Try this at home: Short Experiments in Abstinence

I know I know I know – every money coach or savings adviser worth their salt says ‘give up your daily coffee / avocado toast / [insert small luxury here] and you will save enough money for a house deposit in a year’! Well, I’m not saying that – because it’s BS.

Instead I want you to look closely at your daily coffee habit** – because for many of us it is one of the most ingrained habits we have. Mildly addictive, and often irritating if you can’t find a coffee ‘just the way you like it’ – an extraordinary number of people (pre-Covid, admittedly) habitually buy a daily coffee. This is a phenomenon which has only built up over the last 20 years, and is a particular feature of towns and cities with a dense population of office workers.

Having grown up in Melbourne (birthplace of the coffee renaissance), I formed my coffee habit early. I even trained as a barista, back in the day before ‘barista’ was even a job title and latte art was a thing. My coffee habit is longstanding and being a Melbourne-raised-and-trained-coffee-snob is a small part of my identity.

So, when I first decided to give up bought coffee for a month, I had a four-premium-coffees-a-day habit.  If you are thinking ‘I could never give up my coffee,’ I feel you. But each year I give up coffee for a week in February.  For seven days only.  I am only human after all and a month seems draconian.

There is a point to all of this abstinence. A short experiment in abstinence can demonstrate to you the myriad emotions which are linked with spending money and certain consumption habits. There is much well-meaning advice to ‘take the emotion out’ of how you think about money. However, money and emotions will always, always, be linked – you just cannot take the emotion out of money. But you can understand those emotions better.

**For those of you who don’t drink coffee – replace ‘coffee’ with ‘cola’, ‘chocolate’, ‘hot sandwich’, ‘pint at the pub’ or whatever is something that you buy and consume (almost) every day.

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