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Wake-Up Call: A Price Comparison of Popular Coffee Options

Lisa.Kramer

A daily Starbucks habit seems to have become a universal symbol for financial wastefulness. As such, it seems every mommy-on-a-budget or personal finance blog has covered the ditch your daily coffee shop habit topic. Yep, it’s true—a daily tall Starbucks coffee will cost you $733.65 a year, not to mention the travel expenses you incur driving to and from your local Starbucks. Here are some general tips on how to cut down on your coffee expenses, both at home and at the coffee shop:

  • Instead of buying expensive flavored coffee, make your own by adding ingredients like orange peels, dried blueberries, cocoa, nutmeg, and cinnamon to unflavored coffee grounds.
  • Remember, higher priced coffee doesn’t always taste better. Perform a blind taste test using a variety of coffee brands with varying price points—the results may shock you!
  • If you use a drip brewer (a traditional coffee pot), brew your next pot of coffee using a mixture of half leftover grounds sourced from the last pot of coffee’s coffee filter and half fresh grounds. You may not even be able to tell difference between your “recycled” coffee grounds mixture and a completely fresh batch of grounds, so it’s worth a try.
  • If you’re drinking coffee solely for the energy boost, look for natural ways to increase your energy such as eating a balanced diet, meditating, and exercising.
  • If you’re still having trouble saying no to the white cup with the green lady on it, buy yourself a $25.00 Starbucks gift card and make that the only form of currency you allow yourself to spend at Starbucks for the next three months. You may even be able to purchase such a gift card off eBay or Craigslist for less than its face value.
  • Some coffee shops will give you a discount if you bring your own coffee cup.
  • If you’re on the road and need a coffee, remember that a small cup of McDonald’s coffee is less than half the price of a tall Starbucks coffee (and if you’re a senior citizen, remember to ask for the senior discount at McDonalds). Gas station coffee is normally pretty cheap too—a small coffee from 7-11 is just $0.79 in my neck of the woods.

If you’re a good little frugalista, then you’ve broken up with your barista and started making your own coffee at home. Obviously, this tends to be cheaper than buying it at the coffee shop. But there are so many options for home coffee—you can choose from traditional drip brewers that can be used with a variety of different coffee grounds, those single-cup brewing systems with either disposable or reusable coffee pods, or quick-and-easy instant coffee.

Do you have any idea which option is most cost effective? You may be surprised to learn that coffee shop coffee is not the only budget-busting bad guy on the caffeine scene! Check out this handy little chart below to find out the annual cost of  some of the most popular coffee options:

Starbucks Coffee
Initial Cost                                                                      $0.00
Cost per 12 oz. Cup (“Tall” size)                                $2.01
Cost per Year                                                                 $733.65

McDonald’s Coffee
Initial Cost                                                                      $0.00
Cost per 12 oz. Cup (“Small” size)                             $0.89
Cost per Year                                                                 $324.85

Keurig Single-Cup Brewing System with Disposable K-Cups
Initial Cost (Single-Cup Brewing System)*            $24.38
Cost per 12 oz. Cup**                                                     $0.53
Cost per year                                                                   $217.83

*The Keurig B130 Commercial DeskPro Gourmet Single-Cup Brewing System costs $121.74 shipped at Overstock.com. I’m assuming this appliance will last for five years; as such, the initial cost for this analysis is computed as 1/5 of $121.74 = $24.38.
**A box of 160 Caribou Blend K-Cups costs $84.99 at OfficeDepot.com: $84.99/160 K-Cups = $0.53 cost per cup.

Keurig Single-Cup Brewing System with a Refillable K-Cup using Premium Brand Coffee Grounds (Dunkin’ Donuts)
Initial Cost (Single-Cup Brewing System)                 $24.38
Initial Costs (Refillable K-Cup)*                                   $3.77
Cost per 12 oz. Cup**                                                        $0.47
Cost per Year                                                                     $199.70

*Solofill Cup, Refillable K-Cup for K-Cup Brewer costs $18.83 shipped at Amazon.com. I’m assuming this appliance will last for five years; as such, the initial cost for this analysis is 1/5 of $18.83 = $3.77.
**12 oz. of Dunkin’ Donuts Original Blend Medium Roast Ground Coffee costs $8.98 at Walmart.com. This makes approximately 20 – 12 oz. cups of coffee: $9.38/20= $0.47 per 12 oz. cup.

Conventional Drip Brewer using Premium Brand Coffee Grounds (Dunkin’ Donuts)
Initial Cost (Coffeemaker)*                                          $4.95
Initial Cost (Coffee Filters)**                                       $3.98
Cost per 12 oz. Cup***                                                   $0.47
Cost per Year                                                                  $180.48

*A simple, drip brewer coffeemaker, Mr. Coffee TF5 4-Cup Switch Coffeemaker, is $22.95 shipped at Amazon.com. I’m assuming this appliance will last for five years; as such, the initial cost for this analysis is 1/5 of $22.95 = $4.95.
**You must use disposable coffee filters with a drip coffeemaker. A pack of 200 Melitta Natural Brown Coffee Filters at Target costs $1.99, 2 packs cost $3.98.

Single-Cup Brewing System with a Refillable K-Cup using Budget Brand Coffee Grounds (Maxwell House)
Initial Cost (Single-Cup Brewing System)                  $24.38
Initial Cost (Refillable K-Cup)                                       $3.77
Cost per 12 oz. Cup*                                                          $0.073
Cost per Year                                                                      $54.80

*A 34.5 oz. container of Maxwell House Original Roast Ground Coffee is $9.85 shipped at DollarGeneral.com. 34.5 ounces of Maxwell House ground coffee makes 135 12 ounce cups of coffee: $9.85/135 = $0.073.

Conventional Drip Brewer using Budget Brand Coffee Grounds (Maxwell House)
Initial Cost (Coffeemaker)                                          $4.95
Initial Cost (Coffee Filters)                                        $3.98
Cost per 12oz. Cup                                                        $0.073
Cost per Year                                                                $35.58

Instant Coffee using Budget Brand Instant Coffee (Folgers)
Initial Cost                                                                    $0.00
Cost per 12 oz. Cup*                                                    $0.07
Cost per Year                                                                $25.55

*An 8 oz. jar of Folgers Classic Roast Instant Coffee from Walmart.com costs $5.78. It makes approximately 80 – 12 oz. cups of coffee: $5.78/80 = $.07.

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