Life is coffee; coffee is life. For those of you who know me well, you know I appreciate coffee. If you’ve been fortunate, I may have even shared some of mine with you. Not much beats a good cup of Sister Coffee Company’s French pressed Black Butte Gold, unless, of course, you have a cup of their Kabum dark blend. The Kabum, which I think would make a fantastic dessert coffee and would be superb with a really good chocolate cake (must make chocolate cake), is supposed to be a better than fair trade deal for the Ugandan farmers growing it. It’s also an excellent product. I’ll still be mostly drinking Black Butte, though. At this point, for everyday consumption, I prefer it over the Kabum blend.

As you can see, I do like my coffee. Still, it’s a bit silly to say that coffee is life, and life is coffee, or whatever it is I said. My life doesn’t truly revolve around cups of joe. What might be fair to say, though, is that coffee is useful as a yardstick. It’s my defacto measurement of value. It took me a while to realize I was using it like that (and I laughed at myself when I figured it out), but it actually works quite well in helping me determine the worth of something.

Let me explain this a little bit. In a typical month, I purchase 2 pounds of Black Butte Gold. That costs me somewhere around $13 a pound, so that would be $26 a month. I don’t drink that all by myself, just so you know. Carey and other occasional guests help me drink it, which is important to my thoughts here. If you’re drinking Folger’s or Yuban, $26 might seem steep, but if Starbucks (please notice the “bucks” in their name) keeps your caffeine needs satisfied, $26 is probably looking cheap. It’s all in your perspective, hm?

For myself, I’d say $26 is pretty cheap, and it’s a good value. For one thing, it’s relatively cheap entertainment. I do like to make a good pot! I figure in a month’s time, I’ve spent at least 7 hours making coffee. That by itself means it’s costing me less than $4 an hour to enjoy myself making coffee. That $4 an hour doesn’t take into account all the yummy cups of coffee that I’ve produced, consumed, and shared, either. The best part, of course, is the sharing. Lots of times when I’m making it, I’m standing there talking with somebody. When the coffee’s been poured, a lot of times I’m standing there chatting. Share coffee, share life – it’s awesome! It’s a great opportunity to reconnect and build relationship. As tasty as the coffee is, the opportunity to reconnect and relate is the part I truly savor. I can spend less than $30 a month and a few hours of my time and put smiles regularly on the faces whom I love. Isn’t that a great way to spend my money?

I really do think it is, and I am so firmly convinced that some time ago, I began to measure other ways I spend myself and my money by the value of coffee. I’d look at something I was thinking about buying, trying to decide if it was actually worth it. I’d ask myself if I wanted to spend the money. Did I like it? Would I use it? Would its intended purpose fulfill my need or desire? Would I use it enough to make the purchase worth what I was going to spend on it? Coffee was a definite yes for me.

I wanted that same value from other purchases, so I started looking at stuff while holding coffee next to it. I’d look at a DVD that seemed interesting and think, “I could buy a pound of coffee for about the same price. Will I enjoy this DVD as much as I would enjoy that pound of coffee? Will this be as much fun to share with my mom as a good cup of coffee?” I’d see some new gizmo for my camera. It would be $120 and have shiny, shiny bells and whistles. I would WANT it, but then I’d stop and think, “Man, I could buy, like, 10 pounds of coffee for that price. Is this gizmo really going to be that wonderful?”

I must say that, like many other people, I like to spend money. I like new stuff. I like shiny gizmos and clever gadgets. If something has enough bells and whistles, I can totally get sold – hooked, really – before my budget has a chance to catch up with my wallet. What’s been awesome about my coffee yardstick is that it’s quicker than my budget! It can catch my wallet and ask it pointed and delaying questions to help me sort out what I really want to do.

So how about you? Do you have a shortcut that helps you determine how you spend  your resources, like your time, your money, your energy, and so on?