Sep 7, 2010

How to save money at coffee shops

As I sit in Borders with my Seattles Best iced coffee, which consequently is disgusting, I think about the short interaction I had with the barista to change the amount of product I received for the price.

Without a coupon or a discount card, you are a slave to the rising costs of coffee and the extremely overpriced, delicious specialty and iced drinks such as lattes, frappes, macchiato and the beloved iced coffee, which I have previously admitted my infatuation for. But, don't sit back in take it. Here are few quick tips on how to change your coffeehouse experience for the better and leave with more monies in your pocket.

1. You don't need room for creamer. In most coffee shops, when ordering a cup of coffee or an iced coffee or anything you might add creamer to, the barista will often ask, "would you like room for creamer?" I believe they are trained to say that because it is a way for coffeehouses to give you less coffee...and they definitely give you less coffee.

For instance, just a few moments ago, my roommate indicated she would like room for cream and they gave her about 1/2 inch less coffee (surely she would never put that much cream in). I responded "no thank you" to the question but I still had plenty of room to add lots of cream and sugar...and I do mean lots. In the event that they do indeed give you so much coffee that you do not have room, simple take a sip before adding cream and sugar.

2. Save on iced drinks. I asked for less ice for the first time a few weeks ago at a coffeehouse, assuming they might charge me more for my drink but they did not. Have you ever gotten an iced drink and gulped it down in two sips? Why? It's got so much gosh darned ice in it, there's barely any drink. Ask for light ice, you'll get more coffee for your dollar.

3. Pick up a discount hole-punch card. If it's a place you frequent or even hit every once and while, grab a card. If the shop offers every 10th drink for free, that's a 10% discount on your drinks, assuming you get a lavishly expensive drink on your freebie, which you definitely should.

4. Bring in your own cup. Many coffee places will give you a percentage off or give you a larger size if you bring in your own cup for them to fill.

5. Don't buy coffee, make it yourself. If you're in the habit of buying a regular or iced coffee in the morning, save some real cash and turn on your coffeemaker in the morning. At first it will be difficult to make the transition, but trust me, once you're in the habit you'll wonder why you wasted so much cash on something you can brew yourself. Making the perfect iced coffee can be tricky, be sure to read up on how to make one as good as Dunkin's.

Since I'm addicted to specialty coffee, I actually got an espresso machine for around $35 and bought Starbucks chocolate to make my mochas at home. It's definitely paid for itself since I got it.

As you can tell, I really love coffee and I do spend a fare share of cash on it, but at least I've got it down to a science. Try to enjoy your back-to-work Tuesday and don't forget to turn on the coffeepot in the morning.


  1. I have a serious problem wasting money on coffee. This summer u have become slightly addicted to the Dunkin Donuts iced coffee for 99 cents. Now that the sale is over I'm going thru withdraw! I do have a punch card for a free med coffee or iced coffee for every Monday from now until the end of the yr and every Tuesday in Sept I just show my teacher badge for a free drink as well. I currently have a French Press at home but maybe I will invest in a coffee maker with a timer...

  2. As a barista, I'm going to throw this out there too. Don't waste your money on a drink that tastes bad. If you are positive that there is something wrong with the drink, take it back to the counter and politely explain the problem. If there's an issue with our espresso machines or coffee brewer, we need to know. Most baristas drink coffee themselves and enjoy making it well. A warning: do not be a snob about it. Remember, we are making something that you're going to put in your mouth. Don't get nasty with us; it will not end well for you. But we do like to know when we can improve a drink or make it to a customer's liking.

  3. I make my own mochas at home and they taste great, however plain old simply coffee at home I'm terrible at.

    Oh and you most definitely get the most expensive drink with the punch card freebie - Ang our minds work so similarly its fowl.

    I've always wondered if they'd give a discount on the reusable cup, that's sweet some do.

  4. Oh, and something I thought of yesterday... all coffee shops are different, but I can vouch for the Barnes & Noble cafe and tell you that at least in ICED coffees, you're not getting any less coffee when you ask for room for cream. We pour the coffee into the cup first, up to a measuring line that's printed right on the cup. The ice goes in afterward. If someone asks for room in their iced coffee, they're going to get less ice, not less coffee. Be aware, however, that the same rule does not apply to hot coffee, since we don't measure it.


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