How to Save Money at Starbucks? – 8 Ways to Make it Happen

May 7, 2014 by Kyle
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(Updated 1/10/17) Here is the only tip you need to know…brew your own coffee at home, for pennies on the dollar, and stay out of Starbucks. Thanks for coming everyone, drive home safely. No, but seriously, no matter how hard we try, a quick drive-thru at your local Starbucks is gonna happen. Either as a little reward for yourself or when the need for a little caffeine pick-me-up hits you. But believe it or not, there are a some easy ways to save at Starbucks. Here are eight of my favorite (and easy) ways how to save money at Starbucks…

8 Simple Ways to Save Money at Starbucks

Always use a Starbucks Reward Card

If you buy coffee from Starbucks at least three time a year, you should get yourself a free Starbucks rewards card or download their mobile app. By doing so you’ll earn cool rewards like free drinks, free flavor shots, and free tasty treats. Totally worth the effort. Also, you’ll always get a free drink on your birthday.

Half-Price Happy Hours

Many times during the year Starbucks offers certain beverages for half price from 2-5 pm. If you’re getting your caffeine fix at that time of the day (like me), always ask about any specials they might have going on.

I took advantage of this just the other day when driving home from San Francisco, I got a Venti Coffee Frappuccino for a cool $2.

Tote your Own Mug

Were you aware that your local S-bucks will give you a cup of joe for 10 cents cheaper if you bring in your own mug? And it doesn’t have to be a Starbucks mug, it can be your “World’s Best Dad” mug if you want.

While not a huge savings, it’ll add up to a free drink quickly if you’re a regular Starbucks customer.

Split’r Up Baby

So the biggest size you can order at Starbucks is called a “Venti” and it’s pretty much a gas can with a straw sticking out the top. So the next time you walk in with a friend, get the Venti size and just split the dang thing.

Starbucks will always give you a free empty cup which I appreciate, so splitting a beverage couldn’t be easier…or cheaper.

Free or Cheap Refills

The next time you’re sitting in your local Starbucks enjoying a cup of regular coffee, hit up the barista for a 50 cent refill on your way out. If you don’t want to drink it right away just stick it in your fridge and make an iced coffee later on.

If you have a Starbucks reward card and have used it at least 5 times, which gets you to the “Green” level, you’ll get a completely FREE refill as long as you don’t leave and come back before asking for it.

Easy on the Frozen Water

I love this tip. The next time you are ordering an iced coffee, tea, or specialty drink, order it with only half or very little ice. You’ll essentially end up getting the next sized drink for the price of a smaller size. Winning.

Order a “Short”

Were you aware that there is a size smaller than the Starbucks 12oz “Tall”? I wasn’t. But according to Slate.com, you can order an 8oz “Short” and in many cases get the same amount of caffeine, with more flavor, at a reduced cost.

For example, the short cappuccino has the same amount of espresso as the tall size. Not a bad way to save some money and get the your caffeine fix.

Get Creative at Home

Do you find yourself visiting Starbucks more than you should because you can’t replicated their drinks at home? If so, those days are over as I found an amazing resource at a website called Yummly.com which lists a bunch of amazing (and detailed) Starbucks recipes that you can easily make at home.

Popular recipes include the Starbucks Mocha, Frappuccino, Peppermint Mocha, Eggnog Latte, and Caramel Macchiato.

Bonus Tip: Buy Discounted Gift Cards

This tip was too good not to include. From reader Mel: “I buy discounted Starbucks gift cards on Raise.com – usually the $100 card for like $71-73 dollars (wait for the extra 5% off weekends). Then I link the Starbucks gift card to my rewards card.

It’s like 6 free coffees between the initial savings and the free coffee rewards and it lasts me 3-6 months.” Love it!

Ask the Reader: What tips or advice do you have on how to save money at Starbucks? Or are you stronger willed than I and just stay out altogether and brew at home?

By Kyle James

Photo credit to Piutus.

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Dee @ Color Me Frugal

Love this post! I have to admit, Starbucks is my weakness on busy mornings. I do totally use the app and giftcard (which they make it probably way to easy to reload using Paypal) and have earned my share of rewards that way. Thanks for sharing!

J$

HAH! Never thought about splitting a coffee before – genius! Though of course you both have to want the exact same thing, but still….

Smooth one, good sir 😉

Canadianbudgetbinder

Ive had Starbucks a few times but it’s way out of my budget league. Now I don’t even go to Tim Horton’s any more. I mostly make my own coffee but if I”m on the road I’ll drop by McDonald’s for a $1 coffee.

DC @ Young Adult Money

I love those happy hours! I took advantage of their recent happy hour and loved paying only a couple bucks for my drink. My wife and I also get Starbucks gift cards at a discount from our credit card rewards.

Tonya@Budget and the Beach

Good tips! This is the time of year I crave iced lattes from starbucks. If I could learn to make them from home though… I like the ice trick. They do seem to fill those suckers to the brim with ice.

Kim
Kim

A Starbucks manager clued me in on this. I like a lot of extra milk in my coffee. She said when I place an order, ask to put it in the next size cup, so I will still get the same amount of coffee. So if I order a tall, I ask to put it in a grande cup so I can add extra milk. They are always happy to do it.

See my beautiful fine art photography at
http://kim-bemis.artistwebsites.com/

Jennifer G
Jennifer G

I love all these tips, except the half ice suggestion. When I want iced coffee, or tea or what have you, I want it icy COLD not lukewarm and watered down (which is what would happen if you cut the amount of ice.)

Paul
Paul

Kyle – I have switched from lattes, which cost five bucks, to Misto, which is 1/2 brewed coffee and 1/2 steamed milk. It is about 60 cents more than a brewed coffee, and a couple of bucks cheaper than a latte, but I still get that milky coffee drink I like.

The only difference is the use of brewed coffee instead of espresso.

Joel
Joel

I always take a thermos with me, order a larger size (in a cup), fill the thermos, start drinking the remainder from the cup and always have more hot coffee ready in the thermos.

Mel

I am a little bit of a Starbucks addict, but I agree – if you’re going to do something anyway, figure out the cheapest way to do it.

I buy discounted Starbucks gift cards on Raise – usually the $100 card for like $71-73 dollars (wait for the extra 5% off weekends). Then I link it to my rewards card. It’s like 6 free coffees between the initial savings and the free coffee rewards and it lasts me 3-6 months.

Janeen

Thanks for the tip, Mel! I had looked into using discounted gift cards at Starbucks (there’s a large selection out there), but never quite made the leap. Off to browse Raise now…

Hailey
Hailey

Can you get a discount if u get your Starbucks and then come back a diffrent day with the same cup?

Jackie Rose
Jackie Rose

This is too awesome! Especially the “short” tip. I love Starbucks, but I rarely finish a Tall drink meaning that I end up with 2 inches of unwanted coffee wasted in the bottom of the cup. I will definitely be giving that a try.

Shannon
Shannon

This isn’t necessarily a way to save on your coffee, but your gas.
If you have a grocery store that has a Starbucks inside and a gas station outside:
1) Buy your gift card in the store – you get double to quadruple reward points for buying gift cards. Check your store app for specials on gift cards, as well. A $25 gift card could mean an instant .10/gallon discount.
2) Load your card onto your app.
3) Be sure to use your store rewards card before paying using your Starbucks rewards app to get a couple more points towards your fuel, while still working towards your 12 stars for free coffee.

 
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