How Ending My Coffee Addiction Saved My Life & My Money

Certain people shouldn’t drink coffee, I’m one of them.  But when you have a two and a half decade habit reinforced by cultural tradition, it becomes a drug that’s hard to let go of for good.  Some of my oldest adolescent memories are of having cafe con leche y pan dulce (coffee with milk and Mexican sweet bread) at my grandma’s house.  Latinos enjoy turning their cafecito every morning into a social experience, sitting with other people across a table at home or at the coffee shop and having a conversation full of life and energy.

I started drinking coffee as an adolescent and just quit on June 23rd, about three months from my 39th birthday.  How it came to an end has nothing to do with my psychiatrist’s incessant recommendations for me, an anxiety sufferer, to stop the things that made me jittery.  “Meds can only go so far,” she’d say to me.  But as the saying goes, in one ear and out the other.  My ex-wife, my current wife, neither one of them could find a way to get me to listen to reason.  So what finally did it?

It wasn’t one of those mind hacks where someone bets you won’t be able to stop.  In actuality, it was the sinus infection from hell.  Two days before finishing my career as a high school assistant principal in mid June, I started feeling sick.  I went home early.  I shouldn’t have gone to work the next day…I was feverish and woke up with a headache that caused my body so much pain…but it would’ve been a bit too convenient to tell my boss I felt too sick to go in on the last day.  So I powered through a half day and went home early anyway.  A ten year career ending with people too fearful of catching something to get near me.  I drank coffee in the morning, despite feeling like excrement.  Things got worse.

I spent six straight days with fevers, headaches, some serious coughing fits, nausea, phlegm, and mucus.  I’ve never had these medical conditions all at once before and I had never been this sick for so long.  I’m an exercising machine, and have always had good physical health.  What’s worse is that this infection was the second one like it this year, but twice as virulent.  When you’re sick as a dog, drinking coffee doesn’t help.  In fact, it may make things worse.  I couldn’t drink coffee every morning while feeling sick, and if it weren’t for all of the Dayquil, Ibuprofen, and NyQuil I was taking, the cravings (withdrawal symptoms) would’ve made matters intolerable.  It took me nine days to feel human again.

The realization of having to go through coffee abstinence forcibly again, while battling a disease, was what made me give up the addiction.  I had a clean slate.  I did not have to return to being the same old morning me, filling my insulated metal cup with two cups of brewed liquid pleasure.  So I didn’t.  I did not expect what would happen.

I feel like a new freakin’ person!  The past two weeks have given me a new lease on life.  I’m no longer as worried about money or work, my heart doesn’t feel like it’s going to go into cardiac arrest constantly, my breathing is regular, and I don’t feel tired after 5 p.m.  I’m drinking more water in the morning as a result and I’m also peeing less.  What’s sad is that I thought I felt the way I did, before quitting coffee, because I was getting old!

Starbucks raised their prices again on July 7th from 5 to 20 cents for most affected drinks, a price hike of about 1%.  Even without the hike, having a daily Starbucks Grande Latte would put you out $3.65 per day, $26 per week, and $1,332 per year.  Brewing your own coffee at home is a lot less expensive, about 71 cents a day, $5 per week, and $259 per year, in contrast.  These are the average costs of having just one beverage a day.  If you order or brew and consume twice the volume, the dollar amounts double.  $2,665 a year spent drinking two Starbucks Lattes a day!

I was buying a half-gallon of French vanilla Coffee-mate from the grocery store for $5.99 once every two weeks.  There’s 52 weeks per year, meaning I spent this dollar amount 26 times annually to sweeten and cream my coffee.  That’s $155 annually.  I’m sure I spent more brewing at home than the average because I bought premium coffee brands, and I’d occasionally make Starbucks rounds while at work.  How much would you say you’re spending annually on your caffeine addiction?

Certain people shouldn’t drink coffee, and I’m one of them.  But I did for many years nonetheless, ignorantly ignoring everyone in my life telling me to quit.  Sometimes the oddest things get someone to end a bad habit.  For me, it was an illness I’d never experienced before, and others like them that made drinking coffee and recuperating quickly incompatible. The effects of abstaining from coffee have been limitless and I owe a life of fewer panic attacks, arguments, and expenses to viruses.  Miracles happen.

C. Osvaldo Gomez is an educator, investor, entrepreneur, and blogger at Common Core Money: Financial Literacy for Educators & Other Professionals