It Only Costs a Coffee per Month

01 May 2023 | ~4 minute read

Most online services cost "a coffee per month" which seems like a great deal, but it soon mounts up.

I'm sure you've all heard the sales pitch...ACME Corp. releases their latest digital wares to the world, and on their site it says something like...

For the cost of just a coffee per month, you too can have access to [our amazing product]

-- ACME Corp.

That "coffee per month" is more often than not around $5. Which is a good deal on the surface - most of us would think nothing of going into the local coffee shop and spending $5 on a coffee. All for 10 minutes of caffeinated gratification.

Whereas on the other hand, you could spend that $5 on ACME Corp's latest [thing] and get far more enjoyment out of that five bucks.

Money well spent, right?

It all mounts up

Problem is, it's not just ACME Corp. that's making this claim. It's also a hundred other online sellers, all vying for that coffee every month. Anecdotally, here in the UK at least, that $5 seems to be increasing lately too, with the average being around $7 - $10 now.

If you're anything like me, you will have a number of these subscriptions. Here's what I have off the top of my head (all prices are monthly):

That's a total of £64.65 per month and that's just off the top of my head - there's definitely more that I haven't thought of in that list.

Nearly £65 is more than I pay for my Internet subscription every month. It's more than both my wife and I combined pay for our mobile phones. It's nearly as much as I pay for the oil that heats the house and hot water!

TL;DR - it's a lot of money.

So that sales pitch of "it's just a coffee per month" really doesn't hold water when you think that most people will subscribe to multiple services.

What about international customers?

What about international customers where $5/month is a far bigger slice of their disposable income? If we take India as an example (this is purely because there's lots of data on the Internet about salaries in India) the average salary, apparently, is somewhere between 20 - 40 thousand rupees per month.

40,000 rupees equates to around £400 ($500). So if the sites I've looked at are to be believed, these $5/month services equate to around 1% of the average Indians salary. Each.

If you're from India and can confirm whether these numbers are accurate, I'd love to hear from you.

When we scale that up to what I'm paying for my services per month, that's a whopping 16% of the average Indian's salary. That's a big piece of the pie!

Some companies offer amended prices for developing nations, but it's something that isn't all that common, I believe. In my opinion, this should be the norm, not the exception.

In these countries, the cost of living tends to be lower, so it makes sense to me that the cost for these services should be lower too. But that might not please the VC investors. 🤷‍♂️

Final thoughts

So $5/month seems reasonable on the face of things, especially if you're a Western, 6 figure earner. But when you pick it apart, it soon mounts up. Especially if you live in a country where salaries tend to be lower.

What's the answer then? Well, I don't know. Maybe self-host these services where possible to save money? But then there's the cost of things like Synology NAS drives, so that may not be viable either. Not to mention the overhead of administering these services.

There isn't an easy fix for this. I suppose it all boils down to folk being responsible adults (I know I really struggle with this, personally) to ensure we budget effectively. But that's easier said than done, most often.

I think I need to spend some time going through my bank statements to see what I can cancel...

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