I walked into a conference room in my new office, ready to sit in a 90-minute morning meeting with about 20 colleagues. I took a quick scan around the room and selected a place to unload all the essential items I carried over for my desk, including my chapstick, cell phone, laptop, and a tall glass of water. As people filled the room, I suddenly noticed I was surrounded by to-go coffee cups. Since I wasn’t familiar with most of the new office lingo, and people started to discuss something that might not apply to me, I let my mind wander for a minute.
I searched my mind for all the reasons someone might choose to buy coffee on the way to an office that provides free coffee: taste, convenience, dietary preferences… But my daydream was abruptly stopped short when someone reintroduced me to the group in case some people hadn’t met me yet. I put aside my questions about everyone’s coffee budgets so I could get back to overcoming my impostor syndrome at my new job.
I’m in no place to judge people for their financial decisions — I decided to stay in school for way too long, accumulating thousands of dollars in student loan debt and spending way too much money on craft beer and weekend getaways. But I’ve always wondered why people feel the need to get fancy coffee drinks instead of making something at home (or, in this case, drinking free office coffee). I do understand that the baristas at all our local coffee shops can make much better coffee than our office Keurig. And it might be more convenient to show up to work caffeine-in-hand. But is it worth the cost? Maybe I just can’t relate to the urgent need for that caffeine-in-the-blood-stream feeling.
Miraculously, I don’t need coffee to start my day. I think I just won some sort of genetic lottery. Through four years of college and five years of graduate school, I somehow managed to come out the other side without a severe caffeine addiction. While I was in school, I worked in all sorts of jobs, most of which allowed for little to no sleep, depending on the day. Luckily, I’m in a much more “normal” job now, which allows me to work a traditional 8-5 day except for three months of 24/7 action.
But my schedule is just as irregular as it is confusing, and my sleep hygiene is extremely subpar. Thus, I still have a deep-rooted love for coffee because it turns me into a human when all other measures have failed. I also love that I’m essentially allowed to walk around my office with a mug full of a legal drug made to be enjoyed with hazelnut creamer pretty much any time of the day. Coffee is a beautiful, bold, full-bodied miracle. I’m just not into the idea of needing coffee to function.
If you’re like me, you may want to cut the habit, cut back, or just take more control over this part of your diet and budget. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to manage it — and we can do this together, friends! Most people already know the basics — bring your own mug to the coffee shop, have a separate budget line for coffee, brew at home, etc. But there are plenty of new, creative ways to reduce your spending and dependency on coffee.
1. Discover the miracles of black tea. Most people think that tea just won’t cut it when compared to its drug-like cousin, coffee. While it may not give you the same exact jolt as coffee, a strong black tea will certainly wake you up. The best part about tea is that you can take it anywhere. Keep a few black tea bags in your backpack or briefcase, find a mug (or keep one) wherever you are, microwave some hot water, and voilà! You have yourself a very inexpensive burst of energy to finish out the day.
2. Host a coffee tasting. This is an awesome idea for three main reasons: 1) you and your tasting guests can wear pajamas, 2) it’s going to be delicious, and 3) you can host this party in the early afternoon so everyone can be home for a relaxing night in. Can you tell I’m an introverted homebody? A coffee tasting (plus cakes and pastries, of course) is a great way to taste some new, local brews and pick out your favorite. This will eliminate the possibility of choosing a brand or brew that you don’t enjoy. You can really put your hard earned money towards the coffee that beats out all the others. Gentle warning: don’t go overboard. We’ve all seen how that ends in the episode of The Office with the new espresso machine.
3. When you have time, figure out some new ways to start the day with energy. You may not be able to experiment much when you’re in the middle of your busy season or when you’re constantly traveling or when it’s winter and you just cannot. But next time you have a light week, start to ease off coffee and do some morning trials. You might get energy from drinking a large glass of cold water first thing in the morning. Or maybe a walk does the trick. Or maybe you just need to get enough sleep? I know — a novel concept. But give it a try! Maybe you can kick your caffeine addiction by spending a little more time in that REM cycle.
4. Socialize on your coffee breaks. Instead of using coffee to refuel so you can get back to the grind, use it as an opportunity to socialize. Most people need coffee at some point during the day, so grab a co-worker, friend, or significant other to join in for a coffee run. Bonus points if you can work in a date as a coffee break. Double bonus points if your date pays.
5. Sharing is caring. Since my office provides coffee for free, my co-workers and I bring in yummy creamer on a rotating basis. It may be psychological, but there’s something lovely and homey about meeting in the morning to brew our separate cups of coffee and pass the creamer across the kitchen counter. You can do the same thing with cold brew or coffee grinds — just find your fellow coffee lovers in your class, office, or neighborhood!
6. Seek out opportunities for free coffee. You may not work in an office with free coffee, so check out some nearby events that offer coffee as an incentive for participants. I’ve heard of so many different types of events with free coffee: art shows, dissertation defenses, festivals, film screenings, and pretty much any event where graduate students are invited (one of the few perks of grad school). You never know who you’ll meet, but you do know that you’ll be offered a fresh cup of coffee ranging in quality from mediocre to outstanding. Find yourself a new gathering, grab your free cup of joe, and enjoy an event you would have otherwise missed.
What are some of your tips for cutting coffee costs or reducing your need for the unmatched caffeine boost? I’d love to hear from you!
Image via Unsplash