Why Skipping Coffee is Bad Financial Advice For Nurses

Why Skipping Coffee is Bad Financial Advice For Nurses

Long days.  Tricky patients.  Charting.   Time is a limited commodity on the labor and delivery floor and I make the most of it by grabbing my favorite legal addiction—coffee.   It serves as a personal ritual after caring for my patients (and an excuse to sit down for a moment to catch up on that charting.)  

I am not alone in my habits. According to PubMed, 88 percent of nurses in the United States drink at least one cup of coffee per day at work.  The jury is out—nurses need coffee!

The personal finance world may feel differently.  In fact, spending money on this workday indulgence has even been coined the “latte factor.” 

What is the Latte Factor?

David Bach, a well-known author and personal finance celebrity, invented the term “latte factor” during a talk.  While discussing ways to quell his participants’ small day-to-day expenses, he noted an attendee drinking her Starbucks latte.  The latte became a representation of non-essential spending habits that could potentially turn into future savings when eliminated.  

The problem with the latte factor is that it seems far-fetched. The rate of return on my three  days-a-week afternoon pick-me-up just doesn’t stack up and is bad financial advice.

Go for the Big Wins

When evaluating budgets, two big line items stick out among the rest.  These are housing and transportation costs.  Nurses generally have enough income to effectively make choices around these big ticket items.  The amount of money that can be saved is certainly enough to tackle debt and grow wealth. 

How to Save on Housing

Housing is typically the largest expense in our finances and can make up as much as 30 percent of the average budget. 

  • If you own or are looking to buy your property, take the time to shop out your mortgage.  By changing the type of mortgage you have (fixed versus adjustable rate, etc.) or finding a lower interest rate, you could save thousands of dollars.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides a tool to explore different interest rates, which allows you to compare loan types and offers. 
  • Rent a room.  If you have extra living space, why not rent it out?  For example, if your home is near a college, consider renting a room to a student. Or rent it to a fellow nurse, they are the best tenants (wink). 
  • Consider DIY.  Performing basic home maintenance saves you from paying someone else to do it and keeping up your property will decrease long-term issues and depreciation.  Plus, learning new things grows your skillset!  If you are a renter, you may be able to negotiate a lower rent for making repairs or doing yard work.  
  • Evaluate your home or rental insurance policies.  Rates can significantly vary by company, so it is worth shopping it out each year. Changing to a higher deductible policy could lower your monthly payments. 

Ways to Reduce Transportation Costs

Let’s be real.  For most Americans, transportation equals cars.  The following approaches can help you save money when purchasing a vehicle.

  • Buy used.  In addition to the lower initial purchase price of a used vehicle, you will pay less in insurance bills and registration fees.  The lower prices can also be paid off faster, leaving you with extra cash on hand each month to put toward financial goals.  
  • Once driven off the dealer’s lot, new cars depreciate immediately.   However, they also come with obvious advantages such as newer tech, warranties, and easier financing.  If you are craving that new car smell, look for vehicles with better gas mileage, reliability, and lower depreciation rates.  One great way to find this information is through Kelley Blue Book’s 5-Year Cost to Own Tool.  It has these comparisons for every class of car—from luxury to minivan.
  • Save yourself thousands by taking out the bicycle or moving those feet!  Biking and walking are good for your wallet, your health, and the planet.  Many local governments are offering rebates on electric bicycles, which will get you even farther.  If you aren’t okay with hoofing it, public transportation, carpooling, and car shares are other options to keep your overall costs down.

By focusing on these significant potential wins within your budget, you no longer have to sweat the small stuff.  So take the advice above and keep that coffee in your cup!

Lume is a bank built just for nurses.  Tools like on-demand pay, salary databases, and retailer discounts can jumpstart your financial success.  These are only available for members, so check out Lume and all it has to offer at uselume.com and sign up for their waiting list!

Kim Carson

Kim Carson is a registered nurse working in the Family Birth Center at Vail Health Hospital in Vail, CO. With over 17 years of experience, she holds specialty certifications in inpatient obstetrics and maternal-newborn nursing and is a board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). After getting into a few sticky financial situations during her early years as a nurse, she now geeks out on personal finance. Kim believes that taking control of your money is key to living a life that meshes with your own values—both in and out of the workspace. When she is not caring for the moms and babies in her community, she is usually outside kayaking, snowboarding, or listening to music.


Answering questions related to all things nursing and money.