A College Student’s Guide to a Cheaper Cup of Coffee

If you’re like me, your day can’t begin without a cup of coffee. For a person who once had around six cups of coffee in one day (I have a problem, I know) … I mean business.

One thing I have noticed is that the number in my bank account seems to be taking a hit with every one of my visits to a coffee shop. With the price of textbooks these days, we can’t afford for coffee to be burning an even bigger hole in our pockets. Here a few little-known secrets to save you a buck or two while also staying properly caffeinated.

Rewards Programs and Email Sign-ups

Several coffee shops are known for offering special discounts online or having some sort of rewards program. Check out the website of your favorite coffee shop for deals specific to the store. Coffee shops such as Peet’s Coffee and Tea allow you to sign up on their website for emails and special offers. Don’t pass that up! Another coffee shop you can save at is Starbucks.

Want some sweet deals from one of the most well-known coffee shops? Just register your Starbucks Card online and you’ll be on your way to achieving the Starbucks Gold Card. After registering, reload your card with cash and use it like you would a gift card the next time you stop by your local Starbucks. Use your card once and you automatically get a free drink or food reward on your birthday.

  • Green level: After you’ve used your Starbucks Card five times, you’ll step up to this level. This gets you free refills on brewed and iced coffee and tea at no charge to you during your visit!
  • Gold level: Once you’ve used your card 30 times (for 30 stars) within 12 months, you’ll reach the Gold level for one year. Starbucks will send you a Gold Card with your name on it that will act just like your original Starbucks Card. With a Gold Card, you’ll receive a free drink or food reward for every 12 stars (or visits) in addition to other special offers just for you.

Starbucks Secrets

While we’re on the topic of Starbucks, here a few more ways to save that you probably weren’t aware of.

  • The “short” size

When you walk into your local Starbucks, the menu shows their various sizes, sans the unadvertised short size they have hiding behind the counter. Rather than ordering your typical tall Americano, order a short Americano. The short size is 8 oz, in comparison to the tall’s 12 oz. If you wake up wanting just a mere 8 oz of coffee (and also looking to save a little), order yourself a short the next time you’re at Starbucks.

  • Bring in your own cup, save a dime

Have a nice travel tumbler you just received as a gift and are dying to use? Bring it into Starbucks and have the barista make your drink in it. Using your own cup will save you 10 cents off of your purchase. Heck, bring your own reusable cup or mug too.

  • Bring in your empty bag of Starbucks coffee

If that wasn’t enough, bring your empty bag of Starbucks coffee into your local store and trade it with a barista for a complimentary tall brewed coffee.

Make coffee at home

Want a large caramel latte with whipped cream and non-fat milk? Make it at home! While it’s always nice to get a cup of coffee at your favorite shop, making a cup of Joe at home can save you money — and the time you would have spent waiting in the typical long coffee shop lines.

After adding together the special pricing for the milk and taking into account the size of the coffee (as well as any other special pricing additions), you might just find yourself walking out with your coffee costing you $5 or so. Ouch. For that price, you can buy a bag of coffee, making you way more than just one cup at home.

It’s all about the creamer

I love coffee creamers, especially during the fall and winter when the pumpkin and peppermint flavors appear on store shelves. But if you’re looking to save a few bucks, these festive creamers aren’t always the cheapest option. Another way to save is to buy a powder creamer rather than a liquid creamer. I’ve found that the liquid creamers tend to have better flavors, but they also run out a lot quicker — no matter the size. It’s also cheaper to use milk as a creamer since most of us buy milk anyways.

Spread Your Wings

My debit card tends to take quite the hit every time I visit a coffee shop. If it’s just a regular cup of coffee you’re after, go to your local Panera Bread and try something off of their freshly brewed coffee menu. They even sell iced chai tea lattes, peppermint mochas and cappuccinos.

Places such as Panera Bread, Burger King and McDonald’s serve coffee likely to cost far less than what you would spend on your grande soy peppermint mocha (hold the whip). While it may not be your usual order at Starbucks, it’ll get you the caffeine you need to make it through the day — and you might even find that you like it better than your usual drink!

Other Helpful Tips

  • Coffee Ice Cubes

Yes, you read that right. When you make coffee at home, are you often left with a little bit of coffee that’s not enough to fill a mug? Pour the rest of the coffee into an empty ice cube tray and let it freeze! After it’s had time to freeze, pour yourself a mug (or mason jar as shown below) full of milk and add a few coffee ice cubes! It’ll taste like an iced latte, and even more so once the ice cubes begin to melt. This a great way to be resourceful and the outcome tastes so good!

  • Coffee w/ Personality 

Tired of the same ol’ coffee and creamer? Personalize your coffee by adding things such as cocoa and nutmeg! Or you can try adding a little bit of cinnamon or vanilla to your coffee grounds before brewing. This will get you flavored coffee at a fraction of the cost.

If you’re a college student on a budget and an avid coffee drinker like I am, these tips will have you saving cash in no time!

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Kassi Luja

Kassi Luja

Kassi Luja is a junior at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo pursuing a degree in journalism with a concentration in news-editorial. At school, she can often be found in the Mustang Daily newsroom where she works as a copy editor. Outside of school, she enjoys reading, listening to music and spending time with family and friends.
Kassi Luja

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