It’s a common refrain: buying coffee at Starbucks is a waste of money. Now, I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable, but I think it’s high-time we had a deeper, more serious, conversation about the wildly popular coffee house chain.
I want to start by pointing out that there’s a Starbucks in my neighborhood grocery store.
Then again, where isn’t there a Starbucks?
Take the town where I live: it has almost as many Starbucks (12) as the Lakers have NBA championships (17). Based on those numbers you’d think I come from a large city. But it’s a fairly small town of 70,000 residents or so — that’s one Starbucks for every 6000 people.
By comparison, we have only two McDonald’s. But I digress.
Let me get to the real issue that always seems to be, well, brewing under the surface:
Occasionally the Honeybee likes to get a venti Caramel Macchiato which, I’ve been told, is some kind of special caramel vanilla coffee drink. These abominations on the traditional cup of joe cost approximately $6.25 with tax, which is why I like to call Starbucks “Six-bucks.”
Anyway, the Honeybee might have one of these overpriced concoctions a couple times a month, which is reasonable. But I know people who go to work with one of these 20-ounce Starbucks coffee concoctions … every. stinking. morning.
I wonder if they ever consider how much money they’re wasting at Starbucks – or any coffee house – on glorified java.
Let’s assume they average two weeks of vacation, and another two weeks of sick time and holidays each year. That means they’re buying Starbucks brew 48 weeks a year, 5 days a week. That’s 240 trips to Starbucks at roughly $6.25 a pop, or $1500 annually for a measly cup of morning coffee! Remember, this doesn’t count the days they go to Starbucks when they aren’t working.
Even worse, if you consider the 10 minutes most people spend on average waiting in line – or the drive-through – for the baristas to make their drink, then that equates to an entire 40-hour work week each year. So they’re not only wasting money, they’re wasting time too. And lots of it.
With that in mind, can anybody tell me why queuing up to spend $6.25 for a cup of flavored foo foo coffee at Starbucks is better than making your own Folgers at home? Or grabbing a cup from the office coffee maker? Or walking into your local Quickie Mart and taking a minute to pay a buck and change for the Maxwell House blend they’re serving up?
It seems to me that Starbucks is a waste.
I mean come on, folks. Is going to Starbucks — or any other fancy-pancy coffee house for that matter — really worth 40 hours of your life each year and the annual $900 premium?
I’m just askin’.
Photo Credit: MyLifeStory
Rightly said. I used to be one of those fools. he he .. it was almost a ritual. Now the habit is gone and I brew my own from freshly ground beans at a fraction of the cost.
Yes I still indulge in the occasional Caramel Macchiato, but it’s more on the ‘once every six months, if that’ kind of treat.
Plus, I’ve discovered so many new brands that I never knew before. So it’s been a win-win.
Len Penzo says
I used to grind my own gourmet coffee beans at home too, Sabz. But I now brew Dunkin’ Donuts brand coffee in my drip coffee maker at home.
To be honest, I never saw the allure of Starbucks coffee; I think it tastes like it’s burnt to a crisp.
Len, that is also my problem with Starbucks. Their coffee tastes burnt and bitter to me too. I think they roast it too fast. I don’t drink sugar in my coffee, nor can I drink those sugary macchiatos and the real basic coffee is terrible. Luckily, we have a couple of locally owned spots that brew proper coffee.
Len Penzo says
I put just a spot of cream in my coffee, Bret. No sugar. Although I did learn to drink it black when I was still employed, as we often ran out of creamer.
Purchase gratification includes the persona, ambiance and relatively consistent quality of the product. Relatively speaking, a straight cup of coffee from Starbucks is reasonably priced. The 4+ buck fancy stuff serves as a sugar rush. Starbucks has done their homework on marketing, but they have a blind side. What they don’t see is that they have priced themselves out of their own market and have built many chain stores that are too small to accommodate a larger market. The wave crest has passed for Starbucks stockwise because of these errors. Summarily, their vision, although genius, was slightly too small.
I love Starbucks, don’t really know why. Not for coffee. It’s something in the air 🙂
Starbucks is the most overrated coffee around. I dare you to do a blind taste-test with a cup of Starbucks vs. McDonald’s coffee. The McDonald’s won hands down. And I drink it black.
Len Penzo says
A lot of folks agree with you, Granny. I prefer Dunkin Donuts, but Mickey D’s coffee is really good too.
Money Beagle says
My wife and I might get a coffee from ‘out’ maybe on average, once every 6 weeks. That’s about the most I will tolerate. It doesn’t even have to be Starbucks. Around here, you’ll get people come in every day with Starbucks, Tim Hortons, McDonalds….everywhere you go there’s the coffee from out.
Len Penzo says
Yep. I think I had coffee “out” about a four times last year. That’s about all I can tolerate.
i agree that starbucks is overrated and overpriced, but folgers?? come on.
Len Penzo says
Yeah, Folgers is pretty bad. It can’t hold a candle to the Dunkin’ Donuts home brew, which I think is really really good.
Paul Latta says
IMHO Peet’s Coffee is superior to LotsaBucks. If you want the fancy stuff get a decent espresso machine and make it at home.
I purchased a very fancy Estro Vapore machine at an estate sale for 27 bucks. It was like new. I figured if I got 27 cappuccinos out of it, I’d be ahead of the curve vis-a-vis Starbucks.
I used to get coffee out all the time, but not so much now when I can make my own fancy drinks at home. It takes less than 5 minutes. My latte art sucks, but is steadily improving.
Len Penzo says
Great deal on the Estro Vapore machine, Paul! Aren’t the high-end ones like $150 — or more??
As for me, I’ll stick with our Bunn.
Love my Bunn coffeemaker
Done by Forty says
I really dislike Starbucks’ coffee. That whole, run-it-through-the-grounds-again thing does not sit well with me.
But we all (well, most of us) have luxuries in our budget. I have several that dwarf a $1,500 annual figure: restaurants, date nights, travel…
I think Starbucks is a waste. But someone could probably look at whatever luxury I spend $1,500 on and come to the same conclusion. As far at the bottom line is concerned, it doesn’t matter if I spend it on overpriced coffee or dinners out or a plane ticket.
Len Penzo says
I will say this: A week’s worth of Starbucks is lighter on the wallet than hitting the golf course once per week. (Albeit barely.)
I hate Starbucks coffee. If I need a cup of coffee out and about, I’d much prefer McDonald’s, and I’m not a big McD’s fan.
I think that part of the reason why people go to Starbucks is because it’s the “In” place to go and everybody thinks that they look cool strolling through the office with a Starbucks cup.
Personally, I’ve taken to the Peets line of coffee, and I’ve further refined it to make cold-brewed coffee. So, if I had some reason to look “way cool”, I’d get me a space-age-looking coffee carafe to carry around, and use my own coffee. When asked to join the troops at Starbucks, I’d say, “No thanks, I prefer my own blend” and let the mystery hang.
Len Penzo says
I think McDonald’s has really good coffee, too. Better than Starbucks — but not as good as Dunkin’ Donuts in my not so humble opinion!
I don’t know where there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts, although I’ve heard of it, and its fan base. Enjoy your favorite coffee! 🙂
Len Penzo says
Oh, I do. More than you’ll ever know.
Not that you’d want to mention it to your Honeybee unless you wanted to spend some quality time in the doghouse, but you also might want to check out how many calories are in one of those and see just how many extra pounds one is packing on per year with a daily habit of these, or how many hours of gym time is required to exercise one off.
I drink nothing but water. I save lots of time and money and calories.
I think people should be able to spend their own money however foolish it may appear to others. It’s all a matter of priorities. I personally would not waste money on those high calorie/priced drinks on a regular basis.
Since you asked so kindly for our opinion, here’s mine! I believe that paying 6$ of 7$ per day for a coffee that brings you pleasure is ok if (and only if) you are out already maxing your 401k & Roth IRA out (or almost) and are free of debt ;). If you do the right things in your personal finance first, and still have leftover money, then you can absolutely go and please yourself with a Starbucks treat everyday. It can even be a part of a “fun” budget.
However, if one goes to SixBucks everyday (as you call it haha), and is in debt, not contributing for his retirement & all, then by all means they should take care of their priorities.
It’s all relative!
What’s amazing is that Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts bag coffee are the same beans! The buyers for the various companies go to large barrels at the Coffee Warehouse and stick their hands in the same barrel.
Theodore Roosevelt came to the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville. He said their coffee was “good to the last drop, and that he’d take it bear hunting.” If Maxwell House is good enough for TR, it’s good enough for me.
Len Penzo says
Interesting, Jared! That being said, they may be the same beans, but isn’t there some sort of post-processing going on (roasting, etc.) that is responsible for the differentiation in flavor?
I never heard the Maxwell House story. Thanks for sharing that!
It kills me to see Starbucks bags in the stores at $5 more than store brand bags.
And Fair Trade…the retailer benefits; the farmers pay for access.
Also, Theodore Roosevelt drank a gallon of black, Arabica coffee a day!
Karen Kinnane says
I don’t want to pay all that money for a cup of fattening goo and I certainly don’t want the drink to be accompanied by the barista lecturing me on race relations and scrawling race themed sentiments on my cup to make his / her boss feel he is “doing something” about race relations inAmerica. Starbucks is too full of itself. Brew your own drink at home, save time, save money and put that surplus in your ROTH IRA.
This is funny because I was just thinking about this yesterday. We were on our way home from our vacation. Two days camping at Joshua Tree (where we drank instant coffee), and two days in Palm Springs. We used up the “free” packet of coffee the first day at the hotel. I had one instant coffee the morning we left, but I stopped for coffee on the drive. Not at Starbucks, but a similar place.
This was in a grocery store. The guy in front of me took about 5 minutes to order. I’m not sure what he got, but I know it had the word “vanilla”. He had questions about sugar-free vs. not, and then I know it was blended with several things in it.
As I was waiting (there was only one guy working), an older fit man came in behind me. I lamented that by the time I got my coffee, it would be lunch time (the salad bar was behind me). He said “you haven’t ordered yet?” I said “nope, the guy in front of me has a complicated order. But don’t worry, I’m just getting 2 cups of coffee”. And he only ordered a plain cup of tea.
Ah, funny. Most of the time, I just drink free coffee at work.
I wonder sometimes about the economy. I hear a lot of statements from certain people in my life about the poor – that all service jobs are for teenagers and that you just need an education and to advance yourself!
Sadly, my thoughts are the following:
– how many skilled jobs were sent overseas?
– what percentage of our economy is service now, vs. before? Think coffee shops, fast food, restaurants – people eat/drink here WAY more than the 70s when I was a kid
– when did a manual job become something shameful? Sure, even as a kid, McD’s was a place for teenagers to work. But many other manual jobs like working at grocery stores or bakeries were NOT. They were staffed by adults, and nobody thought poorly of the people who worked there.
It seems to me that SO MANY jobs these days are service jobs.
Even Steven says
I refer to Starbucks as the Evil Empire, which makes me think think of them as the Yankees or Big Corporate America, which makes me not buy from them. I do however get the occasional coffee from a local shop, well as local as Downtown Chicago can get, but I have a budget and I like my coffee black, so I keep it in check, while mixing in some coffee from home as well.
I agree with Karen above. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a Starbucks and probably never will. Can’t see paying to be lectured by some snot nosed kid who thinks he is much more enlightened than me. I’ll put the money in my piggy bank, and then when he’s full I’ll take the saved money to the bank. I think someone (Ric Edleman?) calls it the Latte Factor.
David Bach coined the Latte Factor.
I went to Starbucks with a $25.00 gift card which afforded me two small pita sandwiches and two tiny packages of five lady finger cookies each package.
There was only $1.25 left on my gift card after that purchase!
For that amount of money I could’ve gone to McDonald’s and gotten a lot more (better tasting) food.
Starbuck’s is a great American ripoff!
PS the horrible loud music playing in the Starbuck’s I was in was inexcusable. Is playing stupid loud music a common formality in all Starbuck’s?
Len Penzo says
Some, but not all, John.
Rarely to go the Starbucks at my job. When I do it is a treat but it still bothers me to pay for just a regular cup of normal coffee what I would pay for carton of half & half. Plus, there is the ridiculous fact that I have to order a Grand to get a normal cup of coffee. Every day one of the lowest paid techs in my dept is sipping her big fancy coffee drink smoothie. Makes me cringe at the waste of money. I make my own Starbucks pot of coffee at home with the Kirkland brand which is Starbucks.
Yes, it is worth it. Not the high-sugar drinks, but an iced latte is perfectly worth it every morning. And $1500 really isn’t bad considering thats a very small fraction of your annual income.
Starbucks had done a great job of: 1. Getting people comfortable paying high prices for something one can buy for far less elsewhere. 2. Selling desert at all times of the day while marketing desert as something else (think 20 ounce “milkshakes” substitute – I mean Frappucinos from 7:00 A.M. to 10:00 pm and 3. Add your own #3. Personally I like the Java Chip small I mean “tall” frappucino but I only buy with gift cards received. This way I am slimmer and my wallet is thicker. Finally, 5 day per week Starbucks habit equals round trip Airfare to Europe once each year. Just saying…
I buy the lightest fresh roasted beans from Whole Foods, grind it fresh each morning, and filter it through a Chemex. Great mild nutty flavor.
Randy A says
I feel left out….I don’t drink coffee. Never could understand the allure. Diet Pepsi is a different story.
Your numbers are underestimated, it is $6.25 with tax… plus the expected 20% tip.
I bought one of those fancy, auto units that grinds beans for every cup. Makes great coffee. But even it’s extravagant price was less than one year at Starbucks.
We should give come credit to Starbucks for treating their employees better than most other fast food chains. Even with the ongoing union issue, they are better off than McDonald’s employees and similar.
Len Penzo says
Forgot the tip, Frank. You’re right!