Category Archives: Personal Finance 101

You’re Spending How Much on Coffee?!?!

My morning walk to the ValuePenguin office consists of some pump-up music and a Starbucks Grande Iced Coffee (if it’s a long day ahead, a Grande Iced Skinny Vanilla Latte). There’s nothing quite like a cup of joe to get my brain working. I’ve been addicted to caffeine for nearly three years now… and neither my body, nor my bank account has quite forgiven me.

I’ve been thinking about getting a Keurig, a Nespresso, or a drip coffeemaker. At first, I thought buying coffee everyday would be cheaper than a Nespresso, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Here are some interesting facts I learned about coffee expenses:

  • If you skipped Starbucks everyday for five months, you’d have enough money to buy a Nespresso VertuoLine ($299)
  • Single-serve coffee machines keep gaining popularity, and there’s definitely some good reasoning behind that
  • No matter what you do, it is always cheaper to take your coffee from home. The $1 difference between a Nespresso VertuoLine and a Starbucks coffee might not seem substantial, but over time, you’ll notice buying coffee outside the home drains your bank account

This is an infographic on how much money the average person is spending on coffee.

I started my calculations with some simple math. I calculated only the cost of brewing an average 10 oz cup of drip coffee, a 10 oz Keurig coffee, and a 9 oz VertuoLine coffee and compared that to the cost of buying a 10 oz small Dunkin Donuts Coffee and a 12 oz tall Starbucks coffee.

Because like many others, I dislike taking my coffee to-go in a travel mug (I tend to lose travel mugs), I also calculated the price of taking your brewed-at-home coffee to-go in a Dixie PerfecTouch Grab ‘N Go Paper Cup & Lid. I did the math for how much it would cost to take a drip coffee to-go, a Keurig coffee to-go, and Nespresso VertuoLine coffee to-go. I then calculated the cost of taking coffee to-go in a disposable cup for intervals from a week to 40 years. It’s amazing how much you save just by taking your coffee from home to-go in a disposable cup.

This data also shows that the coffee you buy in stores is grossly overpriced. The Dixie PerfecTough Grab ‘N Go Paper Cup & Lid costs 16 cents per cup, and it is also much sturdier than most cups you would buy at a café. If you look at the graphs, you’ll see that the price of brewing coffee is so cheap. Even brewing gourmet coffee like Starbucks ground beans is over $1 cheaper than buying it at Starbucks. If most cups cost approximately 20 cents, and brewing Starbucks French Roast Coffee costs 24 cents, the most you should be charged for a 10 oz cup of coffee is $1. As if this is any groundbreaking news, cafés are way overcharging you.

Honestly, I think most people buy coffee in stores because it’s easier to drink and then toss it away. While it’s not entirely environmentally friendly to always take your coffee from home to-go in a disposable cup, you’re still saving a ton of money. You’re always better off making coffee at home. Be sure to recycle!

23 Ways to Get and Keep Motivated

No matter what you do for a living, the key to success is motivating yourself, each and every day, according to Geoffrey James, author of Business Without the Bullsh*t.          
“Most people don’t realize that motivation mostly emerges from minor changes in your own behavior,” says James.  
 “Getting and keeping motivated puts you in control of your actions and your career, thereby lessening stress,” says James. “Even implementing a handful of these changes can have a major effect on your health and your attitude.”  

Continue reading 23 Ways to Get and Keep Motivated

4 Simple Tricks to Improve Your FICO Score


The average FICO score for people denied a mortgage in September 2013 was 696, according to Ellie Mae. That’s a pretty good score by any account—the highest possible score is 850, after all. This illustrates how tight credit has become since the financial crisis of 2008. Every single point counts when you’re seeking the best terms and interest rates on mortgages, credit cards and loans. Here are a few tricks to maximize your score. Continue reading 4 Simple Tricks to Improve Your FICO Score

The 6 Best and Worst Mother’s Day Buys


Seasonality doesn’t just affect the weather; prices across a wide range of products can change on a month-to-month basis as demand fluctuates. Considering millions of consumers will shop for Mother’s Day gifts this week, being aware of these best and worst buys can help you make smarter purchasing decisions that delight Mom and keep your budget intact. Take a look at these worst buys and consider gifting a best buy for Mom. Continue reading The 6 Best and Worst Mother’s Day Buys

The $1000 ETF Portfolio

The $1000 ETF Portfolio

If you’re scared that $1000 is too little to begin investing – let alone create a portfolio – you’d be wrong. Many of the basic principles of diversification and index investing used by investors with far deeper pockets apply to us mere humans, too. And they can be cheaply replicated using ETFs.

The allure of Exchange Traded Funds is simple: They trade like stocks, but contain a basket of assets, much like a mutual fund. This provides instant diversification, without the need to research every single stock or bond you buy. They also typically offer lower fees and expense ratios than many mutual funds, and you can often trade them for free when you buy them directly from their source (such as Fidelity or Vanguard). Continue reading The $1000 ETF Portfolio