The cost of a cuppa

Your daily fix of joe adds up by the end of four years

With so many students forced to trek from the temporary bus stops of the strike, the best option for a quick warm-up is usually a hot cup of coffee. For some students, the small indulgence is part of a daily routine, while others find that the winter blues have them chugging down a cup more frequently. But although a cup is affordable, the small cost can add up. Soon enough, a daily indulgence equals the cost of a new laptop or a year’s textbooks.

Exempting the exam periods, there are 24 weeks in the university calendar. The student who buys only a daily cup of coffee will consume about 120 coffees in these 24 weeks. If this is a medium from Tim Hortons, this adds up to around $194 a year. For Second Cup or Starbucks lovers, that amount rises to $252 and $270, respectively. Over the course of a four-year degree it can accumulate to between $775 and $1,080. This figure is rarely considered when making daily purchases in $2 instalments, but they must eventually be accounted for.

What could have been bought instead of a year’s worth of coffee is what is referred to in economics as an opportunity cost. In this scenario, a new laptop or eventually even a TV could be the opportunity cost of a daily Starbucks indulgence.

Of course, for many students that daily hot cup of coffee is the price they pay to stay awake during class or remain focused during a particularly brutal round of studying for midterms. To those students, I’d like to introduce them to the thermos.

A thermos is a great and inexpensive way to treat oneself to a daily coffee for a fraction of the price. As soon as the temptation to buy a cup of coffee strikes while walking by the Tim Hortons in Davis or the Second Cup in IB, a trusty thermos filled with the good stuff can satisfy instead. For students who don’t want to part with their favourite blend, it’s possible to buy bagged grounds from each of the three main campus coffee retailers to take home and brew themselves.

Admittedly, many students commute to school and a thermos won’t keep its contents hot forever. On the coldest of days a cheap thermos filled with once–piping hot coffee will be lukewarm after a 20-minute commute that involves waiting in bus shelters in the freezing cold, and of course that lovely walk from the temporary bus stops into campus.

Another UTM student I talked to revealed that she keeps a bag of tea bags in her backpack and buys a hot cup of water when she arrived at school with which to make her tea. At each of the campus’s coffee retailers, hot water is just 25 cents (or, if the cashier is kind enough, nothing at all), adding up to a drastically lower yearly sum of at most $30 a school year plus an extra $10 for a box of 100 tea bags.

For students who aren’t a fan of tea, it might be time to try a different flavours. Today a wide variety abounds in most grocery stores. As someone who formerly discounted tea as nothing more than water with an aftertaste, I can definitely say that my opinions have changed since experimenting with different brands and flavours. At the very least your wallet will thank you for making the switch—and so will your body, since drinking tea comes with many health benefits, such as lower cholesterol and mental alertness.

For students who look to their daily cup of coffee for an energy boost, another inexpensive and healthy alternative is fruit. It’s possible to have a slight boost in energy after eating fruit like apples and strawberries because of the sugar content. However, according to, the boost isn’t as instant as coffee’s.

Every once in a while it’s okay to indulge and spend a little on coffee, especially if it’s Roll Up the Rim season, but buying it too often means an empty wallet and a lost opportunity to afford something more useful.

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