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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Affordable Coffee from a K-Cup?

Posted by Tim Stobbs on February 25, 2015

Over the holidays I have a well meaning gift to my wife and I of a Kurig coffee machine.  It’s just one brand of several types out that that use disposal coffee pods and at first I’m completely admit my first thought was: what the hell am I going to do with this?

You see I already know from using K-cups at work that the little pods are not cheap like around $0.75 to $0.80 per pod.  So when you have already been drinking dripped brewed coffee for years why the hell would I want to spend a small fortune buying little expensive coffee pods?

Yet cost isn’t everything in life so when my wife suggested we give it a try before making up our minds I thought: oh why not?  If it is bad, we just get rid of it.

Anyways, during our initial use of the machine I had to admit it was handy to have around when you just want a single cup of coffee.  My wife particularly liked it after lunch since she usually just heated up the old coffee that was made that morning…which is you ever microwave old coffee you know that isn’t that good.  For her she was getting a much better cup of coffee after lunch and since she only drank that one cup it didn’t make sense to make a second pot of coffee.

Yet the cost of those K-cups was driving me nuts…there had to be a better way.  So I turn to good old Google for a solution and come across reusable K-cup pods (which apparently won’t work with the new 2.0 machines unless you hack them…just Google it).  I’m like, oh ya!  More less waste and you can use your own ground coffee in them so you can even have the same old coffee that I’m used to in my morning pot of coffee.

Except it appears some of them by design are a bit of pain to use as you have to replace one section of the machine to use them, which seems sort of pointless to me.  Anyway after digging around in Amazon’s website I come across one that looks just like a regular K-cup.  No parts to change out, just put your coffee in close the lid and brew.  Also you can get two of these little reusable K-cup in a package for around $15.  So I decide to give it a try and order them.

Well when I get them I had a look at them and it seemed fairly easy to use them.  We played with the amount of coffee you need to add to get a damn close copy to the taste of my morning drip pot of coffee. Yet after that is is all good.  The reuseable is easy to use and saves you a small fortune in buying all disposal K-cups.  The only real downside the reuseable K-cup is you end up using a bit more coffee per cup than you would with a traditional drip brewer.   So there is a bit of an increased cost to using them, but it isn’t huge by any means perhaps 1/2 tsp extra per cup, but this mainly because we like our coffee strong.  I don’t have exact values, but I would approximate our savings as 60% less than a regular K-cup.

In our case this is saved by making a smaller pot first thing in the morning, so overall it likely not much more coffee usage in the house by having the machine in the house.  I estimate the reuseable K-cups are about 20% more expensive than our usual drip pots of coffee.

Then my wife has a brain wave which I love…why not just buy flavour coffee in disposal K-cups.  After all you never really want more than a cup of flavour coffee at a time (ok, at least we do).  Also to limit our spending on this we choose to only buy the disposal K-cups with our spending cash.  It should be a treat, not a everyday thing.

So all in all, I have to say I’m surprised to be agreeing to keeping the machine in the house.  I noticed in the instructions that it can go from stone cold water to ready in just four minutes.  So rather than keeping it on and plugin all the time I put it on a power bar and shut it down when we aren’t using it.  That helps keep the power bills down from just leaving it plugin all the time.

In the end, it is possible to have one of these machines in your house and not spend a small fortune on K-cups.  Just buy one of the reusable K-cup and take the extra 15 seconds to fill it up and empty after you are done.  Does anyone else use these machines regularly?  Any other tips to share?  I’m still mostly new to this.

The Impulse Buy

Posted by Tim Stobbs on February 17, 2015

I looked at my hand in confusion and was almost in shock.

“Did I just really do that?”  I asked aloud.

I look at the screen again.  “Yep”

I just bought a ebook on impulse.  Oh my, is the world ending now?  But wait this is the second impulse buy I’ve done in the last two months. I bought a DVD on impulse in January. Will I be struck down by a vengeful god?


But in all honesty, both events were highly unusual for me.  I’m so used to doing just about everything via delayed gratification that when I impulse buy I’m a bit rusty at the experience.  It’s much more normal for me to consider a purchase for a while and then after a week or two finally buy it or not.  At least when it come to consumer goods.

Food on the other hand I’m practically an expert in impulse buying.  Most of my lunches out at work are not planned.  In the grocery store I often pickup one extra item that I want, but don’t need and wasn’t on the list.

How do I justify this Jekyll and Hyde on my spending?  It’s simple…I planned it this way. WTF?!?!

I know after many years of trail and error my week point in spending is books and movies.  As such I tend to plan those purchases out a long time in advance.  Typically at a minimum a few weeks, this tends to keep down the amount of both items I buy and forces me more often than not to use the library instead to try out something I’ve never seen or read.  After that if I still like the book or movie a lot and it has a high degree of potential for watching/reading again and again then I will consider buying it.  Even then I still tend to think about it for a while.

Yet exercising that degree of self control over everything I buy can be exhausting, so rather than try to control everything.  I focus instead on my main weak spots and big purchases.  Then I allow myself more slack when it comes to food purchases that I make with my spending cash.  Buying a cookie because I want one isn’t a major issue so I’m not going to turn into one.

In the end, the impulse purchases above were notable since they were from my typical weak points of spending.  To me it was a clue to watch myself a bit more in the weeks ahead to ensure I don’t slide into my old patterns of buying too many books and movies.  Yet both purchases did point out something interesting to me.

The movies purchase was in fact season one of a TV show I had borrowed from the library and enjoyed a LOT.  So when I came across it for about half price I decided on impulse to buy it.  Do I regret it after the fact? Nope, not really.  This brings up an interesting point for me. Should I consider the occasional impulse buy being okay if the item in question I would have purchases anyway and it is on for a deep discount? While this has the potential to be a slippery slope, I think I will allow myself a bit more latitude on these items in the future.

The second purchase of the ebook also brought up an interesting point.  We had two older gift cards (like months old) in the house with only a few dollars left on them.  My wife had just finished buying some ebooks and used up one of them.  So I took a look around and bought an ebook on impulse to use up the other gift card.  I found one that looked interesting and was rated fairly good on Goodreads.  What this showed me was I tend to have a disconnect around gift cards compared to actual cash, since I don’t think I would have bought the book if I had been paying with my credit card.

That particular effect is rather well known in academic circles as the pain of paying (see here for a description from Dan Ariely).  The more disconnected we are from cash the less careful we are with the money.  In the world of pure reason, a $1 on a gift card is exactly the same as a $1 cash but in real life we treat them differently.  We are more willing to spend a gift card than cash.

I had thought since I knew about this issue that I had made so progress on overcoming it…while the ebook purchase proved me wrong on that front.  Ugh.  Anyway, lesson learned I need to keep up the controls about spending especially with gift cards since I tend to be a bit more lose with spending them.

In the end, an impulse buy is only bad if you treat it that way.  You don’t have to control yourself at all times, but I do recommend some rules of engagement that you create for yourself to help you out with your problem areas of spending.  It won’t be perfect, but it should help cut down on the junk purchases in the long run.  Just don’t freak out when you break your own rules…use them instead as a means to learn why you did and if any changes are required.

How do you manage your impulse buying?  Do you use any rules for it or not?

In and Out

Posted by Tim Stobbs on December 29, 2014

Ugh, Christmas is over.  The presents are unwrapped, you have setup, washed or otherwise started to use your new gifts.  Good for you.  Now on the flip side what are you getting rid of?

Pardon?!? All to often we get new stuff in our lives and don’t even give it a second thought that perhaps this would be an excellent time to also consider getting rid of a equal number of items to ensure your pile of stuff doesn’t grow.  I personally try to get to this the week following Christmas.

In some cases, this is a very easy thing to do.  For example, I got a new pair of jeans and tossed an old pair that I had previously fixed a hole in the pocket of.  The rest of the jeans were also starting to wear out so it was an easy decision to make.  Heck while you are in your closest you could just do a check in to see if you actually wear everything you have in there.

Other things are a bit more complex, like we got a new Keurig coffee maker for a gift.  So does that mean I should toss out my old coffee pot.  Perhaps, but I also use that coffee pot a LOT right now.  So in this case, I’ll take a wait and see approach to decide if I will use one more than the other and if I should get rid of something in the future.

Giving stuff and receiving it is easy to do.  Getting rid of things isn’t always so easy especially if you have problems tossing perfectly usable items (like I do).  So I tend to use the following methods:

  • Give it to a friend. In some cases, you might have someone else who can use something you used to have and they would love it.  When this works out it is wonderful for everyone.
  • Donate it. Nearly perfect used clothes are easy to donate and so are small household goods to some charities.  Other things you have to consider if it would be really useful since it is fairly won.
  • Sell it. Online sites make this significantly easier to do now and you can also give something away for free if you do not feel it would be worth selling.
  • Or if you just can not find a way to get rid of it…throw it away. I hate to do this, but accept sometimes I can not find something a home.

So do you do a post holiday purge?  If so, how you do handle it?