Lifestyle Inflation and Coffee Beans

Mr. FP found this Contigo mug abandoned in his classroom and now it goes everywhere with me. Work, the grocery store, library story time, etc.

Mr. FP found this Contigo mug abandoned in his classroom and now it goes everywhere with me. Work, the grocery store, library story time, etc.

I love coffee a lot, as perhaps I have mentioned. Never drank it at all until I was over 30. When Big Brother was a baby, I was doing an online graduate degree and the only time I had to do my homework was when he was napping–so right after lunch. Ever tried to concentrate on homework right after lunch? Enter the most wonderful bean.

Despite my affection for the stuff, I don’t grind my own coffee beans. I buy ground coffee (Seattle’s Best, #4) at the grocery store. I was joking about the “horror” of this with  the awesome Mrs. Frugalwoods, who is in the midst of an experiment to determine whether Costco beans, at five-something a pound, are a sufficient replacement for their fancypants ten-something a pound beans, which I can only assume are roasted by unicorns. She joked back, “I’ll buy you a coffee grinder.”

Chickpeas thawing for hummus-making, a common sight in my kitchen.

Chickpeas thawing for hummus-making, a common sight in my kitchen.

The exchange got me thinking about why I don’t grind my own beans, and it’s only partly about buying a grinder. It’s more about taking on another chore. See, on one recent morning, I was straining cold-brew coffee a little at a time, boiling water to make pasta for pasta salad, heating milk in the microwave to make yogurt, pre-rinsing the bodily-fluids laundry, and feeding the children breakfast, all simultaneously. And I had to be at work by 11. Do I really want to add “grind beans” to my to-do list?

“Lifestyle inflation” is a term usually used for things that cost money, like buying a nicer car when you get a raise or moving to a bigger house when your second child is born. But I find I also need to be conscious of revenue-neutral or even money-saving kinds of “lifestyle inflation”–chores that benefit the environment or have taste, health, or other intangible benefits but take up my finite time.

I want to do, well, everything. But every new chore I take on means just a smidge less time for everything else.

Grandma FP gave me her spare slow cooker several years back and it is still my workhorse. I often run it several days in a row.

Grandma FP gave me her spare slow cooker several years back and it is still my workhorse. I often run it several days in a row.

Freshly ground coffee beans probably are better, and after the initial cost of the grinder, I would not be spending more money on an ongoing basis. But I would be committing to a new chore, when my life is already pretty full. A person can do anything, but not everything. There are plenty of things, besides bean grinding, that I think would be good to do that I just don’t:

  • Using cloth trainers at night for Little Brother. I got tired of the smell and the laundry and the rinsing-in-the-toilet (PLEASE let this be over soon) and now he sleeps in (gasp!) disposable pull-on training pants
  • Making bread. I can buy it for $1 a loaf at the bakery outlet
  • Line-drying the family clothes
  • Taking the bus to work instead of owning a car
  • Gardening
  • Shopping for local produce/meat/dairy instead of just buying what’s on sale at Sprouts
  • Changing our oil/doing basic car maintenance
  • Making chocolate syrup for Mr. FP
  • Making more snacks from scratch instead of serving Goldfish crackers from Costco
  • Making seltzer


What tasks I take on is based on a constantly shifting assessment of my time, our family’s needs, and my personal priorities and preferences. (I don’t particularly like trying to grow plants, but I do like sewing, for instance.) Over the next few list, things from the top list might get dropped and things from the bottom will probably be added. But the coffee tastes good to me, so for now, I’m filing it under “Ain’t broke. Don’t fix.”

Do you hold the line on chore inflation? How do you decide where to focus your energies? Do you have a list like mine of things you kind of wish you did, but don’t have the time and energy for?


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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

15 responses to “Lifestyle Inflation and Coffee Beans”

  1. kahlerklan says :

    Left behind the air drying laundry and darning socks when I started working part time. I’m sure there were others but can’t remember. Oh yeah, the birthday cake I just had to buy because I chose to make homemade mac and cheese instead for my son’s birthday dinner. Husband grinds his own coffee beans. I would do the same thing in your shoes or rather your mug.

  2. agoodstewardess says :

    When you’re a working mom and you want time for your kids, some things are worth paying for! Time is important!

  3. agoodstewardess says :

    I was going to do cloth diapers but they kept leaking all the time on her clothes, so I decided to just do disposable. Oh well, life is short and you can’t take your money with you, so sometimes it’s worth it to spend it on things like that 🙂

    • frugalparagon says :

      Cloth diapers are not for everyone! I got pretty good results from my BumGenius and even used them overnight (with hemp and and an extra nylon cover over top) but troubleshooting them takes a lot of intellectual energy.I guess I kind of feel like I did my time with cloth diapers (both my kids wore them, including simultaneously) so now I’m entitled to the Pull-Ups!

  4. Mrs PoP says :

    Mr PoP grinds his own beans for his espresso shots every day. I use tea bags (not loose leaf) and a microwave. =)

    But like you, we’ve found it’s about making choices about how to spend finite time. In 2014, I tried making my own laundry soap and liked the results, but found it took more time because I needed to make the soap and pre-treat more than I do with store bought. In 2015, we have so much going on, I gave up the DIY laundry soap for now, but I’ll try and get back to it after the renovations are done.

    • frugalparagon says :

      Definitely all about choices! I find that I find homemade detergent to be much less stressful if I also keep around a bottle of Whisk, which I use for occasional loads of cold laundry (I find that the powder doesn’t dissolve well in my water here and I am waaaay too lazy to make liquid) and for when I run out of the homemade stuff and need to do a load before I have time to make more.

      Microwaves are AWESOME! I use mine for making yogurt and also for heating up my cold-brewed coffee in the winter.

  5. David says :

    I totally understand this.

    I’ve dialed up on some things this year:

    1. Grind my own flour. This is awesome. Corn is about the only thing that’s annoying, and only because it’s slow and can overheat my mill. But I get tons of compliments.

    2. Trying to preserve produce from the garden and u-pick farms. Lots and lots of tedious prep work. Our brand-new (in 2015) chest freezer is already 90% full (yikes!) from meat, stock, and some produce. The dehydrator I bought has been my saving grace. It doesn’t work for everything, but the things it’s excellent for are truly awesome (dried strawberries, cherries, zucchini chips; haven’t tried cooking with dry green beans yet but they should work nicely in winter soups and one-pots).

    3. Tripled the size of our garden. For the mental health benefit alone this is worth it (to me).

    I’ve also dialed back:

    1. Homemade chips (other than dehydrator ones) and crackers are incredible but way too time-consuming to do regularly. The only homemade snack food I make is granola because it’s 15 minutes and done.

    2. Trying to avoid all paper towel use. Draining pan-fried food or wiping a cast-iron skillet clean with a cloth towel? Good luck getting all the grease out in the wash. I actually like using cloth towels for cleaning rags, but for oily stuff I still use paper towels and then throw them in the compost (even though they’ll take forever to degrade, they will degrade).

    3. A/C use. We don’t use it willy-nilly, but if it’s 85F and muggy in the house and it will be hot for another day? You bet I’m turning the AC on. We tried zero AC last year and while we survived just fine, it’s worth it to us to use it on the worst days.

    Probably more dial up and dial back things I can’t think of right now.

    FWIW I grind my own beans because I actually like the little ritual. To be honest, while I can taste the difference between cheap coffee and expensive, even the cheap is quite drinkable when brewed in an AeroPress at sub-boiling (I use 190F) and not a drip machine. I buy the cheapest fair-trade I can find, which Costco has at around $6/lb. Most of what makes “bad” coffee bad is the brewing method (especially drip machines into a bottom-heated carafe).

    • frugalparagon says :

      Drip coffee–blech. Maybe part of why I can stand my ground coffee is that’s cold-brewed, not drip.

      Sometimes I wonder if there’s ANYTHING you don’t do, so it’s interesting to see that there are! We have actually been using more paper towels lately because we keep microwaving bacon, but I hear you can also use cut-up paper bags of the sort flour comes in. (I know you don’t buy flour, but maybe the wheat comes in those bags?) I actually DO use an old dish towel to dry my cast iron skillet, but if it’s very greasy, I put a teeny tiny bit of soap in it. (My Granny must be rolling over in her grave.)

      Our new house has a swamp cooler, so while it’s not as satisfying at AC, at least it’s pretty guilt-free. I’m with you on AC. When we lived in the humid East, I couldn’t stand a muggy interior.

  6. Mrs SSC says :

    Chore inflation is a great term… I think in a twisted way I want to retire early to do more chores! With two kids, over an hour in the car commuting, and ten hours at the office, I currently have no problem paying for some conveniences like pre made, pre sliced bread. But I miss having time to make bread, or fresh pasta. When we first started trying to be more frugal we tried to do a lot of these chores ourselves… Then realized saving a dollar here and there was wearing us out…. But we look forward to doing more of this work ourselves when we retire!

    • frugalparagon says :

      YIKES that’s a tough day! I work just part-time now, but I do think that when the kids get a little older, I might be able to do more. Make sure to figure how much you can save when you’re not working when you calculate that RE date :-).

  7. seattlegirluw says :

    My husband and I both have health problems, so lifestyle inflation is always a battle. I don’t want to take up my limited energy, and I don’t want him hurting something (pretty much all of his joints are a problem at the moment) trying to save a couple of bucks. So I do trade-offs the best I can.

    Yesterday, it was paying someone $15 to retip his pool cue or buying a kit and doing it ourselves for like $5. I sure as hell wasn’t going to do it because I hate working with super glue. It never ends well for me. And my husband has severe eczema, so he shouldn’t be around those chemicals. In that case, I’ll pay $10 more for someone else to do it — and do it right.

    You’ve probably already looked into this, but electric coffee grinders are apparently not a big deal. They’re handheld, so you could even do it while watching a pot on the stove. My husband got one — to grind something else, since we don’t drink coffee — and he loved the ease. It cost $30 on Amazon. Just a thought.

    • frugalparagon says :

      I think it’s important to know your limitations and your skill sets! The Frugalwoods folks often mention how grateful they are to have enough good health to DIY so many things (changing a tire, for instance, which takes a lot of upper body strength).

      Nope, I have not researched coffee grinders even a little bit. Got other stuff going on and it hasn’t even made it on the radar screen. I admit I sometimes get caught up in researching things I’m not serious about buying, but I try reeeeally hard not to. I have only so much intellectual energy!

  8. Mrs. Frugalwoods says :

    This is such a great perspective and one that’s really reassuring to me as a momma-to-be! I feel like there are a million ways my time could be used to create more stuff from scratch (like laundry detergent, etc), but I’m not willing to do it. I definitely pay the “convenience tax” every now and then to save myself some time. I totally agree with the idea of spending time on the things you want to and not on the rest–works just the same with spending. I still want to buy you a coffee grinder though–or maybe I’ll just send you mine after we have Babywoods ;).

    • frugalparagon says :

      Oh my goodness, modern motherhood is like the world’s longest to-do list, except everybody has a different list, and everybody thinks that their list is the best and you should do it, too.

      I’m just trying to live by these rules: Don’t judge other people by my own standards. Don’t judge myself by the standards of others. Doesn’t mean I don’t LEARN FROM or get inspired by other people, I just don’t compare myself to them. (!ell, I try not to, anyway.)

      After baby arrives is no time to be making compromises on the coffee front. Just let something else go by the wayside instead :-).

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