Temerity Jane
16. 07. 2015

First, thank you everyone so much for your comments on my last post. Usually by now, I’d have taken some time to go through and respond, but every time I sit down to do it, I’m just not prepared to do it. I read all the comments and really appreciate the support for us and for Brinkley. I especially appreciate people who took the time to document their own experiences, and those who talked about what had/hadn’t worked with their own children and what to expect in that area.

No extended preamble. I’ve talked about this before, I know I have, because of course I remember every single one of the 1600+ posts on this site, verbatim, and so do you.

Let me tell you something I think is adorable. I’ve written before about my love of Marc Summers and that show, Unwrapped. In every single episode of Unwrapped, someone from the company featured will tell you proudly how many of their item has been purchased or consumed, and how many times that item, if laid end to end, would circle the Earth. Every show. Sometimes they shake it up a bit by telling you how far into space they’d reach if stacked up. That is adorable and I never want it to stop, even though I don’t have cable anymore and haven’t seen an episode of Unwrapped in years. That is a thing that every episode does and I would never, ever be tired of it. However, there are also other types of cliches that are used without fail in certain types of things and I need them to stop. Unwrapped, you continue. Other people, stop.

For a long time now – a really long time – money saving articles, the type that give you several “simple” steps to cutting your budget and finding some extra dollars here and there to put away, have included the “cut out your daily Starbucks habit, you’ll be surprised at how fast it adds up!” It’s always been in there, since the dawn of time. The dawn of Starbucks. Whatever. It is a key point in saving money. It is the way to save money. Stop spending that $4 a day on coffee and watch the riches pour in, right? You will have a ton of money if you stop buying coffee shop coffee every day. It’s well known money science. Also, some articles helpfully point out how much cheaper it is to drink your coffee at home, rather than buy it at Starbucks. Cents a day, y’all! Compared to $4!

So that’s been going on forever. A really long time. Long enough for every single one of us to know that spending money at a place like Starbucks is a luxury, because the coffee at Starbucks is an expensive thing. You may not notice it’s an expensive thing, but just stop buying it, and then you’ll be well on your way to rich.

And now that “buying coffee at Starbucks is an expensive thing we assume you all do and need to stop if you ever want to have any money ever” is ingrained into our collective consciousness, it’s generally understood that Starbucks is an “expensive” thing to do, whether it’s occasionally or daily. Is it really expensive? Don’t know, that depends on how much money you have and how much of it you allocate to coffee-drinking, all of which is entirely personal and no one should ever give a shit about how many times a day someone else goes to Starbucks. But we all know we’re making the choice to never, ever be rich if we don’t give up the habit, because every single financial article ever has said so.

Now, though, there’s this other new trend, with Internet subscription services trying to appeal to you with how cheap they are. “Listen,” they say, “just the cost of a cup of coffee a day. That’s all. Not bad, eh?” And they’re trying to tell you that subscribing is a good idea, because, come on, a cup of coffee a day? That’s nothing! I drink a cup of coffee a day without even thinking about it! Of course this service is valuable and worth the money. EXCEPT this tactic is coming behind years and years of “LISTEN COFFEE IS WHAT IS MAKING YOU POOR. IF YOU STOP DRINKING THE COFFEE, YOU WON’T BE POOR.” So what is it, Internet service trying to get me to sign up? Am I supposed to give up that coffee for your Internet service and break even? Then what about the coffee? And really, Internet service, have you not been on the Internet for the last 15 years? We’ve already been informed repeatedly that coffee is too expensive to ever be enjoyed without guilt, and now you want me to add a second identical expense and tell me it’s NOT going to make me poor?

You can’t both use coffee. Coffee is done now. We’ve all been slightly shamed too many times about how that “daily Starbucks habit” – which, come on, how much of the population in reality ACTUALLY has a daily Starbucks habit? Enough of the population to make “cut out Starbucks” a universal money saving tip? I don’t think so. I just really don’t. Anyway. We’ve all been slightly shamed too many times about how that SUPPOSED “daily Starbucks habit” is keeping us down, and now a whole other half of the Internet wants to appeal to our sense of frugality by telling us we can have something for just the price of our “daily Starbucks habit?” We either need some communication between the halves of the Internet, or everyone has to stop using the coffee thing.

Actually, no choice. Everyone stop using the coffee thing. Just don’t. Stop with the coffee thing. Come up with something new for me to save money. Something realistic. And novel. Something someone trying to save money hasn’t already done. When we are broke, we do not go to Starbucks. Starbucks is not keeping me from achieving my financial dreams. How about something like, “Stop paying your dental insurance. You’ll be amazed by how quickly that adds up!” Or maybe if you want me to subscribe to your service, you can say, “For the price of just one month of electricity.” That’s a good one, I think. I pay for electricity without even thinking about it. You’d definitely have me there. Point is, you can’t use the Starbucks thing any more. I’ve just banned it. That’s done.

I don’t usually like to do that weird “semi-related question to inflate comment counts” at the end of my posts because I think it’s strange and painfully awkward, but I’m sitting here obsessed with trying to think of other examples along these lines, where every single article or whatever on a given topic uses the same illustration to the point that it’s now become nonsense. If you can think of any, hit me.

Oh and listen, I don’t even drink coffee, really.


14 responses to “Time to move on from coffee.”

  1. Cherie says:

    I will give you an example because the whole time I was reading this all I could think was: “I’m going to mention my example.” So I’m glad you asked, because I was going to anyway.

    When I first had kids I really struggled with the guilt of being a working mother so (for some reason) I always seemed to end up reading articles about how to afford to be a stay-home mother. And every single one of these used to say “Stop getting mani/pedis and you can afford to stay home.” Now 1) thanks for lowballing my earning power so condescendingly and 2) I’ve now been a working mother for 7+ years and never, not once, I have I met another working mother who regularly gets mani/pedis. Nor do I. Why? Because as a working mother I don’t have enough time in a day to brush my hair properly, let alone sit luxuriously in a spa getting my nails done for an hour.

    So. Working moms do not, now or ever, spend our entire salaries on mani/pedis. Stop saying we could afford to stay home if we gave them up. That’s absurd. Now, if you’d like to offer free healthcare and a reduced mortgage payment, we can talk.

    Natalie Reply:

    I was thinking along these lines too. I’m a working mom and though my kid is nearly 2, I’m just starting to dip my toes into sites like Scary Mommy and whatnot. And I find the extreme division/assumptions to be amusing. Like, they either assume everybody is a SAHM, or a working mom (less commonly).

    For example, I saw an article about “mealtime help for busy moms!” and I was like, oh great, I could use that. But the tips were things like “prep while baby naps” and “do xyz after your husband gets home” and I quickly realized, this meant busy SAHMs. And I’m sure it might have been helpful to somebody, but not to me.

    I guess the assumptions that all members of a group are the same is what I mean.

    Lawyerish Reply:

    This sticks in my craw, too. One, that they assume that women make barely any money at all and could just cut a few small budget items in order to stay home. Two, that women should not want to work and in fact, their work has no value. Three, that women are pouring money into vanity things like nail care. And there is nothing WRONG with getting manis/pedis, anyway. But they do not make up A SALARY’S WORTH of expenditures.

    Maggie Reply:

    YES to all of this. Since for the vast majority of our 17 years together my salary has been nearly 2x that of my husband, I’m not going to be able to stop working if I just (1) stop drinking Starbucks, (2) stop getting manicures, (3) stop getting my clothing dry cleaned, etc. I don’t do the first two and since I have to wear suits to work, the last one is mandatory. No one ever suggests men could quit their jobs if they did these things. BAH.

  2. Rayne of Terror says:

    And WHY do they never say stop smoking, cigarettes are making you poor and will make you poor far into the future spending all your money on healthcare. The brand I smoked long ago is up to $7 a pack. Seven dollars! Each cigarette is 35 cents! 35 cents 20 or 30 times a day is crazy money! Coffee drinkers know how to drink it on the cheap. Even if I’m making fancy coffee at home I’m only drinking 2-3 cups a day. For the price of a pack of generic smokes you can enjoy Slate Plus!

  3. Swistle says:

    I too get sick of the coffee thing, in both directions.

    I also get tired of the “cost of a smartphone” thing. I don’t see it all that much, but I see it enough to bug me. Stuff like, “We spend over $100 a month on our PHONES, but we can’t support FIREFIGHTERS??” or whatever. And I don’t spend that much per month on a phone anyway, so all it makes me do is argue with that part of the question before I get to the REAL point of it. Plus, who says we can’t spend money on our phones AND vote for the firefighting budget? Is the amount I choose to spend on my phone RELEVANT to what I think should be spent on firefighting? What is the CONNECTION between those two things? NOTHING, that’s what, except SMACKING DOWN.

    Oh, here is another thing I’m sick of: the whole “looking at their phones” thing. Like someone will talk unpleasantly about how parents at the park are just sitting there looking at their phones, and it drives me nuts. Substitute “book” for “phone” and it’s the SAME distraction level but packs no wallop. “Moms at the park just sitting there reading their books.” Nope, it only works if it’s Phone Scorn.

    Charleen Reply:

    I am both a voracious reader AND addicted to my phone, so clearly I’m a terrible mother. But since I never take my child to the park, no one gets to see me being a terrible mother. Score!

    (My child is three months old. I may not be able to avoid the “community of mothers and their children” thing forever, but right now I’m enjoying never leaving the house.)

    Lawyerish Reply:

    Oh, the PHONE SHAMING is so out of control. “Wake up, parents! Your kids are growing up right before your eyes and all you can do is sit there and STARE AT YOUR PHONE!” Ugh, shut UP. When did parenting become something we have to do every second of the day, or we’re failing ourselves and our kids? And you’re right, NO OTHER activity gets mentioned even though MANY THINGS divert our attention away from our children every single day (cooking, cleaning, reading, driving a car, working, exercising, AND SO ON).

    Pant, pant.

    On the coffee thing, I always think of Sally Struthers intoning, “for the price of a cup of coffee, you could save a child’s life. Just 25 cents a day would make a world of difference to this child…” THE GUILT. And what if I don’t DRINK coffee? What am I supposed to sacrifice THEN? Nothing, I guess. There’s no other example anywhere.

    This constant onslaught of binary thinking (if we do X, then we don’t care at all about Y) is going to drive me to an early grave.

  4. Maggie says:

    On the reverse end, I finished law school with a large amount of student loan debt and it totally skewed my thinking like: Oh that lottery isn’t that big, I’d only win 2x my student loan debt. Or that car is pretty cheap, it’s only 1/3 my student loan debt. All large ticket items got processed in my head as units of student loan debt.

    Allysa Reply:

    Since I am going back to school so now I am comparing everything to the cost of a textbook. I could go to that concert but that’s one whole textbook.

  5. Allysa says:

    Drink more water and all of your problems will be solved! you will lose weight, sleep better, have better skin and save money.

  6. 1. I used to write sales copy and would get to the part where you’d normally find “less than a cup of coffee a day!” justification stuff and would have to WRACK my brains to find an equally impactful and universal analogy. Because “cup of coffee” is SO pervasive. You are totally right – we need something else!!

    2. Every guide to losing weight ever says “park farther from your building!” and “take the stairs!” Yes, we get it – there are a million ways to be more active! Walking more and using the stairs are great! But parking farther away and taking the stairs aren’t going to do the trick by themselves! And it is insulting to imply that someone’s only barrier between a weight s/he doesn’t like and his/her goal weight is a few extra steps between you and the door. Can it *help*? Sure. I am not saying it is a bad idea. But sheesh. I am not going to drop 20 pounds purely by taking the freaking stairs.

  7. Monika Spykerman says:

    It all comes down to the monumentally sucky marketing tactic of making you feel guilty about your choices. When are companies going to figure out that guilt is Old School and does not compel this savvy generation to open up its wallets and make money fly out? Anyhow, I already don’t go to S-bucks. So there. But I WILL SPEND $!3 A POUND ON ARTISANAL COFFEE IF I DAMN WELL PLEASE. But I don’t do that either. Oh well. Still: RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION.

  8. Erin says:

    I’m late to this but no one’s said mine yet, so I will add. My pet peeves in this department are on the travel related lists. Every single list says these two things: (1) “Fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday for less crowds and cheaper fares!” Everyone knows this. It’s not novel. We know. But maybe I can’t always take 3 days off of work every time I need to go somewhere for the weekend. Stop making me feel like I’m a sucker for not having a million vacation days. 2) “Just ask the ticket agent for an exit row seat!” Everyone knows this too, including the airlines, which is why now you either have to have status with the airline to get those seats, pay extra, or both. And yet, the lists still all say this. Every single one.