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30 Starbucks Money-Saving Hacks

30 Starbucks Money-Saving Hacks
Candice Elliott Jun 30, 2018
Want to Earn Some Extra Money?

If you have a coffee habit, you know it can get expensive. But not with these 30 Starbucks money-saving hacks!

When you’re trying to save money, it’s the little things that can add up, but it’s also the little things that can be hard to give up.

We all need a few small luxuries in our lives, but we don’t want them to hurt our budget. That’s why these 30 Starbucks money-saving hacks are so great. You can stay on budget and still give yourself a treat without feeling guilty.

We Love Caffeine

The world loves caffeine. We’ve been ingesting it in one form or another for thousands of years. Caffeine is the most used psychoactive drug (meaning it impacts brain function) in the world. Withdrawal from it can cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, impaired motor function, and depression.

I can attest to the headaches. I always drink three cups of black coffee in the morning, and for years I would drink one cup in the later afternoon.

But I broke myself of the afternoon coffee habit gradually after being on vacation and unable to get that mid-day caffeine fix and having a wicked headache for a few hours. Caffeine withdrawal is no joke!

But coffee and tea, perhaps our favorite ways of ingesting caffeine, are not without their health benefits. We Americans are not exactly known for our great eating habits, and that’s why coffee is our most significant source of antioxidants.

Coffee can also reduce post-workout muscle pain, lower your risk of Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, and improve your energy levels.

Green tea is also considered a health-enhancing drink. It can improve brain function, helps burn fat, and kills bacteria in your mouth which improves dental health.

What is a healthy amount of caffeine? About 400 milligrams a day which is the amount you’ll find in four cups of strong coffee.

And We Really Love Starbucks

If we can’t get enough caffeine, we also can’t get enough Starbucks. What was just a single store in Seattle in 1971 has grown to some 27,339 locations worldwide, with 14,300 of them in the U.S. which means there are now more Starbucks stateside than McDonald’s.

Starbucks has become so much more than just a coffee shop. For many people, it’s a part of their everyday routine. They stop there before work in the morning or after lunch to fight off that sleepy afternoon feeling.

And even more than that, Starbucks has become an influence on our culture, tastes, and politics. Think of the stereotype of the girl dressed in Uggs, ponytail bobbing on the way to the gym with a whipped cream topped Starbucks cup in hand. Or how there is now pumpkin spice flavored everything from pretzels to Oreos. The kerfuffle over the holiday-themed disposable cups that were apparently not holiday themed enough to some people.

Starbucks has a powerful reach so if you seemingly just can’t help yourself when you pass one (which you do a lot and almost everywhere since there are so many!) we can hardly blame you. But at Frugal For Less, we’re all about saving money, and we know so hacks to save on Starbucks too!

1. Check Out Groupon

Look on Groupon for money saving deals at Starbucks. They aren’t always available, but you can find them several times a year. Recently Groupon offered a $10 Starbucks eGift Card for just $5.

Groupon also sometimes offers Promo Codes that will help you save on your coffee fix. I found one for free shipping on three bags of whole bean or ground coffee.

Honestly, if you want to eat, drink, or do just about anything, check if there’s a Groupon for it before you pay full price!

2. Join Up

When you join Starbucks Rewards program you get all kinds of freebies and discounts including free in-store refills, a free drink on your birthday, and you can earn points every time you spend money and then redeem the points for free food or drinks.

At the Welcome Level which is achieved after only one use of your card, you get the free birthday drink. The next level is Green which you achieve after using the card just five times (so, within a week for some of us!). The Green Level members get free in-store refills of certain drinks and special email offers.

Gold Level is attained after using your card 30 times within 12 months. You are entitled to free drink or food rewards after every 12 purchases, personalized offers and coupons, and a personalized Gold Card.

The program is free to join so if you go to Starbucks even just a few times a year, it’s worth signing up.

3. Get the App

When you download the Starbucks app, you’ll receive notices about special offers and discounts.

4. Be Green

When you bring a reusable cup or a disposable one from a competitor, you’ll get a ten cent discount on your drink.

5. DIY

A lot of people like Starbucks for the convenience but if you just really like the taste of their coffee, you can buy the beans, whole or ground, and make your own Starbucks drink at home or work.

6. Save the Bags

Don’t throw away those empty bean bags! When you bring one into a Starbucks, you can exchange it for a free tall hot or iced coffee. Trash into treasure!

7. DIY Latte

An iced latte is refreshing on a hot day, but you can save a little money by making your own in-store. Order an iced triple espresso in a Venti-sized cup and then fill the rest of the cup with the free milk of your choice at the condiment counter.

8. DIY Tea

You can bring your own tea bag and buy a cup of hot water for a quarter. This is great if you’re out and about and want to grab a hot drink to go. Tea bags don’t take up much room so toss a couple in your purse or work bag.

This is less great if you are going to stay and take up a table for an hour after only spending a quarter.

9. Follow Starbucks on Facebook

Sometimes Starbucks will post special offers on their Facebook page so keep an eye out for those.

10. Shop at Target

Target sometimes has special promotions for their Cartwheel members on Starbucks drinks and products.

11. Earn Gift Cards

We have reviewed a lot of survey and shopping sites where you can earn points and then exchange them for gift cards and several of the sites offer Starbucks gift cards as one of your options. Some of the sites that offer Starbucks cards include Toluna Opinions, Swagbucks, Ibotta, and Shopkick.

12. Ask for Gift Cards

Do you hate shopping for gifts? Not because you don’t want to buy gifts for the people in your life but because you have no idea what they want? Well, they feel the same about buying gifts for you! If you have a birthday or another gift giving day coming up, tell people you want Starbucks gift cards.

You’ll get want you want, and they’ll be relieved! Starbucks gift cards don’t have any fees nor do they ever expire.

13. Buy Gift Cards

You can buy discounted Starbucks gift cards on sites like Raise and Cardpool. Currently Raise is selling Starbucks cards for 4% off and Cardpool for up to 10% off.

14. Trade Gift Cards

If you have gift cards from other retailers that you don’t want, you can trade them on those sites too.

15. Sharing is Caring

A serving of a non-alcoholic beverage is 8 ounces. Our notion of portion size is really skewed in America. If you can remember back far enough, you’ll remember those little glass bottles of Coca-Cola. Those little bottles held 6.5 ounces. They don’t even make them anymore; they ceased production in 2012.

Cans of Coke contain 12 ounces and those plastic bottles that most of us consider single serve contain a whopping 20 ounces, almost three servings worth (of Coke and calories!). My point is, we don’t need to consume so much liquid, especially if you’re ordering a high calorie, high sugar Starbucks specialty drink.

If the power of the pumpkin spice latte compels you, order a Grande (16 ounces) or a Venti (20 ounces) and split it with a friend. Don’t order a Trenta ever. No one needs 31 ounces of any drink in a single serving!

16. Hold the Ice

Ice displaces the liquid in your cup so ask the barista to go light on the ice or leave it out entirely. Less ice equals more drink. If you still want ice, ask for it on the side. You’ll get a free cup of it so you’ll still have a full cup of your drink of choice and ice.

17. Stick to the Basics

If it’s just the caffeine kick you’re looking for, just order a regular coffee, it’s much cheaper than the fancy whipped cream drinks on the menu and better for you. If you’re looking for a sugar kick too, buy the black coffee and add a few packets of free sugar.

18. Order a French Press

If you’re meeting a friend or two, rather than everyone ordering individual cups of coffee, order a French press. Not all locations offer the French press, but it can save some money when you can find it.

19. Don’t Buy Bottled

Don’t buy the bottled water sold in Starbucks. Just ask the barista for a cup of water, and they’ll give it to you for free. The water is filtered if that’s a concern for you.  And next time, remember to bring your reusable bottle from home!

20. Order Ahead

If you join the Starbucks Membership Program, you can order your drinks online before you get to the location. Does this save you money? No, but it saves you time and time is money.

This is an especially useful tip when you’re in the airport. Everyone else coming off every other incoming plane is looking for their Starbucks fix too so the line is loooong. But you can have your coffee waiting for you and breeze right out because you can pay with your phone too!

21. Not so Fast

If you are a Starbucks regular, you probably always order the same thing. You might not even have to ask for it because the barista sees you coming, already knows what you want and puts in your order. But sometimes Starbucks has discounts on certain items including new items they want people to try, and this will be listed on the in-store menu so take a minute to read it when you walk in.

22. Get a Sample

If there is a new drink you want to try but aren’t sure you’ll like it, you can ask for a sample. The barista will give you a small taste so you can decide. Nothing worse than spending your hard earned money on something to eat or drink and then not liking it!

23. Don’t Treat Yo Self

Everyone deserves a treat now and then, and that’s what those fancy, expensive Starbucks drinks should be considered; a treat. If you’re having those multiple times a week, start keeping track of the cost in Mint or whatever system you use to budget. Sometimes we don’t think about those relatively small amounts we spend because they’re so, well, relatively small.

But when Mint shows you that you’ve spent $60 for the month and $720 for the year on Venti Caramel, Frappacunnis, you might see a problem.

24. Happy Hour!

Sometimes Starbucks offers a happy hour! Recently, they were offering half off Frappuccinos starting at 3:00. Members will be notified of these happy hour events, and if you’re not a member (what are you waiting for!?), you can sign up with this link to receive notifications.

The ending hours vary by store so you can call your favorite location and ask the hours.

25.Get Shorty

Tall isn’t the smallest sized cup you can order. You can order a Short which is 8 ounces, as we said earlier, the amount a serving of non-alcoholic liquid should be. And of course, the Short is cheaper than the Tall.

26. Fifty Cent Refills

Anyone, a member or not, can get a fifty cent in-store refill of hot or iced coffee or hot or iced tea. It doesn’t even matter if you had one of those choices as your first drink, you can get your cup refilled with one of them for the same fifty cents. This not only saves money but you can have two different drinks. Order a hot coffee and get a fifty cent refill of iced coffee.

This is great for people who like to bring their laptops to Starbucks to work or who like to meet up with friends or dates there.

27. Whipped Cream is Free

If you want to add a little something special to your drink, you can get whipped cream atop any drink for free. A Puppuccino is a little cup of whipped cream for your doggy, and that is free too.

28. Don’t Waste It!

When I lived in New York City, I walked at the New York City pace, i.e. fast! Walking fast with a full to the brim cup of hot coffee is a recipe for disaster, so I used to just pour out about an inch of the coffee, wasting perfectly good coffee I just paid for! Well, I’ve learned that you can order whatever size of drink you want and ask for it to be served to you in the next larger size up!

This is also good for those of you who were pouring out your precious coffee to make room for milk. No more coffee scalds and no more wasted coffee.

29. Be Nice

This goes for anywhere you go and anyone you deal with and it shouldn’t matter if you get free stuff out of it or not. But be nice to the people who work at Starbucks. I don’t know if you’ve ever worked in a job where you had to deal with the public, but it can be grinding. People are rude and often downright mean.

So don’t be one of the mean people. At the very least you will make someone’s job and day a little easier and at best, you might get a free drink or a free extra shot of espresso now and then.

30. And the Ultimate Starbucks Money Saving Hack

You knew we were going to tell you this. Just make coffee at home or your office. I don’t believe the reason all of us aren’t retired by 35 is that we spend all of our money on Starbucks and avocado toast but Starbucks is a luxury that we shouldn’t be spending money on multiple times a week.

If it’s the convenience of having your coffee there for you in the morning on the way to work, set up the coffee pot at home the night before. Turn it on before you get in the shower, and when you’re done, the coffee will be ready. Pour it into a travel cup or thermos and be on your way. I guarantee this is faster than waiting in line at Starbucks.

If you frequent Starbucks because you don’t like the free coffee at your office, ask if they will buy a different brand. Or buy your own mini coffee pot and buy whatever coffee you want. You could do the same with a Keurig but K-cups are not exactly environmentally friendly so I hate to offer that up, but it is an option.

If you use your mid-day trip to Starbucks as a chance to get out of your office, get some sunshine, and have a minute to yourself, I certainly don’t fault you for that. I used to work in an office, and I know how that feels. But you can leave your office and go somewhere besides Starbucks!

Go for a walk around the block or do a nearby errand you would otherwise have to do on your lunch break or on your way home. If your boss would give you a hard time if he or she thought you weren’t leaving for a good reason (and they agree that going out for coffee is a good reason), then carry an empty Starbucks cup with you. They’ll never know!

Nothing wrong with treating yourself but really, there are better things you could spend that money on than coffee.

Candice Elliott

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