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How to Trim Your Caffeine Costs

Kendal Perez

Fluctuating coffee prices can put caffeine addicts on edge. Starbucks recently increased prices on select coffee drinks, citing higher labor and rent costs. Retail experts suggest that coffee lovers will continue buying their favorite drinks. According to the 2014 National Coffee Association's Annual Drinking Trends Study, daily consumption of specialty coffee has increased 25 percent since 1999.

To avoid the burn of price increases on your favorite cup of caffeine, consider these tips to help curb your costs:

1. Make great coffee at home.

For both specialty coffee and tea drinkers, brewing from home is the best way to save money. While this advice is commonplace, not everyone knows just how much more they're paying for that specialty drink from their favorite cafe. Andrew Hetzel of CafeMakers LLC, a Hawaii-based marketing consultancy for the coffee industry, helps break it down. "The younger generation, particularly, tends to think of coffee cost in terms of 'cups' rather than weight and may be surprised to learn that they're often paying more than $50 per pound for a typical coffee drink prepared at a chain shop."

Jason Bauman, an admitted coffee addict and SEO specialist, agrees. "Even if you buy single-origin Tanzanian Peaberry, your cost per cup will be far lower than if you're used to buying specialty coffee at a shop."

Indeed, the average cost of a 12 ounce cup of brewed coffee from Starbucks is a little over $2. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America's Golden Cup brewing standards, one pound of coffee yields approximately 256 ounces of brewed coffee, or just over 21 "tall" cup equivalents. A one-pound bag of Starbucks Sumatra roast coffee retails for $13.95 online, making one 12-ounce cup of home-brewed coffee just $0.65. This price is further reduced when you use coupons and stock up on ground or whole bean coffee during sale time.

For tea drinkers, purchasing whole leaf or large-leaf loose tea is a better value than buying tea bags in bulk. Tony Gebely, founder of WorldofTea.org, argues that specialty loose leaf tea is actually cheaper than your average bagged tea. "If you were to rip open the tea bags and price it out by weight in comparison to specialty loose leaf tea, the specialty tea would be cheaper in comparison," he says. As with coffee, timing your purchase to sales can also help. "The worldwide tea harvest begins in early spring," Gebely says. "Right before these teas arrive stateside, many purveyors will being to liquidate last year's tea."

Often times, brewing from home also results in a better-tasting brew. Katie Moseman, blogger for RecipeforPerfection.com, enjoys Vietnamese coffee and uses an individual brewer and condensed milk to create this unique beverage. "It makes a beautiful cup of coffee with the dark layered on top of the light, and it only costs a handful of change per cup."

2. Avoid waste.

Those who spend good money on specialty coffee and tea avoid waste whenever possible. For example, leftover brewed coffee or tea can be stored in the refrigerator and poured over ice for a refreshing midday beverage.

When purchasing tea from a shop, Tracy Memoli, founder of food blog Suite & Savory, saves the cup and tea bag from her morning order and fills it up with hot water throughout the day. "The tea is usually so strong that I get multiple cups out of one," she says.

Dina Cheney, author of several cookbooks and self-professed expert on tea, prefers whole leaves or larger pieces of leaves to tea bags and reuses them. "I'll brew a whole pot of tea in the morning and then use the same leaves again with fresh, hot water," she says.

3. Get creative.

As the brisk sales at Starbucks suggest, many consumers still enjoy the coffee shop experience. Cari Shane learned a money-saving hack from a barista several years ago to save on her coveted lattes. "Instead of purchasing a latte, I save money by ordering an Americano and adding half-and-half myself. In a latte, the cream is not frothed, so the only difference is the cream isn't warm."

Joanie Demer and Heather Wheeler from TheKrazyCouponLady.com offered several other tricks, including bringing your own cup to save $0.10 at most coffee chains; staying at the shop and ordering a refill of your brewed coffee or tea for $0.50 (compared to $2 for a new cup); and ordering a "short" espresso instead of "tall" to get the same amount of kick for $0.80 less. Demer and Wheeler also suggested splitting the cost of a "venti" beverage from Starbucks with a friend to save over $2 on the cost of two "talls".

For coffee lovers living in New York City, the CUPS app offers plans to reduce your per-cup cost while also helping independent cafes compete with the big names. Prices start at $11 monthly for The Basics plan, which gets you five cups of brewed, drip or filtered coffee or tea per month, for an average of $2.20 per cup. Plan rates vary based on your personal consumption rate and whether you want access to specialty drinks, as well.

4. Keep it simple.

Sometimes, the easiest solution is the most effective. Coffee lover Kristin Meekhof says she previously purchased large coffees from Starbucks and other coffee shops, but decided to cut back to a medium size to save money. Now, she orders a small and saves not only money, but cuts back on her caffeine intake, too.

Kendal Perez is a spokeswoman for CouponSherpa.com, a popular source for online, in-store and mobile coupons. She also blogs at Hassle-Free Savings and enjoys yoga, decluttering, craft brew and obsessing over her dogs.

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