Starbucks and Habitual Purchases

IMG_3599A few days ago I had a meeting at a Starbucks.

I was kind of excited about this because I hardly ever go to Starbucks. It’s probably been over a year since I’ve been there, but I enjoy their mocha frappacinos (I don’t drink coffee unless it’s in some type of frozen sugary form).

Not much had changed, except for one key thing: Every customer other than me used a Starbucks app on their phone to purchase their coffee.

This struck me as odd and interesting for a few reasons. The first is that Starbucks must be doing pretty well if people are using an app devoted purely to buying Starbucks. It’s like having a credit card that works at a single store.

The next thing that occurred to me might be a little judgmental, but I’m really trying to understand it: Do some people really buy Starbucks so often that using a Starbucks app makes sense? Sure, I guess I could have downloaded the app for my visit and possibly gotten a few loyalty points that might someday convert to a free mocha frappacino. But it’s hardly worth the effort for someone like me who goes to Starbucks once a year.

Habitual purchases like that fascinate me, especially daily purchases. For some people it might be coffee. For others, maybe it’s cigarettes or soda. Imagine how much money you could save if you ended a habitual purchase. If you get Starbucks once a day, 5 days a week for 1 year, assuming a cup of coffee is $2.50, that’s $3,258! Cigarettes are more expensive; soda is less expensive. But it still adds up. And the positive impact on your health would be fantastic.

As I look at my own life, I don’t have any purchases like this, but I have some things that are somewhat similar. On the healthy side are the things I always buy once a week when I go to the grocery store: baby spinach, skim milk, carrots, and natural fruit juice. On the less healthy side are desserts: I always have candy at my desk, and I always eat dessert.

I could be better. But I still put those types of purchases–say, a $3 bag of mini Crunch bars that lasts 3 weeks–in a very different category than daily habitual purchases. There’s a significant cost savings between the two. It’s like if instead of having a scoop of ice cream every night, I went to the local ice cream parlor and paid $3.50 for the same thing. Every night. That would really add up.

What’s your take on habitual purchases? Are they worth it if it makes you happy? Have you ever cut a habitual purchase out of your life? How did it impact you?

2 thoughts on “Starbucks and Habitual Purchases”

  1. As a reformed Starbucks habitual purchaser, who also still uses the Starbucks app on occasion, I thought I’d chime in here.

    I initially started using the app because it saves a gift card balance to Starbucks so you can purchase drinks/food from there without having to remember if the gift card is in your wallet or not. Once you’ve depleted the balance, there’s an option to refill your gift card via PayPal, which is something I still do on occasion– usually if I’m traveling and know there is a Starbucks at the airport/hotel, I’ll add money to the balance specifically for the trip. Since switching to only visiting coffee places on special occasions, I’ve managed to save my weekly coffee money and put it to better use on other purchases (like cat/dog treats and board games 🙂 ). Also, not drinking coffee in the morning has actually made it easier to wake up and increased my energy levels.

    • Thanks for sharing, Katy. I suspect that many people use the app occasionally/rarely like you do–I couldn’t really tell from watching people in line at Starbucks. 🙂 I’m glad that cutting coffee has increased your energy levels and saved you money!


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