How Starbucks Teaches a Key Principle of Financial Aid

The last place anyone would think to discover a key principle of financial aid might just be your local Starbucks.  But while on a smaller financial scale, Starbucks actually presents a promising lesson to all who enjoy their artistic, flavorful and expensive creations with an experience that touches the senses and the wallet.

Starbucks CupIt struck me one day how expensive a simple cup of coffee actually is when I visit here.  You may be wondering why it took so long!  To that I cannot explain, but the one thing I decided in this discovery was there had to be a less expensive way to get a great cup of coffee here.  And thus began my pursuit to discover a better way and what I found is golden — and a lesson in financial aid!

This morning I paid $.58 for my bottomless cup of coffee at Starbucks!

Early on I fell in love with this small stainless steel travel cup with no handle from Starbucks.  For me, it was perfect in form and function.  With a gift card from a friend, I made the purchase.  What I learned next was astounding!

The smallest cup of coffee listed on the menu board is a Tall for $1.95.  What I didn’t know was Starbucks actually has a smaller size . . . with my new 8 oz. cup, they charged me for a Short for $1.74.  And, because I bring my own cup I get an additional $.10 off!  That’s a 16% savings and my coffee cost me only $1.64!  Oh, and might I add, the Short gets me a Reward Star just like the Tall! (This is significant as I’ll mention later.)

And the savings kept coming!  Paying for my coffee one day, the Barista asked me to fill out a survey for them, critiquing my experience.  I have since completed a countless number of these.  Why?  Because every time I do, I receive a $1.00 discount on my purchase.  Suddenly, my $1.64 cup of coffee turned into $.58.  I’m not sure why it’s not $.64, but every time it rings up as $.58!

And of course, with my frequency, I receive free refills and with every 12 cups of coffee (regardless of the price) I receive a free lunch!

Now, if you stop reading here, it is possible to walk away with some very useful tips on paying less for your cup of coffee at Starbucks with every bit of the same experience the guy behind you has as he pays full price!  But ultimately, there is an application on paying less for college!  Clearly there are more zeros, but the principle is the same!

It’s simple — almost too simple really.  And, there are a number of questions that must be asked to determine how important this principle is to you.

Questions like:

How important is Starbucks for me?  I could go to the local Dunkin and get similar discounts for a less expensive cup of coffee, but I have to weigh my answer to the question.  I personally need to stay away from donuts!  Second, the access is difficult and the experience is less than homey!  So, for these reasons, Starbucks is important!  In the same way, where it is someone chooses to go to college is important.  The question may be the same, but the reasons will likely differ. But, wherever that may be, explore the many ways to save!  There are many!

How valuable are the pennies vs. the dollars in saving? A dime doesn’t seem like a great deal of savings, but for every ten I save, it’s a dollar!  Equating this to financial aid, small scholarships add up to big dollars!

Is my time worth a discount on my coffee?  Absolutely!  If saving or stretching the dollar is important, then the time it takes to complete a survey is worth every penny!  In the same way, the time it takes to complete an application or write an essay for a scholarship/grant exceeds its’ worth every time!  Time is money, so save it and invest it well!

When is a cup a Short?  Actually, a cup is always a Short at Starbucks (8 oz. = 1 cup).  I changed how much this cup of coffee cost me by being creative in the packaging of that cup!  I went from a Tall to a Short and then I brought my own cup to fill, reducing the cost once again.  All of these moves saved me pennies on the dollar every time.  And, customizing your college experience while thinking through the lens of financial aid has the potential to saving you dollars on the thousands every time!  Taking AP courses, CLEP tests, Dual Enrollment (free to many in Georgia!) and finishing college in 4 years are all standard ways of taking your “Tall” and making it “Short.”  But these are only a sample . . . step back and look around, you’ll likely find more!

Just remember, whether you are using coupons at the grocery, an app on your phone, a survey at the coffee shop or a scholarship application — the principle is the same!  Your time, your energy, your awareness of saving translates into a big discount!

by: Mark Cruver — Independent Educational Consultant/College Planner and Founder of Capstone Educational Consultants

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