How to Treat Yourself, But Still be Frugal: A Journey

So about six months ago, while I was still working at Lowe’s, I got into the habit of going to Starbucks every day on my lunch break.  Working at a store where there is a Starbucks literally in the same parking lot as you, is straight up bad news for your bank account, especially when you’re as obsessed with them as I am.

I used to be a die-hard Dunkin’ Donuts fan.  The cool thing to do in middle school was to go to the Dunkin’ across the street after school for a sugar-loaded coffee “Can I have an iced coffee with sugar, cream, and caramel please?”  These coffees had so much sugar and caramel in them that you would suck straight syrup and sugar crystal through your straw.  I LOVED it.

Once I began high school, my dad would take me through the Dunkin’ drive through every morning for a coffee.  Once I got my license my sophomore year, I continued to go through the Dunkin’ drive through every morning before school.  The great thing about Dunkin’ was that a large iced coffee was a little over $3, so it was easy to convince my parents to give me a weekly Dunkin’ allowance.

After I graduated and started going to college, I started to drink Starbucks more often.  There was a Starbucks on my way to campus, and my school served Starbucks coffee at the cafés in the student center and library.  I discovered I liked the atmosphere of Starbucks better; I liked the strong coffee bean smell in every corner of the store, the calm lighting, toned-down music, and dark features of the tables and chairs.  The baristas were always so friendly too.  The whole vibe of the place was just more my style.  There was just one problem I had with Starbucks: the cost.

Being that I was a college student working part time and paying virtually no bills since I was living at home, there really was no thought to the cost of my daily caramel macchiato or iced white chocolate mocha. I moved out of my parent’s house after first semester and could hardly make rent (being that I was working part time), I still bought my daily Starbucks drink on my way to campus.  I never really thought about how ridiculous their prices were.

After my second semester of college, I decided school wasn’t for me and started working full-time at Lowe’s that fall.  And glory be to God there was a Starbucks in the same parking lot as my work.  I started going there for lunch every day.  One day a light bulb turned on in my head and I realized the cost of my drinks were absolutely ridiculous.

Over $5 for a venti caramel macchiato is insane.  Macchiatos are made up of milk, sugar, caramel, and espresso.  There is absolutely no need to charge over $5 for that.  I started looking at what I was spending each pay period at Starbucks – the amount made me sick.  Right now, if I buy a caramel macchiato, it costs $5.25 before tax. $5.25 x 10 work days = $52.50.  I was literally spending more than $50/pay period on Starbucks, and that’s before tax. I knew there was a cheaper way to get my Starbucks.  Luckily, I figured it out.

I had an “aha” moment one day and said, “what if I just buy an iced coffee instead of an espresso drink, like I did at Dunkin’?”  Low and behold, one venti iced coffee costs $3.15.  $3.15 x 10 days a week = $31.50.  I started saving $20/paycheck, that’s $520/year!  I was ecstatic.  I could buy my daily coffee guilt-free.

I started my new job this past April and was making it a habit to go to Starbucks every morning, on the weekdays and weekends.  Now, I was making more money at this new job, so I could better afford my daily Starbucks run, but I still wondered if there was a way to make my morning luxury cheaper.

Once again, I had an “aha” moment.  “Why don’t I just buy Starbucks iced coffee at the store?”  I discovered that for $4.99 I could have 3 venti iced coffees. $4.99 / 3 = $1.64/coffee. Deciding to buy the big bottles of Starbucks iced coffee from the store was saving me an additional $8.54.  In hindsight, this doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to $222.04/year!  AND that’s with drinking an iced coffee every day of the week.  But, once again, a couple weeks ago, I thought there could be a way to make this even cheaper.

I had a genius idea, “why don’t I just brew my own iced coffee?”  I invested in a $20 Mr. Coffee coffee maker, $10 on a coffee bean grinder, $5 on a glass jar/pitcher, and a bag of coffee filters.  I spent $7.99 on a 12oz bag of Starbucks coffee beans, and it looks like one of those bags lasts me a little over one pay period’s worth of iced coffees. $7.99 / 14 = $.57/coffee.  That’s saving an additional $390.55/year!!  To back track, I was spending a total of $1,365/year buying a caramel macchiato five days a week.  I am now spending $208.05/year brewing my own iced coffee.  That’s saving $1,156.95/year!!!  I am in utter disbelief at how much I was spending and how much I’m spending now.

The morale of the story is: do some math, do some experimenting, and see how much you can save.  You’d be surprised at how much you’re spending.

Leave a comment with a money-saving discovery you made!  I need tips on how to be a better spender.
Much Love,


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