old fashioned coffee brewing

Trimming Your Coffee Costs to Minimize your “Starbucks Factor”

Posted by

Let’s think about the “Starbucks factor” of our budgets.

Is your “Starbucks factor” a small price to pay for your cafe habit?  Is watching other people on their laptops the highlight of your day?  Does scoring the big, comfy seat with the least repulsive stains make you feel like a winner? Do you curate a collection of cups with your name misspelled? Perhaps the mere thought of giving up highly-caffeinated Starbucks favorites leaves you whimpering for hours in the fetal position.

If the convenience and/or experience of your cafe visit improves your life, don’t worry about your Starbucks factor.starbucks factor espresso

On the other hand, if your daily cafe visit feels like an “I’m still alive tax,” and you just want your caffeinated treat, think about trimming coffee costs.  This post explores the cumulative cost of your “Starbucks factor” and offers solutions for trimming coffee costs by making great coffee, espresso, and cappuccino at home.

The result of trimming coffee costs and saving your Starbucks factor

Some personal finance gurus use the term “Starbucks factor” in reference to recurring, trivial, voluntary expenses.  This is an apt term, since cafe spending is habitual and seemingly low cost.  These costs are not trivial when examined closely.

trimming coffee costs making your own
Spilling the beans on your Starbucks factor.

How can your “Starbucks factor” add up?

Let’s follow a hypothetical example where an individual spends an average of $20 a week ($2.86 a day) on their Starbucks factor.  In this example the person switches to making their own caffeinated treat at a cost of $5 a week, for a net savings of $15 a week.

How much might this person amass after ten years of trimming coffee costs?

$7,800 (burying the money in the back yard)

$8,216.28 (putting it in a savings account [Barclay Online 1.15%])

$11,850.49 (investing in a low-fee index fund [9%])

Note: 9% is slightly lower than the S&P 500 historical average since its inception in 1928.  This chart does not account for fees or capital gains tax. On the other hand, it does not include dividend payments.  Investing is always a risk, but index funds diversify your investment so that you are essentially investing in the economy as a whole.

trimming coffee costs graph

Now, let’s see what your Starbucks factor could really do.

If you saved the same $15 a week by trimming coffee costs for thirty years, it is likely that you will have about $106,319.88. The chart below illustrates just how much of this total comes from the interest.   Of course, this projection is based on historical averages, and investing always includes risk.

starbuck factor savings graph

Trim coffee costs without sacrifice.

Cutting your Starbucks factor does not mean accepting sub-par coffee (Heaven forbid!). To make great tasting cafe treats at home, look to the past.  Forget about big, expensive machines; you don’t even need electricity.

Freshly-ground is better

I can taste the difference when I grind the beans fresh.  You can buy whole bean coffee in larger amounts (saving money) because of its shelf stability.  A manual mill really doesn’t take too long if it is properly adjusted. Make sure that the grind is adjusted for the brewing method that you employ.

trimming coffee costs antique coffee mill

Use a French press to keep standards high when trimming coffee costs.

French presses are fast (4 minutes of heating and 4 minutes of brewing), cheap, small, easy, durable, and make great coffee.  I microwave the water in a big Pyrex cup for speed.  I Keep a larger French press around for company and Sunday mornings.

Since there is no heating element (like on a drip coffee maker), I recommend getting French presses that are vacuum insulated.  The presses shown (one glass and one steel) keep coffee hot for an hour or so without scorching the precious contents.

starbucks factor insulated french press

insulated french press trimming coffee costs
Weekday size
large insulated french press
Weekend / company size

Trim coffee costs by making espresso / cappuccino like Nonna Scungilli did.

Stove-top espresso makers are great for trimming coffee costs; they take up very little space and come in a variety of sizes.  If you want to make cappuccino, heat up some milk while the espresso maker is working.  Hit the milk with an inexpensive whipper thingy, and spoon on the foamy goodness.  You can add all of the steamed milk to make it latte style.

filling stove top espresso
Adjust the coarseness of the grind to suit the brewing method.
espresso maker working
You shouldn’t leave the top open, but I wanted to show the action.
trimming coffee costs milk whipper
This battery-operated whipper does a fine job.

stove top cappucino starbuck factor

Cutting your Starbucks factor: Make mine to go.

If you need your treat to go, you can’t beat vacuum insulated containers.  Pre-treat your container with cold or hot water for best results.  Also, the larger the volume the longer it will maintain temperature, so you have a good excuse for over-caffeinating.

Vacuum-insulated containers
Vacuum-insulated containers

Conclusion on trimming your coffee costs

There is nothing at Starbucks that you cannot make cheaply at home.  You may need ice, syrups, spices, etc. to make your favorites, but a little research and experimentation go a long way.  Making your own caffeinated treats takes a bit of effort, but it is enjoyable and trims your coffee costs.

Related post:“Is Aldi Worth an Extra Trip?”

Related post: “Top 7 Grocery Store Rip-offs”

Any hot Starbucks hacks to share?

What is your coffee system?


  1. Good stuff, I like to use an AeroPress for my afternoon “treat” coffee (I use a french press in the morning when bulk is important). It makes a strong cup in no time, it’s cheap, and easy. Add some warmed whole milk and you got a latte, sorta. In the Summers I need cold coffee to fight the damn heat and humidity. I cold brew a concentrate and add water and cream to each pour. It’s pretty easy and makes coffee for days, if not a week. I bought a system called a Toddy, it’s cheap and I’ve had it for years. But, a certified cheapster, like yourself, could surely make one for less. Also, if you skip the water and do all whole milk, again you got a latte, iced this time.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.