Admit it: You’re obsessed with Starbucks. It’s not just a coffee shop, it’s a lifestyle. We wait year-round for the infamous PSL (“basic” be damned), know it’s time for Christmas when they start serving Gingerbread Lattes from Christmas cups, and look forward to summer with fruity, refreshing, and Insta-worthy iced teas. But it can be a pretty pricey obsession to have. With typical menu drinks costing about $3 to $7 (plus that extra shot of espresso or added almond milk), it can easily add up. But whether you’re looking to save money, spend less time waiting in a Starbucks line, or have healthier options, you can be getting more bang for your (Star)buck. Read on for the Starbucks hacks that will save you time, money, and added sugar.
1. Don’t limit yourself to what’s on the menu
The most expert Starbucks-frequenters rarely order from the menu to get their favorite drinks—and they save money. Check out the secret menu (yes, it really does exist!) or try these secret menu drink concoctions that are all $3, and never pay $6 for a coffee again. If you prefer lattes, order the caffe misto, which tastes the same (half coffee, half milk) but is slightly cheaper. More of a tea drinker? A chai latte misto is half steamed milk and half brewed chai tea, saving you money and sugar (you can also just order a hot chai tea with steamed milk if the terminology weirds you out and save $1 to $2).
2. Make your own drinks for a cheaper price
We all love our lattes, but they get pricey, especially if you need a Venti size. If you’re OK with foregoing the foam, order a triple espresso (over ice, if you prefer iced lattes) in a Venti cup (with room for milk), and then go to the condiments area to fill up your coffee with milk, which is like a DIY iced latte but for a fraction of the cost. Love your foam? Order a Tall coffee with steamed milk (still cheaper than a latte!) or a Tall hot coffee in a Grande cup, and then fill up on the milk at the condiments station for a Grande latte for the price of a Tall black coffee.
3. Take advantage of refills
Do you spend a lot of workdays or meetings at Starbucks, where you stay for hours and get multiple drinks? Or maybe one cup of coffee just doesn’t cut it? During the time you’re at Starbucks, you can refill your cup with brewed coffee or tea for just 5o cents instead of paying for an additional drink, even if your original drink was not just brewed coffee or tea. “Refills” only count as iced or hot coffee and iced or hot tea, but remember the tricks above to turn it into a latte. Fill up on a Pumpkin Spice Latte during your coffee shop meeting and get a 50-cent extra pick-me-up of tea before you leave.
4. Bring your own cup
I love the limited-edition Christmas cups as much as the next girl, but if you bring your own cup to help the environment (we’re all about saving the planet, one coffee cup and plastic straw at a time!), you’ll also save 10 cents on your drink. 10 cents may not seem like a lot, but if you get Starbucks every day for a year and save 10 cents each time, you’ll have saved $36.40 (yeah, I did the math). Bring your own tumbler, mug, or to-go cup to simultaneously save money and the planet.
5. Sign up for rewards
Normally, rewards programs just mean more spam emails, but at Starbucks, it is a must. First of all, it’s free to sign up (isn’t that convincing enough?), and besides just having a ton of perks for being a reward member (hello, free birthday drink!), you also earn points for a number of things—like purchasing anything in-store and buying certain Starbucks items in grocery stores—that can be used for free food and drinks. If you’re an avid Starbucks-goer, signing up for the rewards program means you’ll rack up points for major perks. Even if you only hit up Starbucks once every so often, it’s still worth it for the free drink on your birthday.
6. Order a French press pot of coffee
Getting coffee with a friend, meeting up with your work wife for an out-of-office meeting, or getting sh*t done at your local Starbucks all afternoon? Order a French press pot of coffee instead of individual cups. Each pot serves a few cups of coffee but will be cheaper than buying each cup individually. Enjoy a pot with your friends or get a serious caffeine buzz on your own (we won’t judge).
7. Get the most out of your iced drink
Are you an iced coffee drinker, even when it’s cold? Or maybe you’re on an iced tea kick to help you drink less caffeine? There are a couple of tricks to help you make the most of your favorite iced drinks. For example, if you’re getting an iced tea, ask for “no water.” Iced teas are typically watered down, so asking for no water will make the brew stronger. For any iced beverage, order “light ice.” The barista’s default is to fill up the entire cup with ice, which limits how much cold brew or matcha you get. Light ice will still keep your drink refreshingly chilled while offering more bang for your buck by getting you more drink.
8. Be specific about your syrup
Looking to be healthier and limit sugar but love a PSL or vanilla latte way too much? You don’t have to give up your favorite beverage altogether—instead, just get specific about the syrup. Typically, a Tall drink has a default of three pumps of syrup (i.e. a Tall PSL contains three pumps of pumpkin spice syrup), a Grande has four pumps, and a Venti typically has five to six. If drinking a Venti vanilla latte is the happiest moment of your day, you go girl. But if you’re looking to be healthier without giving up your go-to drink, try specifying how many pumps you prefer in your order. Try one to two pumps in a Tall or Grande for the same flavor you love but with less sugar.
9. Ask for a sample
I usually stick to a typical iced coffee, but if you’re more adventurous than I am and like to try out the seasonal offerings or a new drink on the menu, you don’t need to risk not liking what you order. Unless the store is super busy, the barista should be totally fine getting you a sample of a certain brew or drink if you’re unsure whether or not you’d like it. This is officially your sign to try that new roast or the seasonal drink (after sampling it first, of course).