Most mornings — OK, pretty much every morning — I start the day with coffee. (And let me say right up front that I realize that Matt Kaufman wrote a thought-provoking blog about Starbucks earlier this week, “To Boycott or Not to Boycott,” one that’s definitely worth reading and wrestling with.) This very moment, in fact, it’s 5:54 a.m., and I can hear my coffee pot gurgling away earnestly, telling me its brewing cycle is complete — a sound that brings me to my happy place.
I know lots of other folks start the day the same way, but I was still surprised to see the results of a new study that monetarily quantifies our national passion for the little black bean. On Jan. 20, Consumerist.com reported that the average American worker spends $1,092 a year on coffee — more than $20 a week. And among those in the 18- to 34-year-old age bracket, that number is even higher, $24.74 a week, which works out to $1,286.48 by my calculator.
To put those numbers in perspective, the same study noted that the average American worker spends $1,476 annually on gasoline commuting to work. As much as we’ve heard about how high gas prices have taken a bite out of budgets, then, we’re still spending nearly as much on something that’s (in theory) a discretionary luxury.
I suspect I’m right in that range. And I say “I suspect,” because I don’t actually know for sure. My wife and I understand the value of budgeting. But as with lots of good things — like getting to the gym three times a week, eating broccoli, etc., cutting carbs — it’s something that we’re honestly not that great at.
It’s been easy for me to rationalize my coffee habit the last five years, as we’ve had three children in that timeframe — none of whom have been very good sleepers. After being up two or three or six times a night for five years straight, a cup of good coffee seems like a reasonable reward, a small price to pay for something like an adult-level of consciousness in the morning.
But as this study shows, $2.25 for a venti here, $4.76 for a grande decaf skinny peppermint mocha there all adds up. In the end, the real cost is a lot more than $2 or $4 bucks.
I think there are any number of potential spiritual applications we could draw from this study. But the biggest, perhaps, is this: Our little, seemingly insignificant daily decisions and habits have a real cost over the long term. They shape us, and they influence the outcome of our lives. Studies like this one jar me a bit; they prompt me to sit up, pay attention and ask, “How much am I paying for coffee?” For that matter, what’s the long-term cost of other daily habits I have?
Honestly, I’m not great at long-term calculus. I operate as well-trained American consumer too much of the time — i.e., what’s going to make me feel satisfied right now, and who cares about the long term. But if I’m going to take my stewardship responsibility before Christ seriously, these are the kinds of choices and habits that I need to be willing to scrutinize.
I’m better at rationalization (see note above about sleepless nights) than I am breaking well-established bad habits. Generally speaking, when I’m trying to let go of not-so-healthy pattern, I need others’ help, both for accountability and encouragement.
And that brings me to you. I’d love to hear from you about moments of realization you’ve had that a seemingly harmless preference or daily habit — everybody’s doing it, right? — is something you felt convicted to cut back on or give up completely. What was it? How did you do it? What did it take to change, and what fruit have you seen from your commitment to that discipline?