The Latte Factor

Everyone said living in Switzerland would be expensive. It isn’t at all. First of all, the horror stories I heard about food and… well, everything… being more expensive here aren’t necessarily true. There aren’t as many cheap restaurants, that’s true. But it’s not that everything is through the roof, either. You can get a good, filling meal for $10 if you like pizza hand tossed by a fat little Sicilian man. I do.

The thing that may make living in Switzerland actually less expensive than living in the US, for me, anyway, is that on most days my latte factor is zero.

Do you know about the latte factor? There’s this guy, David Bach, who’s written a bunch of booksSmart Women Finish Rich, Smart Couples Finish Rich and The Automatic Millionaire among them. He recommends this, and I have to say I think I read it first in Your Money or Your Life, a book I think every human being should read. Anyway, do this: Record every penny you spend. Every single cent. You’ll probably notice that there are a lot of little things you spend money on — lattes at Starbucks being the prime example, Tic Tacs in the tube station, lunch out instead of packed, videos you never watch, afternoon snacks from vending machines… stuff that doesn’t add to your happiness or quality of life but when you add it up you’re spending a hefty sum on it annually. If you could have that 400 or 600 or 800 back, what would you do with it?

I’ll tell you what I do: buy airplane tickets and stay in decent to wonderful hotels.

In Switzerland on many days I spend exactly zero dollars on little stuff. Usually I go grocery shopping once a week and many weeks I don’t go anywhere else all week except to walk the dog. My next thing is bottled water. No more bottled water. It’s just ridiculous the resources it uses up.

Bach’s number one tip, by the way, and it is one I read in the New York Times this week, too, is never buy coffee outside your home. This doesn’t mean go cold turkey when you’re on business trips or anything as radical or stupid as that. It just means make your coffee, even your lunch, at home. Invest the hundreds of dollars you’ll save. Or at least spend them on something big because they add up. The first step, though, is to figure out your Latte Factor — how much you’re actually spending on these things. Then you can choose if they’re really worth it or not.

What’s your Latte Factor? Is it worth it?