The Car and Coffee Index

Quick!  You have $4 to spend.  What will you buy?  A double Venti, extra-hot, non-fat, extra foam vanilla latte or not quite one gallon of gas?   Which will it be?  For many of us the choice is becoming clear – coffee at home or the office and less driving.

Are we surprised that within 24 hours of each other, the announcements for Starbucks to close 600 under-performing stores and General Motors shares fall below  $10 for the first time since 1954

It’s the Car and Coffee Index or CCI for short.  We could put the housing market in there as well… but CCHI sounded funny and where would people make their brew?   As you can see in the below chart, as gas prices rise, the Starbuck’s stock price falls.  What an interesting inverse relationship!


As consumers worry about the basics – food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and transportation to and from work – the extras in life get bumped to the wayside.  People are worried – and I’m not saying that to scare you.  I’m worried.  I’m feeling it.  I’ve got some hard decisions to make around the family budget and our future and somehow a giggle over a grande isn’t going to make it better.

In the good old days, my husband and I would hop in the car and drive to Starbucks to get a coffee in the morning or afternoon.  It was just something to do and we had the disposable income to enjoy such jaunts.  Appearantly, so did the rest of America as the lines were long no matter what time of day.  It was like standing in line at a methadone clinic to get a fix, only at Starbucks those in line were much cleaner. 

About 10 months or so ago… yes, beginning talk of the Recession that we still supposedly aren’t technically in… we stopped this habit.  Why?  We were becoming more concerned with our income, debt, interest rates and availability of cash. 

Today we make our own coffee at home.  To be more specific, my husband is in charge of the morning brew process.  While I do miss our chats on the way to Starbucks in the car and the casual time that we can no longer afford, I am deeply appreciative of the coffee brought to my desk each morning – sometimes with a kiss.

And what of the American love affair with the car?  Shattered like a weak brew left to burn in the bottom of the pot.  As Auto Observer reports on 2008 June Car Sales 

American car buyers became very discouraged in June. Beaten down by high gas prices and other contributors to growing household financial stress, they bought 8 percent fewer vehicles than a year earlier.

I guess we aren’t so concerned about cupholders anymore.

To save money, are you ditching your car?

Last night I asked my husband whether or not he’s noticed a decrease in traffic with gas prices rising.  His response, “oh my gosh, yes!”  While it could be lighter due to the summer, more than likely we’re seeing more people opting out of their cars for mass transit or opting to bike to work. 

The San Francisco Chronicle ran an article this morning about commuters ditching cars for bikes or walking.  Others are discussing telecommute options with work.  

While biking isn’t an option for my husband, he is carpooling a few days.  I’m fortunate enough to telecommute most of the week and have sworn off using the car unless I absolutely must.  No more running out for a cup of coffee or for the forgotten item at the store.

With gas and food prices rising, dumping the car and the costs associated with it may make sense for some.  No gas, no tolls, no insurance, parking, tickets, payments – but also a loss of flexibility.  If you live in a metro area, Zipcar and City CarShare are options for those who can find alternatives for daily commuting and only need a car occasionally.   Sites like Less Car, More Life provide tips for getting around without a car.