My name is Liz Connor and I’m a coffee addict. But I’m not talking about your average ‘spoon it in the mug and swill it with boiling water’ variety.
Nope, I’m obsessed with fancy Arabica lattes from small-batch, hipster coffee roasters. The type that starts with a punchy espresso shot and finishes with an artisan swirl of steamed oat milk, with microfoam that settles into the liquid in fancy botanical shapes.
My overpriced coffee addiction initially began when I started working in journalism in the UK and needed something to perk me up ahead of a long shift. The caffeine buzz helped me to focus and, truthfully, it was a personal luxury that I felt like I could afford.
Before long though, I came to see my daily latte as a sippable piece of heaven that I needed to survive my rush-hour commute to a busy office job.
Those morning pick-me-up coffees to power me through the weekday mornings quickly bled into the weekend. I’d treat myself to a creamy latte at brunch with friends, after a Sunday yoga session or ‘just because’ I felt like I deserved it. As soon as I left my house for the day, I’d think about getting my caffeine fix.
This small pleasure turned into a big nightmare, however, when I calculated that I was spending money which I really didn’t have to waste.
To further add to the horror, my banking app put together a sobering yearly review of my spending, which revealed exactly where my cash went in 2019. According to its algorithms, I’d swiped my card at my local coffee shop way more than I had at any other vendor, including my local supermarket.
If I wanted to achieve my dream of getting on the property ladder at some point in this lifetime, I knew I had to stop. Committed to changing my ways, I imposed a ban on daily takeaway coffees at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and I’ve learned some pretty important lessons along the way.
Here’s what happened when I kicked the designer coffees for good…
1. I saved so much money
This won't come as a surprise to anyone, but I’ve already saved a heck of a lot of money by doing without the daily trip to my local coffee shop, and I’m only two months in.
At £3 per coffee, I was spending around £1,000 a year on hot drinks (… just let that number sink in for a moment). If I’d spent last year drinking less takeaway coffee, I could have funded a dream holiday abroad, put some extra money towards a house deposit or even bought a brand new laptop.
Honestly, I would be less mad at myself if I’d blown that money on clothes or trainers, because at least then I’d have something to show for it.
2. I drastically improved my environmental footprint
I feel a lot of shame and guilt about how much unnecessary waste my expensive coffee habit generated. Although I own a reusable coffee cup, I spent a lot of last year living between my own flat and a boyfriend’s place, which meant that I was often leaving my cup behind at the wrong flat, misplacing it or forgetting to pick it up entirely.
Most takeaway coffee cups contain a thin plastic lining that means they won’t biodegrade, even though they appear to be made of cardboard to the untrained eye. According to a government report, the UK throws away 2.5 billion coffee cups each year and less than 1% get recycled.
According to a study by Recycling List Ireland, approximately 22,000 coffee cups are disposed of in Ireland every hour, which translates to 528,000 every day or 200 million a year.
Over the last year, I’ve proved to myself that I’m not responsible enough to have a reusable cup on me at all times, so cutting myself out of the waste equation completely seems like the most sensible solution.
3. I made healthier choices
I'm definitely one of those people that needs some kind of reward to drag me out of bed. I’ve been trying to replace my daily coffee for a healthy, homemade smoothie and it honestly feels like a way more nourishing way to start the day.
I now whizz up a banana (a good source of energy-boosting potassium) as well as leafy green veg and frozen berries. It’s just as much of a treat as a hot cup of coffee, but doesn’t cost lots of money and create loads of waste.
4. I have more time
Queuing in the rain at the train station coffee shack with 10 other caffeine-starved commuters ahead of me was a pretty tedious way to start the day.
Skipping out the daily coffee run has shaved a lot of time off my daily morning routine, which I can now spend doing other things. Now I’m not permanently balancing a coffee cup in my hands on the train, I’m able to read a book on my journey into work too.
My commutes feels more meaningful and less like ‘dead’ time now that I’m able to get stuck into my reading pile.
5. It was hard… and then it got easier
I won’t lie, the first week ‘off’ decent coffee was pretty horrible. I’d pass my usual cafe with a pang of longing, miserably wishing I could break my ban and treat myself for some superfluous achievement.
After a while though, I got used to a new kind of morning routine and now I see a trip to the coffee shop as a treat that I’ll only indulge in on actual special occasions. There’s a perfectly good coffee machine at my work so really, I had have no excuse for parting with my cash every day.
6. My sleep got better
I've struggled with insomnia over the last year and while I wouldn’t attribute a better sleeping pattern solely to cutting back on coffee, there’s no doubt that it’s helped the issue.
Before, I’d feel wide awake in the early hours of the morning and rely on my good friend coffee to keep me awake at my desk the next day. The whole cycle felt unhealthy, but now I feel much more in tune with my own body. When I’m tired, I acknowledge the tiredness, rather than trying to mask it with caffeine.
7. I finally quit my caffeine addiction
Now I've broken the mental habit of visiting my local coffee shop every morning, my coffee addiction feels way more in check.
If I have a bad night’s sleep and feel like I need an extra caffeine boost, I’ll have a mug at work from the machine or mix a cup of home-brewed coffee into my smoothie instead.
On the whole though, coffee (especially the fancy kind) is something that I feel like I can finally give or take. Refreshingly, I no longer feel at the mercy of the local barista and my bank balance is thanking me for it.