I have loved going to Starbucks since my college days. We would go on a fairly regular basis and get a cup of coffee whilst studying (read: generally procrastinating with books open). And I still love to treat myself to Starbucks, but it is admittedly an expensive treat. But in the last couple of years the folks at Starbucks have worked very hard to make it something a bit more budget-friendly (meaning people will come more often!). Their Starbucks Rewards program is actually very generous and makes a coffee-flavored goody more attainable even on a budget.
I know, I know: people who are frugal penny-watchers shouldn’t even consider going to Starbucks and paying their astronomical prices on coffee. I know all the arguments for why Starbucks is a no-no, but my heart tells me: yes, yes.
It goes back to the days of college where I spent way too much time and way too much money at my local Starbucks. My best friend and I loved to get off campus to study and our local ‘bucks was the spot most evenings. Too bad my frugal friendly ways did not help me much back then! Now that I am a “grown-up” with budgeting skills, I consider myself a pro at saving at Starbucks. Here are my tried and true tips:
1. Limit yourself to a specific number of visits in a given period of time. This is according to your own budget, so it may be once a week, once every two weeks, or once a month…whatever works for you. Consider making a coffee date with a friend on a regular basis and use the time as a treat for your relationship and for your taste buds. If you limit yourself to a specific number of visits/drinks, it makes it a bit more of a treat, something to look forward to.
2. The registered Starbucks card: never leave home without it. If you have never registered the Starbucks gift cards you get, you are missing out on some serious savings and benefits. In fact, even if no one has given you a card, consider purchasing a gift card and registering it online. Then use it as your ONLY way of paying for drinks, even if you have to reload it each time you use it. This will also help you to budget your Starbucks allowance (see tip 1) appropriately and keep you honest on it. Once your card is registered you get these benefits:
- A free drink on your birthday
- Free syrups and extras (like soy milk) in your drinks.
- Free refills on brewed coffees and teas.
- A free drink when you purchase a bag of coffee.
- A free drink for every 15 you purchase.
- Special offers from Starbucks (like free pastries, free samples of new items, and coupons).
3. Ask your barista if you can order your drink a different way to save money. That way you can get the same bang of caffeine for less of your bucks. This may include ordering a lower priced drink and adding a syrup (free with your registered card). You could also order a cheaper drink during your visits to fulfill your 15 purchases, and then splurge on that really expensive indulgence when you get your free drink (any size!) coupon in the mail.
4. Buy Starbucks coffee and brew it at home. This is not just for the savings you get from brewing coffee at home. It is also because on each bag you will find a special treat: a free tall brewed coffee at Starbucks for bringing in the empty bag. I started returning the bags for Sunday mornings before church, when it is hard to get motivated. It is a great way to get your basic coffee fix on those mornings that are just too busy to brew at home. (On an odd note: this is not a recycling program, they just throw away the bags) You can find coupons for Starbucks products on about a quarterly basis in your Sunday newspaper and you can get great deals on Starbucks coffee at Target.
5. Take advantage of promotional events at your local Starbucks. Sometimes Starbucks is trying to promote new offerings or specific products and they do this by offering freebies or discounts. If you take advantage of these specific promotions, you can stretch your Starbucks budget just a little bit further. Right now, during the month of August, Starbucks is offering their “Treat Receipt” promotion which allows you to come back in the afternoon (after 2 PM) and get a Grande drink for $2 with any receipt from before 2 PM. You can take advantage of this by purchasing a Tall brewed coffee or tea and then come back in the afternoon for your normal treat. I did this last week and discovered that it ended up being the same price for both drinks (morning and afternoon) as it would be for just one of my normal drink. I did this on a morning that Drew could hang around for a little while before G got up and I didn’t have ANY coffee in the house. What a special treat!
6. Use online rewards programs to feed your habit. Currently you can get Starbucks gift cards when your spend your points from MyPoints.com and Swagbucks.com. MyPoints offers gift cards starting at $25, so it takes a little bit longer to get to these rewards, but Swagbucks offers cards at just $5, so you can get rewarded pretty fast. These programs are free and pay out real with real valuable rewards for not a lot of effort. Save up those points, cash in and head over to Starbucks for a treat!
So frugal Starbucks lovers, I hope this post gave you a few ideas of how to save on your special treat. Is there anything I missed? I am always looking for another way to save!