I really do have an addictive personality: 1 week of coffee = 3 days of pain

I’ve talked about my addictive personality before in terms of why I don’t play video games and how it’s difficult for me to get off fora (until I’m kicked off or quit cold turkey).

I almost never drink coffee.  Usually this is because when I get a migraine, coffee + aspirin + sleep is the only way to make it go away, so I want to keep my tolerance low.  But occasionally after a bad night I’ll partake in some decaf or when things are really bad, a full cup of regular.  I almost never do this more than 2 days in a row.  And never after 11am if I want to get any sleep at night.

Recently I had some bad deadline times.  So I drank coffee for a full 7 days, starting with a cup of decaf and ending with 2 cups of regular by the time the week was over.  I started craving it and could feel it making my life better.

Then I turned in the thing and crashed hard.  The next day I had a major headache and had a cup of decaf to try to wean down.  It helped a little but not enough.  When the weekend came, I stopped drinking coffee and ended up in bed with a pounding headache.  I kept wanting coffee so badly.  A little sip of DH’s salted caramel mocha made angels sing in my head, but wasn’t enough to truly make things right.

I still want coffee.

Most people can drink caffeine for 7 days straight (some of them decaf or only half a cup!) and then go cold-turkey with maybe only a little bit of tiredness as an effect.  I can’t.

Most people take longer to become truly addicted to something.  Apparently not me.

I had Valium once prior to a surgery.  If it were available OTC, I would eventually never leave my bed.  I still want Valium.

So, this is why I don’t do drugs.  Because it doesn’t take me long to crave them and to crash when I don’t get them.  And it’s scary not being in control of my body.  Also, I don’t like withdrawal symptoms.

Do you have problems with addiction?  Do you ever wean yourself off caffeine?  How does that go?

Latte factor vs big item spending

One of the good points that Laura Vanderkam makes in her book,  All the Money in the World, is that if you don’t buy the big ticket item, if you spend less on your wedding, take the cheaper vacation, buy the less expensive house, hold on to your car a few more years etc., then that money can easily buy a large number of lattes, weekly housecleaning, and so on.

Earlier personal finance books, such as those by David Bach, mention the other trade-off.  By not indulging in those lattes, you can get that fancy vacation, the bigger house, the wedding of your dreams, and so on.  (Of course, he also makes the point that if you’re not saving for retirement, the latte should probably go until you’re making ends meet and providing yourself a safety cushion).

Elizabeth Warren with her balanced money formula combines these two views, by saying that really no more than 50% should be going to the mandatory items like your housing, and something like 30% can go to either lattes or vacations (or both)– your choice. 

What view is right?  Well, it all goes to diminishing marginal utility.  At some point you have had enough lattes that another one isn’t going to make you marginally more happy than saving the equivalent amount for a big ticket item.  At some point with housing, your house is nice enough that rather than paying for more housing you should allow yourself little treats.

The problem, Vanderkam notes, is that people tend to misjudge the happiness they get from small daily treats compared to larger ticket items.  Most people would be a little happier indulging a small amount regularly compared to having the large annual vacation.  Although, with anticipatory happiness while saving for the big ticket items, those happiness numbers may be more equal than some happiness studies claim.

So should you get rid of that latte factor in order to buy the house or the vacation?  Or should you buy a smaller house and scrimp on vacations so you can have a cleaning lady or Starbucks without guilt?  Only you know the shape of your utility function and where it hits your budget constraint, and only you can make that decision.

Are more a saving up for big purchases kind of person or a sweat the big stuff so you don’t have to sweat the small stuff kind of person?  Or has your budget constraint shifted so you can have both?