Basics of the Current Starbucks Program
- 25 stars: Drink modifications like an extra shot, up to $1
- 50 stars: Any size cup of hot coffee, tea, or bakery item
- 150 stars: Get any handcrafted beverage or breakfast sandwich (previously 125 stars)
- 200 stars: Lunch sandwiches, salads, or protein boxes
- 400 stars: Packaged coffee or merchandise for a single item up to $20
Now that we have that out of the way, here we go. In instances where you have to get your Starbucks fix, these tips will help you save money while doing it! I have organized the ways I save money at Starbucks into three main categories – Points, Gift Cards, and Ordering. I use all these tips personally to save money and they are so easy you can too!
Using the Starbucks Rewards points system to your advantage
Buy on Double Points Day
Once, maybe twice a month Starbucks emails me to let me know that the following day is going to be double stars day. I ALWAYS buy on double stars day. The same drink will give you 4 stars per dollar. This adds up!
Look for challenges where you earn extra points
Starbucks will offer bonus stars challenges and offers via the app and sometimes through email. Depending on the requirements and the stars received completing these contests can net you free drinks.
A few Times a Year there are Games
When there are new games out for free stars (examples include hopscotch, match, and bingo…) look for a Reddit post to find out the least expensive way to get your extra stars. Then evaluate how much you will complete and the number of stars you will receive. I may not complete the entire game, depending on how many stars are offered.
One thing to note about games and bonus star’s challenges is that sometimes you can combine the game and the star challenges to gain even more points, look out for that!
Leverage Starbucks Gift Cards
My absolute favorite way to save money at Starbucks has nothing to do with how I order or the promotions that they offer. It has to do with the availability of discounted or free gift cards! If you combine this strategy with leveraging the star point system you can really kick savings into overdrive.
Look for Groupon deals – $5.00 for $10.00
One or two times a year Groupon will offer a deal where you pay only $5.00 for a $10.00 Starbucks gift card. This is a great deal at 50% off. Of course, it is limited to one for you and 2 gifts. So my hubby and I each buy our own and then buy two for each other! That way we get the most out of this special deal. The best way to find this deal is to follow websites like Slickdeals, Krazy Koupon Ladies, or Reddit threads on Starbucks.
Buy discounted gift cards
I use this one tip the most and not just for Starbucks! I always look for discounted gift cards from sites like Raise, Giftcard Granny, or Giftcard Zen. Sites like Raise, offer extra discounts over the weekend, and sometimes, like during your birthday month or if you have not bought in a while you can get extra, stackable money off.
An example would be there was an extra 6% off all gift cards at Raise, I received a $10.00 off code and combined the two. The Starbucks gift card was 7.5% off $50.00, or $46.27 PLUS the additional 6% off, which made it $43.49. Then I took an additional $10.00 off. So I was able to receive a $50.00 gift card for $33.49! That is about 33% off.
Now, this type of deal will not always be available, but waiting for the right time to buy and stocking up is your best bet. What is even better is that you can use this hack to leverage savings for almost any gift card you want to buy!
Another tip relating to purchasing gift cards is to make sure you have money-saving tools installed. This includes sites like Honey, Rakuten, Swagbucks Button, and Wikibuy. Whenever I am buying something on the internet I make sure to check out the best money-back options available for purchasing. For Raise.com, Rakuten, Wikibuy, and Swagbucks offer 1% cash back. Honey has a ton of codes it can try to save you money on your purchase. Sign up from any of the links above if you do not already have it!
Ask for Gift cards
One of my favorite tactics is to ask for Starbucks gift cards for my birthday or for the holidays. I often receive them and in conjunction with double star days and bonus star challenges, you can get even more free drinks.
Earn free gift cards
Another way that I get gift cards for Starbucks is through apps that save you money or survey sites that help you make money. I have a few sites I will use to achieve free gift cards. The one I use the most is Swagbucks. See my tutorial here on how to make extra money using that site.
When Ordering Drinks at Starbucks
The other easy way to save money when buying from Starbucks is to think about what you are ordering and how you are ordering. Here are some tips that I personally use and will not make you (or your barista) feel awkward!
- Ordering a latte? Order a short, this is an 8 oz cup that is used for kid’s hot chocolate. There are fewer calories in it because it has a little less milk than a tall but is about $0.50 less.
- Remember to redeem your free birthday drink. The program only allows for redemption on your actual birthday, which can stink if you are nowhere near a Starbucks. But if you are, make it a quad Venti!
- Bring your own cup to save $0.10, if you are buying a cup of coffee daily then that adds up to a free coffee about every other week.
- If you are staying at the store to work there, you can get free refills on your coffee or tea (not crafted beverages, sorry!
- Order a French press which is about 2 – 3 cups of coffee, any beans in the store can be used and this makes a great way to share with friends, rather than ordering a separate coffee or hoarding it all for yourself.
- Go when they have special deals – $3.00 Frappuccino’s or $2.00 Iced lattes are just two examples of discounts they have, usually in the afternoon. The app will notify you of special deals like this and you may get an email if you are signed up
- Buy a Venti and split it into a second cup for a friend. I usually bring my own cup to do this so I am not asking the barista for one.
- Ask for light ice for your iced drinks – iced coffee, iced tea, iced latte. You will score a little more beverage in this case and your drink will not be watered down.
- When ordering Iced tea – hold the water. it makes for a strong cup and you can split it and add water later!
- Order an Americano instead of a latte, then add a little skim milk or half and half. Not sure what an Americano is? It is espresso with hot water added. The cost is about $1.50 less than ordering a latte!
- Use the free add-ons – cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla, half and half. These can be found at the bar area and make a simple coffee taste better without a ton of added calories (except for the half and half ?) or money!
But if you REALLY Want to Be Frugal….
Supplies and Costs
- Invest in a new coffee machine (estimated cost of $250.00) we have a Nespresso Veutro with a milk frother. (affiliate link) It was a package deal and we have had ours for nearly 3 years. It has more than paid for itself.
- I like to buy our own coffee from Costco (one 2 lb bag of organic coffee is about $14.99 on sale) in 300 days we go through about 2 bags (estimated cost of $30.00). We go through about 2 – 3 bags a year. We grind the beans when we are ready to use.
- Rather than buy the pods, we make our own pods (we get the seals on Amazon). 300 seals run about $35.00)
- Milk – amount 1/2 gal a week (7 lattes) 1.00 (x 42 weeks ~300 days, estimated cost $42.00)
- Simple Syrup – This is a simple recipe for sugar and water. I make mine super light with 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of organic cane sugar to two cups of water. One mason jar lasts me 2 weeks. The cost of a 10-pound bag is about $9.00. I use the bag for baking and other needs and it last about a year. We make our own Simple Syrup with homemade Vanilla Extract
- Vanilla Extract – I use a few tablespoons in the simple syrup to make vanilla syrup. Vanilla beans are an investment, but if you are wanting a flavored coffee it is worth the investment! It is hard to estimate the cost because I use it for a ton of other things.
Add it all up
Times 300 cups = $819 in savings and that is not even an entire year! So you can see how this quickly can make sense financially. Plus, it still allows you to have a latte at home and still get the occasional Starbucks.
This does not take into account:
- time to make pods,
- gas usage,
- mileage added to the car
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