Admit it — you’re low-key obsessed with Starbucks. Starbucks is not just a restaurant — it’s a lifestyle. We wait year round for the infamous PSL (being labeled “basic,” be damned), know it’s time for Christmas when they start serving Gingerbread Lattes from Christmas cups, and look forward to summer with fruity, refreshing, and Insta-worthy iced teas.
But it can be a pretty expensive obsession to have! With typical menu drinks costing about $3-$7, plus whatever add-ins you prefer, it can add up (especially if it’s a daily occurence!). However — it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s worth looking into how to get more bang for our (Star)buck, and how many options the trusty coffee chain and cafe really can offer us. Read on for the hacks that will save you time, money, and calories at Starbucks.
1. Don’t limit yourself to what’s on the menu
In fact, the most expert Starbucks-frequenters rarely order off the menu, to get their favorite drinks and to save money! Check out the secret menu (yes, it really does exist!) or try these secret menu drink concoctions that are all $3, and never pay $5 for a coffee again! If you prefer lattes, order the cafe misto, which tastes the same (half coffee, half milk), but is significantly cheaper (and will save you calories!). More of a tea drinker? A chai latte misto is half steamed milk and half brewed chai tea, saving you money and sugar (you can also just order a hot chai tea with steamed milk if the terminology weirds you out, and save about $2).
2. Make your own drinks for a cheaper price
Iced lattes are one of the most satisfying and refreshing drinks, but can get pricey, especially if you prefer them in Venti size instead of the Tall (don’t we all on Monday mornings?). Instead of ordering a latte, order a triple espresso over ice, in a Venti cup (with room for milk), and then go to the condiments area to fill up your coffee with milk, which makes an iced latte, but for a fraction of the cost. If you prefer your lattes hot, you can also order a Tall coffee with steamed milk (still cheaper than a latte!), or a Tall hot coffee in a Grande cup, and fill up on the milk at the condiments station — a Grande latte for the price of a Tall coffee!
3. Never pay full price for two drinks during the same trip, again
Spend a lot of workdays or meetings at Starbucks where you stay for hours and get multiple drinks? Or maybe just one cup of coffee for you doesn’t cut it? Anytime throughout the day (and in any size — Tall, Grande, or Venti), refill your cup with brewed coffee or tea for just 5o cents. Just know that “refills” only count as iced or hot coffee and iced or hot tea (but remember the tricks above to turn it into a latte!). Also an insider tip: you can get a 50 cent refill with coffee or tea, even if your original drink was not just brewed coffee or tea. So feel free to fill up on a Pumpkin Spice Latte and get a 50 cent extra pick-me-up of tea before you leave!
4. Bring your own cup
Not only will you be saving the planet, one coffee cup and plastic straw at a time, but you’ll also save 10 cents on your drink whenever you bring your own tumbler, cup, or mug. We love using an ever-so-chic mason jar with a lid, or — funny you should mention it — Starbucks has amazing reusable cups of their own. We love this one, this one, and this one.
5. Sign up for Rewards
Normally I detest rewards programs at restaurants and stores — it’s just more spam emails and I probably spend more money than I save (it’s hard to resist a 30% sale or free pastry with purchase of drink). But at Starbucks, it is a must (and with no cons)! First of all, it’s free to sign up (did that convince you enough?), and besides just having a ton of perks for being a reward member (hello, free birthday drink!), you also earn points for a number of things, like purchasing anything in store and certain Starbucks items in grocery stores, that can be used for free food and drinks. Did we mention that it’s free?
6. Don’t buy a water bottle!
Never pay $3 for the plastic water bottle in the Starbucks fridge; just ask for a Venti iced water! You don’t have to worry about the water not being clean — Starbucks triple-filters their water and ice, so you know it’s as clean as possible and you could save some serious money. For an environmentally friendly option, you can also bring your own reusable bottle and ask Starbucks to fill it with water and ice, for free.
7. Order a French Press Pot of coffee
Going with friends or know you’ll want a few cups during your day at Starbucks? Order a French Press pot of coffee instead of individual cups. Each pot serves a few cups of coffee, but will be cheaper than buying each cup individually. Enjoy a pot with your friends, or get a serious caffeine buzz on your own (sometimes, we just need it!).
8. Get the most out of your iced drink
If you’re getting an iced tea, ask for “no water.” Iced teas are typically watered down from the original pitcher into your cup, so asking for no water will make the brew stronger. You can also ask for “light ice” (unless you prefer lots of ice). Ice is usually filled up much more than is necessary to keep the drink cold, limiting the volume of space the barista can fill the cup up with your favorite coffee drink or tea. Having light ice will give you more bang for your buck because you’ll be getting more of your drink, while still keeping it nice and cold.
9. Be specific about your syrup
I love the occasional PSL or Vanilla Latte as much as the next girl, but did you know that a Tall with sweetener has three pumps of syrup, a Grande has four pumps, and a Venti has five or six pumps? Just one pump is about 20 calories and 5 grams of sugar… are you keeping up with this math? That means just a Tall has 15 grams of sugar in the syrup alone. I don’t even want to think about how much is in a Venti! Asking for either one or two pumps per drink still gives the same flavor (we need that pumpkin spice!!) and sweetens up your drink, but if you order a Grande Vanilla Latte with two pumps vanilla syrup, you’d be saving 40 calories and 10 grams of sugar, for not much difference in taste.
10. Ask for a sample so you never get a drink you dislike again!
I don’t know about you, but I usually stick to the usual iced coffee, just so I don’t risk getting a drink that I end up not liking. But oh the possibilities out there in the Starbucks universe! Unless the store is super busy, the barista should be totally fine getting you a sample of a certain brew or drink, if you’re unsure whether or not you’d like it.
11. Know all the sizes
Thought “Tall” was the smallest? Think again — “Short” is an 8oz size (“Tall” is 12oz), which clarifies that age-old confusion that “Tall” was the smallest size, when it counterintuitively sounds like the largest — it’s because “Short” is the size smaller. Clears up a lot, doesn’t it? If you’re in the mood for a small drink, Short is cheaper than a Tall. The “Short” cappuccino has the same amount of espresso as the “Tall,” so if caffeine is your goal, opt for the cheaper options.
12. Are you and a friend both getting a Frappucino? Get one Venti!
A Venti size of your favorite sweet iced drink is about 24oz, while a Tall is 12oz. However, a Venti frappe is significantly cheaper than two Tall frappes would be (about $4 less, precisely). So instead of getting two, order the Venti size and ask for two Tall cups. Divide accordingly, and enjoy your frappucino with your friend, knowing you both saved money.
13. No time to wait in line? Order through your cell phone!
Using the Starbucks Mobile app, you can order ahead of time, and just go pick it up. No more waiting in long lines for your coffee! We’re busy women — we have much more important things to do.