How to Save Money on Starbucks Coffee at Home and at Starbucks
6/27/13: Starbucks (SBX) raised it's prices by about 1%, which will work out to about $0.10 in most major cities. So, if you bought one of their cups last year, then you'll have to use it 11 times, instead of 10, to pay it off. Again, BYOC, and you'll do just fine.
Also, last week I allowed by one Barista to use 2 bags at once to get two iced-coffees. I know this sounds petty as all, but my better half appreciated when I brought one home to her. (Iced coffee in the summer is great!)
Bring Your Own Cup (BYOC) Discount
Recently, Starbucks released a cup to the world for $1.00 and offered a $0.10 per cup rebate off coffee that you buy in the future. Naturally, this is a great thing for the environment, and you'll save money over the long haul.
The problem I have with this concept, is that for as long as I can remember, Starbucks has given about a $0.35 discount for any BYOCup effort. I carry a cup with me nearly everywhere I go, and have found this to be the case in many Starbucks across many states.
So, if you don't already own a non-disposable cup, which I believe you must, then please, by all means, go buy the sleek new one, but I don't understand the $0.25 decrease in savings? Maybe someone can comment as to how this new math is the new reality.
UPDATE on Feb 17, 2013: Today, while exchanging a bag for a 20oz Dark Cafe Verona (in my own cup), I asked the Barista what the discount for coffee would be if I brought my own cup, and she said it is now only $0,10. (10 Cents). But, she stated that it various depending where you are, citing that New York City may be higher to adjust for the Cost of Living.
Free Starbucks Coffee is even better than discounts
Since we're talking about reducing the cost of Starbucks coffee, let's talk about getting a free cup. This weekend, I bought multiple one-pound bags of Starbucks Dark coffee at Wal-Mart for just under $8 / bag. My normal price is under $8, and I rotate between Wal-Mart, Target, and the local grocery store, depending on who's got it on sale.
If you read the side of the bag, it says:
Bring Us Your Empty Bag. We'll Give you a Coffee. When this bag is out of coffee, exchange it for a tall brewed coffee (12 fl oz), on us. See bottom of bag for details.
--- Bottom of Bag Details ---
Offer good only at participating US Starbucks stores. Expires 30 days after the "Best Before" date printed on this bag. Limit one per customer. Cannot be combined with other offers or discounts. Void where prohibited. Cash value 1/100 cent. Not valid if reproduced. Barista, please ring as code 514.
Ok, so with all that legal mumbo-jumbo out of the way, here is what I've experienced. Some stores take the bag, others don't. Some Baristas check the date, others don't. None of them know the code, at least until I come along and they start to see me everyday. Some baristas know what 12 ounces is, others fill up the cup that I bring with me, to the rim. (I have 20oz cups... HA! 8 more ounces free... that's almost 2 free cups at once!) On average, the amount they ring up for the free cup is about $1.75. At times, I have "upgraded", and paid for a shot of espresso to make a "Red Eye". Others that I know have upgraded to all the fancy-shmancy, fru-fru, frilly coffee that has made Starbucks famous. Again, some Baristas allow this, others can't do the math.
Finally, Starbucks, like every company in the world, offers a rewards card. I don't know what the rate of return is, but I'm sure it takes years to recoup anything substantial, but as long as you're going there, you might as well get it. I also see people doing things with their mobile phone, so check out what that has to offer.
UPDATE on Mar 4, 2013: There's been a big push to Join the rewards program. Register your card, and you'll get $5. https://www.starbucks.com/card
Ok, so to summarize the point, if you really like Starbucks, then make sure you own a non-disposable cup. Buy the one pound bags for about $8 bucks, and get about a $2 rebate when you get a free cup. If you don't home brew, then just have your on-the-go cup, and save $0.35 per cup.
Big Box Stores and Single Serving Coffee
What about CostCo, Sam's, BJ's, Meijer, etc? They all sell 5 pound bags that typically retail for about $9/pound, and the bags do have the same offer. But, the problem is, that you only get one free cup for that 5 bag. So, you're ACTUALLY paying more for the same coffee when you buy it in larger quantities. ($1 per pound more, and only 1 free, instead of 5 free cups.) Another reason I quit buying it at the warehouses is that they only carry French Roast, and who doesn't hate the French?
In case you're wondering, I did an average cup of coffee cost with one of the single shot home brewers. I didn't include the cost of the brewing unit, but just for the single shot servings, it came out to be about $1.50 / cup. I find this to be rather outrageous for the person that wants to brew cheap coffee at home. (I can understand the benefits in an office, but not at home.)