How much I spent on coffee my first three and half years of grad school

As I sipped on my coffee this morning, it occurred to me how important coffee has been to me during grad school. 
And it’s not just me, obviously. This is the stuff of famous comics. And while writing this post, I found this neat infographic on how much Starbucks we really drink each year.

My love for coffee is the reason why Starbucks has a lot of my money. Too much. But how much?

I took this morning to look back over the last three and a half years of my grad program to answer that question (click for larger). I grabbed the data for Starbucks purchases from Mint.

How much I spent on coffee my first three and a half years of grad school

Dollars Spent by the Year

  • 2012: $659.43
  • 2013: $466.49
  • 2014: $670.33
  • 2015: $25.62

          Grand Total: $1822.17 (close to 0.70 cents per day)

The scariest part about that number: it doesn’t include whatever I paid for coffee I made at home.

Would I do anything differently?

Nope. Although it’s somewhat painful to see such a large number, I spent the money when I felt like I needed to, and I enjoyed it. Of course, I would love an extra 1800 bucks today. With $1800 bucks, I could cover three months of expenses in rent, two semesters of my program, or I could generate an additional $54 bucks in annual dividend income invested at 3% yield.

I’m not losing sleep over this (I already lose enough for my program). Looking back can be instructive, though. Even though we are half way through 2015, I’ve only spent $25 bucks at Starbucks. That’s 97% less than what I spent in all of 2014. And half of that was actually a gift for someone. I can get used to 97% savings. And I’ll be fine if that number crawls down to 90% by the time this year is over, especially as the holiday’s get closer.

How am I getting my coffee now?

Today, all of my ‘coffee money’ goes to the grocery store, where I can buy coffee dirt cheap, at close to 0.18 cents an ounce. Instead of cafe americanos, pour overs, and lattes, I’m drinking my coffee black. Folger’s, usually. Occasionally, we buy coconut oil and use it for flavor instead of cream.

Perhaps the best part about seeing these savings is knowing that I have more money to purchase ownership in companies. Starbucks, for example (I’ve picked up a few shares this year via Loyal3). Now, every time I grab a cup of coffee from Starbucks, a small portion of that comes back to me. It’s one small way of averaging down if I get in a bind and have to purchase coffee.

If I really wanted to soak up some more savings, I would quit coffee altogether. I laugh writing that, though. Not. Gonna. Happen.

Hope you all have a nice weekend,


Cups of coffee drank in the span of writing this post: 5 (not kidding)

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  • Dividend Diplomats


    I am a coffee addict as well, so incurring this daily cost is a necessary evil for me. But as you said, I wouldn’t change it because it is a driver for my day and helps me be that much more productive. That being said, I rarely purchase coffee from Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or any of the other big name stores. I am a big fan of buying coffee for between $6-$7 per pound and making it every day at home. The cost per cup is insanely low at that point. Why pay over $2/cup when you can spend less than $.50/cup at home? Plus, not to brag or anything, but I do make a mean cup of joe myself!

    Bert, One of the Dividend Diplomats

    • Mr. Modern Millennial

      Ah, coffee science is a hard science to perfect. Gotta get the right ratio of grounds to water or you’ll feel like you’re eating dirt! I also think I’ve landed on a good ratio. It varies with the brand of coffee I’m using, though. For Foldgers: 10 cups of water + 5 TBS of grounds and presto!

      $6-7 is on the high end of what I usually like to spend. I’m usually only caught buying coffee if it’s .17-.20 cents an ounce, which puts the price close to $3 per pound. But I can’t always get it that cheap, in which case it’s usually $6.

      • Dividend Diplomats

        Nice guys – the other diplomat here – I just bought this fair trade dark roast coffee from Aldi at $4.99 for 12 ounces of grounds, as the label states “makes up to 40 6 ounce cups” aka 240 ounces aka fairly inexpensive. If we talk 6 ounces per cup, that’s about $0.125 per, but I usually make 12-18 ounces, depending on the day. Loving it.


        • Mr. Modern Millennial

          That is a pretty good price per cup! I like a good dark roast coffee, and that’s what I’ll buy if I do go to a coffee co or single-cup brewer. But for home, I’m stick to ‘good sale’ coffee. 🙂

  • Thias @ It Pays Dividends

    While I love coffee, I don’t consider myself an addict. I normally have a couple cups a day, but usually it is at the office so they pick up the expense! 🙂 Otherwise we stick to our Keurig. I’ve never been a big coffee house guy. Normally only purchase a handful of cups a year, if that!

    • Mr. Modern Millennial

      Wow, only a couple cups a year! That’s awesome. I envy you! I’m on track to only have a couple coffee purchases this year, as you can see from the low number of 2015 purchases so far.

      And I’ve also started getting most of my daily coffee from the office as well. The main administrative office brews coffee daily so I go there to fill up. Usually, though, that’s after I’ve had my coffee at home before work. But It does save on going out to buy coffee during the day.

  • Jenna Lloyd

    As someone going into their final year, I completely understand this infographic!

    Thoroughly enjoyed this piece – a really informative comment about where our money goes at different points in our life.

    Jenna, working on behalf of

    • Mr. Modern Millennial

      Thanks for stopping by the site, and good luck in your final year!

  • Master Nerd

    I’ve always enjoyed coffee, sometimes I even just enjoy the smell more than the actual coffee, but I’m certainly not addicted. I frequently go days at a time without coffee, but I do have tea almost daily. It’s more of a habit thing than anything.

    A few years back when I was less diligent with my money habits, I would go out of my way to make sure I hit Gold Status at Starbucks each year. Then I finally realized I was an idiot and the “free drink” that came with gold status was far from free and really cost me hundreds of dollars. A couple years later I bought some SBUX shares and sold them for a tidy profit so that made me feel better about the money I poured into Starbucks haha! I still get coffee from there, but it’s usually only a few times a month at most. I have an espresso machine at home so I try to just use that.

    • Mr. Modern Millennial

      Ah, yes, the smell of coffee is sometimes just as alluring as the idea of a cup. And while I would like to think that my coffee habit is just that – a habit, I probably need to come to terms with reality that I haven’t gone a day without it in a very long time.

      I usually drink tea when I am sick or want to calm down. I’ve always found it interesting that people drink tea instead of coffee, because in my eyes they have a different purpose. I know the blacks can have a lot of caffeine in them, though.

      I smiled when you mentioned gold status. My partner and I felt like we were gaming SBUX: earning all those stars. We justified it because we usually got black coffee, with the occasional splurge. “At least we aren’t buy 5 dollar drinks everyday.” Except, when you buy multiple cups of black coffee it ends up being 5 dollars or more.

      Glad to hear you cashed in when you could. I think that’s one way to make a correction. The other way, you mentioned, is making it yourself. Probably the best long term solution.

      • Master Nerd

        I blame my ex for getting me onto SBUX at the time. It really did feel like GAYming (haha couldn’t resist), especially because my city was one of the first pilot cities for the program and we got personalized Gold Cards with our names on them. The funny part was, he didn’t actually like coffee so he always got a Chai Latte which easily cost $5-6. I was better and usually just got a drip coffee, but still.

        My current partner drinks (well more like chugs) a venti-size mug every morning, but he always makes it at home and we only go to SBUX when we’re out and about. I tend to go through phases, like there was period of 6 months where I only had London Fogs, then for the longest time it was Americano’s (which is still what I usually make at home), but now I just get a drip coffee at SBUX.

        Sounds like you’ve figured out a way to fulfill your addiction economically at least!

  • Alyssa Windell

    This is great! I can completely relate to this graph for my undergraduate years. Take-out coffee got me through every paper, presentation, speech, interview, and group project on campus. I’d get a coffee (or 2, or 3) and feel like I could take on the world. I still get that feeling, but now I also make my coffee at home and still have a few special occasions of having take-out coffee. 🙂 I do like the mentality of when you do purchase at Starbucks, that a small portion is coming back to you!

    • Mr. Modern Millennial

      Coffee was such a routine part of the day. It sounds like we both planned our day around it, especially on those busy days. I imagine most of the world does, which is why Starbucks has become so globally renowned.

      And yes, my ownership is not much now, but I am still adding to it when it makes sense to do so. The idea that, over the next 40 years, I could extract from the company in dividends the cost of the accumulated dollars I’ve spent on coffee, and then some, is alluring.

      It would take over 90k invested in SBUX today to get $1800 in dividends at 1.9% yield.

      I’m not totally bent on getting it all from SBUX though. I love the coffee more than I love the company right now.

  • Elle E

    Thanks for this post – it’s nice to see someone interested in his/her finances who admits that indulgences are nice, and that it isn’t necessary to regret past expenses.

    I also love this idea of a blog written by a Millennial – I will definitely follow your posts 🙂

    • Mr. Modern Millennial

      Hi Elle E,

      Why add stress where it doesn’t need to be?

      And while past personal expenses can be very instructive, they are the hardest to analyze non-emotionally because they are a reflection of us.

      I try to learn from my prior behavior from a non-emotional standpoint, and use that knowledge to plan how to move forward.

      It’s easier said than done, but I’m trying it on for size.

      Thanks for keeping in touch!

  • Daisy @ Simplicity Relished

    YES! I love the plot you shared. It’s funny, sad, and convicting all at the same time.

    We just started roasting our own coffee beans, which means we can make pretty darn good coffee at home. Saying goodbye to Starbucks years ago, and turning the brewing process into a hobby, helps us get more value out of each cup (or at least that’s what we tell ourselves). But seriously– roasting your own beans saves lots of money if you have a taste for good espresso!

    • Mr. Modern Millennial

      Hi Daisy,

      I have always wondered what it would be like to roast my own coffee beans. My partner and I always complained at Starbucks because it seemed like they burnt the beans and then ground them for our cups. Another reason to kick the Starbucks bucket and make our own at home.

      But roasting your own! That’s coffee connoisseur-ism to a whole other level. Neat. I don’t think that we will jump the pre-ground-coffee-ship anytime soon, just because of time and the convenience of the system we have going now. We do enjoy a nice french press every now and then, though. We have a Bodum that looks kind of like the one below. We reserve that for special occasions.

      Is it enough to roast beans in your oven? I imagine temperature specificity is really important. I don’t think our oven is reliable enough for that. Or is there a more sophisticated way?

      • Daisy @ Simplicity Relished

        Actually yes, there are some “fixed costs” to roasting your own beans. You do need a coffee bean roaster (and grinder if you don’t have one) and about 20 minutes a week for the process. That said, a 1-lb bag of raw beans is $3-7, while Starbucks charges $10-18. So, the roaster pays for itself in a matter of weeks, not to mention that the quality and taste are immensely improved!

        That said, we do have a professional espresso machine at home too (which will take more like a year to pay for itself).. I think you could make some excellent french roast with home-roasted beans though!

  • Erik

    I think about the same things a lot of the time. In college and grad school for me, I made some silly purchases (books that I thought I wanted to work with and then didn’t ever use… couple hundred bucks)
    That being said, it was a learning experience. That’s what life is all about. Once you rid yourself of bad habits, then you can grow and become great.
    I love your analysis too. How did you get your data?

    • Mr. Modern Millennial

      I also went through a period of time where I bought lots of books from B&N and online via Amazon that I never ended up reading. But they were more for leisure reading than academic reading. Regardless, at least a couple hundred bucks went into funding my bookshelf. The nice thing is, unlike the coffee, I still have the books to enjoy. And I also think they add some decoration/ambiance to the apartment.

      I pulled the data from Mint. All of our expenses are funneled through their online software. I went to the transactions page and filtered my history for the past couple of years to “coffee.” They have an option for .csv download. It was painless. I want to look at over categories, just haven’t had the time. I know my ‘clothes’ expenses tell a whole other story…

      What did you study in grad school?

      • Erik

        Thanks for the response. I finished up my Master’s in Financial Math this May. The financial markets have a broad history, and there is so much to learn on a quantitative and a qualitative level. Now that I am interested in the business side of things, that opens up a whole world of things to read and think about.
        I really liked the data portion of this article as mentioned. Would be interesting to see what else people have in their financial histories!
        Have a good one,

  • Keith Park

    That’s a lot of money on coffee. Of course, you can make many, many more cups at home versus getting it on the outside. I still don’t understand the convenience of parking, waiting in line, etc. to buy coffee on the outside when you can make a great cup at home for pennies. Shameless plug… I like this gourmet coffee site Thanks for sharing your coffee expenses. I hope this article hits home with others who read.

    • Mr. Modern Millennial

      I expected that it would be a higher number, to be honest. Of course, it’s not the total amount I spent because I always make some at home. That number would be the real shocker. I finally bought a coffee maker at work, in the event that I needed to make coffee again in the day and if our office was out. I don’t use it as much as I though I would, but it beats going out for coffee.

      Nice looking gourmet site there 🙂

      Take care!

  • Guillaume Béliveau

    Small leaks can sink a great ship 😉

  • Rudy – Smart Money Today

    That’s a great idea, preparing own coffee at home not only save money, but you can make your own unique recipe.

    I was addicted to coffee until two years ago, I mean, really addicted. 4-5 small cups per day of mocha prepared with my Italian mocha machine. A bomb!

    I thought coffee was essential to keep me going on tasks, which resulted totally incorrect.

    Two years past, and I can work as long as I’m please without feeling sleepy without any coffee.

    My personal experience when I stopped coffee; for a week, I had headaches and felt depressed. So, if you decide to stop, make sure to choose a week which you aren’t too much busy.