Picture the scene. Saturday morning. Doing the weekly shop. Contemplating the Rockstar lifestyle we lead.

The Mrs: “Do you fancy a Starbucks?”

Me: “Yes, I think we’ve earned it after the week we’ve had…” (this is never the case – spending money on stuff because the week was ‘tough’ is daft. Just plain old daft)

Ah, the caramel macchiato used to be a go to favourite of mine. Overpriced coffee, yes, but quite delicious! Hey, it’s only £3.60, too. That’s a drop in the ocean. Is it though?

Overpriced coffee is frequently referred to by the financially conscious to provide an example of how a seemingly small amount of cash spent here and there builds up to massive losses over the long term. And with good reason. Let’s delve a little deeper and explore the impact of said caramel macchiato on our health, our wealth and our happiness.

**The premise **

I’m eager to get calculating with this one so let’s create some hypothetical case studies to crunch and munch some numbers on. Let’s assume each of these people have the same job, are the same age and have the same taste in coffee. The only difference is the amount of coffee they drink. Let’s also say they live like this for 20 years – creatures of habit that we are ; )

Person A: Thirsty Thora – She works Monday through Friday and gets her ‘Macchi fix’ each morning on the way to work. After all, she couldn’t function without it. Each year, Thora will drink 260 cups to quench her thirst.

Person B: Weekly Waldo – Difficult to pick out of the crowd, Waldo goes for his ‘Cazzy Macchi’ on a Friday. Perfect way to finish the week. Waldo will drink 52 cups each year.

Person C: Monthly Monty – Starry B’s is a special treat! Once a month for our Monty. That’s 12 cups, annually.

**Health**

A venti caramel macchiato with whole milk (according to https://globalassets.starbucks.com/assets/DA168BD44996472AA08AF5B8A956B65B.pdf) contains:

kJ | Calories | Fat (g) | Sat fat (g) | Carbs (g) | Sugar (g) | Fibre (g) | Protein (g) | Salt (g) | Total sugar (g) | Natural sugar (g) | Added sugar (g) | Caffeine (mg) |

1407 | 335 | 13.4 | 8.6 | 41.1 | 37.4 | 0.0 | 12.4 | 0.37 | 37.4 | 16.6 | 20.9 | 225 |

**Mate, what is all dis stuff, innit? You might ask. **

Kilojoules (kJ) and calories are the units to measure how much energy we get from the food that we cram into our gob. There are 4.2kJ in 1 calorie (1407/335). The amount of energy depends on the amount of fat, carbohydrates and protein that the food contains. Booze and fats are high in kJ, fibre is low and protein and carbs fall into the middle.

The amount of energy each of us requires differs from person to person and is dependent on things like: how active you are, height, weight, gender, age, genes and how much muscle you have amongst other things, probably.

A quick google search indicates that the average Mr should consume 2500 calories per day and the average Mrs should be scoffing 2000 calories of energy. Taking on more calories than we burn leads to weight gain. This can be seen in the form of a beer gut, bingo wings, a muffin top and kankles (see the movie Shallow Hal if you’re unsure of ‘kankles’).

Sugar is a carbohydrate and is often referred to as empty calories. The more of these empty calories (as well as other calories) we consume the more we need to shift our gut around to get rid of the excess calories.

**Monty: **

Monty consumes an extra 355 calories each month by way of his little treat. No biggie. 30 minutess of exercise on top of what he’s already getting will prevent the need to loosen the belt to free the flab. Over the course of a year that’s 4,260 additional calories (1.2lbs) around the midriff. 20 years down the line and Monty’ll still be fitting in the same sized jeans, slinging the same old belt notch and picking up chicks (baby chickens) with no fear of toppling over.

**Waldo:**

He’ll be consuming an additional 355 calories on a weekly basis. He’ll be putting on less than half a pound each month if he doesn’t get the right amount of exercise. Over the course of the year he’ll put on short of half a stone. Over 20 years, that’s 10 stone.

At least he’ll be somewhat easier to spot in a crowd.

I haven’t done the maths 100% for Waldo, close enough for me – I’m too excited to see the mess that Thora’s going to be in.

**Thora:**

For each day at work, 16.75% of Thora’s calorific intake is taken up by the routine stop at Bucksies. However, because her caramel covered beverage is not very filling, she’ll possibly still need more calories from foods to feel full. Therefore, she’ll have to bomb it on the X-trainer at the gym for an additional 30 mins each day. I’m not sure if hypothetical Thirsty Thora can be bothered to get to the gym each day. With this thought process you could argue that not only does the coffee cost her cash, but also time from her day to do other things. Burning 10 calories a minute (manageable on the x-trainer, perhaps) would take her 33.5 minutes to burn of the excess energy stored as lard. Maybe she exercises, maybe she doesn’t. It would certainly benefit her not to take on an additional 335 calories per day.

**Let’s put some numbers up:**

Thirsty Thora hits the gym to stay trim!

33.5 minutes to burn 335 calories X 5 per week = 167.5 minutes. Give or take, that’s 3 hours.

33.5 minutes X 260 total gym trips = 8710 minutes or 145 hours or 6 days and a tiny bit extra. 6 days! 6 days extra exercise just to get rid of those coffee calories. Over 20 years, the calories consumed at Bucksters means she’s got to get her butt to the gym for a total of just shy of 121 days. That’s not 121 trips to the gym. *It’s 121 full days of exercise.*

Now let’s consider what might happen if Thora leaves her calorie burning capabilities to her metabolism, genetics, chance, lady luck, yoyo dieting and prayer.

If Thora over eggs her energy consumption by the 355 calories found in her weekday morning ritual, what might happen… Hypothetically…

In 1lb of body fat there are 3500 calories. For each working week, Thora will add an extra 1,775 calories to her body – just over half a pound. Over the course of a year that’s 92,000 calories or 26 pounds. In 20 years Thora will weigh… Well… She’ll probably be dead… Thora won’t be fussed about missing out on any compounded interest lost to her roasted bean addiction. Maybe Thora is the smartest of the three. Maybe Thora needs to switch from full fat to skimmed milk. Not the same though, is it? Not much point exploring the wealth side of the picture now we know that Thora will most likely meet her maker. I’ve come this far so I might as well.

**Wealth**

Ok, so let’s factor in a, rather conservative 2% coffee price increase for inflation into the numbers too (see right hand column), with some rounding. How much are these peeps spending on the Macchiaaaaato?

Year | Thora | Waldo | Monty | cup cost | ||

1 | £936.00 | £187.20 | £43.20 | £3.60 | ||

2 | £954.20 | £190.84 | £44.04 | £3.67 | ||

3 | £975.00 | £195.00 | £45.00 | £3.75 | ||

4 | £993.20 | £198.64 | £45.84 | £3.82 | ||

5 | £1,014.00 | £202.80 | £46.80 | £3.90 | ||

6 | £1,034.80 | £206.96 | £47.76 | £3.98 | ||

7 | £1,055.60 | £211.12 | £48.72 | £4.06 | ||

8 | £1,076.40 | £215.28 | £49.68 | £4.14 | ||

9 | £1,097.20 | £219.44 | £50.64 | £4.22 | ||

10 | £1,120.60 | £224.12 | £51.72 | £4.31 | ||

11 | £1,144.00 | £228.80 | £52.80 | £4.40 | ||

12 | £1,167.40 | £233.48 | £53.88 | £4.49 | ||

13 | £1,190.80 | £238.16 | £54.96 | £4.58 | ||

14 | £1,214.20 | £242.84 | £56.04 | £4.67 | ||

15 | £1,237.60 | £247.52 | £57.12 | £4.76 | ||

16 | £1,263.60 | £252.72 | £58.32 | £4.86 | ||

17 | £1,289.60 | £257.92 | £59.52 | £4.96 | ||

18 | £1,315.60 | £263.12 | £60.72 | £5.06 | ||

19 | £1,341.60 | £268.32 | £61.92 | £5.16 | ||

20 | £1,367.60 | £273.52 | £63.12 | £5.26 | ||

Totals | £22,789.00 | £4,557.80 | £1,051.80 |

Monty: Monty is down to the tune of £1k. For 20 years of one fancy cup of overpriced coffee a month, that seems quite reasonable to me. I appreciate that the thrifty, frugal readers may gasp at the thought of spending that much on a cup of caffeinated brown sugary water. I had guessed it may be much higher. Nevertheless, that would turn into £1,750 if he’d invested an extra £3.60 into somewhere like his ISA for 20 years at a 5% return.

Waldo: Hiding in the shadows, Waldo spent £4,557.80 on coffee.

That would’ve been £7,586 with a regular monthly deposit of £15.60 (187.2/12) inflating 2% per year, returning 5%. £7.5k is not to be sniffed at. Imagine what you could do with that cash!

Thora: She has spent over 22k on coffee! That’s a lot. If Thora had regularly invested a monthly contribution of £78 (936/12 with ongoing annual 2%ish inflation) to her stocks and shares ISA which had compounded at a somewhat conservative average return of 5%, she would be sat on approximately £37,923. Thora’s one cup a day habit has cost her nearly 38k. When Thora sees how much she’s spent over the course of the 20 years, she’ll likely have a heart attack. Not looking brill at this point for Thora.

As it’s all hypothetical feel free to play with the numbers any way you like (you absolute nutters). Try a 7% return over 30 years – Gee willickers, it really adds up. I always use the compound interest calculator. It’s one of my favourite tools.

The analogy of using coffee to explain how the small things can add up and cost us over time really provides a simple picture of something bigger. It’s the variety of expenditures that we see as small and rarely even notice. Occasionally indulging in a blueberry muffin with that coffee. The packet of chewing gum chucked into the basket on a whim whilst waiting in line at the supermarket. Popping to the shop to get lunch each day instead of taking a pack-up from home. Having a takeaway for dinner three days running. They all add up. All these little, tiny, insignificant costs cripple could-be, would-be, should-be millionaires. Do these things really have a positive impact on how happy we are?

For a totally different spin, read this article by Now read this one by 3652 Days ‘Let’s Stop Pissing off Millennials with the Latte Factor’. For balance, like.