04 April 2008

the latte diet {a sip or 2 of stewardship}

I cannot believe it's already been a full week since I last posted anything here!! The week has been a flurry of activity at work and in the goings-on in the slice of life I claim away from my job and the blogosphere {who knew such a slice of life existed?!}.

I am awake; I'm out of bed and moving about. I am most definitely looking forward to sharing some of the goings-on of this week with you in the near future. But for now, some of it is going to be tucked away in a file with big red letters reading TOP SECRET stamped on the cover. It's just a little bit mean to bait you with that information, but I won't lie: it keeps me entertained!

I've had much on my mind lately, and while what you're about the read is not the most exciting on my list {not by a longshot}, it is something important to me; so I want to share with you the results of this recent project/experiment I've undertaken.

As the title of this blog suggests, I like lattes. I enjoy them quite a bit. One might even say I love them.

Each sip of a good latte is a taste of heaven for me and not a single one goes unappreciated. When I get that cup full of hot espresso and steamed soy milk, I wrap my chilled fingers closely around the cup and let its heat radiate outward, translating itself into hands that are hungry for the heat it offers. Tensing my muscles in anticipation, I inhale deeply, put the lid of the cup up to my lips, slowly take in that first sip, savoring it in my mouth for a moment until I finally swallow. My muscles release and a deep sigh of contentment escapes my lungs as it slides down my throat and nestles into my belly. Mmm

These tastes of heaven and sighs of contentment come at a price, however. I have yet to find the coffee shop that gives away its beverages for free {NOTE: if you find one, I am willing to relocate}. These cups of contentment add up in a very objective, dollars and cents kind of way. The price seems so innocent, so benign when it’s one at a time. But collectively, that’s something else.

This past Tuesday, I grit my teeth, logged on to my credit union’s website, and went through the past two months of bank statements to see how often I was making purchases as well as to gather some hard data around exactly how much I was spending. I've known for awhile that it was time to take the long view regarding my latte habit. The number wasn’t as much as I feared, but it was enough to make me reconsider whether or not this was the best use of the money with which God has entrusted to me. Seeing as I’ve been averaging a little over twenty pit stops per month (gasp!!), the answer to this one was a no-brainer: I didn’t have to banish lattes completely, but my behavior and habits would need to change.

I was already at least partway set up for success: I had a French press my brother gave me around Christmas-time that was gathering dust in a kitchen cabinet I can only reach with a stepstool. For the cost of about two lattes, I recently purchased 10 oz. of a wonderful, fair-trade organic coffee. For the cost of about half a latte, I purchase a container of vanilla soy creamer. Add a little squeeze of the agave syrup already in my possession to sweeten it, and I was good to go.

So for the cost of 2.5 lattes, I’ve already had 5 cups of coffee. The French press version with soy creamer mimics my favorite pricey drink quite well and even if I had used up all the coffee beans as of today {which I have not, of course}, I’ve already saved myself the cost of nearly three lattes and the savings will only compound with each cup consumed of the French press version, assuming it is standing in for a would-be latte purchase.

My new morning pick-me-up has already paid for itself in less than a week. I enjoy it every bit as much as the real deal. A bonus on top of the dollars saved is I’m also reducing waste in the process. I am guilty of being one of those consumers who goes through the drive-through and gladly defaults to the paper cup. I now take my coffee with me in a ceramic tumbler that is easily rinsed and washed once I’ve gulped down my morning brew. Sounds like a win-win to me!

If I reduce my consumption of lattes to average out to one or even two lattes per week, I'm in a position for an annual savings of several hundred dollars. While over the course of a year a few hundred dollars may not seem like much, the advantages far outweigh any loss I might incur as a result: I'm mindful of a particular spending habit, I'm reducing waste, and the dollars I save can go toward something else {a trip? another writing conference? helping finance a philanthropic or missions project?}. When offered to the almighty God who took a few loaves and fishes to feed a multitude, who knows what He might be able to do with a few hundred dollars?

I guess we'll see!

On a side note, the name of my blog will not be changing. French press & rainy days just doesn't have the same ring to it! :o)

latte photo by kirsten.michelle


  1. So, my math says if that saves you 384 dollars a year, that is the cost of sponsoring a child with Compassion International for a year. ( I know, shameless work plug) but it is such a blessing to sponsor.

    Call me if you want to sponsor, I will get you the hook up!

  2. French press & rainy days...you are right... it just doesn't have the same ring to it.

  3. I think that I've found the best answer to sustaining my habit (and really, a habit might as well be an addiction) I decided to work at a coffee shop!! All life's problems are solved!! YAY!

  4. well... maybe only some of life's problems...

  5. hello, my friend.

    what a huge step you've taken, on multiple levels. i know you as the drinker of soy lattes and the lover of the coffee shop experience. i know how you love those lattes! so this is a big step.

    but it's also a big step in the direction of, as you already said in your post title, stewardship. i was taking a finance class in my fourth month of this degree program, and the instructor really challenged us. he knew that we all skip over to the jet fuel cafe at morning break (which proudly brews starbucks coffee) and plunk down $3-$5 for our morning coffee treat. he challenged us to think about what that weekly $25 could do if moved into an investment account instead. that's $100 per month, minimum, which can compound with interest without my even having to think about it!

    i though about what he said, got intrigued by it, but have yet to do anything.

    that was five months ago. blergh.

    anyway, i'm glad to see what's been percolating (heh!) in your mind in this regard. proud of you, girl. i look forward to hearing updates!


  6. I enjoy the tea chai latte at seattle coffee at the borders stores. It is a nice taste as it goes down. I drink from a straw and then later drink it from the cup. It has a soothing taste from the soy maybe.

    Once or twice a week is fine for me. good luck with the decision to place the rest in His hands. Maybe some child will benefit or your plans that God has in store for you.

  7. I'm with Jessica on this. I get all of the coffe and home brewed chai latte that I can handle. I hope you're sitting down fo rthe next part. If you're on your blackberry then sit down. I don't even like coffee. Never have. I'm getting to know the difference in tastes because I have to but it has no appeal to me at all. I hope that you're not crying right now. Way to go on being a steward of your money and our earth. Maybe some day I can sen d you a bag of our freshly roasted beans.

  8. Are you a starbucks addict?

  9. Kristin, good to hear from you and good to know you are a convert to the press. I think I am on year seven with my second one.

    While the brown liquid from the commercial office vat is filling up the paper cups of the huddled morning masses, I can be found easily by the sheer aroma of my finely ground (don't listen to the coarse-grinders) CAMERONS Intense French steeping in my press.

    And I sized up to the larger version to get two good size servings, so I can share the live-giving ambrosia with others.

    And yes, what a money-saver.

    As a footnote: I worked with a designer from Paris for a few years, and his claim was that there was nothing "French" about the device, and he hadn't encountered one.

  10. Kirsten, not Kristin (who is my new creative director and whose name I instinctively type)

    Sorry 'bout that!

  11. This past year, I put on my Christmas list a frother. It's this handy-dandy tool that you stick in your coffee cup and it whirls and spins and froths the milk. I think it only cost ten dollars, but it's a fun treat when I want a frothed mustache with my coffee.

  12. Ah, yes, you must be awake. :) You're drinking home-brewed lattes! I'm happy to be sitting beside you, watching you sip and smile.

  13. carl - compassion int'l is certainly a worthy consideration for those funds! i will let you know ...

    nancy - nah, it just doesn't work now, does it? ;o)

    jessica - i harbor a fantasy that one day, i'll be able to work at a coffeeshop for fun & for free coffee. sounds fantastic to me! and yes, while it wouldn't solve all my problems, it sure would address those caffeine-related issues!

    christianne - these little things really do add up, don't they? i'm certain that at least a portion of the funds i save will be directed toward going into savings & permitted to compound. hah, yes ... this thought has been percolating & i'm happy to report that this minor change of habit is really more convenient than my latte habit. but of course, there are going to be somedays where i take my laptop out, grab that latte, & just enjoy the heck out of it!

    scott - i love chai, too! with the vanilla soy milk, it's particularly yummy.

    caleb - you don't like coffee? wha?!!? and you work at a coffeeshop. hmm. somebody call the autorities!! ;o) and dude, i'm always up for a bag of freshly roasted beans from your shop. as for starbucks, i do enjoy their coffee, but don't consume their espress exclusively. we've got a local coffee chain called "the woods" {thewoodscoffee.com} that really is my preferred hangout. besides which, they make a mean latte. ;o)

    23 degrees - i love that french pressin' baby!! you can make just what you need, it's fast, super easy & convenient. definitey a win. i don't know why i waited so long to use it. he he - and thanks for the correction ... a good friend of mine has a friend named kristin too, so she's always getting us mixed up! ;o)

    p.s. very happy to see you around these here parts again!!

    heather - i've been wanting to get one of those handheld steamer thingies for awhile now! i think ikea has a version that's around $5 or so, maybe less. but yes, that i think is going to be a soon future purchase. interesting how our last couple of exchanges here have been caffeine related. hmmm ...

    l.l. - happy to be sharing a cup from the ol' french press with you ... or a cup of tea, as the case may be. happy to be sitting beside you, my author-friend! ;o)

  14. Kirsten
    Wow, i am impressed with the intense thought that you have put into stewardship. it made me think about all of the money i waste on convenience and, well, foolishness. My goodness you are a wise one.

    I am off to watch all of the Star Wars episodes. They are on TV. May the force be with you in that whole financial undertaking.

  15. I feel your pain (and excitement). Recently, Josh and I have been reviewing our budget and realized we're spending too much. . . on electricity of all things (blame it on the AC)! So for the last 2 months (bills here only come every 2 months) we have been turning our AC off at night and any time we leave the house, even for a few minutes. It isn't quite as pleasant in here, but we have the same conviction that you have--we need to spend GOD'S money wisely. Our bill should come any day; I'm excited to see what God has done without our 5 loaves and 2 fish.

  16. If I had my own french press I'd drink so much coffee. Its good to be back to reading everyone's blogs. I've really missed feeling like I was in a community, not to mention that the excellent writing. Thanks for all your comments during my absence, they were truly encouraging.

  17. Kirsten, I find this so funny. Lorna and I will often say, when considering a new purchase, well it's only the cost of ten (or whatever) lattes and we buy those without evening thinking about it, so ...
    Good luck with your conversion, and its great to have you back.

  18. Hey girl!!!!

    Good to see ya up and about again! 8^D Nothing says morning like coffee (or the afternoon for that matter) 8^D

    After a similar leading to review our finances, Jen and I went to Big Lots one day (do they have one in your town?) and picked up an espresso machine for $15, nice brand and everything. It has the frother attachment and you can get a HUGE jug of flavored syrup at World Market for about 6 bucks.

    With this, our Starbucks runs are down to nothing and I've had the chance to "perfect" my barista skills 8^D

  19. you need to be starbucks' soy latte spokes person.... the way you described the whole experience of drinking your latte was great!!! :) no doubt that you LOVE your lattes.

    i loved this post and it resonates b/c i have also looked at little ways to be a better steward.... and they do add up. it's amazing how all these little purchases put a dent in your wallet.

    i also take my travel mug everywhere i go now. actually, the lady who runs a nearby coffeeshop gives me a discount for not wasting a cup! :) maybe one day we'll meet up and sip our beloved lattes together....

  20. tammy - i think the force is with me on this; thanks for the well wishes!!

    rebecca - oh my gosh, with the climate you're living in, i can only imagine the need for a/c!! sometimes these little things seem not to matter. but one thing that got me going was that verse: "[s]he who is faithful is little is faithful in much". blessings to you!!

    drea - it's good to see your face again!! i can only imagine how busy you've been. yeah, i've been drinking a little too much french press myself & my face is reacting. ugh. ;o) congrats to you again on grad school!!

    dean - i love it. you SOOOO speak my language. i assess many things in terms of its latte value. my rent is 97 lattes. when i had a car payment, it was 72 lattes. ;o) glad to know there's someone else whose math works that way too!!

    sean - that is a great idea!! i have an ancient espresso machine that still works (i think) ... i received it as a gift in 1996. wowza. time for an update you think? i have to say i am loving the french press, though. super quick & easy!!

    blue - sigh. reading the description of the latte makes me want to go get one, but i will be good (i'm actually drinking a black/green tea blend right now since my face doesn't like the massive amounts of coffee i've been pumping through my system). i **really, really** hope we get a chance to splurge & share lattes in person someday. you're one of those people i can miss sorely, even never having met you. love you.

  21. So, if you are wanting a place that gives away lattes for free, you should move to Kirkland. There is a place that is a "pay as much as you want, or as little as you want" for a latte. Its called Terra Bite Lounge. Okay - now you can relocate :)

  22. kirsten... i love that you miss me even though we've never met! :) wow! we definitely need to do that hot date night sometime.... perhaps boogying? weren't you boogying on facebook not too long ago? shaking our booties and drinking lattes! sounds fun!!

  23. yes boogying and latte. what a combination!!!!

  24. ilse - are you serious?!?!? that is a place i have to check out. i'll be down in your neck of the woods this weekend, maybe i'll get a chance to stop by!!

    p.s. how was mexico??!

    blue - sigh. i do miss you, sweet girl, all the time!! i know that if we lived just around the corner from one another, that we'd have plenty of latte-drinkin', boogyin' good times!!

    scott - lattes will be our boogying fuel, i think.

    l.l. - thanks!! it's fun to put up something new every now & then!

  25. Mexico was amazing - super relaxing, and God really taught me a lot about the direction he is taking me, and confirmed a lot about how I feel for Brian. Still processing a lot, and wanting as well to keep a lot of it sacred, to myself. Treasure his truths in my heart.

  26. I laughed a lot at this post. i've been out of touch for a while. mostly overwhelmed by my life. the line about the money God entrusted to you really hit me this morning. i've never thought of money that way- despite having been a "christian" for numerous years (though a rather imperfect, slightly pathetic version)...i have money issues. some from tough childhood experiences...some from compulsion or laziness...all which need a good overhaul and lots of prayer. thank you for continuing to spoonfeed me the word of God, and for inspiring me to be a better woman. :) judy

  27. You probably know this already, but this has an actual term, “the latte factor,” which describes those little regular purchases that add up to big bucks over the year.

    I did a similar thing a few years ago as well. I used to buy mochas most days, but it became such an expensive habit I decided that I would only buy regular coffee for 1/3 the price. Anyway, I’m still an addict, but my drug is just not as pricey as before.

    Good luck with the French press. Those are great too.