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That daily Starbucks before work could have ended up as $132,222 in your retirement account.
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updated 7/24/2011 7:01:59 PM ET 2011-07-24T23:01:59

When it comes to spending, what’s your morning M.O.?

If you’re like most Americans, you’re stopping on the way to work to grab a cup of coffee.

And all that coffee adds up.

At a national average cost of $1.38 per cup, that’s an annual spending of $358. Spin that out over the course of your career and you might find you’ve dropped over $14,000 on morning joe.

Pick your jaw up off the floor.

Forbes.com slideshow: Lifetime spending mistakes

“The money we spend every day is so easy to overlook,” says Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest. “What’s important is to help people really frame the little spending and how it adds up.”

In the interest of scaring you straight, we’ve broken up how all of those little discretionary purchases add up over the course of an average 40-year career of living — and looking–good.

“Most women get their hair cut and/or colored six times a year,” says Steph Goldwin, a NYC-based stylist. While costs for these services vary widely from city to city and surely from salon to salon, American Salon, a publication for beauty industry professionals, reported the numbers as $21 for a cut in a salon with fewer than 6 chairs, and $44 for a salon with more than 13 chairs for an average of $32. Annual spend? $192. But Goldwin, whose cuts run upwards of $80 a session, warns that adding a color treatment can add close to $100 to each visit. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll call a cut and color $125. Annually? $750. After 40 years that’s a salon bill of $30,000 — how’s that for keeping your roots from going gray?

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Are you a woman who falls prey to the weekly manicure trap? At $10 a week you’ll drop $520 each year. After a 40-year career of perfectly manicured fingertips, you’ll have shelled out nearly $21,000.

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Buy a daily paper? $11,000.

Go out to lunch during the workweek? $72,000.

Forbes.com: Surprising home-energy hogs

Prefer a Starbucks latte to your average cup of coffee? $32,000.

When Nancy Trejos opened her eyes to her spending in 2008 she had already hit rock bottom. Like many young Americans, she was at a breaking point with her finances. She was living in a city on a sub-par salary, trying to live a haute couture lifestyle on a Walmart budget. Student loans, credit card debt, a failed mortgage and a car payment left her deeply in debt, and she still couldn’t bring herself to withhold her morning latte.

Lucky for Trejos, she wasn’t just any single urbanite — she was a Washington Post financial reporter with access to the best personal finance advice at her fingertips. Access that she put to good use as soon as she opened her eyes to her errant spending ways. With the help of a financial planner, she built a pared-down budget that cut nearly all discretionary spending from her life — including the daily Starbucks. “And after that I started living on it,” she told me. “Or trying to–it’s not easy to go from not having to plan to having to plan every expense. There were times when I slipped up. There were times when I shouldn’t have gone out to dinner but did.”

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Soon enough she began to see the light at the end of the tunnel as her finances began to turn around and her hard-won savings account began to grow. This is what Learnvest’s von Tobel calls the “silver lining” at taking a hard look at your spending habits.

And she means savings. “It’s not magic, it’s math,” von Tobel says of the benefits of the decision to swap spending for saving when it comes to seemingly small expenses. “It really is alarming how much money you can accrue by saving even just one dollar a day, simply because of compounding interest.”

Consider this exercise, inspired by Forbes contributor Liz Davidson on her blog, Financial Finesse. We’ve used a LearnVest tool to take the cost of your daily coffee ($1.38) and measure its growth if invested in a Roth IRA at 6 percent over a 40-year career instead of getting guzzled down during your commute. The calculations are crystal clear — and shocking enough to be the perfect note to end on: that $358 a year can either cost you $14,320 in lifetime earnings — or add $58,729 to your retirement savings.

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To think if you were a Starbucks drinker! It’s three times as expensive. You do the math.

Now that’s a priceless cup of coffee.

Forbes.com: 20 ways you're getting ripped off

© 2012 Forbes.com

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