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Life's Little Indulgences: How Much Are They Worth?

Spending a few bucks on a cup of coffee every day could sack your retirement plans — or not — depending on whom you believe.


Written by Shira Boss

The financial gurus love to tell us how much money we’re wasting on daily habits such as coffee. David Bach, in his “Finish Rich” books, calls it “the latte factor.”According to Bach, the few dollars we spend weekly on coffee, over decades, makes the difference between retiring in style or scratching by on social security (or something like that).

But is it really worth it to crunch the numbers on each of life’s little indulgences and eliminate them one by one so that every dollar can be squirreled away for the future? Or are most people able and willing to save a little here to spend a little there, thus keeping life enjoyable?

As part of our Chase-sponsored Smart Spending series, we conducted video interviews and asked people what indulgences they couldn’t live without—and if regularly spending on these creature comforts trumped putting a little bit away for a rainy day.

“One indulgence that I would not be able to live without is good cheese,” said Cat Dwyer. “I try to afford it by not buying [certain] other groceries and by looking for things that are on sale.”

A coffee break is an excuse for an outing and a treat. At a national average cost of $1.38 per cup, it’s far less of a splurge than, say, a cocktail, not to mention a massage.

Wendy Flohr gave up smoking and instead spends that money on coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. “I have three coffee makers at home, but I still like to go out and have my coffee made for me, every single morning,” she said.

Maybe coffee isn’t your life-changing indulgence. For David Bernstein, it’s good shaving cream and shaving supplies. “After all the years of ripping up my face and getting bad skin, spending a few extra dollars really made a big difference,” he said.

Sometimes little indulgences are worth saving for over the long term. Garrett Ritz loves to fish, but “it’s time consuming and very expensive,” he said. To offset the cost he saves bonuses and spare money in the offseason so he can pay for docking and other supplies.

TELL US: What regular indulgence is worth the splurge and how do you afford it? Whether it’s eating out for lunch every day or spending money every week on personal grooming, where have you cut back to build up long-term savings?

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