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Millennial Money: Drink up savings at Starbucks

By COURTNEY JESPERSEN of NerdWalletAugust 27, 2019
In this Aug. 8, 2019 photo customers arrive at a Starbucks coffee shop in Burbank, Calif. Even if your order sounds fancy, enjoying your coffee shouldn't have to put you over budget. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
In this Aug. 8, 2019 photo customers arrive at a Starbucks coffee shop in Burbank, Calif. Even if your order sounds fancy, enjoying your coffee shouldn't have to put you over budget. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

One Starbucks grande Cold Brew with Salted Cream Cold Foam, please.

Even if your order sounds fancy, enjoying your coffee shouldn’t have to put you over budget.

Whatever your drink of choice, following these tips could help keep you from overspending at your favorite coffee spot — without giving up your habit.

WRITE A MONEY RECIPE

First and foremost, recognize your Starbucks purchases as a part of your actual budget.

“I prefer that people be realistic with themselves and say, ‘Listen, this is a habit that I’m not going to give up. It makes my day. It makes me happy,’” says Marianela Collado, CEO and senior financial adviser at Tobias Financial Advisors in Florida.

“Then it should totally be a line item. If you take $5 a day for 365 days, that’s almost $2,000.”

Those who utilize a budgeting system like Mintor Quicken should create a “coffee fix” category in their budget, Collado says. This would fall under the “wants” section of your budget, much like an entertainment or beauty category. And be sure to set a monthly spending limit.

KEEP YOUR DARK ROAST OUT OF THE RED

Then, make some trade-offs. For example, Collado says she’s noticed that some members of her team regularly splurge on their afternoon lattes, but bring their lunches to work instead of going out to eat. They value getting coffee out more than they value eating out.

If you’re not sure if you can hold yourself accountable on your own, don’t discount the ability of a gift card to keep your spending on track. Using a gift card as your payment method is actually a forced budgeting technique, according to Tracie Fobes, founder of Penny Pinchin’ Mom.

She recommends loading a Starbucks gift card onto the Starbucks app with your coffee money allotment for the month. Then don’t reload the card again for the next 30 days.

“You put $40 on that card, and when that $40 is done, guess what? Your Starbucks run ends for the month.”

SWAP STARS FOR SAVINGS

You can maximize your monthly coffee allotment by joining Starbucks Rewards and downloading the coffee joint’s app.

The Starbucks loyalty program offers customers the ability to earn stars — two stars for every $1 spent — that can later be redeemed for free drinks and other rewards. There are also other benefits, such as a free treat on your birthday, according to a Starbucks spokesperson.

If you’re going to be making purchases at Starbucks anyway, it makes sense to earn rewards for your loyalty — it’ll stretch your coffee dollars a little bit further.

BREW UP A BARGAIN

Loyalty programs are a popular savings technique (Starbucks told us its rewards program has more than 16.8 million active members). But beyond simply joining, there are less conventional ways to get the most out of your cup of joe, too.

One option? Time your coffee run strategically. The coffee chain sometimes hosts discount promotions, such as happy hours. These are deals offered directly through the Starbucks app and could include offers such as 50% off drinks or buy one, get one free. These are available to all Starbucks customers and typically start at 3 p.m.

At any time of day, try asking the barista for less ice, recommends Kara Stevens, founder of The Frugal Feminista . The beverage may be slightly less cold, but the container will be filled with more drink for your money.

PASS ON THE PASTRIES

Sure, you can keep the iced latte, but pass on the pricey pastries, scones, cakes and other snacks, Fobes recommends.

But if you really, really like the flavor of that iced lemon loaf cake, go to Pinterest and check for a similar recipe you can make at home.

“Somebody out there has a copycat where you can make it at home and get the Starbucks experience without paying the Starbucks price,” Fobes says.

Stevens puts her Starbucks food advice this way: Don’t linger too long. The more time you spend there, the more likely you are to be tempted by the food items.

With a little extra work, you can drink up your favorite coffee with a helping of whipped cream — and without dragging down your budget.

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This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Courtney Jespersen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @courtneynerd.

RELATED LINK:

NerdWallet: How to save money http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-how-to-save-money

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