Recently I freaked out over something that was making me happy. That something was the amount of money I had been spending on coffee and lunches in a local cafe.
Actually, scrap that. I wasn’t freaking out about the amount – as in, the numerical figure – I was freaking out that I was spending ANYTHING. And with good reason I suppose.
I have a beautiful desk set up in my room. I own a kitchen and a kettle and teabags. What could I possibly gain from nipping across the road to a cafe with a machine that makes coffee all foamy, and paying an inflated price for it?
Money guilt set in, anxiety bubbled up and I started to talk to myself pretty nastily about the whole thing, from both a financial and a body image point of view. My internal dialogue went a lot like this:
“You’re not taking millions of pounds in revenue, so why are you wasting money on coffee?”
“You spent good money on a nice desk. WORK AT IT.”
“You have food in the fridge. Why are you paying other people for simple lunches instead of keeping the calories down at home?”
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Despite the above not sounding particularly kind, some of this is rational. Needless spending can be a mistake if you’re not exactly Ms Moneybags. But here’s the thing – if you’re sensible about this and aren’t genuinely spending yourself into a whirling pool of debt, you’re not really paying for posh coffee and long lunches. It’s about much, much more than that.
What are you really paying for?
After some reflection – and some wonderful encouragement from my brilliant support network – I’ve come to realise why I like working from cafes and coffee shops, and why I should feel fine about continuing to frequent them.
1. It’s a slither of much needed me-time
I love running a business, but it’s exhausting. I am normally concentrating so hard that I’m constantly rinsing my brain whilst telling myself I have no time for self-care. The walk to the cafe, the luxury of browsing a menu and something delicious at the end of it counts towards looking after my mental health.
2. What you buy can be good for you
On the subject of self-nourishment, those with a reasonable amount of willpower can easily frame their cafe experience as having nutritional benefits.
Have you ever made your own healthy lunch with the best of intentions, but simply not fancied it once it’s nice and prepared? That rarely happens when you eat out, because even their healthiest, most lettuce-packed meal has been tested over and over until it’s just right (my exception here is matcha lattes. They are grim). Pick food and drink with high nutritional benefits to chow down on while you work, and you’ll be feeding your mind, body and soul as well as your productive capabilities.
3. It connects me to my community
I am so lucky to live in Islington, a bustling North London borough that’s in the middle of everything (safe to say, I’m not a country girl at all. But the following can be applied to my suburban readers for sure!).
While I can afford to live here I want to make the most of it, so connecting with the people and culture around me while I work is a luxury I want to indulge myself in. Otherwise, what’s the point of being holed up in my little flat and missing all the life taking place around me?
The particular cafe I choose to visit a couple of times a week is my cafe of choice because:
- They don’t mind me using their wifi for hours (I can’t convey just how much I appreciate this).
- They’re very purse friendly (full english breakfast, with tea and toast, for £4.50? Yes. Yes please).
- I’ve been there so much that I’m now on really good terms with the servers, as well as the locals who pop in for their daily brew and an hour to read the newspaper. It’s actually lovely.
- They’re an independent business. For obvious reasons, I’m a very keen supporter of independent businesses.
4. It’s space to think
Above all else, I’m not a person immune to distractions or able to deal well with repetition. If I’ve got something highly complicated or technical on my agenda then sure, silence is golden, but anything creative requires a background buzz and a stream of food and drink that I don’t then feel bad about not washing up immediately. What I’m paying for is the space and the setting to really do my job well.
Need some help?
Are you struggling with coffee shop guilt yourself? Here’s some actionable tips to strike a balance that lets you relax and own your day.
- Find a budget friendly business. If money is a concern – as it is for almost all of us – you can’t very well start on the £6.50 cappuccinos. Do some exploring and pick somewhere with a reasonably priced menu – perhaps set a limit, like £1.80 for a cup of tea.
- Price it up against workspace. Going stir-crazy at home has a really negative impact on your day, so it’s very sensible to get outta there. If you’re worried about the options you’re left with, price up three coffees from your cafe of choice and compare it to the cost of membership to a workspace. The average prices where I live are around £250 per month to work in communal space (and, obviously, they won’t feed me!). That works out at around £60 per week, which I am definitely NOT spending on the equivalent of in my local cafe despite spending a significant amount of hours there. I’m pretty ok with that.
- Limit your visits. I head out to my usual place about twice a week, and I get so much done in that environment that that’s usually plenty enough. The rest of my week are nice, cheap days working from home. Avoid overspending by limiting how often you frequent your favourite place to work from and the amount you spend will stay totally reasonable.
Have you been feeling guilty about working from cafes? Drop me a tweet – I’d love to know if this post was helpful to you.