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How to save money on good coffee and still support your local businesses

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Over the last couple of months, in order to follow social distancing rules, lots of people have been getting their favorite morning jolt of caffeine at home instead of at a coffee shop. 

From early March to early April, Google search results for how to "make coffee at home" quadrupled. There was a 129% increase in cold brew growler sales, and an 11% increase in equipment sales (coffee makers, electric kettles) across the U.S. during the same period, according to data released on May 20 by financial services company Square. There was also a 109% increase in subscription coffee sales, the company reported.

Making your own coffee can be a smart savings move — and you do it and still support local small businesses. Here's how.

You can save real money making your coffee at home

Could maintaining this new routine of making your coffee at home instead of buying it from a cafe really help you put more money in the bank over time? Certainly, says Doug Boneparth, a certified financial planner and the president of Bone Fide Wealth. 

Boneparth is a coffee enthusiast, and he created a calculator that shows you how much you'd save by making your coffee at home. The median price for a coffee subscription is $14.25, according to Square. So you're saving about $2 per cup, according to Boneparth's calculator, if you make your own. 

If you're drinking two cups a day, that's a savings of about $1,500 a year. 

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Boneparth also created the calculator to dispel the idea that people were derailing bigger goals like retirement by purchasing takeout coffee, though. The math shows you probably won't get rich by skipping lattes just as you probably won't go broke by splurging on them.

"It doesn't really work like that. You focus on the big items like rent, transportation, if you really want to move the meter," he says. "Having said that, you cannot discount the fact that savings is savings, and for some people, $400 or $500 or $600 a year for one item like coffee is pretty good savings."

And you can support your local businesses at the same time

Even if you're making coffee at home, you can still find ways to patronize and support your local coffee shop. Many coffee shops have been pivoting to make up for the loss of walk-in customers by selling more bags of beans, or ground coffee, for customers to prepare themselves.

Over the last few months, Andytown Coffee Roasters in San Francisco has been delivering supplies via USPS such as coffee beans and coffee makers, and has stayed open for pickup orders at two locations.

"I think everyone is thinking, 'When are we going to go back to the way it was?' But we need to keep looking forward to this new reality we are living in," says Lauren Crabbe, the company's owner and founder. "We can't keep looking back. No, we have to think about what does post-Covid coffee and food service look like." 

If you have spent $140 on a coffee maker or electric kettle, and there is a neighborhood coffee shop you love that is operating like Andytown, you might consider ordering supplies from them. Square economist Felipe Chacon says you might have an even better chance of getting the blends and tools you already enjoy this way, rather than ordering online and having to wait because of increased demand. 

This kind of conscious shift in spending habits can serve you both now and after the pandemic by putting you more in control of your finances, Boneparth says. "That is probably one of the most important things you can do in all of personal finance or in all of money management. And it doesn't hurt to be drinking a better cup of coffee."

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