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How I Replaced Research Note Cards with Evernote
I love to study in cafes.  (Obviously).  It is like my personal office/library that I can find near me if I’m remotely close to civilization, and it is where I get my best work done.  For some reason, I study smarter in cafes!  I don’t succumb to the summons of the pillow, get caught in household conversations, or eavesdrop on the TV show playing in the next room.

But, I’m also a graduate student working to both pay for school and pay off loans, and studying in cafes can get pricey if you aren’t careful.  The trick is to make some rules and keep them.

Here are 5 ways you can be a Cafe Scholar on a budget.

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How to Be a Cafe Scholar on a Budget

#1    Be a Cafe Scholar, NOT a Drive-Thru Spender!

I made a rule that I would only have Starbucks (or Panera, etc.) if I was going there to work/study – no drive-thru.  If you are going home, to work, to school, etc, you can get great coffee or tea for much less! If you love Starbucks coffee, buy it by the bag online or at the grocery store and brew your own.  If you think about it, when you are spending money at a cafe, you are paying for the cafe experience (or the wifi and no interruptions…).  That is worth spending a little.  Not so much if you drive away and leave that perfect study spot to look after you longingly.

#2    Budget Yourself with Gift Cards.

Decide how much you want to spend at cafes for a particular month or school term, buy that amount in gift cards (or redeem your credit card points for gift cards like I did!).  When it’s done, it’s done and you don’t get to replace or refill your cafe fund until the next month.  This will help you to keep to that budget you set.   (Turn off auto-refill on your Starbucks app, or you will spend and spend and not even realize…)

#3    Go Low and Get Free Refills.

Order lower cost, smaller size drinks, and get something with free refills.  At Starbucks, if you are a Gold rewards member you get free refills on hot or iced coffee or tea, so there is no need to pay for a bigger size.  The cheapest drinks you can get are your basic regular hot or iced coffee or tea. At Panera, soft drinks, coffee and tea have free refills.  Don’t spend money on a drink only to spend money on another when you get thirsty again.

#4    Reward yourself with Rewards (only).

Think you can’t have your favorite Green Tea Frappuccino on a budget?  Think again!  Sign up for free rewards programs, and when you get freebies, use those to buy your specialty drink or favorite treat.  You get to reward yourself for rocking the budge!  Otherwise, stick with the basics to save your cash.  Also, if the rewards program issues a challenge, sign up for it!  For most challenges, you have to make a certain purchase or number of purchases in a certain time frame to be rewarded with extra points.  You usually have to sign up for the challenge – it is not automatically applied to your account.  It costs you nothing to sign up, and in the course of your regular cafe – studying, you may meet the criteria for some extra rewards.  But…don’t spend more money than you would normally spend to get a challenge. (Defeats the purpose!)


#5    BYOC (Bring your own cup):

Starbucks will give you a 10 cent “personal cup discount.”  That might not seem like much, but if you were to go to Starbucks 5 days per week, or 20 times per month, that’s like getting a FREE iced tea every month.  Don’t have your own cup with you?  Ask for a “for here” cup – those qualify for the discount too. Plus, tea just tastes better out of a real cup.

This post is mostly geared towards Starbucks, but other places have great ways to save, too.  For example, if you complete a customer service survey for Denny’s (the one on your receipt), you can usually get a free short stack of pancakes on your next visit.  You could potentially order a drink and end up getting free pancakes every time for those little surveys!

What are your favorite ways to save money studying at cafes?

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