company for your coverage. It reflects what the insurer believes the likelihood is that you will make a claim. It also includes the bonuses, discounts, multi policy discounts, or other bonuses the company may offer.

I mentioned earlier that I am in the process of a roof replacement. Guess what? Several of my neighbors are also getting their roofs replaced. The risk in my area just increased, and the pool of funds will be significantly depleted because of this event. Do you think my home insurance will go up next year? I am not much of a betting gal, but I would bet on it. The insurance company will likely increase premiums to help offset the expenditure to help people’s homes become normal after this event. Our premiums increased this year even though we didn’t have a claim because there were a lot of claims in this area last year.

I get it. Not many people I know get giddy at the prospect of analyzing insurance. I dread these meetings with my husband as we evaluate our insurance coverage each January. We schedule the time to make sure we are on track in case of an event. And, I suggest that you evaluate insurance too, at least annually. You won’t be wondering what kind of coverage you have if you need to file a claim. You will be glad you took the time to evaluate.

Insurance can be complicated. Hopefully this helps you understand the types of insurance available, which ones are suitable for your needs, and offers a basic understanding of how insurance works. We’ll discover more details in this series. Let us know if there are topics you would like covered.