5 Ways to Save Money at Starbucks

by MelissaBatai on February 13, 2012

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The latte factor is a term coined by financial author David Bach to describe daily, wasteful spending. For those of us trying to save more and lessen/consolidate debt, knowledge of the latte factor can cause a sense of guilt as we slyly shuffle into a Starbucks to spend our hard earned money.

On the weekend, I enjoy spending two or three hours at my local Starbucks taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi and doing my freelance writing there in relative peace and quiet while my husband watches the kids at home. However, over time I have learned some techniques to minimize the amount of money I am handing over. If you, too, can’t resist the lure of Starbucks (or the free Wi-Fi), use some of these tips to make it more affordable:

1. Use a registered Starbucks’ card. These cards are free to register and they can save you a bundle of money. After you have used your card 5 times in a year, you move to their Green Level and get a free drink voucher on your birthday. Once you have purchased 30 drinks in a year you will move to the Gold Level. At the Gold Level, every time you have used your card to purchase 15 drinks, they will send you a card for a free drink. At either level you will qualify for free select syrups and milk options (such as upgrading to soy milk).

2. Buy discount gift cards to load your Starbucks’ card. Rather than just hand the cashier over $10 to reload on your registered card or set your card to automatically charge your credit card when the balance runs low, buy discount gift cards instead. Use a site like giftcardgranny.com to track all of the Starbucks’ gift cards that are currently available on a variety of gift card sites. You can often find Starbucks’ gift cards for 5 to 10% off the face value; once you buy one, simply transfer the balance to your registered card.

3. Take advantage of the free condiments. If you like iced coffee with milk, rather than ordering it that way, just order regular coffee and add milk at the condiment station. Of course, do this within reason. If you like more than a healthy dash of milk, you should pay for it when you order your drink.

4. Save the expensive drinks for your free drinks. I buy the lowest priced drinks that I enjoy when I am paying for them. However, when I have my free drink card as a result of buying 15 drinks with my registered card, I treat myself and buy a more expensive drink like a frappuccino.

5. Shop the clearance racks. Buying Starbucks’ coffee beans to brew at home is usually not an option since they are pricey. However, we wait for sales of seasonal blends. Right after Christmas, Starbucks’ offered their Christmas blend of coffee on sale, buy one get one free. With the sale, the coffee beans were the price we would pay for cheaper coffee beans at the grocery store, so we stocked up.

True, making coffee at home is much cheaper than buying coffee at Starbucks. Still, if you enjoy doing some work at Starbucks or meeting friends for a chat or ending your date night there, you can still enjoy your visit and spend less than you normally would utilizing some of the strategies above.

**Photo by Dennis Mojado

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5 Ways You Can Save Money at Starbucks
June 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Andi @MealPlanRescue February 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm

I save by not going. I would mainline Soy Latte’s if left to my own devices so, it’s better just to pretend it doesn’t exist. Not easy considering how many there are.


Matt February 14, 2012 at 6:35 am

We sometimes indulge in coffee from Biggby, which is a smaller size coffee chain that is similar to Starbucks. This past weekend I resisted the urge and instead hit the McDonald’s drive thru. The caramel mocha McCafe and two shamrock shakes cost about $7. The same, or similar items, would have been more like $15 at Starbucks or Biggby’s. Most McDonald’s also have free Wi-Fi, and the atmosphere and ambiance within many of their updated locations is really quite comfortable. There’s a money saving thought!


101 Centavos February 14, 2012 at 6:57 am

Interesting photo. The warning that you’re holding a hot beverage has to be written *twice*. Is consumers’ attention span that short?


Tackling Our Debt February 15, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Although we have significantly cut back our trips to Starbucks we do have a gold card from when we use to go everyday. And yes we get a free birthday drink, but we also get a free drink coupon anytime we add $50 cash to that gold card.


Mo' Money Mo' Houses February 15, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Great advice! I love shopping the clearance at Starbucks :)


Untemplater February 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm

You’re a real Starbucks pro Melissa! I didn’t realize they charge more for soy milk which is what I always order my coffee with, doh. I don’t think I consume anywhere near enough to reap all the benefits you mentioned though but I do love vendors that have points and rewards systems. There’s a lunch place I go to that gives out a $6 credit after getting 10 lunch stamps that I love using. -Sydney


Jessica, The Debt Princess February 21, 2012 at 1:20 am

I broke myself of my Starbucks habit years ago but just recently decided to treat myself to a Carmel Macchiato. That is, I ALMOST treated myself. Once I saw the cost of it (nearly $5), I had to walk away. I could feed my family of 3 a decent meal at home for that price.


Miiockm March 4, 2012 at 8:48 pm

1 and 4 are excellent ideas that I use as well. Every 15 tall coffees I buy, I get to treat myself to a free venti mocha frap, mmm


MyMoneyDesign March 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Nice tips! I also like taking advantage of the discounted gift cards and registration cards at these types of places (we frequent a local Coffee Beanery). Going back to the first part of your story, sometimes paying that $3 is worth the few hours of peace and quiet you get from being away at home!


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