Your Spending Weakness: Latte Factor or Gazingus Pin?

While I was reading Smart Couples Finish Rich and Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach, I had a minor dilemma about a key portion of both books: Bach loves to kick off his books (all of them) with some anecdotes about the “Latte Factors” in the lives of his clients and seminar attendees, but I didn’t feel that the Latte Factor applied to my situation.

In brief, a person’s Latte Factor is a small regular expense that he or she doesn’t even think about which, over time, can add up to quite a lot of wasted money. Examples of this are:

  • a daily $4 Starbuck’s morning latte on the way to work
  • the afternoon snack from the vending machine
  • dining out for lunch each work day
  • post-workout smoothie from your gym’s juice bar 3-4 days/week
  • a pack of cigarettes every one or two days
  • paying for a laundry or cleaning service instead of doing it yourself

Bach writes that EVERYONE can afford to save (aka pay themselves first) by simply giving up some of their unrecognized Latte Factors. This is true enough, but not really useful to me since my unnecessary purchases don’t fall into the Latte Factor pattern of regular spending. Let’s just say that with over 20% of my gross income already going into my combined Roth IRA and 401(k) retirement accounts, I have already eliminated nearly all of my Latte Factors and am not exactly a slacker in the savings skills department.

I prepare my own food at home and bring my lunches and snacks to work at least 95% of the time, even stuff like shakes and smoothies. I keep a bag of coffee and a tin of green tea leaves at work in case I get the urge to have a cup of something hot instead of heading across the parking lot to the Nature’s Table for a $2 cup. I don’t smoke. I have more or less given up vending machine foods except for the occasional yummy yogurt, raisin and nuts trail mix that sells for $0.60 a bag. (I cave in about once a month and buy one.)

So, while the Latte Factor might be a good starting point for the Level 0 savings newbie, those of us who are a bit more advanced and yet still aware of some remaining leaks in the financial boat need a different paradigm to describe our type of unnecessary spending.

This is where the “Gazingus Pin” analogy defined in Joe Dominguez’s Your Money or Your Life comes into play. Unlike a Latte Factor, which is like a small but constant leak in your wallet generally in the category of food or perceived necessities, a Gazingus Pin could be anything that you, as an individual, find nearly impossible to resist. Purchases of Gazingus Pins may not be daily or even weekly, but their cumulative damage to your budget is enough to be noted over a year of expense tracking. A person with a Gazingus Pin problem may go for months without purchasing something from their GP trigger categories, but as soon as they are exposed to their Pins again, they will almost always bite. Common Gazingus Pins are clothing, shoes, bleeding edge tech gadgets, hobby items, and just about anything that falls under the category of “Collectibles.”

My Gazingus Pin when it comes to spending is the online too-good-to-pass-up deal. I’m a sucker for $10 after mail-in rebate + coupon code + kickback deals, discounted software upgrades, random $0.99 music downloads, books, garden catalog seed and plant sales, and clearance offers of just about any kind. I won’t buy unnecessary things at full price, but I WILL pick them up at 70% off MSRP, even if I don’t need them (yet). As a result, I have about 3 years’ worth of video and PC games I have yet to play, enough books to keep me engaged for at least ANOTHER 3 years, more seeds than I know what to do with in my dinky garden (I barely managed to squeeze in the 16 impulse buy daylily clumps I got last fall) and about two dozen other seedlings that need to go outside ASAP, a truly astounding collection of humorous t-shirts from and, and a stockpile of backup running shoes that should last me through 2008.

I won’t even go into the Target clearance swimsuit collection.

It doesn’t help that I am a regular reader of sites such as and Browse through the posts of these sites on any given day, and you will come face to face with temptation. I’ve had to remove them from my Bloglines subscriptions and auto-delete any merchant sales and specials emails that land in my inbox to keep myself from buying stuff I don’t actually need (at the moment, though might in the future…).

Do any of you have a Latte Factor or your own Gazingus Pins? What are they?

13 thoughts on “Your Spending Weakness: Latte Factor or Gazingus Pin?

  1. My weakness is books! Especially now that I know more and more living authors, it’s so difficult for me NOT to buy books to support my writing friends!

  2. I personally don’t have a “Latte Factor.” I got rid of that extra expense long time ago to justify the cost of getting something I rely heavily on, such as the GPS feature for running on my cell phone, and the cost of that is way less than what I would have spent monthly on any extra food treats.

  3. Egad. I have so many.
    *Books & DVDs – especially on sale – these add up rapidly
    *weekly dinners out with hubby – we cut back on these to monthly when he wasn’t working
    *my twice monthly cleaning service – i put this one in the neccessities category. required for marital harmony
    *blackberry – finally got one. not a neccessity but i suspect it will be. monthly service fees definitely fall into the splurge category

    but i pack my lunch. i don’t do lattes. i don’t have a clothes or shoes fetish.

  4. I have a horse. Gulp. That costs me a bit. But it’s my only hobby – I don’t drink much, I don’t smoke, don’t buy lattes, pack a lunch most days etc.

    I may also like name brand clothes on occasion (Lacoste, I’m looking at you!) – but it’s hard to find that stuff where I live in Canada, so I only buy it on trips to the US. Since shipping anything to Canada from the US costs a fortune in shipping and duty, I can usually refrain from ordering stuff online.

    I can’t imagine not spending a bit of money on Gazingus Pin items (that word cracks me up). I work hard every day, I need to enjoy a bit of the money I earn. I also do my best to save a lot as well.

  5. I did eliminate one expense this week: I cancelled the Universal Studios annual pass that I had on flex pay for $15 / month. I don’t go to the parks enough to justify the cost.

    I am even thinking about putting my cheap gym membership on hold for 3 months while I complete my bodyweight workout challenge…

  6. Latte factor is definitely dining out with the husband, buying restaurant wine and even dessert, and doing it at least once every 10 days. I am willing to dial that one back. So far, he has not.

    My Gazingus Pin/s is/are unusual bottled and packaged foods and seasoning. I don’t need zataar. I use it maybe once every 4 months. And yet I buy it, along with 5 different kinds of vinegars, Bosnian pickled eggplant, and a whole raft of other jars and packages. I do eventually use them, and use them up – but it’s an equal combination of pleasure and duty in doing so.

    We cancelled HBO after the Sopranos ended. That was a victory. And moving to VOIP was an awesome choice. I justify a lot by saying my main entertainments are the library, exercise, and the internets … but it’s true there’s money we could make work for us, instead of watching it float away.

    Thanks for posting the topic. I’m going to go casually mention “Latte Factor” to my husband now.

  7. Oh geeze Maggy, I have too many to count. I am glad to say I don’t do many lattes anymore, but that’s because I live so far out of town. I am preparing more meals at home, but I can eat out so easily it’s not even funny–even on plan. I feel guilty just reading your savings plans. I only put money in my IRA to save taxes. LOL And that’s only because my accountant tells me to. Sigh…


  8. Hey Maggie, would you suggest a beginner book for someone looking to save, budget, etc. I’ve never been on a budget, but I’d like to put away more into my savings each week. I guess 42 is never too late 😳

  9. :em41: You sure hit it on the head. I read Bach’s Automatic Millionare and it kind of changed my life. I do automate into a credit union savings account now and auto pay my bills. I also switched from Starbucks in the morning to 7-11. For 1.35 I get my coffee fix!
    Great Blog by the way.

  10. I think the closest thing I have to a Latte Factor would be cheese. I think there’s a rare trip to the grocery store where we don’t pick up some type of cheese. But, we don’t actually spend that much money on it (I get the smallest pieces just to sample). On the other hand, I have a gigantic Gazingus Pin. I am a thrift store/flea market junky and am happy just looking but sometimes it’s hard for me to pass up little odd knick knacks that are under $2. My strange logic is I think no one else will buy them. I know, it’s insane but those little $1 – $2 items give me pleasure so I think they’re worth it. Last week I bought 2 small display cabinets. One is for my boyfriend’s baseball collectibles (I’m sick of them being all over the place!) and mine proudly bears a little plaque that reads “My Gazingus Pins”.

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