You make a trip to support your favorite local Starbucks every morning. You greet all of the baristas by name, and they know how to spell yours correctly. On top of that, they already know your order. It’s an amazing relationship.
Unfortunately, your bank account is feeling neglected by your spending habits. Now you’re torn between saving for car repairs or paying for your fourth grande triple shot latte with almond milk this week.
If that sounds even a little bit like you, we’ve got good news: you can simultaneously appease your checking account and maintain your loyalty to the green mermaid. Here are 13 ways to spend less money at Starbucks.
1. Use discounted gift cards
You can save up to 15% at Starbucks right now just by buying someone’s old gift cards online. If you go to the coffee retailer regularly — let's say you spend $10 a week — this can result in about $78 of savings over a year.
Look for discounted gift cards on websites like Gift Card Granny, which aggregates discounted gift card offers from around the web for you. Right now, the site has a $25 Starbucks gift card available for 15% off.
After you purchase the discounted gift card, you can register it with the Starbucks Rewards program to gain access to even more free drinks and food, and exclusive discounts and offers.
2. Join the Starbucks Rewards program
Every loyal Starbucks fan should sign up for Starbucks Rewards.
The program awards two stars for each dollar you spend on Starbucks products. When it’s your birthday or you hit 300 points, you can get any size drink or a food item for free. The membership is also boosted with invites to member events and exclusive members-only offers.
3. Download the Starbucks app
The Starbucks app is another way for loyal customers to find money-saving opportunities. Download the Starbucks app for access to other limited promotions and coupons. The promos come as in-app messages and are found under the “inbox” tab.
For example, when the retailer is running a $2 after 2 p.m. cold drink refill promo, you might get a reminder to pay a second visit; on another day, you might see a $4 lunch offer.
When you pay, tell the barista you want to use a promo from the application. They’ll walk you through how to apply the offer.
The app is like a “triple savings threat” for Starbucks fans. You can maximize the app’s exclusive offers when you register your Starbucks gift card and sign up for
Reduce, Reuse, Save
4. BYOC (bring your own cup) and save 10 cents
Would you recycle more if you were paid? You’ll be rewarded for building eco-friendly habits at Starbucks. You’ll save 10 cents when you bring your own reusable cup or a competitor's paper cup. If you buy a cup of coffee each morning, that's 50 cents of savings each week.
5. Get a 50-cent refill
Remember this for the next time you spend the day working on a thesis at your local Starbucks: just ask for a refill. Don’t pay in full for a second cup of hot coffee, iced coffee, hot tea, or iced tea when you can get a refill of any size for 50 cents. Refills are limited to the aforementioned drink options when purchased during the same visit.
6. Don’t be afraid to send back an order you don’t like
If you order a drink you don’t like, don’t cut your losses. Tell the barista, and they'll remake your drink or make you a different one for free. If you still aren’t satisfied, you might get a coupon for a free drink to make up for the hassle.
To save about a dollar, make your own iced latte. Order two shots of espresso over ice. Then mosey on over to the condiments table to add your own milk and sweetener for a DIY iced latte.
8. Ask for light ice
Ice is expanded water, which means it generally takes up more space than it needs to in your drink. You paid for a venti, not a grande with tons of ice. Ask for light (or very light) ice in your iced beverage order or for ice on the side to make room for more of your order and get your money’s worth. Alternatively, ask the barista to pour your grande or tall beverage into a venti cup — that way you will get the maximum amount of beverage, and you can use the extra space in the cup for ice or milk.
9. Ask for a cup of water
Starbucks’ Ethos brand water costs $1.95. A cup of water at any Starbucks is free.
The company donates 5 cents from every bottle of Ethos to help children get clean drinking water in coffee-producing countries like Tanzania, Indonesia, and Colombia.
If you’re now filled with guilt for not buying a bottle, we understand. You could buy Ethos and donate 5 cents, or get your free cup, then consider asking the barista to make a direct $1 donation to Ethos. You can also personally donate a dollar to other organizations that increase global access to clean water, such as water.org or Water Is Life.
10. Skip the Venti size
As you may have already suspected, ordering a venti, or 20 ounces, of just about any drink isn’t worth it if you're drinking for caffeine content.
Only order a venti when you're ordering brewed coffee, otherwise you’re paying for the same amount of caffeine as a grande. For example, a venti Caramel Macchiato for $4.75 has the same 150 mg of caffeine from two shots of espresso as a grande does for $4.45. This rule doesn’t apply to all Starbucks’ venti drinks. Among others, exclusions include the Caffe Misto, Green Tea Latte, and Oprah Chai Latte, which has less caffeine in a venti compared to a grande.
11. Order short
If you’re only drinking coffee for the caffeine, you might be better off ordering a short, which is Starbucks’ smaller, unlisted size. Order a short cappuccino to get the same amount of caffeine as a tall with less milk, at a lower cost.
When with friends...
12. Split a venti
If you’re with a budget-conscious friend, go halfsies on a venti and split the drink between two cups. For example, a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino costs $3.25 for the tall, 8-oz. size and $4.45 for the venti, 20-oz. size. When you split a venti with a friend, you’ll get 2 extra ounces of frap for $2.25. Just be sure to ask for two empty grande cups with your order.
Depending on the drink you order, you may or may not alter the standard amount of caffeine in a tall. A Vanilla Bean Frap is caffeine free so you won’t need to worry about that one. Venti drinks with exactly twice as much caffeine as the tall option like the Green Tea Latte won’t raise any eyebrows either. Splitting a venti classic Chai Latte, however, will also split 120 mg into two 10-oz. drinks with 60 mg of caffeine each instead of the tall with a full 70 mg of caffeine.
13. Order a coffee press
Whether you’re having a meeting, sitting with friends, or simply spending the day working in your favorite corner at Starbucks, you can save by ordering a coffee press, or “french press,” which is a pot of coffee. You can get about four tall cups’ worth of coffee for around $4 instead of paying $1.85 per cup.
MagnifyMoney is a price comparison and financial education website, founded by former bankers who use their knowledge of how the system works to help you save money.