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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Starbucks vs a Free Water Fountain

Free Water vs $2 Coffee, Guess Which Wins?

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.  Let's start with the picture.  Can you see why I thought this scene was interesting?

Starbucks vs Free Water Fountain
What's Wrong with This Picture?

When I saw this, I thought it was shocking and I immediately reached for the cell phone in my pocket to take a picture.  What is wrong with this picture?  I added some notes on the version below to make the problem clear.

Starbucks vs Free Water Fountain- with caption
Why Are People Lined Up To Pay Instead of Getting the Free Drink?

I thought it was surprising that people were lined up waiting to pay for drinks at Starbucks when free water fountains were clearly available only a few feet away- and with no waiting.

It is not surprising to me that some folks would want to get a treat such as a $2 cup of coffee, $3 fancy coffee drink, or $3 juice drink.  I was surprised by how much demand there was for these expensive drinks when there was free water right there.

I watched this scene for a few minutes.  More people kept joining the line for the expensive drinks, but no one used the water fountain.  Why?

Why were so many people paying for expensive drinks when there was free water right there?

One reason is that coffee is "mildly habit forming". If you read my blog much, you know that I am a coffee connoisseur and have even written a book about making great coffee for almost nothing.  I understand that people need coffee in a way that they don't need water.  I used to buy coffee at a coffee shop every day, but now I make great coffee at home for about 60 cents instead of paying $2 at a coffee shop.

Not everyone was buying coffee, though.  They were also buying fruit juice drinks and... bottled water!

I think people are in the habit of buying a refreshment at Starbucks and don't even consider skipping it or getting free water at the water fountain.  Once a habit gets established, it is hard to break.  Routine expenses are not really noticed anymore.  I call this "The Starbucks Effect".

I still find instances of The Starbucks Effect as I look at my own spending and try to cut back on unnecessary expenses.

Does it really hurt anything to buy a $2 drink at Starbucks?  Not if that is the most important thing you want to do with your money, but I know I have more important things I would rather do with my money.  A few dollars here and there quickly adds up to real money- money you could use to get out of debt and be able to afford things that are much more important to your than drinks at Starbucks.

The lesson I take from this strange scene at Starbucks is to look for that "free water fountain" in different areas of spending to find opportunities to save money.

  • Are you paying for cable TV or satellite when you could get free TV over the air or Netflix for much less?
  • Are you buying fast food for lunch every day when you could take lunch for a fraction of the cost?
  • Are you paying a lot to drive a new car when an older car would be just as useful and much less expensive?

And finally, are you buying expensive drinks when free water would be cheaper and healthier?

If you want many, many more ways to save money, check out my free ebook with 101 tips to save money!

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