savings tips and the truth

Why savings tips aren’t all they are cracked up to be

Georgina Guedes

By Georgina Guedes  July 23, 2015

I do not drink coffee but I won a coffee machine. I believe that this qualifies me to tell you why buying a coffee machine to save money is a really bad idea.

This is particularly relevant during Savings Month when you are being bombarded with tips and suggestions for getting more money in the bank without changing your lifestyle. So you’ve probably heard the one that says: buy a coffee machine now to save money on your daily cappuccino forever. Sure there’s an initial outlay, but once you’ve worked that off, you’ll be like “save, save, save” all the way to the bank. And you won’t be sacrificing a thing!

This saving strategy didn’t really interest me (although it always sounded like an expensive way to save money), simply because, as I’ve already explained, I don’t drink coffee. But then I entered a competition and won a coffee machine – along with a whole box of little pods to try out.

Nestled among those was the first seed of a future addiction – a “tea latte” capsule. I tried it and I liked it, so I tracked down some more. My husband (who does drink coffee) tried out the cappuccino pods. Guess what? He liked those too.

And so, between us, we started a love affair with our new machine.

But here’s the thing. With delicious, hot foamy beverages available in our actual house instead of, say, a short walk or drive away, our rate of coffee and tea drinking soon picked up (we both work from home). Instead of having one cup of coffee a day on his way to somewhere, my husband now has three – one to start the day, one with lunch and one to get through the afternoon.

I am afraid I have also gone from zero tea lattes a day (and maybe one cup of rooibos) to three tea lattes, pretty much in keeping with my husband’s schedule.

And since the pods cost around R10 per hit, we’re each spending R30 on hot beverages a day. That’s R10 more per day than my husband was spending on his daily coffee, and a full R30 more than I was spending on nothing in our pre-machine days. Between us, that’s R1 200 more per month than we used to spend! It’s like the Latte Factor in reverse.

That’s right, even without having paid actual money for the machine, we’re going into coffee debt just because it’s there. You’d think they launched that competition as some kind of sinister marketing campaign or something...

Aside from confessing, shamefacedly, to my new beverage addiction, I have a point to make in this blog post, and that is this: savings tips are only worth acting on if they’re going to work for you.

So if you’ve heard the one about buying a coffee machine, the first thing that you have to do is work out how much you’ll save per cup and then compare that to the cost of the machine you have in mind.

If it’s going to take you more than a couple of years to start realising returns, I’m thinking it’s not a great investment. You could be pregnant, a health nut or living in another country by then. 

And of course, the most important thing to take into consideration is: what kind of coffee consumer are you? Do you have a will of iron? Will you still only drink exactly the same number of cups of coffee as you used to every day? Or will you watch the clock fiercely, waiting for the moments to tick by until you can justify a saunter over to the machine for another cup of something hot and delicious three, or four, or five times a day?

I know which kind of coffee machine user I am. How about you? 

But more broadly speaking, my experience with the coffee machine highlights a valuable lesson about saving in general. If you want to save money, you’ll probably have to sacrifice something. And you’ll need discipline to keep on sacrificing it. Just like anything else in life, saving is hard work, and all the tips that promise you that you can trick yourself into saving without noticing are probably lying to you.

Remember that saving is a vital element of your budgeting strategy, and even if it does hurt a little, you have to do it. What makes it hurt a little less is that growing balance in your bank account.

So what are you going to give up for Savings Month?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of 1Life or its employees.

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