How to stop feeling guilty about working from cafes

Recently we freaked out over something that was making us happy. That something was the amount of money we had been spending on coffee and lunches in a local cafe.

Actually, scrap that. We weren’t freaking out about the amount – as in, the numerical figure – we were freaking out that we were spending ANYTHING. And with good reason we suppose.

We have a beautiful desk set up in our room. We own a kitchen and a kettle and teabags. What could we possibly gain from nipping across the road to a cafe with a machine that makes coffee all foamy, and paying an inflated price for it?

Money guilt set in, anxiety bubbled up, and we started to talk to ourselves pretty nastily about the whole thing, from both a financial and a body image point of view. Our internal dialogue went a lot like this:

“You’re not taking millions of pounds in revenue, so why are you wasting money on coffee?”

“You spent good money on a nice desk. WORK AT IT.”

“You have food in the fridge. Why are you paying other people for simple lunches instead of keeping the calories down at home?”

Now, we know what you’re thinking. Despite the above not sounding particularly kind, some of this is rational. Needless spending can be a mistake if you’re not exactly Ms Moneybags. But here’s the thing – if you’re sensible about this and aren’t genuinely spending yourself into a whirling pool of debt, you’re not really paying for posh coffee and long lunches. It’s about much, much more than that.

What are you really paying for?

After some reflection – and some wonderful encouragement from our brilliant support network – we’ve come to realise why we like working from cafes and coffee shops, and why we should feel fine about continuing to frequent them.

1. It’s a slither of much-needed me-time

We love running a business, but it’s exhausting. We are normally concentrating so hard that we’re constantly rinsing our brain whilst telling ourselves we have no time for self-care. The walk to the cafe, the luxury of browsing a menu and something delicious at the end of it counts towards looking after our mental health.

2. What you buy can be good for you

On the subject of self-nourishment, those with a reasonable amount of willpower can easily frame their cafe experience as having nutritional benefits.

Have you ever made your own healthy lunch with the best of intentions, but simply not fancied it once it’s nice and prepared? That rarely happens when you eat out, because even their healthiest, most lettuce-packed meal has been tested over and over until it’s just right (our exception is matcha lattes. They are grim). Pick food and drink with high nutritional benefits to chow down on while you work, and you’ll be feeding your mind, body and soul as well as your productive capabilities.

3. It connects us to our community

We’re so lucky to live in Islington, a bustling North London borough that’s in the middle of everything (safe to say, we’re not country girls at all. But the following can be applied to our suburban readers for sure!).

While we can afford to live here, we want to make the most of it, so connecting with the people and culture around us while we work is a luxury we want to indulge ourselves in. Otherwise, what’s the point of being holed up in our little flat and missing all the life taking place around us?

The particular cafe we choose to visit a couple of times a week is our cafe of choice because:

  • They don’t mind us using their wifi for hours (we can’t convey just how much we appreciate this).
  • They’re very purse friendly (full English breakfast, with tea and toast, for £4.50? Yes. Yes please).
  • We’ve been there so much that we’re now on really good terms with the servers, as well as the locals who pop in for their daily brew and an hour to read the newspaper. It’s actually lovely.
  • They’re an independent business. For obvious reasons, we’re a very keen supporter of independent businesses.

4. It’s space to think

Above all else, we’re not a person immune to distractions or able to deal well with repetition. If we’ve got something highly complicated or technical on our agenda then sure, silence is golden, but anything creative requires a background buzz and a stream of food and drink that we don’t then feel bad about not washing up immediately. What we’re paying for is the space and the setting to really do our job well.

Need some help?

Are you struggling with coffee shop guilt yourself? Here are some actionable tips to strike a balance that lets you relax and own your day.

  • Find a budget-friendly business. If money is a concern – as it is for almost all of us – you can’t very well start on the £6.50 cappuccinos. Do some exploring and pick somewhere with a reasonably priced menu – perhaps set a limit, like £1.80 for a cup of tea.
  • Price it up against workspace. Going stir-crazy at home has a really negative impact on your day, so it’s very sensible to get outta there. If you’re worried about the options you’re left with, price up three coffees from your cafe of choice and compare it to the cost of membership to a workspace. The average prices where we live are around £250 per month to work in a communal space (and, obviously, they won’t feed us!). That works out at around £60 per week, which we are definitely NOT spending the equivalent of in our local cafe, despite spending a significant amount of hours there. We’re pretty ok with that.
  • Limit your visits. We head out to our usual place about twice a week, and we get so much done in that environment that’s usually plenty enough. The rest of our week is nice, cheap days working from home. Avoid overspending by limiting how often you frequent your favourite place to work from, and the amount you spend will stay totally reasonable.

Have you been feeling guilty about working from cafes? Drop us a tweet – we’d love to know if this post was helpful to you.

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