Do you love getting Starbucks, but hate spending $5+ on every visit? You can spend less than $3 at Starbucks with my cheap drink hacks.
Once upon a time…
I worked at Starbucks starting in the summer of 2012. I was planning to go to grad school and though it would be the perfect part-time, grad school job. Lo and behold, a couple days into my training, I took a positive pregnancy test and ended up withdrawing from grad school before it officially began.
I worked at Starbucks up until around Everson’s due date. The greatest takeaway from my brief 8-month stint there, was learning my Starbucks cheap drink hacks that I still use regularly to this day.
I know it’s way too easy to drop $5-6 on a drink at Starbucks, but I regularly go through the Starbucks drive-through and only spend $2.60 and that can even include a treat for both of my boys!
6 hacks for ordering cheap drinks at Starbucks:
#1 – Order an Americano instead of a Latte, Mocha or Caramel Macchiato.
Nick and I jokingly refer to Americanos as the “poor man’s latte”, or woman’s in my case. Americanos are made with espresso and water, while lattes, mochas and caramel macchiatos (at Starbucks) are made with espresso and milk (plus syrups depending on the drink).
Order and Americano with extra steamed milk, then add in any flavor you prefer. You can add mocha in flavoring in and I guarantee it will taste very similar, if not exactly the same, as your regular mocha. Add in caramel and vanilla syrup for a cheap caramel macchiato type drink. I skip flavored syrups (see point #2) almost entirely because they are crazy expensive, but if you need that mocha flavor you will at least be saving money on the Americano pricing!
# 2 – Skip the flavored syrups and get a free sweetener instead.
Starbucks charges you somewhere around $0.60 per syrup used in your drink. I personally love the taste of coffee with 1 pump of peppermint syrup and 1 pump of mocha, but I never ever order that because it would cost me an extra $1.20 for just two measly pumps of syrup. (Side note: a tall drink comes with 3 pump, grande 4 pumps, venti 5 and so on. However, you can request more or less syrup depending on your preference. I just prefer less sugary drinks, so I find it super annoying to have to pay the full price of syrup when I only want one pump.)
If you like sweetened drinks, there are plenty of ways to still add sweetness to your drinks for FREE! You can ask to have any amount of sugar packets stirred into your latte (regular sugar, stevia, etc.) or they have honey packets you can request to be put into your drink. Yum!
Last, but not least, you can ask for any of those spice/flavor toppings you always see on the condiment bar to be added into your drink for you…cocoa powder, vanilla powder, cinnamon, etc. I’m 99.9% sure that whipped cream is free to add on top of any drink, as well!
# 3 – Skip cake pops and get your kid a free puppuccino!
When my kids were younger, I could easily go through the Starbucks drive-through without whining for their own treats but then they got older and wiser. Now (in their ripe old ages of 5 and 3), when I pull up to a Starbucks it’s like they’ve been trained to start pleading for their own treat or drink.
We are currently doing a gluten and dairy free diet for our boys, so right now I tell them all they can have is water (#meanmom). However, I used to order two puppuccinos when I ordered my Americano. Puppuccinos are a tiny cup of whipped cream that you can order for free for your dog….or your kids. Next time you want to treat your kiddo at Starbucks just get them a puppuccino (ask for a spoon), instead of dropping a pretty penny on those over-priced cake pops.
#4 – Order Iced Coffee (or again…an Americano) if you are after a big jolt of caffeine
Starbucks probably makes my favorite iced coffee out there…for sure compared to any other chain. They make their iced coffee extremely strong/super concentrated and it has a high amount of caffeine. If caffeine is what you are after, don’t add an espresso shot to your latte just order a cheaper drink that will have more caffeine anyway.
Iced coffee has the highest caffeine content, but Americanos all come with an extra shot of espresso as compared to the other premium espresso drinks (lattes, mochas, etc.). For a tall Americano, you get two shots of espresso. You only get one shot of espresso in a regular latte or mocha.
#5 – Ask for a bigger cup.
In the summer, I tend to order iced coffees, but in the colder months my go-to drink is an Americano. I typically order a tall Americano (to get those 2 shots of espresso) and then I request my tall drink to be in a grande cup. Starbucks will make your drink in any cup size you request, so I request a tall iced coffee sometimes in a Venti cup with extra ice. For my tall Americano, I typically order it in a grande cup with extra steamed almond milk (and a packet of honey stirred in, please)!
#6 – If you even semi-regularly go to Starbucks, enroll in their rewards card.
Take a Starbucks gift card and register it in their rewards program. It’s free and the benefits are pretty awesome! Just for registering your card, you become a “green card” member and you get a free drink on your birthday and you also get FREE refills on all hot and iced coffee and hot and iced tea. You can even switch between coffee and tea when getting your refills. This applies only to in-store, same-day purchases.
I love supporting local shops, but this is one of THE biggest reasons I sometimes choose Starbucks for a remote work location. I can order a tall iced coffee for $2.60 and refill it as many times as I want. If I’m too buzzed on caffeine, I can switch (FOR FREE) to a passion fruit ice tea. It’s a really nice perk, so take advantage of it! (PS if you’re a #basicmom like me and you like to grab a drink from the Starbucks at Target before shopping…get a tall iced coffee at the start of your shopping trip, then go get it refilled before you leave. You just scored a venti drink for the price of one tall drink!)
Well, more ideas are coming to me, so looks like you’re getting more than 6 hacks for cheap drink ordering at Starbucks. Here are a few more miscellaneous tips for your Starbucks orders:
- Bring your own cup to save 10 cents on your drink order (more environmentally friendly, too)!
- Request light ice to get more coffee or tea in your iced drinks (or like I said in point #5 above you can request a larger sized cup).
- If you’re ordering drinks for a group, ordering a Trenta or Venti sized drink and split it into smaller cups.
- Don’t buy a water bottle from Starbucks. You can get any size cup of water you want for free. (Thanks, Starbucks! Please keep doing that.)
- Ask for “no water” in your ice tea if you want a stronger drink.
- Order the brewed chai tea (via the bag of tea so not a chai tea latte) with light water. Ask for steamed milk to be added in or take your cup over to the condiment bar and add in half and half. Voila! You have your own chai tea latte-like drink.
Now I want to hear from YOU..!
Tell me: what do you typically order from Starbucks? Are you going to try one of these hacks on your next Starbucks visit? Are there any cheap ordering hacks I missed that should be added to this list?