The best way to save money on Starbucks is to make your coffee at home. The second best way is to buy it somewhere cheaper. But the third best way is to hack your Starbucks order to pay less for the same (or similar) drink. Some hacks are innocent; others less so. Here’s a compilation of the best Starbucks hacks from over the years.
Photo by eak_kkk
It’s Evil Week at Lifehacker, which means we’re looking into less-than-seemly methods for getting shit done. We like to think we’re shedding light on these tactics as a way to help you do the opposite, but if you are, in fact, evil, you might find this week unironically helpful. That’s up to you.
Starbucks might not be as prolific in Australia as it is in the US, but there are a fair few outlets in metropolitan areas where some of these hacks should work. Naturally, these tips will also prove handy for anyone travelling to America. You’re welcome!
Make a Cheap-Arse Latte
The most famous (and controversial) hack earned 597 comments on the Starbucks Gossip blog: Save on an iced latte by making a “ghetto latte.” Order an iced Americano with no water, then add the milk yourself from the communal pitcher. (You could do this with a hot drink, but it will come out room-temperature.)
Some baristas hate this hack, because now they have to refill the milk. Try tipping them half the difference, but don’t expect them to thank you. Today.com blogger Alesandra Dubin recently tested this hack and got a $US5 ($6) three-shot iced latte for $US2.65 ($3), with no dirty looks.
Make a Cheap Chai Latte
Similarly, instead of a Tazo Chai latte, try this recipe from Consumerist reader Kelly:
I simply ask for a chai tea misto, with two bags so it’s nice and strong, and half cinnamon and half vanilla syrup, with lots of foam. I sprinkle a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla on the foam and BAM! I’ve halved my drink allowance for the week, but not lost any of the flavour.
Share a French Press
Having a coffee meeting? Order a French Press, says redditor therewillbesnacks. When Dubin tested this hack, her barista had to check how to make it, since Starbucks has mostly migrated over to Clover single-cup brewing. But she happily made the pot, which costs half the price of the equivalent single coffees. Plus it provides a more communal ritual.
Don’t Hack Iced Drip Coffee
Don’t order hot drip coffee and a cup of ice; it will come out weak. Yes, iced coffee costs more, but it’s also brewed at double-strength, former barista Jesse told Consumerist.
Order Bigger Sizes, Not Extra Shots
If you like an extra shot of espresso in your drink, you might get it cheaper if it’s rung up as a larger drink with less water, instead of a smaller drink with an extra shot, says Consumerist. But only sometimes! Right now, New York’s Union Square Starbucks sensibly charges the same for a three-shot tall Americano and a regular (three-shot) Grande Americano.
Use a Bigger Cup for “Room for Milk”
Here’s a petty one, for those of you who want “room for milk” but lay awake at night dreaming of that wasted quarter-inch of cup space. Order your coffee in the next-size cup, says Dubin. This also makes your coffee a little less spill-prone.
Wean Yourself Off Frappuccinos
They’re the least bang for your buck, says Consumerist. To satisfy your sweet tooth, add syrup to a basic drink. Multiple shots of syrup cost the same as one shot.
Bring Your Own Cup
If you use your own cup, you get ten cents off, no matter the drink size.
Don’t Use the Drive-Thru
The drive-thru has to charge you for every add-on, says Consumerist. But face-to-face, baristas can give you extras for free.
Check for an Old Espresso Machine
This is a long shot (pun!), but as of six years ago, some Starbucks machines could only pour two shots of espresso at once. So according to therewillbesnacks, if you ordered a three-shot drink, you could politely ask for that fourth shot for free.
Use the App With Caution
Order your drinks through the app and earn loyalty rewards. But if you’re the type of person easily tricked by an upsell — if, say, you’ve ever spent money in Candy Crush — the rewards system will backfire. Starbucks will dangle “extra” rewards points in front of you if you buy baked goods or promoted drinks. Don’t be a sucker.