The "latte factor"* is a big thing with frugality fanatics these days. The idea is that many people can save a significant amount of money if they cut out small, but regular, unnecessary expenses (those daily tall double shot nonfat extra foam extra hot vanilla lattes, for example). Some argue that this can make a major difference to the budget.
I've started to realize that while I am frugal in many respects (I rarely purchase new clothes, we have only one car and no car payment, we go out to eat once a week or less, etc. etc.), I am not at all frugal when it comes to beverages. I'm a pretty literal example of someone who lives the latte factor - or in my case, drink factor. Yes, I like Starbucks. I buy drinks there much, much less often than I used to, but on average, I'd say I get one tasty coffee treat per week. I'm slightly addicted to Diet Dr. Pepper, which I'd never bought until I received two coupons for free bottles of it and discovered that it really does taste like the non-diet version. I have a special affinity for Cherry Lime-Aids from Sonic, that most Southern of all fast-food drive-ins. And - don't judge now - I do enjoy a glass of cheap merlot most nights of the week.
At various times, I've tried to drink more water and edge out these other things, but I'm not a big fan of plain H2O. The tap water here is terrible; I don't care how safe it is, it tastes like a watering hose. I've purchased filters, but I always forget to change them out, and generally it all ends up adding to the kitchen clutter. So if I do drink water, it's bottled water, and then I feel bad for contributing to an environmental problem.
The Simple Dollar had an interesting post recently about quality of life and whether it relates in any way to consumerism. In theory, I don't believe our quality of life should depend on the stuff we buy. But when it comes to beverages...well, after a long day of staring at my computer, a glass of wine feels awfully good. After a night punctuated by half a dozen wake-up calls from our teething son, a latte does make the next day seem just a bit brighter, a bit more do-able. And in the middle of the day, when I have so many miles to go before I can shut the lid of my laptop, an occasional soda feels like a good pick-me-up (I know - neither frugal NOR healthy! But at least I am honest.)
I'm a lot more observant about my spending habits than I used to be. Sometimes, my observations inspire me to make changes. Other times, I find myself taking no action, either because it doesn't seem necessary or I just don't want to. This drink thing might be an example of the latter. I'm proud of how far we've come with reducing debt and adding to our savings; I'm pleased to see that we're still making good progress, despite my beverage addictions. Therefore, I'm not sure I'm ready to make more cuts. It's something I'll have to consider further.
*I think this was coined by David Bach, of "Smart People Finish Rich" fame.