One Month Without Takeout Coffee

I’m officially one month into my shopping ban and am happy to report I’ve fought off all temptations to buy new “things”. Truthfully, I can only remember being seriously tempted twice, and both times were for… you guessed it: books!

The first was a book I’d been wanting to read and saw on a sponsored tweet that it was on sale for just $4.99. It’s only $4.99! That’s so cheap! Can I just get it!? My credit card number even flashed across that thought, which shows you how I’d trained myself to complete online purchases before I could think twice about them. But then I remembered the shopping ban and the stacks of unread books on my bookshelf, and I knew I couldn’t justify it.

The second was David’s new book, which took a lot more thought and even a discussion with J$ (my personal shopping ban guide, ready to stop me from making any impulse purchases!). Before we made the final decision on that purchase, David sent me a copy and told me not to test my resolve. I have some really good friends in my corner, I tell ya.

So, I haven’t shopped and haven’t felt too much temptation to do so. Hooray! I have, however, been craving takeout coffee. Oh goodness, have I ever been craving takeout coffee.

Surprisingly, I was totally fine for the first week or so. I woke up early each morning, ground some beans and filled my French press with delicious coffee – the last of a bag of Starbucks’ Christmas Blend, which was a gift and is one of my favourites. I’d take it to my desk, sip two cups with just a splash of almond milk (unsweetened, and I don’t add sugar) and happily plug through my first hour of work. This is going to be easy! I thought. Oh dear, so naive.

One morning, maybe 7-10 days in, I woke up so tired that I could barely open my eyes. My first thought: I need espresso from Starbucks. That was immediately followed by, No you don’t! What are you thinking!? Just go make some coffee NOW. In zombie mode, I got up, walked into the kitchen, filled the kettle, ground beans, put some into my French press then poured water on top. Why isn’t it steaming!? Omg, I’m so tired I forgot to boil the water. Seriously, I could barely lift my arms.

Things were fine for another week or so, after that, until one morning when I was getting ready to leave home to run a bunch of errands. Before walking out the door, I thought, I should get a latte to sip in the car. That thought alone made me question how difficult this challenge would be – not because I don’t think I can do it, but because the act of “getting” coffee for certain reasons is so ingrained in my daily life.

For so many years, I picked up a Starbucks on the way to work, before going shopping or going on a road trip, and apparently before running errands. This whole no-takeout-coffee-for-a-year thing isn’t just going to challenge me to save more money; it’s going to require me to change behaviours and thought patterns that have been with me for as long as I’ve been drinking this stuff (age 15).

The thing is: I don’t actually mind making coffee at home. In fact, I’ve always loved it. This past week, I ran out of coffee beans, so I picked out something new (Level Ground’s Espresso Blend), and have switched between making hot coffee with steamed almond milk and cold brew that I turn into iced coffee. So, no, the problem isn’t about whether or not I enjoy making coffee at home; it’s just that buying takeout coffee became so convenient that it eventually seemed like the better option.

In the past month, I’ve been tempted to get takeout coffee a few other times:

  • When I went for brunch a couple weeks ago, I was tempted to order coffee with it. Instead, I woke up early and had coffee at home, then sipped water at the restaurant.
  • A few friends have offered to buy me a coffee when we’re out, which I’ve always declined. I love everyone for the offers, but the point of this challenge wasn’t to get you guys to spend money on me!
  • Over the long weekend, I danced with the devil and met a friend at Starbucks (it was the first time I’d been in one as a “customer” all month). I ordered a glass of water.

And the most intense situation of all: I gave up my desk at my coworking space last week and, in its place, my company offered me a monthly coffee budget to get out of the house and work in some new spaces. I have been sooo tempted to accept this, but the amount they offered me is close to what I used to spend in a typical month anyway. And, again, the point of this challenge is now to change my behaviours, not just save money. So, no. No no no. I can’t accept it.

With that, the first of twelve months is over and was a success: I haven’t had takeout coffee since July 6th. However, August is going to paint a very different picture, as I’m travelling to cities where I won’t have access to coffeemakers which, according to the rules, means I’m allowed to get takeout coffee. When I started this challenge last month, I thought I’d be counting down the days to my trips and those takeout coffees. Instead, I sort of feel like I’ll be cheating… but maybe it’ll just be a really nice treat.

Until then, it’s just me and my French press – taking no prisoners.

What’s the longest you’ve gone without takeout coffee/tea?

  • I’d like to try and challenge myself to something like this. I don’t drink coffee but I am a huge tea drinker! I make tea at home all the time. Almost every single day in fact. I make it at work every day. And at home in the evenings too. I get bit by the Timmy’s bug stopping there on the way home from work, on the way to baseball, when I’m out doing errands, going on a road trip, or meeting a friend there (or Starbucks). So yeah, I may have a problem. Maybe I will try this for a September goal. First I might need to spend a whole month keeping track of how many times I actually go there. Way to go Cait, you’re doing awesome!

    • Keeping track of how many times you go would be interesting! Could you do that this month, then try not to go next month?

      • Yes I should do that!

        So far I am at 4x for this month!

        I always get the same thing – medium tea – $1.60

        I used to get cookies or tea biscuits occasionally before I stopped eating wheat so I’m sure I’ve saved a fair bit of money and calories due to that.

        I shall keep ya posted :)

  • I’ve been really good with this lately. My work has a wonderful coffee shop on the first level. When I started working there, I put myself on a No Takeout Coffee ban for the first several months to prevent bad habits. I also prohibited myself from eating at any of the restaurants in the building. Once the ban lifted, the habit stuck. I’m sure I’m saving hundreds.
    Best of luck battling your coffee and book buying urges!

  • I was never really a coffee drinker (except for the occasional cup here and there socially) until I was about 26. Sure I worked right next to a Starbucks back when I was a teen working in Chapters, but I always got their lemonade type things. Then I started the last legs of my PhD and defence, and I needed the jolt. I started out on the right foot because I used to make my coffee in my lovely contigo mug. Now? Now it’s one of the few splurges I allow myself daily/weekly. I drink straight up coffee, ($2 vs the $5 lattes) but every morning on the way to work, it’s just part of my morning routine.

    I think I need to try this at some point because I am becoming very dependent on coffee. The thing is, I find it so comforting and soothing. It’s just a great way to start the morning. And since I’m usually in a fog when I wake up, I question what quality coffee I’d make ;)

    • I feel the same about tea. When we go away camping and stuff it concerns me how I will get my tea when I want/need it and I usually will go out of my way to make sure I can make it. Without it I get headaches and just don’t feel good. I find tea also settles my stomach and my nerves… maybe it’s all in my head. I’ve researched it and I don’t think it’s all that bad. I’m under the “recommended” amount of caffeine but I also don’t like how it sort of rules my life. I am definitely dependent on tea. lol

      • Yeah, I realized I don’t drink coffee on the weekends because I am not driving to work. But I started getting headaches on Saturday mornings. I think that’s definitely a problem!

        • I agree I used to never drink coffee on the weekends and now if I don’t I will get a headache. Dayle, your comment about camping made me laugh, I went camping this past weekend and I was very concerned that I would not be able to boil whatever to have my coffee…who knew it take almost an hour to boil water over a camp fire!

          • I bought a pot to boil on the BBQ (took forever) and ended up then buying a stove top kettle which worked quickly on the camping stove. Although I was the only one genuinely concerned about this, everyone else was happy to enjoy some coffee or tea because I had brought the goods… lol!

        • Same! I get headaches on mornings I sleep in because most of the time I’ve had my tea before 5:30 am!

        • Dayle, Alicia, L – I used to drink 5+ cups of coffee each day (which was absolutely terrible for me). I had a few appointments with a nutritionist around that time because I wanted to lose some weight, and she told me that I needed to cut down on the caffeine (which was obvious) and to expect headaches from the caffeine withdrawal. Caffeine (in coffee and tea) is definitely addictive.

          Now that I have one cup per day (sometimes two), I don’t get caffeine withdrawal headaches anymore.

    • What I took away from these comments is we’re definitely all a little dependent on the caffeine kick/feeling we get from coffee/tea. Fair to say? There’s clearly no judgment in that (obviously not from me).

  • Good job! I don’t generally have an issue with takeout coffee that’s actually coffee, but I have a big Starbucks addiction. Having been on holidays last week, it has been nearly two weeks since I’ve set foot in a Starbucks, and I’m doing my darnedest to stay away. – for my waistline and my wallet.

    Previously, my best was one month. I’m trying to hold strong and beat that this time!

    • I am happy you mentioned it’s good for your waistline, Meagan. I’m fairly certain at least some of the 5.2 lbs. I lost last month were simply a result of me consuming fewer calories via lattes. Good luck this month!

  • Lucky for me there is no coffee place in my neighbourhood and we don’t have a cafe at work. I bring mine from home and have some tassimo/keuirg cups for the machines at work….I guess that could be considered “take out”. Good for you! Just a question if you are out for brunch and coffee is included would you get it? I know the point is to challenge yourself and not just to save some money, I was just wondering. Also, would you consider putting the money you have spent on coffee aside for the year to buy something nice for yourself when the shopping ban is over? I guess buying something to reward yourself is against minimalism. Either way good for you!!!

    • Hmm, I’ve never been out for brunch anywhere where coffee was included – so I don’t know? I guess I’d have it, if that was the case.

      And I totally forgot to mention that! Just yesterday, I decided to put $60/month into a savings account. I’ll end up with $720 in savings (may boost it to an even $1,000 because I know I buy more coffee during the fall/winter) but I don’t know what I’m going to do with it yet… There’s nothing I want to buy, so I imagine it’ll help me travel!

      • I’m doing the same with my cancellation of my Bell Satellite. I figured in the next 10 months before I move I would spend close to $1000 on it, so I’m going to keep the “bill” in my budget and bank the extra thousand bucks for something else… probably a dish washer for R’s place! lol

  • Nice job! It’s so difficult to avoid take out coffee when you’re in a routine. I have the same issue that if I have a really early morning meeting, I’ll just grab Starbucks instead of taking time to make it at home. Or, when I’m in the car on the way back from appointments, I’ll want an Iced Coffee. This is one habit that I would have to exclusively work on in a month with no other changes.
    Yesterday morning I stopped at Starbucks and when the girl told me $9.53 I stopped and thought about it. OMG? Did I just spend that on a coffee, cookie and breakfast? What is wrong with me? I’ve really become accustomed now to questioning everything now that I’m extremely focused on getting a place of my own.
    Best of luck with month 2!

    • I had one of those moments a couple months ago, too: a nearly $9 total made me wonder WTF I was doing with my money and why I was giving it all to Starbucks. Nothing is wrong with you, but it’s good to acknowledge that you didn’t feel ok with that number at the till!

  • Congrats, Cait! I am both proud of you, and feeling excited to take on a challenge of my own.

    I have never had a full cup of coffee or coffee-based drink in my life – I don’t like the taste. I also don’t like hot beverages in general because I am always hot (temperature wise!), and drinking tea or coffee makes me too hot, even in winter.

    Unfortunately, I am not immune to the need for caffeine, and I have probably mentioned that I am absolutely 100% addicted to diet soda. I’ve been working with a nutritionist to sort out some other problems, and I have decided that between that and your inspiring challenge, I am going to do a “don’t-break-the-chain” style of challenge with diet soda, and give it up for a year. I’m quite sure it is something I can give up for good if I can make it a year.

    Thanks for always being such an inspiration. <3

    • Yes, I think we’ve chatted about diet soda before. Sooo proud of you for setting a big challenge for yourself! Start with 2 months. In that time, acknowledge what your triggers are, what behaviours you’ll need to change, etc. and maybe what drinks (water and lemon or lime?) help you push past the craving. Once you know that, the challenge should hopefully get a bit easier. I’ll be rooting for you, hun!

  • I am not a huge takeout coffee drinker, so I can’t even really fathom how hard it is to kick the habit, but think of how good for the environment it is that you’ve cut back so drastically! I don’t know if that motivates you like it does me, but it’s an added benefit to your month without takeout coffee <3

    You have far more resolve and self control than I do. You rock!

    • I wish I was one of you non-takeout-coffee-drinkers, haha. But you’re totally right, and I hadn’t thought about the environmental factor. There are definitely fewer cups in my garbage cans!

  • Hi Cait – I’m not a usual commentor on your blog, but really enjoyed your update on your No Coffee ban. You’re resolve and self control is pretty incredible; I would have jumped on work offer with no hesitation and purchased a coffee at brunch. You’re doing an amazing job thus far and I look forward to read about your progress, both the successes and the obstacles.

    I drink coffee daily and typically make it at home, but I do purchase coffee when I’m out and about, whether that be for a meal or just because I need a midday pick-me-up. I make coffee at home to drink on the go on the way to work, but I buy coffee if I’m out in the mornings on weekends. I’m trying to cut that habit and make coffees to go as well, but that hasn’t been faring so well. I’m going to use as inspiration!

    • Trust me, I still feel tempted by the work offer… but it would just totally defeat the purpose. Maybe the offer will still stand next year. ;)

      I’m glad the progress inspired you, Emily! Good luck trying to cut back.

  • I never drink coffee or tea! Water works for me!

    You mentioned water… Do you drink enough water in a day? Maybe that would help you from wanting to drink other stuff…

    • Trust me – I probably drink more water in a day than should be allowed, lol. I’ve never had a problem staying hydrated.

  • I don’t drink any hot drinks really and stick mostly to water and a glass of skim milk at breakfast. But there are some times when I’m feeling sluggish in the morning that I wish I liked coffee.

  • I broke my take-out coffee fast yesterday when I met a fellow blogger at Timmie’s. For more than two years I have bought less than 10 Tim Horton’s coffee’s… probably more like 5-7. Which is pretty good considering I was at 3-4 / week before. Good luck with your challenge. It really is all about changing a habit.

    • Wow, so you don’t go very often at all then! I wouldn’t feel bad about “breaking a fast”, if you only go every so often anyway.

  • I don’t think having a coffee over brunch while out should be included in the ban. You arent taking it out anywhere! Take out coffee = buying coffee to take elsewhere.

    • Hmm, I don’t see it that way. To me, takeout is anything that’s being prepared by a restaurant. And honestly, restaurant coffee is usually gross anyway. I wasn’t sad about passing up on a cup of coffee at brunch.

      • I feel the same about restaurant tea! The water usually isn’t hot enough, the cups are tiny, etc… not to be a complainer, but I prefer my nice, big, hot cup from Timmy’s or Starbucks. If I ever go out for breakfast I usually get water with my meal and hit the drive thru after! lol

  • I put myself on a “no takeout food” ban for August because eating fast food is getting wayyyy out of hand. Probably 4 or 5 times a week? Not good! Hoping this is a habit that will stick for the long haul.

    One month in and it looks like you’re doing great! Recognizing when you are tempted and working through the why behind it is key. Awesome job!

  • Way to Cait!

    Just remember that it took you a long time to build that habit so it’s going to take some time to alter it.

    I’m not a coffee drinker but a tea and Coca-Cola drinker. I’m pretty good at not buying tea out but I’m trying to stop drinking a lot of Coke. I’m doing pretty good. I had one the other day. It was at a friend’s place so I didn’t pay for it. Other than that I haven’t had one in 2 weeks. Go me!

    • Thanks, Nadia! Yes, you’re right – this addiction was 14 years in the making, so the cravings won’t disappear overnight. Remember that yourself. ;)

  • I haven’t had coffee since April of this year due to health reasons – I drank so much coffee during the day that led to an irregular heartbeat. I was so freaked out that I cut out coffee completely – cold turkey. It was a pretty bad experience, I had headaches the whole week, I felt crummy and irritable. I am glad that it’s over now and am enjoying my caffeine free days.

    • Oh my goodness, that would be so scary, hun! I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying life sans caffeine. <3

  • I was a former 3 cup of coffee a day girl, MINIMUM, until I actively changed my routine. When I wake up, I make a pot of coffee or brew a Nespresso, mid-morning I have instant (Nescafe Azera, delicious, and ONLY IN THE UK, I have to import it) and then I switch to tea.

    Problem is, there’s a cafe in the main lobby of my office. Some weeks I do better at resisting than others…

    • It’s tough when there’s a good cafe close by, eh! There’s a Starbucks and a local coffee chain in the same complex as where I live, so I have to walk by them on a daily basis…

  • I knew I had to reign in my coffee addiction when it reached a point where I was drinking coffee dictated by an irrational addiction to drink it: boredom, stimulation, etc.

    I went cold turkey for a few weeks and gradually re-approached it with more mindfulness on why I want to drink coffee: for pleasure and enjoyment.

    Now I only drink coffee when I truly want to enjoy it, not because I need to wake up or whatever other reason not revolving around a conscious choice.

    We live and we learn, huh?

    • I only make coffee once/day, and sometimes only fill my French press halfway full (for 1 cup vs. 2), but I am still in the habit of feeling like I “need” it. As of right now, I know not drinking it will lead to a headache that I’m just not willing to deal with… but maybe that’ll change, as time goes on in this challenge.

  • Good for you Cait! I don’t get takeout coffee very often, only as a treat with a friend or before a roadtrip (again these are pretty rare). This really makes the coffee a treat, but in all honesty I’d probably get coffee more often if I got up about 10 minutes earlier. As it is, I don’t have the 10 minutes extra in the morning to drive past my office to the Starbucks and get coffee and be back to work before 8 am… I’m so not a morning person and there aren’t many things in life worth getting up 10 minutes earlier (to me anyhow).

  • Work it, girl! Coffee would be the hardest thing for me to do too – that’s hardcore. But you can’t be normal and expect abnormal results, right? So keep on truckin’! You’re inspiring a lot of people here whether they tell you so or not :)

    (And you’re too funny for mentioning/linking back to me, haha… you know I’ve always got your back!)

  • I could probably easily go without takeout or coffee, but if a friend wants to go out for a pint of beer and it’s a really hot day and we just played volleyball, its so hard to say no. I only have one, but still it can be $8 out the door. I try to do that on special occasions only.

  • I have never been a huge take out tea person. There was a time when I was working full time and going to school, that I would leave my house very, very early in the morning, to beat rush hour traffic and study in Starbucks for a couple of hours before work (but that was once or twice a week at most). I probably only have on average, 2 take out teas a month (usually when traveling for work, or for a work business meeting).

    Having been inspired by you, I am happy to report I removed 4 garbage bags of donate-able items, I didn’t count the items, and probably another 3 of “garbage” (why I had a closet of empty boxes is beyond me). I am not 100% done, but am happy with my progress (which is challenging as my beloved has a harder time letting things go and I can’t just toss everything without his permission!)

    I am also thrilled that in month 2 of our budget we were under budget by 17%! Keeping my budget in mind I didn’t buy anything that wasn’t on my list (so a clear need) while out shopping with my sister and niece today!

    • Ahhh, seriously, I need to be one of you no-takeout-beverage people! One day…

      Congrats on the purge! Even if your partner isn’t always on board, that’s still great progress. I hope you feel lighter, without it all. And good job on coming in under budget! That’s something to feel good about.

      • It’s funny eh how some things are just not even a thing for some people. I liken it to quitting smoking for example, or quitting drinking pop… since I don’t engage in either of those things I don’t even picture it has something hard (even though I know it is) … everyone has their vice, and if my only bad habit is drinking too much tea I try not to be too hard on myself about it. Even the cutting out Timmy’s thing… I may try it, but if I’m saving 35%+ of my income but spend $50 a month in Timmy’s then I have to decide if I will get more pleasure from saving 36.5% of my income (for example) or drinking all kinds of steeped tea! I am blowing up your comments today! lol

  • Good job! I’ve never been in the take-out coffee habit, thankfully, but once I got pregnant all I wanted was Dunkin Donuts’ iced coffee. I had to restrain myself every morning and instead of stopping by D&D, I made coffee the night before or pour the hot coffee over ice.

  • Could you pack your french press and take it on your business trip? Hotels usually have a kettle, right?!

    • Very true! Although I don’t want to pack glass in my suitcase to Toronto or New Orleans…

  • Coffee and books are my vices, honestly. You are so brave Cait! :) I am cheering you on, because I don’t have the willpower that you do!!!

    • Thanks, Mackenzie! This is why I said I was so stressed about not being able to shop at Powell’s in September! Eeeeeeek.

  • Oh, man. I love writing at coffee shops, so giving up coffee would be a major challenge. There’s just no cheap way around it. It’s nearly impossible not to drop $4-5 at my favorite places (unless it’s Dunkin Donuts). That really ads up over the course of a month.

    • Oh, big time. Sometimes I only got coffee, but I usually got a latte of some sort, so I easily spent $5/visit and $60/month (and more in the winter).

  • Whenever you feel tempted to buy a book, just request it from the library instead. It’s free, and entering your library card number feel almost the same as entering a credit card. Sure, the book doesn’t come to your house, bur going to the library is another errand you can do in the place of shopping.

      • Yeah, but if you request a bunch of books and they come in piecemeal, you always have something to read. Can’t you wait a little bit!?!?!

        Plus, if it’s a popular book, the library will have multiple copies, and being 12 on the wait list means it won’t take long at all. Can you tell I am just completely over buying books at this point? And I was the girl with the house full of books–now I have a single shelf that’s not even full. It feels good.

  • It funny when we begin to realize how we have trained ourselves into certain routines, isn’t it? I’m so used to stopping at the deli down the street to eat lunch when I go to the post office which is next door that I don’t even think about it, I just do it.

    Great job though at avoiding the temptation. You are training yourself with new habits that are helping you become a better person. Keep up the great work!

  • I feel ya on the coffee. I was forced into not buying from Starbucks since I changed jobs last year. There was no Starbucks near the office as it’s in an industrial area. I started working from home last year and the closest cafe is blocks away from home. I just can’t be bothered to walk that far first thing in the morning. So here I am, enjoying french-pressed coffee at home, sometimes even instant, and I was able to cut my monthly personal allowance by 50%! I still get Starbucks sometimes, but I can count in one hand how many I’ve had in the past year. While they are nice, I find myself not missing them anymore. Congrats on your first month of successful shopping ban!

    Just wondering here…would you consider bringing a single-serve (cute-sized) french press and beans when traveling? I met one person who did. He would fill the french press with socks and wrap it in clothes for protection. He wasn’t trying to save (I think), he just had a certain blend he wanted that he couldn’t be bothered asking a barista to make for him.

    • Someone else asked the same question. I only have a BIG French press, and I definitely wouldn’t want to pack that, especially with the risk that it could be broken and then I’d need to buy another. If I had a small one, I’d definitely consider it… but I’d have to buy it, to do this, and that’s not allowed. ;) Love the suggestion though!

    • Haha, I’m so happy at least ONE person loved it! So far, you and my mama are the only ones who mentioned it / loved it.

  • I don’t drink coffee during the weekdays, preferring to make tea at work instead; I do love making coffee on the weekends to accompany a lazy brunch. Because of this, I don’t spend a lot on takeout coffee, and when I do go out I carry an empty travel mug with me for drinks, which gets a discount at most places.

  • Way to go!! I have sworn to myself several times that I will do the same and find it so difficult as I travel by car for work sometimes 12 hour days and a coffee is such a part of my routine and it soothes me when I’m stressed. It’s a tough one for me, I seem to be able to give up most things but not coffee. I get Mint emails that I’m over on my coffee budget all the time!

  • Wow, I stumbled across your post from BudgetBlogess and I am impressed! As a 20 year old full time student and being employed full time, not to mention all of my responsibilities I voluntarily sign up for, I am absolutely a takeout coffee addict. I recently noticed the amount of money I spend on this DAILY habit.. Yikes!! I’m considering taking this challenge for a month.

    Congrats on your commitment girly!

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