I've been thinking about kopi luwak, the Indonesian coffee beans that sell for $20 an ounce. These beans are supposed to taste great because -- and I'm not making this up -- they're deliciously fermented as they pass through the digestive system of the small, cat-like Asian palm civet.
There have been many times when I've been desperate for a cup of coffee, no matter where it came from, but I can honestly say I've never suffered the kind of java jitters that would prompt me to brew up the contents of an Indonesian litter box.
Perk up your savings
Now, I often mock what I call the "latte police" -- those financial advisers who blame all your financial woes on too many daily lattes, cappuccinos and espressos -- but the recent death of my office coffeemaker left a wake-up call for my wallet. While waiting for a replacement, I bought cafeteria coffee at $1.79 per cup, totaling nearly $27 a week.
This left just $13 for my other miscellaneous weekly spending. That got me out to buy a new coffeemaker pronto because I like my budget just like my coffee -- in the black.
The central tenet of the Mocha Mounties is that cutting out small, daily expenditures can add up to big money. To a certain extent, that's true: If I invested the $26.85 I spent on coffee each week in stocks, and received the S&P 500's historical annualized return of 9.87 percent, after 20 years I'd have more than $75,000.
I'd need that money, too, because after giving up coffee, I would oversleep, get fired and end up sleeping on a steam grate.
That java sounds jive
But while penny-pinching can add up, it's not as good as making a real financial plan that takes advantage of all your options, rather than just skipping your cafe au lait.
Let's say you make $50,000 a year, and you put 2.5 percent of your weekly pay -- about $24 -- into your company 401(k) plan. In many cases, the employer matches half of your contribution, giving you $36 a week to invest. After 20 years, you'd have nearly $106,000, or 40 percent more money, than if you had just given up coffee. And because your contribution is made before taxes, your take-home pay would shrink by only $17.56.
As for me, I'm saving a bundle each week with my new coffeemaker, but I won't be buying luxury coffee beans that come pre-processed from some Indonesian civet's digestive tract. Instead, I'm sticking with Caribou Coffee -- I just can't figure out how they get those caribou over to Indonesia.
(Brian J. O'Connor is an award-winning columnist for The Detroit News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)