How to kill an addiction (It worked for me)
I woke up a bit later than planned on a recent weekday morning. I had an eight o’clock economics class, and I needed a little sustenance to settle my stomach. I didn’t have enough time to enjoy a proper breakfast at the Worcester Dining Commons, so I headed toward Cafe Pura Vida in the Campus Center. I hadn’t bought coffee or pastries in a few weeks, so I didn’t mind spending the dough.
There was no line. One of the employees was filling the cases with freshly baked pastries. The aroma of organic roasted beans wafted from the urns. The cafe had just opened for the day. So I walked up to the cashier.
“Hi, may I have a blueberry muffin?” I asked her.
I saw that she reached for a small bag in which to wrap the muffin, and I interjected.
“I don’t even need a bag. Thanks, but it’s not going to last that long,” I lamely joked.
The cashier handed me the pastry in a piece of tissue paper, and I extracted two one dollar bills from my wallet assuming that would more than cover the cost of it. After punching a few buttons on the register she said, “Two forty -”
I couldn’t believe the price of such an itty-bitty muffin! At Dunkin’ Donuts, muffins are twice the size and about 25 percent cheaper (I won’t delve into the subject of calories). I paid for the muffin, but decided to forgo the cup of joe, lest I had to start a tab.
Most of you are probably familiar with the prices at Cafe Pura Vida. Being new to the University this semester however, that was my first experience as a patron. I considered skipping my class, rationalizing that the early morning transaction was as valuable a lesson in economics as any I hoped to learn in the lecture hall.
Before you brand me as parsimonious, hear me out.
I’m a recovering coffee snob. I used to be a Starbucks regular. But last spring when I began working full time, I needed to make tough budgetary cuts in order to meet a self-set savings goal. My morning (and sometimes evening as well) ritual was among the first to be pruned. Nine months into my twelve-step recovery, and I conservatively estimate my savings to be at a bare minimum: $720. (This is assuming I bought coffee/pastry five days per week spending four dollars in each transaction over a thirty-six week period.)
I tried fruitlessly to stop buying coffee in the past. About ten days in, I’d fall off the wagon. But after nearly a year into the program, I feel confident I’m achieving long-term success. Part of maintaining success, as any recovering addict should be able to tell you, is helping others kick their habits.
The first step: Admit you have a problem (I jest).
Step two: It’s a decision. That’s what Oprah always says. You’ve got to make the decision to stop splurging on coffee.
Step three: Buy a coffee maker if you don’t already have one. I bought one last year from Walgreens for ten bucks! No, it isn’t equipped with all the bells and whistles, but it gets the job done. I dare say there are scores of neglected coffee makers accessible campus-wide. I saw two sitting next to one another atop a file cabinet in a T.A.’s office the other day. They looked like they hadn’t been used since the Clinton Administration.
Step four: Invest in a reusable thermos. Eliminating the use of paper cups is another easy way to save some cash. If you don’t have a thermos hiding in an empty kitchen cabinet, they are available in abundance at off-price retailers in the neighborhood of five dollars.
Step five: I know, I know. Making it at home just isn’t the same thing as… (insert Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Black Sheep). Get over it. Use the Lenten season as inspiration. Even if you’re not Catholic like myself, Lent can be a great motivator to “give up” something, or to start a healthy trend. Yes, we’re a week or so into it, but there’s still about a month left. Most retail brewers sell their coffee by the pound. A ten dollar bag of Starbucks Coffee can last the average daily drinker a few weeks. Also take note of the variety of regular and flavored coffees brewed at the dining commons everyday.
I’m not suggesting you should boycott coffee shops. I’ll be the first to admit I enjoy sitting down with a book and a latte at Rao’s, observing the abundance of yuppies laboring over their Macbook Pros, the future Arthur Millers of the world. The key is to make it an occasion, not a routine.
Final step: Take it one day at a time. See how you feel after a week. And after thirty days you’ll be in the clear and with a few extra bucks in your pocket. I bet you’ll even prefer brewing at home. Best of luck!
Shane Cronin is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.