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Gen Z: 5 Ways To Take the Guilt Out of Buying Your Daily Coffee

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Indulging in a daily cup of coffee — and not making it at home — isn’t the cheapest habit. It’s actually one of the most financially shamed practices, with money experts and regular Joes alike spurning younger generations’ proclivity for buying coffee.

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According to a National Coffee Data Trends report from late 2021, 46% of Gen Z adults ages 18-24 reported drinking coffee in the past day. Sixty-five percent of millennials ages 25-39 reported the same. Now, this data doesn’t take into account who buys their coffee and who makes it at home, but it can be assumed a good number of young people are shelling out for barista-made lattes.

Even if you do buy coffee daily, this habit doesn’t have to financially stress you. 

“We all get to spend our money how we want to,” said Jay Zigmont, Ph.D., CFP® and founder of Childfree Wealth. “The way I look at it is that [nobody else] gets a vote on how I spend my money, and I don’t get a vote on theirs.”

Even so, there are ways to make your coffee purchases less burdensome on your bank account. Here’s how you can be financially proactive and stop the cycle of post-purchase guilt.

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Set Realistic Money Goals Instead of Restricting Yourself

Chloe Elise, certified financial coach and CEO/founder of Deeper Than Money, advises against restricting your coffee buying. 

“Your Starbucks isn’t stopping you from becoming a millionaire,” she said. “⁣Yes, we’ve all seen it. ‘If you gave up your $5 coffee every day for the rest of your life THEN you’d be a millionaire!!!’ One of the biggest things that’s actually stopping you from becoming a millionaire ⁣is restriction.” 

Elise said that instead of restricting your spending on the things you enjoy, you should set realistic goals that serve you and your bank account.

These goals can include moving your savings to a high-yield account (which could subsidize your coffee fund); committing to returning clothes or other items you don’t like; taking advantage of your employer-offered 401(k); or any number of things that pave your path to financial success — all while enjoying that steaming cup of coffee.

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Examine What a ‘Waste of Money’ Is to You

While some may consider daily coffee a waste of money, if it’s something you enjoy then you shouldn’t be pressured to stop buying it. However, if you’re feeling financially squeezed because of your coffee habit, you may want to reevaluate your other budget items.

“There is no one right approach to handle your funds, especially because everyone’s financial situation and aspirations are unique. [One way to manage your money is by] cutting out costs you don’t use and redirecting that money into activities you genuinely like,” said Victoria Culbertson, CEO of NYC House Cleaners.

“In other words, it’s acceptable to spend money on simple pleasures like your favorite iced coffee, as long as you remember to cancel that gym membership you never use or any other items that no longer offer you joy.”

As Culbertson said, you should identify the purchases you make that you actually consider a waste of money and cut them out. This should free up some room in your budget for Starbucks or The Coffee Bean (or even better, a local shop).

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Download a Round-Up App To Save, Invest or Pay Off Debt

If you’re buying coffee every day, that purchase could easily be rounded up to the next whole dollar amount — probably without you even noticing. 

“There are plenty of mobile banking apps these days that offer round-up services, and traditional banks are increasingly starting to offer optional round-up features on their accounts, too,” said Ziga Breznik, owner and head of research at Public Finance International.

“So what is a round-up service? In essence, say you’ve just spent $6.75 on a coffee. The app will ’round up’ the fee to $7, sending the $6.75 to the vendor and putting aside the 25 cents in a separate pot,” he explained. 

If your bank doesn’t offer a round-up feature, some popular apps that do include Acorns, which invests your extra cents, and Chime, an online bank that transfers the round-up money directly to your savings account. A newer app called Qoins even sends out monthly debt payments using your round-up money.

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Use Your Daily Coffee as a Networking Opportunity

Brian Rellihan, CFP®, MBA, EA and senior financial advisor at Wise Wealth Partners, LLC, takes a different approach to his coffee buying. 

“Try to drink your coffee with someone else who could be a business/networking opportunity,” he advised. “I try to catch up with old business colleagues and network with new complimentary professionals. While it’s not a cheaper cup of coffee, it can pay dividends down the road!” 

If you go into an office every day, consider inviting a co-worker out to coffee one day — preferably one you’re not already friends with. If you’re not in an office often, take to LinkedIn and send your coffee invite there, targeting professionals who work in your field of interest. Virtual coffees are another popular way to go and have been since the pandemic hit.

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Take Advantage of Any Rewards Offered by Your Coffee Shop

If your coffee shop of choice has an app or rewards of any kind, you should take advantage of it. If you’re going every day, you’re missing out on free gifts or money by not utilizing a rewards program. 

“Starbucks has a new permanent rewards program that gives you 25 stars in their app every time you use your own cup, plus ten cents off,” said Jeff Goodwin, senior vice president of e-commerce, at Wellbeam Consumer Health. “So if you order a $5 cup of java every day, every fifth day your cup will be free!” 

Almost every coffee chain and even local shops offer some type of rewards for regular customers, so be sure to do your research or ask about it next time you go in.

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