As the weather cools down, many of us like to warm up with a pumpkin spice latte or other caffeinated drinks. Countless personal finance articles and books remind us that cutting out our daily Starbucks habit (mine is more like a two to three times a month habit) could save hundreds of dollars; but I think there’s a middle ground where you can have your caffeine and save a little money, too. After all, many people enjoy the community vibe of a coffee shop, and plenty of other habits cost more than a few dollars.
If you really want to save big bucks, refinancing your home, nixing that gym membership you never use or choosing a cheaper apartment could achieve that goal without constantly challenging your willpower. But if you simply want to enjoy your coffee for a little less money, read on for tips that can help you save at home or at your favorite coffee shop.
Brew coffee savings at home:
1. Buy reusable coffee pods. If you have a Keurig or other single-serving coffeemaker, you know that those coffee pods aren’t cheap. Instead, buy pods that you can fill with regular coffee grounds and reuse.
2. Mix fancy coffee grounds with supermarket coffee. Teresa Mears, a coffee-lover and publisher of the blog Living on the Cheap, has a smart way to stretch her coffee, which she orders online from a specialty coffee roaster. “I make the coffee last longer by adding one part supermarket coffee for every three parts specialty coffee,” she says. “My preference is Eight O’Clock french vanilla, which gives me vanilla flavor, too.” She also suggests adding chocolate syrup to create a mocha flavor.
3. Buy coffee on sale. Mears waits for supermarket coffee to go on sale so she can save even more money. “You can also find coffee coupons in the Sunday paper and online,” she says. “You get the best deal when you can match a coupon with a sale. Also check the clearance bin because sometimes coffee ends up there when the store decides to quit carrying a particular brand.”
4. Only make as much coffee as you’ll drink. “I used to make four cups every morning but noticed that during the summer and on weekends when I get up later, I was throwing coffee away,” Mears says. “So I cut back to three. If I want more, I can always make more.” If you do find yourself with leftover coffee, freeze the excess in an ice cube tray to use for iced coffee in place of regular ice, which will dilute the flavor as it melts.
5. Reuse old coffee grounds. I recently discovered (courtesy of Pinterest) that old coffee grounds can be used to fertilize plants, repel fleas and kill fridge odors, among other tasks.
Save at Starbucks or other coffee shops:
6. Bring your own cup. Starbucks and many other coffee shops offer a small discount to patrons who bring their own cup. It’s better for the environment, too. Use an insulated thermos so your coffee will stay warm throughout the morning.
7. Join the loyalty program. If the coffee shop you frequent offers a punch card or another loyalty program, sign up. The Starbucks Rewards program offers a free birthday drink or treat once you reach gold level, and you’ll get a free item for every 12 purchases. (Just don’t let this justify paying for more drinks than you normally would buy.)
8. Customize your drink. Drinks with a fancy name are often pricier. Instead of ordering a pumpkin spice latte, you might order a regular latte and ask the barista to add a pump or two of pumpkin syrup (do the math to make sure this is actually cheaper). I know someone who carries a small vial of vanilla agave syrup in her purse and adds it to her lattes instead of paying for sugary syrups.
9. Watch for daily deals. Groupon has offered several Starbucks deals at half price, and I’ve seen other daily deals for independent coffee shops as well.
Photo credit: Getty Creative