Let’s talk about the “latte factor.”
Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of commentary from other finance bloggers and personalities ragging on this simple but brilliant idea. They argue that saving small amounts of money will never make you rich.
They’re right, of course.
Saving $4 a day on coffee won’t make you ultra rich…
…but it can sure as heck keep you out of the poor house!
What is the Latte Factor?
So, what is the latte factor?
I first read about this idea in David Bach’s classic personal finance book The Automatic Millionaire. It was the first money book that I ever read, and it had a profound impact on the way we’ve handled our finances throughout our life. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you pick up a copy.
Anyway, the latte factor is Bach’s way of teaching people that saving small amounts of money really matters. By saving on the small things and using that money to pay yourself first, over time, you’ll be able to build considerably more wealth than if you hadn’t.
In essence, he’s saying that – by using the money you have more efficiently – you’re bound to come out ahead. Sound familiar?
The Latte Factor – What They’re Missing
So, here’s where I think some of my friends are missing the point: The latte factor isn’t a magic pill that will make you stupid rich. It’s not intended to be.
Instead, it’s a starting point to help the average person get ahead.
The latte factor is a device that encourages you to become more deliberate with your spending. It’s a call to action. It’s supposed to get you thinking about how you are spending your money.
In short, the latte factor plants a seed that will (hopefully) lead to tracking your spending and starting a monthly budget. And, in my opinion, these are still the building blocks to long-term financial success.
The Biggest Thing Holding People Back
You see, it isn’t that most people make too little. The majority of us make enough to meet our needs and still have plenty to save. The problem is that we spend too damn much!
We can’t tell ourselves “no.”
We finance new cars, buy more house than we can afford, and go out to eat 4 times a week. Then, we complain that we don’t have enough money to get by.
Unfortunately, if we still want something, we just throw it on a credit card and vow to pay it off later. Because we want it. We deserve it. And yes, we must have it now.
No, cutting out a daily $4 coffee isn’t going to make you rich. But, it can keep you from feeling (and being) poor.
Getting Back to Basics
Think about it this way: You don’t become a professional baseball player without learning how to swing a bat or field a ball. You can’t become an expert pianist if you don’t learn how to play your scales. Meryl Streep wouldn’t be Meryl Streep if she didn’t know how to hit her mark.
There is no shortcut to greatness. Sure, the pros always make it look easy, but they never would have succeeded without conquering the basics fist.
It’s the same thing with money. You must master the fundamentals to get ahead.
If you don’t learn to take care of the money you already have, making extra money rarely helps. It only papers over the problems that are already there. Sure, you’ll be able to buy more crap, but you still won’t be rich. Unless you build some crazy beaucoup bucks, you’re still almost certain to overspend.
Using the latte factor as your guide can help overcome this. It’s a great tactic for cutting the waste, saving more, and avoiding additional credit card debt.
Practical Applications of the Latte Factor
Here’s an example of the latte factor in action.
Let’s say you start tracking your finances and find you’re spending a total of $7.50 each day on a cup of coffee and a muffin while heading to work. That’s $37.50 a week, or roughly $150 a month.
That may not seem like an outrageous amount, but – if you spread that out over the whole year – you’re spending about $1,800 a year on your daily coffee and muffin.
If you make $50,000 a year, eliminating that daily coffee and muffin is the equivalent of getting a 3.6% pay raise. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty happy if my boss offered that to me.
And, that’s just by cutting out one extra expense!
The truth is, most of us have more than one latte factor. Maybe you spend $50 a week (or more) eating out. Perhaps you spend $100 a month getting your nails done. Maybe you’re leaking money by going to the movies, or golfing, or getting a weekly massage. Who knows?
When you find a few of these latte factors, it’s easy to see how the savings can add up quickly. That’s money which goes right back into your pocket. If you end up investing it, the savings benefits are even greater!
So, is eliminating your latte factor the magic ticket to becoming ridiculously rich? Probably not. But, when you use it in conjunction with other measures, you might see some ridiculously positive progress.
Learning to handle the money you already have provides a solid foundation for building long-term wealth. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll carry these skills with you for the rest of your life, no matter your income level. Discovering and changing your spending habits is part of that process.
If you’re like most people, your goal isn’t to become filthy stinking rich anyway. You just want to live a comfortable life, build wealth slowly, and enjoy a comfortable retirement once you get there.
Sound familiar? If so, don’t discount the effects of your latte factors. By eliminating a few small but wasteful expenses, you could be well on your way to making your financial goals a reality.
What do you think about the latte factor? Is it a waste of time and energy? Let us know in the comments below!