My dirty little work secret: Instant Coffee

One of the rules that I have for work is that you should not spend any money to do work. It’s simple and if you stick to it you can save loads – but what about in work beverages?

Or at least you should keep the cost of work to a minimum and this includes things like the cost of getting to work (the commute) and the uniform you wear (suit, tie, shoes, and cufflinks?). I know some people who have watches that cost well over £1000 that they would only wear at work. You can even spend a lot of money on stupid things like your own fancy stationary to make you feel more important – I only write on an moleskin journal but the company paid for it and my pen was a freebie at a conference.

These things are all quite obvious you’d think. The cost of work can be huge and I would estimate that even a penny-pincher like me has spent £50,000 over the last decade and a half jut on the commute. That’s more than I’ve spent on skiing and I love to ski more than I enjoy my commute.

These costs we must endure but there are other costs which can be controlled. These are the things that we do everyday and that cost us money. Things like:

  • Smoking at work (costs you money and health)
  • Eating out for lunch at work
  • Coffees at work – the latté factor

In my current work place we have a choice of free tea bags or free instant coffee. A few years ago when a colleague joined, he was so disturbed by our lack of proper coffee facilities that he bought a Nespresso machine for himself (and everyone else) and put it in the kitchen.

In my work, I see a lot of different work places and often the most desirable offices have a starbuck’s (other chains are available) nearby. 2 coffees a day there can add £1000 a year to your expenses. If you office had free good coffee, consider that a nice £1000 (after tax) payrise!

Caffeine Junky GFF

Now you should know that I am a caffeine addict and I my dosage is so high its measured not by cups but by grams!

When I joined the new company, I ran into a problem of not liking instant coffee (snobbery) and took to buying the Nespresso pods at a cost of around 30p each. Now you can get them cheaper if you shop around but I was drinking 6 a day – sometimes two at a time as they don’t actually contain much coffee. That was about £2 per day or £10 a week or £500 a year!

Was my coffee snobbery really worth £500 a year (or £12,500 over a lifetime) just for workplace coffee? I have to admit that there was a bit of coffee camaraderie around the coffee club but it seems a bit silly now.

The Breakthrough

coffee cafeOne day whilst rummaging in the cupboards I found an old cafetiere which I began to use. I could buy decent coffee for £10 a kilo and make it at work. Nespresso pods contain about 6g each which puts them at £50 a kilo – the price of convenience. This old cafetiere was going to save me £400 over a year! Happy Days. So what if it’s a bit messier and takes longer – I’m making coffee on company time and property.

The Revelation

Sadly the cafetière broke and I decided to have a cup in the morning before I go to work and a travel mug on the commute. First rule of work is to not spend money working – so I didn’t want to buy a new one, just do without (I probably drink too much anyway).

That worked for a while – although I often was struggling with withdrawal – until I recently decided to get some instant coffee when chatting with a colleague.  I had a cup and decided that although it wasn’t great coffee it was still coffee – quick to make, packed full of caffeine and free too! What’s not to like?

And best of all, since humans are best at contrasting qualities rather than knowing their absolute quality; drinking instant coffee has made my run of the mill coffee taste even better!

So there you have it, my dirty little secret. I enjoy instant coffee and might even buy some for home. It saves time, money and improves the taste of “real” coffee. It can be very easy to avoid things we don’t like because we believe that we are too good for bad coffee or wine or whatever – but I’m drinking coffee firstly for the kick and the taste second. What price is your palette?

Thanks, GFF


  1. Just remind yourself how much you are saving as you drink your free instant coffee. Add in the compound growth on your savings too.


  2. There’s a free bean coffee machine at work but it keeps breaking down so I can’t be bothered to rely on it. That means I too drink instant coffee but I don’t like the free stuff at work so bring my own in (L’Or or Carte Noire, whichever is on offer). I make use of the free milk. I also drink instant coffee at home at weekends but drink mostly green tea – as they don’t have those at work I bring my own.

    There’s a Costa and Cafe Nero round the corner from the office – only been in there when work were paying for lunch there!


    • bringing in your own instant coffee??? Now that’s a new one. 🙂
      I drink my coffee black but I’ve heard of some offices where employees who start at 7 or 8 bringing in their own cereal for breakfast and using the company milk.
      There can be no worse penny pinching than taking away the “free” milk that employees use since they are up before they naturally would be – but one place i know of did that to save money – it didn’t help the atmosphere one bit.
      2l bottles replaced with 5ml tubs of UHT milk.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you all need to be grateful for what you get free at work. In the public sector you have to bring everything yourself. Fortunately I work at home most of the time so I don’t even think about it.


    • I am not sure all jobs in the public sector require you to bring your own – it depends on the workplace.
      What I would say is that to go from bean-to-cup to instant coffee and a hot water tap (as happened to me in one company) makes a big difference.


  4. […] When I left that company in 2015 to join the company that I spent 4 years with (before leaving in September), there was no country club, no gym and no free lunch – this place didn’t even have any restaurant facilities for the over 100 employees. They treated employees badly and were cheap. Instead the grim reality was that you had a roadside chip van (streetfood if you like) or you could sit in the 1970s themed crappy kitchen and use the antique facilities to microwave what you brought in as a packaged lunch. It was so bad for one employee that he brought in his own Nespresso machine so that he wouldn’t have to drink Nescafé! I stayed long enough to even get used to the coffee (dirty little secret). […]


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