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By now you know that spending $5-6 every day on blended coffee drinks at the nearest branch of the nation’s largest coffee chain isn’t the most financially-sound life decision. What if I told you that you could make amazing, delicious coffee in your own home for a fraction of the cost? You can!

Here are a few tips to save money on coffee by brewing it at home that are sure to help you keep a few of those dollars from leaving your wallet:

1) Use a French Press


The French Press is one of the easiest ways to have good control over your coffee in the comfort of your no-doubt-impeccably-clean apartment kitchen. Since a French press can extract coffee quickly, you’ll want a courser grind. You can grind coffee at your local grocery store, or if you buy coffee from a local coffee shop, they can often grind it for you, saving you money on your own grinder. All you need to do is add hot water to the ground coffee in the French press and plunge. Add just a little water at first and stir to let the coffee bloom, then add the rest and wait a few minutes for it to steep, just like tea! A French press can make very dense coffee, so this is a great method for those who like their coffee strong. French presses are cheap and easy to get. I got mine for only about $15.

2) Use the Pourover Method


Pourovers are personally my favorite way to make coffee. There are many different pieces of equipment you can use to make it, from a metal funnel called a Kolita to a glass hourglass called a Chemex. The idea with pourover coffee is that you are brewing a cup of coffee with precision. You can place your Kolita funnel directly over a mug or pitcher. Place your grounds in a coffee filter (just like regular drip coffee) and use a tea kettle to slowly pour water over the top. You can adjust the cup of coffee based on your taste. For instance, if you like your coffee weaker, pour the water quickly to underextract the coffee. If you like it stronger, pour slower to give the water more time to extract the full body of the coffee grounds. This will give you a cup of coffee that showcases the nuances of the coffee bean you’ve chosen!

3) Roast it Yourself at Home


Many people don’t know that coffee isn’t brown when it grows. It starts out green, as the seed of a coffee “cherry.” If you can get your hands on some green coffee beans, you can make some seriously phenomenal coffee. You can roast your beans on the stovetop, in the oven, or even over a grill! This is another point where you can control the taste of your coffee. Love that “bold” coffee taste? Roast your beans super dark. Like your coffee a little more on the delicate side? Go easy on the roasting. From some suppliers, you can get a pound of green coffee for $6, which lets you end up with amazing coffee for a good, long time!

4) Don’t Buy the Most Expensive Coffee


If roasting your own coffee isn’t so much your style and you want to let the pros handle the beans until they get to you, remember that more expensive doesn’t necessarily equal better coffee. Coffee roasters will offer coffee in a range of prices, depending on what the cost was to them when they bought green beans. You might be able to get a fantastic pound of Ethiopian Yergacheffe if the roaster was able to buy the beans for cheap! Look at a roaster’s entire inventory before buying coffee beans. Talk to them about where you can get the most bang for your buck. You’ll find that most coffee nerds are just as eager as you to get a great coffee on the cheap.

5) Join a Coffee Club


Subscribing to a service that sends you coffee every so often can be a fun way to both learn about new kinds of coffee and save money. Sometimes, the club will throw in a premium bag of coffee, which will give you even more value for your money! It can be a gamble, but hey, I’ve never had a coffee from a coffee club that has been just straight-up awful. By having coffee sent to you every week or two, you can build up a decent palette for not a lot of cash.

6) Get Yourself a Fancy Mug


Having an awesome mug to drink out of can make you more excited about your morning cup o’ joe, and less apt to go for that $6 frappe-latte-cino! There are all kinds of wild mugs out there, from designs that change with the heat of the coffee to mugs in the shape of your favorite cartoon characters. Brighten up your morning and drink your coffee in style.

7) Learn to Steam Your Own Milk


If you’re more of an espresso drink fan, the key to an enjoyable cup of coffee is often well-steamed milk. Milk with the same silky texture as your local coffee shop can be achieved at home, however! You can actually heat milk on your stove and use a French press to aerate it by pumping the plunger. Good steamed milk should have the consistency of a can of paint when you swirl it around in a cup. Just pour into your espresso and you’ve got a cup of coffee that would make corporate coffee jealous!

8) Enjoy Mind-blowing Coffee


That’s it! Keep those dollars in your pockets and still enjoy the world’s favorite caffeinated drink when you’ve followed these tips. Saving money doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice some of life’s little pleasures, like great coffee! Bottoms up!

Have another tip to save money on coffee that you’d like to share? Leave me a comment to let me know!

 

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Dropping Digm (How-to)

Cutting Off the Joneses: The Art of Managing Lifestyle Inflation

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The road to reaching your financial goals can sometimes be very difficult and tedious. We tend to hold back from buying certain things, and sometimes, we live on a tight budget in order to make ends meet. But all this seemingly comes to an end when all your hard work pays off and you get a raise, and finally, you can treat yourself to something nice. However, getting a raise can lead you to one of the biggest challenges to reaching your financial goals — and half the time, you don’t even notice it.

Have you ever heard of lifestyle inflation?

Simply put, lifestyle inflation is when your spending increases as your income increases. This can include moving to a more expensive apartment, getting a new lease on a car, or making small, repeat purchases that add up over time. All these can make it hard to break out of living from paycheck-to-paycheck even when your paycheck gets a little bigger.

It’s easy to fall into this trap. After all, what’s the point of working so hard to get a raise if you don’t treat yourself?

While there’s nothing wrong with splurging a little, the cause of lifestyle inflation goes much deeper than simply wanting to treat yourself. An article by Marcus on why ‘Rising Income Levels May Lead to Lifestyle Inflation’, found that young professionals use material markers to express who they are, in order to demonstrate that their career or chosen path is rewarding. In other words, lifestyle inflation is generally caused by the desire to prove your position in life — manifesting itself through material items, the house you live in, or the places you go to. And although doing this can feel good in the short-term, lifestyle inflation poses a problem in the long run, as Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar explains that lifestyle inflation hinders you from reaching your financial goals. Allocating most, if not all, of your new raise to your spending budget means that you’re not saving or investing any of it for later on — marking a roadblock to your journey towards debt freedom and financial wellness.

If you recognize yourself in these examples, fret not. Here are a few ways you can break the cycle:

Set goals for yourself. Our resident writer Ash Cash stresses in ‘Saving 101’ the importance of setting financial goals in order to save better. Having goals allows you to constantly remind yourself what you need to save for, and why, especially if it’s something you want badly. That way, you won’t be as tempted to stray away from your plan!

Cut out what you don’t need. You’d be surprised at the number of things or activities that you spend on, but can easily cut out of your expenditures. Of course, we don’t recommend doing this all at once. Start small and cancel subscriptions you don’t use anymore, or start eating out just once a week. Make small, manageable moves, and soon you’ll find yourself celebrating the joys of meeting your goals and saving more.

Track your expenses. After receiving a raise, the Balance cite that the best way to identify lifestyle inflation behaviors is to track your spending — even for just a short time. Once you recognize these behaviors, you can start cutting out purchases you don’t need.

Keep a “splurge” budget. Not buying or doing things you want will make you miserable, but overspending won’t be good for you in the long run, either. That’s why it’s a good idea to create a splurge budget for a week or month, and to stick to it. Purchases you don’t “need” come out of that budget, such as buying a new video game, ordering something online, or getting a coffee at a café even if you have a coffee maker at home. If you want something pricier than your budget for the week or the month, try to “save” that budget and let it roll over the next month so you can purchase the item. This way, a splurge budget lets you treat yourself, but also keeps you in check.

Article written by Anna Levy

Exclusively for paradigmmoney.com

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11 Ways to Save During the Holiday Season

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The holiday season is upon us, which means significantly more spending—and more potential to encounter financial trouble. Because of the emotional play many retailers use to get you to buy from their stores, it’s important to be overly vigilant with your spending during this time. Below are 11 ways you can save (instead of spend) during the holiday season.

1. Decide how much you can spend and make a plan.

Many people don’t like to use the word “budget” because it seems restrictive. However, creating a holiday budget or “making a plan,” as we’ll call it here for all intents and purposes, is imperative during the holiday season. By making a plan, you’re avoiding overspending and essentially telling your money what to do—rather than allowing it to be in control.

2. Open a holiday spending account.

Using your main checking account to do your holiday shopping is one of the biggest mistakes you can make during the holidays. Doing so allows you to tap into money allocated for other important things like bills and groceries. By opening a separate checking account for holiday spending, you’ll help yourself stay on budget. And once the money is gone, you have a clear stop on holiday shopping. Make sure it’s a free checking account, opening an account that charges fees would defeat the purpose of doing so.

3. Account for splurges.

Let’s be honest: you’re going to splurge this month. A dress for your office Christmas party? A sale at your favorite retail store? The jeans you’ve been eyeing for months are suddenly 40 percent off? We could go on and on, but you get the drift. Set aside a dollar amount that you’re willing to spend on yourself this month. Knowing how much you can afford will keep you from being swept up by “can’t-miss” deals.

4. Cut back on expenses.

Cutting back on expenses during the holiday season—or even before—will give you more money to allocate towards the holidays. Small changes like cutting your cable (you’ll be visiting family and friends most of the month anyway!) or avoiding takeout meals will save extra cash and make a big difference in your budget.

5. Track your spending.

Using a spending log is essential this time of year. Gifts aren’t the only thing affecting your budget—more social occasions means more spending. From extra Ubers to hostess gifts, your expenses can add up quick. This usually forces people to make decisions that they may not want to make, like tapping into credit or using money that is not allocated for holiday shopping. Using a spending log will keep your spending in check.

6. Narrow down your list.

It’s easy to get caught up in the fun of the season and want to gift something to everyone you’re close to. Let us remind you (as corny as it sounds) that presents are not what the holiday season is about. Take a look at your holiday list and be honest about what you can afford. It’s not fun, but your loved ones don’t want you hindering your financial future for them.

7. Set gift-giving expectations.

Setting gift-giving expectations is really important: If your love ones assume you’re going to spend a lot of money on them, they may feel obligated to do the same in return. Having a conversation early on about gift limits will allow both parties to avoid overspending, not to mention it will sidestep any ensuing embarrassment or guilt that comes with one party not giving an equally as lavish gift.

8. Take advantage of store offers and coupons.

Taking advantage of store offers and coupons should be a given, but you’d be surprised at how many people pay full price for things during the holiday season. Many people feel like they are competing against other shoppers to get the best gifts, so they don’t spend the necessary time finding the best deals. Don’t believe the hype! Make a shopping plan for each individual on your list. Research where you can find the best deals on the product and then sign up for company email lists. Follow sales and make purchases at the right time. Ordering presents in advance (or price shopping with ample time) not only assures that you get the best deals, but also that you don’t spend excess cash on things like rush shipping.

9. Be creative.

Being creative is about understanding that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg in order to show your love ones you care. There are many people who are more appreciative of the thought that goes into a handcrafted gift than a purchased item from a big box store. Being thoughtful can have a lasting and more memorable effect than breaking the bank. Spending quality time with an elderly relative, helping a friend clean her home the day after a big party, or offering to babysit for a couple are just a few ideas.

10. Reduce decoration costs.

You may feel inclined to go all out when it comes to decorations, but if you’re crafty enough, you can save a lot of money by creating your own. If you really love holiday decor, wait until the season is over and purchase for next year. Prices for decorations are inflated during the holidays, so buying them during the off-season can save you a lot of money.

11. Remember the reason for the season.

We cannot repeat this enough: remember the reason for the season. The holiday season is not all about gift giving. Sometimes your presence is better than your present! The holiday season is about family and friends, and should be cherished in that way.

Do you have a holiday season savings hack that you swear by? ‘Tis the season to share!

11 Ways to Save During the Holiday Season was originally published on TheEverygirl.com.

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5 Tips for Holiday Break

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Photo credit iStock by Getty Images

Like most students, you’re probably looking forward to spending time with family and friends over the holiday break. But before you relax, take a little time first to size up your finances for next semester. Here are a few tips to get you started: 

Review Your Spending from Last Semester

Not sure where all your money went? Now is a good time to examine your spending from last semester by reviewing your bank account statements, check register, credit card statements and receipts (if you saved them). One way to do this is to make two lists: one with all your unavoidable expenses, such as tuition, rent, basic food costs and insurance payments, and another with everything else—in other words, purchases you wanted at the time but did not necessarily need. Now take a look at that second list. Bet you’re surprised at how many things you spent money on that you could have done without, or don’t remember why you purchased in the first place! Make a pledge to cut back on some of those items and watch your savings grow.

Save Your Cash Gifts

Did you get some cash in your stocking? You might be tempted to blow it on those irresistible post-holiday sales, but take a moment to think about your needs for next semester. Will you have enough money for books, school supplies, gas and other school-related needs? At the very least, plan to save 10-20 percent of your extra cash for unexpected expenses like car repairs or medical emergencies. Knowing that you have a little nest egg set aside will give you some peace of mind and allow you to focus on your studies.

Budget Your Anticipated Financial Aid Refunds

If you will be receiving a refund from your financial aid award next term, keep in mind that a good portion, if not all, of these funds may be from student loans that you signed up for. These funds will have to be repaid when you graduate or leave school, so it is important to budget and spend them wisely, and make sure you have enough money to last the entire semester.

Re-apply for Financial Aid

Remember, you must re-apply for financial aid every year. You can submit the federal FAFSA form beginning January 1, 2015 for the 2015-16 academic year. Your state and school may also require you to re-apply or update your information, so be sure to visit with your school’s website or contact the financial aid office for information on deadlines and other requirements. Also, check out Mary’s article in the Huffington Post for more information and tips on applying.

Look for Part-time Job Opportunities

If you think you’ll be running low on money next semester, start looking for some part-time job opportunities or increasing your hours at your current job. The best place to start your job search is right on campus. There are lots of jobs available, from library clerk to food service worker—check with the employment office or website. You might also want to consider capitalizing on your own talents to make some extra cash by offering services such as tutoring, babysitting, dog walking, or repairing cars or electronics.

Following these tips will allow you to enjoy your much-needed break and put you on a path to financial peace of mind for next semester—so start today!

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